The trajectory (or descent?) into coffee madness usually starts with an experience at a quality focused cafe, which leads you to buy better beans, which sparks the realization that your home setup is inadequate, followed by the purchase of a better grinder and some kind of manual brewer.
At this point you start to realize that repeatability, or consistency, is the illusive holy grail both at home and at the best cafes. It’s not easy to make a perfect cup every time, and even the best cafes, when held to the highest standards, are often far from consistent. That’s the nature of the bean, the knowledge of perfection and the quest to attain it is half the fun and makes those perfect cups all the more rewarding.
The two most basic tools to help you with consistency are a timer and a scale. Without them, you’re inviting chance and luck to take over the equation and you’ll be churning out more duds than deliciousness. You’ll use the scale to weigh the beans, and to measure how much water you’re using, keeping them in the right proportion (roughly 60g of coffee to 1L of water, keeping in mind that 1L of water = 1000g).
The Soehnle Kitchen Scale (and its discontents)
All that is just to introduce why I’d review a scale. They’re important, and if you’re serious about consistent quality you’ll use it almost every time you brew coffee.
I’m a sucker for nice design and I liked the minimalist look and bright color of the Soehnle digital scale, but I’ve found it has one major flaw – the surface is made of glass.
Glass expands and contracts. Coffee is hot.
This makes the glass expand and has the effect of reducing the reported weight by 1 gram every 5~10 seconds. Not very helpful if you’re doing a pour-over and trying to be precise with your extraction.
The only way to get around this is to put something on the scale that blocks the heat, but that gets cumbersome and doesn’t always work. The aeropress works nicely (pictured above), but after measuring once you know roughly how much water it holds; the real issue occurs with pour-over and other methods that require a hot pot of coffee sitting on the scale.
One other complaint – it doesn’t give you decimals; if you want to get 15g on the dot, you need to get it to the point where the readout keeps flashing between 14 and 15, which is effectively 14.999.
Verdict: If you’re thinking of buying the Soehnle glass-topped scale for coffee, save yourself some trouble and look for something else!
If you’re in the market now, here’s what to look for:
- Gram units, and accuracy to at least 0.1 gram
- A tare button
- No glass surface
- Ability to disable or program the auto-shutoff (so that it doesn’t turn off when your coffee is blooming [i.e. during the initial small pour that allows gasses to escape].)
- A display that gives you decimals is nice but not strictly necessary
I make do with mine for now, but in the future I’ll be looking for something better and I’ll post what I find here on the blog. If you have a recommendation leave a note in the comments!