Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

How Much Ground Coffee Is Needed to Make One Cup?

Big. Regular. Little. How big is your coffee cup? How much coffee do you use?
Big. Regular. Little. How big is your coffee cup? How much coffee do you use?

I worked in an office once, and during that time I became very well acquainted with coffee and all the variations: decaf, dark, light, breakfast blend, Colombian… Coffee was always around.

If it wasn’t being consumed then it was in the brewing process so that we could guzzle down another cup of it.

Coffee has been a part of American mornings for decades and it has become a major business model for some of the world’s most profitable companies.

Time to do it yourself

But you aren’t always going to be able to afford the nine dollars it cost to get a deliciously flavored cappuccino from whatever coffee shop near you.

And even if you can afford the rising costs of coffee shops, it isn’t realistic to think you are going to wait in a line for 10 minutes every time you want another cup of coffee. The only logical conclusion is, you have to learn how to brew your own.

Best coffee starts with a good coffee maker. This one keeps things HOT from Amazon.

General guidelines

When you brew coffee there are some general rules to follow so you get the brew as close to perfect as possible.

A rule of thumb is about 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds for every cup of water. This gives you a well-balanced cup of coffee. Of course, everybody doesn’t use the same size cups, so for the purpose of having some type of baseline, we are talking about the actual measurement of a cup, which is 8 ounces.

Measure like a pro. With classic Pyrex from Amazon.

Use the right amount of grounds to brew the perfect cup of joe.
Use the right amount of grounds to brew the perfect cup of joe.

You may want to check out this post about the best single cup coffee maker.

How coffee rules our society

Going back to my office days: Coffee was the ruler of our office. It was our inspiration to actually get some work done. Coffee was our reason to take a break. It even was the deciding factor of who was the most useful of all the co-workers.

Yep, we had a pecking order in our office and it was established by determining who made the best pot of java. And man was it a sad day when that person wasn’t at work.

I share this story with you like it is a unique one, but I’m sure this experience is shared by many other people around the world.

Brewing coffee

When you first begin brewing coffee you quickly realize that it isn’t nearly as simple as you thought it was. If it were, everybody in the office would be equally adept. The newbie barista is thankful that coffee packaging puts instructions on the back, telling you how many scoops you need to make a pot.

I like the long handle on this coffee scoop from Amazon.

2 Tablespoon Long Handled Scoop, 9"

Unfortunately, the directions never seem to brew a proper pot. And if you ever make the mistake of following their instructions when brewing a pot for your colleagues at the office, you will be at the butt end of bad coffee jokes for the remainder of your time working there. (I am speaking from experience.) Even after you have made up for your blunder.

Why are coffee brewing instructions so off?

The reason the back of the can isn’t always a good method to go by is because brewing coffee is an art form that cannot be boxed in by generic instructions conjured up by the manufacturers. There are entirely too many variables in brewing coffee.

For example, how large is the pot to your coffee maker? If you put 3 heaping scoops of ground coffee into the filter for a four cup coffee maker you should be just fine. Just make sure you are using tablespoon measurements. But try that in a larger ten cup maker and you’ll basically be drinking brown water.

Want to get serious about your coffee skills?
Check out my post about coffee grinders.

Scoop size

I mentioned the measuring utensils you use, this will also play a role in how many scoops you need. Surely you already know this and I don’t mean to insult your intelligence. I only bring it up because I have overlooked it once or twice in my haste to get my caffeine fix. A smaller spoon or scoop means you need more scoops.

Coffee strength

Even when you get the scoop sizes and portions right, there is still room for variations, meaning there is still room for mistakes to be made.

In the same way that everybody enjoys different flavors of coffee, everybody also likes their coffee to be brewed at different strengths. The coffee newbies will most likely enjoy a weaker, less bitter tasting coffee. They’ll usually put less grounds and more water into the coffee machine. While more seasoned coffee drinkers, the coffee veterans, like their brews stronger, with a bolder flavor.

Tired of breaking your coffee mug? This one from Amazon is stainless and insulated.

When you are brewing coffee for other people, you should probably take into consideration how they like their coffee brewed. The safest bet is to make it on the stronger side. You can always dilute the strength by adding some sugar and cream. But you can’t add strength to the coffee after it has been brewed.

Wrap – Up

OK, now you have your baseline, it is safe to brew coffee. Adjust the strength a little bit. Add some extra or take some away to see what fits your needs best. Over time you’ll be able to just eyeball how much coffee you should put in the machine to make the perfect pot. And the office rejoices.

Here are my picks for the best burr coffee grinders for the money

Additional Resources

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Waferboard and Rodger E.

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