How to Use a Scale when Making Espresso at Home

Published on 02/07/2024 · 7 min readAchieve barista precision at home! Learn how to use a scale for making espresso, ensuring the perfect coffee-to-water ratio for a flawless cup every time.
Nate Harrison, Coffee Expert
By Coffee Expert Nate Harrison

Photo by Tyler Nix

“I just spent money on this nice machine —— it should make good espresso.” You might think that once you have the right espresso machine, it will make satisfactory shots of espresso. That makes sense, right?

While the espresso machine will do an excellent job depending on its features and build quality, so much of making espresso is actually in your hands as the barista. The extra thought and time put into making espresso is key to achieving that “next-level” espresso shot and to make those good-tasting shots consistently.

Why Use a Scale?

One way to help make those shots taste sweet and balanced is by using a brew scale throughout the process, from beginning to end. A coffee scale will give precision, accuracy, and consistency to each cup made by providing you with information on how your coffee is brewed. For example, if the espresso tastes weak, that could indicate that you should include more coffee beans/grounds in the dose or maybe even pull a shorter shot of espresso. If you need help choosing a scale for making espresso at home, get in touch with one of our Curated Coffee and Espresso Experts.

What Kind of Scale

First off, let’s talk about what kind of scale you might need for use in your espresso workflow. A coffee scale is different than a kitchen scale. A kitchen scale will only prioritize giving the weight of something, whether it be in grams or ounces. A coffee scale is most likely going to have more features that are tailored to the coffee connoisseur.

While a kitchen scale would work for brewing espresso, my suggestion is to get a coffee scale specifically to maximize your coffee/espresso workflow. But whether you use a kitchen scale or coffee scale, make sure that it measures according to the gram, as this is the most accurate. Below are some of my top choices for the best coffee scales.

Scales at a Glance

Acaia Pearl

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Flow rate indication
  • Built-in operations by brew method
  • Accuracy to 0.1g
  • USB-C rechargeable
  • Optimized sunlight readability
  • Built-in timer
  • Free shipping
  • We price match
  • Returnable

Acaia Lunar Scale

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Smaller size means better fit on drip tray
  • Fast stabilization for quicker response
  • Flow rate indication
  • Accuracy to 0.01g
  • USB-C rechargeable
  • Build-in timer

Acaia Pyxis

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Smallest Acaia scale, easy to travel with
  • Accuracy to 0.01g
  • Built-in timer

Fellow Tally Pro Scale

  • Cutting-edge design
  • Matches other Fellow products
  • Accuracy to 0.1g
  • USB-C rechargeable
  • Brew Assist mode
    • Choose your brew ratio, and the scale will help guide you during the brewing process
  • Can measure in grams, ounces, pounds, and milliliters

Hario Scale

  • Affordable
  • Built-in timer
  • Powered by 2 AAA batteries
  • Accuracy to 0.1g

Using a Scale for Dosing the Coffee Beans

Photo by Ekaterina Minaeva

Now that we know what type of scale to use, let’s talk about how to use the scale itself. The first part of any espresso workflow is preparing the portafilter. I recommend single dosing your hopper for the coffee grinder instead of decanting or adding the whole bag of beans to your grinder hopper. Single dosing is the process of only putting into the grinder the amount of beans needed for that coffee drink or recipe, which will ultimately give the whole beans a longer life.

Also, dosing the coffee beans by weighing them each time before they are ground is important to make sure that your ratio is exactly as desired. A good place to start with a ratio for espresso is one part coffee beans to two parts finished espresso. For example, if 18g of coffee beans is the amount put into the portafilter, you should end up with 36g of finished espresso in the cup. You can always adjust to taste.

How to Dose Your Coffee Beans

Grab a dosing cup and put it on the scale. Turn the scale on and “tare” it. Taring the scale is the process of bringing the scale reading back down to zero. It is much easier to tare the scale than it is to constantly do the math in your head. Then, as you put the coffee beans into the dosing cup, stop pouring the beans when the scale reads 18g. You can now move on to grinding your beans.

Another good practice is weighing the coffee grounds as you put them into the portafilter. This can help ensure that the amount of coffee beans measured equals the coffee grounds expelled. Some grinders will have some retention so weighing the portafilter, taring the scale, and then putting the grounds into the portafilter to weigh could help alleviate the concern of different scale readings for coffee beans compared to coffee grounds.

After the coffee is weighed, finish prepping the portafilter. Prepping the portafilter is mainly the process of putting the ground coffee into the portafilter and then placing it into position for the pull. This process includes putting the ground coffee into the portafilter and leveling it. You can then tamp, or press firmly, on the ground coffee to compact the grounds.

Using a Scale During the Pull

Photo by Luke Porter

The other recommended way to use a scale when pulling a shot of espresso is by weighing the finished shot, which could help show if it is being done in a way that extracts the most out of the grounds. One important thing to measure is the flow rate, which is how fast the espresso is pulled. For example, if the pulled shot gets to the desired weight too quickly, you might want to reduce the grind size to something a little bit finer. Or if the shot is pulled really slowly, it could indicate your grind setting is too fine or that there could be a problem in the water flow of the machine. This is also where you would use the built-in timer that comes with most coffee scales.

How to Measure the Shot Pull With a Scale

When pulling a shot of espresso, first put the portafilter in place. Then place a scale (preferably a smaller-sized one) on the drip tray or platform beneath the espresso glass or mug and make sure the scale is tared. Once all of that is in place, you can push the button to start your pull. If your machine is set up for it, this is a good chance to time the pre-infusion by using the built-in timer.

Once the espresso starts to come out of the portafilter, start the timer. You can now monitor the flow of the espresso as well as the time. Once the scale shows the desired amount of espresso, stop the machine from pulling. When the final drops of espresso make their way into the cup, pause the timer and take note of the extraction time shown. This time, along with the amount extracted, can give you valuable insight into your pulled shot of espresso.

Note - While tools are good to have and give us insights into our coffee, nothing beats taste. Make sure to taste the espresso and make adjustments accordingly.

Pro Tip

For the people who might want even more control over their finished cup, measure any of the additional flavors or textures that you want to add to your espresso-based drink. In doing this, you will know exactly how much flavor and/or sweetness each additional element adds.

Find the Right Scale for Making Espresso at Home for You

Photo by Andreas Behr

A coffee scale is a wonderful addition to any home barista’s brew bar. It gives one more layer of insight into how the coffee is made and how small changes can affect the way that it is brewed. If you are interested in more coffee gear that can improve your workflow, contact a Curated Coffee and Espresso Expert for free, personalized advice!

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

Shop Coffee & Espresso on Curated

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Fellow Tally Pro Precision Scale (Studio Edition)

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