Measure, Grind, Brew: The Best Digital Scales for Coffee
It never ceases to amaze me that people will spend a thousand dollars on different coffee brewing methods and multiple burr grinders but will measure out their coffee beans with the cheap plastic scoop that comes with their French press.
The whole point of experimenting with coffee is to play around with different ratios of water to coffee. And the only way to do so accurately is with a scale. Otherwise, it will just be guesswork.
In fact, brewing coffee isn’t much different from baking muffins. Sure, you can eyeball it to a certain degree, but it also means that your results will fluctuate wildly.
So if you spend just a little bit of time contemplating beans and brewing methods, I’d strongly suggest getting a coffee scale. This review will help you decide which one you should get.
Why use a scale when brewing pour over coffee?
The flavor of coffee changes depending on the ratio of coffee and water you use.
Certain beans and brew methods really shine at the standard 1:15 ratio of coffee to water, while others require a totally different approach. The main takeaway though is this: You need to be able to measure both beans and water in order to hit your ideal ratio.
While this can be done to a certain degree by using volume measurements (like with a tablespoon scoop), it will never be accurate unless you use a scale and measure out the exact mass of both the coffee and the water.
This is because different beans and different roasts produce beans with different densities. Therefore, beans with the same volume may have completely different masses and cannot be compared with volume.
Knowing exactly how much coffee and water you are using will allow you to either remain completely consistent once you have a cup you know you enjoy or allow you to change different parameters accurately if you want to try something else.
If you don’t trust me, then here’s the opinion of coffee pioneer James Freeman of Blue Bottle:
“Volume is a less accurate way of measuring things than mass is. That’s not an opinion; it’s physics,” he explains in The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee book.
“Gram measurements are more accurate, and we think using them will improve your experience as a coffee drinker and baker—and therefore improve your life. So let’s face it: you need to go the extra mile and buy a gram scale if you don’t already have one”.
So there you have it. You should really get a scale.
what to look for in a digital coffee scale?
The main feature you should look for is pretty obvious – the scale should be digital. You do not want to be squinting at an arrow, especially not early in the morning before coffee.
Accuracy to within two decimal places is generally enough for daily coffee, especially since grams are an extremely small unit of mass.
A coffee scale should be fairly small. Since you will only be using it for coffee, you do not want it to take up a lot of space. However, make sure it has a decently sized, even, flat surface to put your brewing apparatus on without any fear of it tipping over.
Since many brewing methods will have you starting with your brewing apparatus on the scale, a tare button that resets the mass to zero is also very important to look for.
Is a timer necessary in a coffee scale?
Basic scales will do fine as long as they measure mass accurately and have a tare button, but some additional features will make brewing coffee more convenient.
- You will most likely want a scale that is battery powered for portability. However, if you’re an extremely heavy user (or environmentalist) you should consider a rechargeable model.
- Since you are brewing coffee, there will most likely be lots of hot water around the scale, so looking for a water resistant option is smart, especially if your brewing method of choice is something like a pour over or French press.
- A built-in timer is not necessary per se, but it is extremely nice to have since you will most likely want to experiment with different extraction times. Having one device serve two functions is always a plus, and using your phone for coffee timer will quickly become a pain.
The 5 best scales for coffee in 2018
Hario Drip Coffee Scale
The Hario name is famous for its unique pour over brewer the V60, but the company also produced one of the first dedicated coffee scales.
This scale is minimalistic in function and design. It allows for very precise measurements, up to 0.1g of accuracy with a +/- 0.2g margin of error up to 200g.
It has a built-in timer on the side, which is fantastic for pour overs or any other time-sensitive brewing method.
This scale is also conveniently battery powered by two AAA batteries. This comes with an auto power off function after 5 minutes to save battery life.
This scale is not waterproof, so you will have to be careful when using it, especially for pour overs, since this scale can begin to malfunction if they get wet regularly.
It also has something of a slow response time when adding beans, so you will have to add your grounds slowly so as not to overshoot the amount of coffee you ultimately want. This seems to be a common problem in scales that are more precise than fast, so it’s actually a good tradeoff for coffee!
HuiSmart Digital Coffee Scale
The HuiSmart coffee scale is a cheap but solid option. It does everything you’d expect but way cheaper than the best-in-class models.
It has a built-in timer and tare button convenient for a number of brewing methods.
It also offers units of grams, ounces, or pounds, since it boasts that it can also double as a food scale.
The display is backlit, which is pretty nice on a dark morning.
It’s not the most stylish scale on the block, but I wouldn’t call it ugly.
As with most of the other scales discussed, it is powered by two AAA batteries, which allows for mobility in the kitchen. Battery power is preserved with an auto-off function and a low battery indicator.
This scale also comes with a silicon mat that allows you to cover the actual scale itself to prevent spills or other sources possible damage. This mat can then be taken off and cleaned separately for ease of use.
ERAVSOW Stainless Coffee Scale
The ERAVSOW digital coffee scale is another option within the same price point as the previously discussed coffee scales.
It is accurate to within 0.1g and offers a built-in timer. It has a round surface, which is somewhat different, but also definitely large enough to fit most brewing methods.
This scale offers units of both grams and ounces. The digital display is large and easy to read and offers orange LCD backlights. It is also powered by two AAA batteries for convenience and mobility.
The scale’s surface is stainless steel, which makes it difficult for water to stay on and the surface easy to clean after brewing.
The ERAVSOW coffee scales comes with an auto shutoff function after 5 minutes to preserve battery power. The manufacturer offers a one-year warrantee, so it definitely meant to be used longterm, even at a relatively affordable price point.
ETEKCITY KITCHEN SCALE
The Etekcity kitchen scale is a budget option that offers only the basics. It is a basic, square kitchen scale that is accurate to within 0.1g.
It is meant to be used as a kitchen scale, so it is much larger than the others discussed in this article, which can be both an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the size of your brewing apparatus and kitchen.
It offers units of grams, pounds, or ounces and has an LCD backlit display for ease of reading. Because of its large size and 11 lb capacity, it requires 3 AAA batteries to power, which may be a disadvantage if you only want it for coffee. Its thin, stainless steel design make it easy to clean and store.
Best of all, when you get tired of using it for making coffee, you can always use it for meal prep.
Acaia Pearl Coffee Brewing Scale
The Acaia Pearl is a high-end coffee scale at a significantly higher price point. It is currently the scale of choice in commercial settings, since it’s more durable than other coffee scales. It also has a slick, minimalist, Apple-like feel to it. It is truly the marriage of coffee and technology.
The Acaia Pearl is by far the most accurate of the scales discussed here.
This scale doesn’t rely on batteries – instead you charge it via mini-usb. This could be annoying, if it had to be charged all the time like your phone or Bluetooth-speaker. But in fact it goes for ages on a single charge – so don’t worry about that. In the long run it’s actually nice that you won’t have to think about buying batteries.
One of the standout features of this scale is the Bluetooth connectivity. However, in the end most user report that there’s no real purpose of these modes.
- Bluetooth connectivity can be buggy
Acaia Lunar Espresso Scale
This is Pearl’s black brother. Packed with just as much cutting edge technology but intended as an espresso scale insted. For that reason it’s smaller and slimmer so it fits perfectly in to the crowded space under the cup and portafilter.
The Lunar is also built to withstand the hectic environment of a busy baristas coffee desk. It’s both steam, espresso and waterproof so you don’t have to worry about accidents.
However, the Lunar is also quite a bit more expensive than the Pearl. So unless you’re a hardcore espresso fan I’d recommend going for the other one.
Read a coffee shop owner’s review of the Acaia Lunar scale.See more reviews