How To Taste Coffee: Finding the right Coffee to Water Ratio for You

No coffee is the same. Neither are coffee drinkers. The coffee to water ratio that one prefers will differ from person to person and there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to what is best for you. However, by experimenting with different ratios, you can find a coffee and coffee drink that suits your tastes and needs perfectly! In this blog post, we'll cover how to find your perfect coffee-to-water ratio with a quick and easy coffee tasting exercise.

What is the coffee to water ratio?

Coffee in its purest form has only two ingredients: coffee grounds and water. That's why paying attention to how much water and how much coffee is used is an important factor when it comes to brewing the perfect cup. The coffee to water ratio - often expressed as coffee:water or coffee per cup – refers to the amount of ground coffee and amount of water used in a single serving, typically a standard measuring cup (or mug) with eight ounces.

It isn't uncommon to find recommendations using all kinds of units: tablespoons, weight in grams whole bean, a 1 to 16 ratio, or the mysterious “scoop” and that can add to the confusion. We'll keep this simple and show you how to compare coffees at different ratios at home using nothing but the brewing equipment you already have and beans from your favourite coffee store or Toronto coffee roaster.

Tasting test for coffee to water ratio

To get started, brew coffee three times:
  • Using the amount of coffee you normally use
  • Using LESS coffee than usual
  • Using MORE coffee than usual
Make sure to take notes of how much coffee you use in each batch. If you have a kitchen scale you can use it to get the exact quantity in grams. If that's not available, you can use a unit of measure that makes more sense to your set up such as tablespoons, measuring cups, etc. What's important is to have a way of logging the quantity differences so you can replicate them in the future once you find the ratio that suits you best.

Also, ensure you're using the same coffee beans and the same amount of water for all three batches. This is to allow you to compare "apples to apples".

  1. Brew the first batch and take notes of how much coffee and how much water you're using
  2. Pour the finished brew into a carafe or mug and set it aside to cool
  3. While the first batch is cooling, brew again — this time using five grams (or one tablespoon) less of whole bean coffee, but the same amount of water. Take notes again.
  4. Pour the second batch into a separate container and let it cool
  5. Brew the third batch, now using five grams more than in your first batch and write them down.
  6. Taste!

What to look for when tasting coffee

So now that you've brewed coffee three ways, it's time to taste. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you do:

Coffee sweetness - As coffee sits, it cools and the flavours change. In addition to tasting notes from coffee roasters about how this coffee might taste like a hot beverage, you'll be able to notice changes in flavour as the coffee cools down so keep an eye out for sweetness or acidity that is stronger than expected when hot

Coffee bitterness – coffee can taste bitter when hot but as the coffee cools, so does the bitterness. That said there are some coffees that never mellow out and remain very strong even after cooling down

Coffee strength – how the coffee feels in your mouth is an important factor to consider when tasting coffee for water ratio. “Feel” refers to coffee’s viscosity or thickness, coffee’s body. Coffees can range from thin and watery to thick and rich; find the coffee that feels best in your mouth

This quick experiment will help you find an ideal coffee to water ratio for your preferred brewing method and personal taste - as well as give you a considerable caffeine boost. You might notice one of the three batches tasting sweeter than the others. That's a clue you're close to your ideal ratio. If it's too similar, try again with smaller coffee quantity increments. Depending on your brewing method, a few grams can make a significant change. Now let's start brewing!

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