This is a question that’s been widely discussed among coffee lovers, amateurs and professionals alike.
It’s something that many people are totally dogmatic about, and others are totally oblivious about.
If you know me, you know very well that I hate weak, thin coffee.
And this has a lot to do with how weak or strong your coffee is.
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We’re going to be talking today about the best coffee to water ratio.
Let me be clear about this right up front and give you the answer… there are guidelines and a good rule of thumb, but there are no set rules about what the best coffee to water ratio is.
So that’s that, and it’s good to get that out of the way.
What we’re going to look at in this article is the most commonly used ratio, how to make it a little more strong or mellow, and some of the special brewing methods that have a totally different ratio than the most common ratio.
So, understanding that there is no right or wrong answer to the question, let’s first look at the most commonly used and widely accepted coffee to water ratio.
The Golden Ratio
Some people think of this is the “rule” for brewing coffee, and that it works every time for every brewing method.
And that’s simply not true.
But sure, it’s a good general guideline to think of, and to work from.
People call it the “golden ratio” because it seems to be the sweet spot, and for many brewing methods it works just fine.
Anyway, the golden ratio is about 1:15 to 1:18.
This means one gram of coffee for every 15 to 18 grams of water.
The golden ration in tablespoons – which is easier to measure for most people – is two tablespoons of water for every 6 ounces of water.
That basically means that you’d want to use two tablespoons for every cup of coffee you want to make, generally speaking.
Again, the main point about the golden ratio is that it’s a good guideline to work from, and you can try it and figure out if you’d like your coffee maybe more strong or thin.
But it’s not the “end all be all”.
Now Let’s Get Real…
In my honest opinion, there are people who get way too scientific about coffee.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think science is cool, and I think coffee is pretty cool, too. And I think coffee science is great.
But when people start talking about Total Dissolved Solids (or TDS – don’t worry, it’s not a disease or anything, just scientific jargon) and that kind of stuff, I start to wander off into Danny-land… a magical place in my mind where I can do whatever I want to when I’m either completely bored or disinterested.
Again, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s really cool that people study these things.
But I just don’t think that scientific studies should dictate how strong or weak I should make my own coffee.
I’d rather spend five hours straight drinking coffee than five hours measuring and studying TDS in coffee.
I just want good coffee!
And I can make good coffee without being a scientist, or a hipster.
And here’s the thing: whether you avidly study the science and chemistry of coffee or not, you will have to find out through simple trial and error what you like best for your coffee to water ratio.
Going back to the golden ratio, it was formulated by a professor Lockhart from MIT back in the 1950s.
It was originally a study of what people liked as the ideal ratio for coffee brewing, so it’s still just a generality.
And I don’t always fit into stereotypes or generalities.
There’s a chance that you don’t either.
Different Brewing Methods
Now that we’ve gotten the disclaimers and small talk out of the way, let’s talk about different brewing methods and what would be ideal or at least good starting points to try with all of them.
Again, even like the “golden ratio”, these could be considered as good places to start and see how you like them for each of these brew methods.
So let’s take a look at them.
Drip Coffee and Pour Over
Since automatic drip machines and pour over coffee makers are basically the same brewing method more or less, you can consider the ratios to be almost the same.
A good ratio to use for automatic drip machines and pour over is 1:15.
Again, that’s one gram of coffee for every 15 grams of water.
This will be fairly strong coffee, not like motor oil or anything, but it won’t be weak or thin.
And if you need a great suggestion for a pour over if you’re looking for one, this is my favorite pour over to use.
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It makes amazing coffee.
You should be “safe” using this ratio for any automatic drip machine or manual pour over dripper.
So feel free to give it a go.
Immersion Brewers – French press, AeroPress, Cowboy Coffee
It can be hard to say just one ratio for these vastly different brew methods, with cowboy coffee being especially different from the other two more suave and elegant ones.
These are all brewing methods that typically yield strong, bold and robust coffee, and are often great using medium or dark roast coffee.
A good ratio to use for immersion brewers is 1:14.
So for every one gram of coffee used, you can try using 14 grams of water.
And for AeroPress, what I like to do is just fill the grinds up to the number 1 and add water to number 3, or somewhere around 3.
I personally do it by eye.
But once again, feel free to give these a try if you need help about ratios, and if it’s too strong or weak/thin, change it according to your taste.
Turkish coffee is also an immersion brewing method, if you enjoy making that or you’re looking to try it.
Espresso is in a league of its own, in more than one way.
It’s very concentrated and thus the ratio is very different from anything else.
A good ratio to use for espresso is 1:2.
The great news about espresso though is that usually you don’t have to and shouldn’t measure it.
Often, the grinder you’re using will measure it for you, or if you use more manual equipment, your espresso maker will give you an indication of how much coffee to use.
So it’s really not as important to know ratios for espresso, but it can be nice to know it just for knowing’s sake 🙂
And if you want to make espresso but don’t have hundreds of dollars for a big, fancy machine, check out an amazing, inexpensive espresso maker that makes delicious espresso here!
In my opinion, there are a few important points about the whole topic of the ever-elusive coffee to water ratio.
For one, a super smart “coffee expert” will tell you that “so-and-so” is the perfect ratio.
Then, an ultra-smart coffee expert will tell you that the other guy was wrong and that you need to brew your coffee with a different, and better perfect ratio.
The second thing is that I feel like I don’t necessarily need someone else to tell me exactly how to brew my coffee.
Which, I know that the experts aren’t necessarily saying strictly that I can’t brew my coffee with any other ratio, but sometimes it just feels like it… and I don’t like that.
The thing to remember about ratios and measurements is that they can be really good guidelines, but you should always feel free to experiment.
I think some people feel like they can’t experiment, or that when they read about some measurement that they can’t deviate from that or try something different.
I’m here to tell you that you certainly can!
When you find the amount of coffee to water that you love to use, then that can be your “set in stone” amount for you!
I hope you found this article very helpful in your coffee making journey, and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.
And with that, enjoy your coffee!