Am I wasting Coffee?
November 9, 2012 5:40 AM   Subscribe

Am I wasting coffee? I have a tiny single serving french press. It can fit 16 ounces of water when filled to the brim completely. I've been using 3 tablespoons of coffee. Is that way too much or am I just throwing money down the drain?
posted by mamamia88 to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think the rule is 2 teaspoons per 8 ounces. So you "should" be using 4 teaspoons, or 1.3 tablespoons. However, some people like their coffee stronger, so if the recommended amount doesn't do it for you, use more.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:45 AM on November 9, 2012

There is no wasting, there is only personal taste. I use two tablespoons for 5 or 6 oz of water because I am basically drinking rocket fuel. That is how I prefer my two cups per day. It's simply a matter of taste.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:45 AM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

According to both Bodum (one of the major makers of French Presses) and Sweet Maria's ( one of the better independent coffee equipment sellers in the US), you are not.

If anything, you are under-dosing a little. Bodum recommends 4 rounded tablespoons for 16oz, SM recommends 3 and a half. I use about the SM numbers when I make a press.

However, the ultimate authority is you. If you like your coffee with three scoops, keep making it that way.
posted by bonehead at 5:47 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

i just figured that i wasn't using exactly 16oz water because the coffee takes up some space. so i should use less than 4
posted by mamamia88 at 5:50 AM on November 9, 2012

The coffeefaq says you're not using enough. On the other hand, just use how much you need to use to make a cup of coffee that you enjoy.
posted by duckstab at 5:52 AM on November 9, 2012

Agree. Personal taste. It also depends on the fineness of the grind and the method of brewing.

But the standard coffee recipe of one tablespoon per 8 oz that's printed on most commercial coffee containers presumes that people are drinking a standard 8 oz cup of standard (strong) coffee. Most people seem to prefer a larger amount of less strong coffee.
posted by gjc at 5:53 AM on November 9, 2012

I have found one variable that could lead to a "waste" of coffee, and that is water temperature. If the water is not hot enough, more coffee is required for the same strength. As long as your water is the recommended just below boiling, you can determine the amount based on your personal taste, as others have said.
posted by bitslayer at 5:59 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your coffee tastes good, you're using the riight amount. If it tastes bitter and overpowering, you're using too much. If it tastes watery and weak, you're using too little. It's not an exact science, you have to experiment a bit and see what works for you. 2Tbsp/8oz is just a rough guideline, a starting point from which you can fine-tune your brew to your personal taste.

You could also experiment with brewing time, by the way. I find that using a bit more coffee but a shorter brew gives me a smoother cup without losing flavor, but it also uses up my coffee faster so I don't always do it.
posted by Scientist at 6:00 AM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

the coffee takes up some space

Less than you might guess. The density of an unconsolidated powder like coffee can be really low: a tablespoon of ground coffee might displace as little as 1/3 of a tablespoon of liquid. If you've ever noticed, a layer of ground coffee will appear to shrink when you add water to it. The water fills the voids in the powder and allows it to pack better.

So don't think that 1T of coffee means 1 less tablespoonful of water. It's rather less than that.
posted by bonehead at 6:01 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I make about 16 oz of coffee in a French press almost every day and I use 4 tablespoons. For me that's the sweet spot between coffee flavored hot water and a cup that I have to gird my loins to drink.
posted by MadamM at 6:06 AM on November 9, 2012

I use .85 to .90 oz by weight in my 16 oz french press, course ground. 195 degree water. 3.5 to 4 minutes.
posted by SampleSize at 6:21 AM on November 9, 2012

You can also get bitter, acidic coffee from using too little coffee grounds, because it over-extracts.

I used to be cheap and try to stretch my expensive coffee by using less than I should, but it always ended up tasting bad. I decided to swap quality for quantity, and started using less water with the same amount of coffee. This raised the coffee-to-water ratio, and my drinks came out better (if, alas, in smaller volume). Yay!

(Of course, now I cold brew, using almost a full 1 cup scoop of grounds in 32 ounces of cold water. I dilute it a little before heating it.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:35 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Coffee snobs Stumptown suggest 7 grams of beans for every 7 oz of water. I use roughly this ratio (and follow the rest of their directions) and get pretty yummy coffee out of it.

However I agree with DarlingBri that it only really matters if you like it. Try making a pot with less coffee tomorrow and see how you feel about it.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:35 AM on November 9, 2012

You can also get bitter, acidic coffee from using too little coffee grounds, because it over-extracts.
This is exactly what I came in here to say - and while you can always add a little hot water to coffee that comes out too strong, there's no salvaging coffee that's made too weak. Ultimately though, it's up to your personal taste.
posted by usonian at 7:00 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just taste it until you get it the way you want it, then memorize the coffee to water ratio. Weak coffee is wasting money, in my opinion. I would rather have a half cup of strong coffee than two cups of weak coffee. The first sips are always the best, anyway.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:02 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Taste isn't waste. Do how you like, and strive for perfection.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:06 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I get the feeling that you are hoping for a somewhat scientific answer here about supersaturation, which unfortunately I can't answer but have often wondered the same thing. That said, I'm unsure if coffee dissolves in water or is merely held in suspension (I suspect suspension with some dissolution) but I don't know.

I personally use two and a half scoops of whole beans (which I then grind) from my aeropress for 2 large cups of coffee daily, and it's pretty damn strong. Of course, there's just as much "strength" from the roast/bean origin/storage as from anything else. (I don't know the volume of the Aeropress scoop, but I suspect it may be 2 tablespoons.)
posted by TomMelee at 9:39 AM on November 9, 2012

If you want better tasting coffee using fewer beans, use the brown paper cones in a Melitta plastic funnel. You can place that right over your cup if you wish only one cup of coffee, and you can grind the coffee much finer than you would for French press. As long as you keep the water off the boil, you won't over-extract, and the coffee won't be bitter. Pour the water in slowly, keeping all the coffee in the bottom of the funnel. The brown paper won't flavor the coffee, and it actually removes some harmful chemicals. In my experience, acidic coffee is a function of the blend. Try different blends until you find one with low-acidity.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:39 AM on November 9, 2012

I drink mine black with no sugar, and I've found coffee presses to make stronger coffee, mostly more acidic than anything else. I used a drip maker for years with one of those gold mesh baskets and had the same effect. I've come to think that the paper sucks out some of the acid, and miss my coffee press so much that I considered making it in the damned press and then pouring it through a filter, until I realized I still needed to get out the door in the morning.
posted by nevercalm at 11:21 PM on November 9, 2012

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