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How much ground coffee to use per cup?

Ground coffee in a cup with filter from above?

What seems like a simple question can actually involve many different answers - but once you know the theory behind it, the perfect coffee is just a few minutes away. We all wonder sometimes whether we are putting the right amount of coffee grounds into our favorite brew – how much ground coffee should I actually use per cup? Here, we’ll look at some of the theories, advice (and a little mathematics) behind brewing coffee. But it’s worth remembering that the real joy of any hobby such as coffee is discovering for yourself what works for you.

How much coffee grounds to use

Measuring spoon with ground coffee surrounded by coffee beans

So, how much ground coffee should you use per cup? Well, it depends on a few things, not least the size of your cup. Basically, most coffee machine makers define a ‘cup’ as 150ml (about 5oz of liquid).

Most machines come with a pre-measured spoon for measuring scoops of coffee, to use when loading your machine. A coffee "scoop" is typically 1 tablespoon (tbsp), which is 5 grams of ground coffee.

The Golden Ratio

"Specialty Coffee Association" Golden Ratio of coffee and water given 1:18

Next, we get a bit mathematical here and apply what’s known as the Golden Ratio – this was developed by the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) to help people know how best to mix coffee and water. It’s generally said to be between 1:15 and 1:18, (coffee : water) which means that for a 150ml cup divided by 18 = 8.3g of coffee per cup. Their official quote puts the same numbers in a different way: “To achieve the Golden Cup Standard, the recommended coffee-to-water ratio is 55 g/L ± 10%”.

Make sure that you always do your conversions to the correct units – it’s probably best to work in grams for everything. It may seem strange to think of grams of water, but it makes the calculations in the Golden Ratio easier to do, as above.

How many coffee beans to use per cup

Coffee beans on the white background in an arc

If you’re wondering how many coffee beans per cup that is in terms of Golden Ration – the answer is roughly 70. It was said that the composer Ludwig van Beethoven used to count out 60 beans per cup for his coffee. But then, again, not all of us have the patience or attention to detail of a genius, so settle for around one and a half tablespoons of grounds per cup.

Table with grams and tablespoons

Ground coffee spoon

For ease of reference, here is a handy table with grams and tablespoons showing the amounts of coffee needed to make up to twelve coffees at a time:

Cup of brewed coffee (150ml) Coffee grounds (g) Tablespoons
1 8.3 1.6
2 16.6 3.2
5 41.5 8
6 49.8 9.6
8 66.4 12.8
10 83 16
12 99.6 18.2

 

So if you want to brew enough coffee or you and your friends, just scale up the ratio calculation we did before.

  • How much coffee for four cups of coffee? Using the Golden Ratio, we know that if one cup takes 8.3g of coffee grounds, then 4 cups would need 33.2g. (The full calculation is that 5fl oz x 4 cups = 20fl oz which equates to 600ml, and 600/18 gives 33g).
  • How much coffee for eight cups of coffee? Well, you’d say that 5fl oz x 8 cups = 40 fl. oz, which is 1200 ml. Using the 1:18 golden ratio (1200 divided by 18), we get 67 grams of coffee for 8 cups, which is just under 13 tablespoons.
  • How much coffee for ten cups of coffee? 5 x 10 = 50 fl. oz 50 fl. oz = 1500 ml. Using the 1:18 golden ratio, that gives us 83 grams of coffee to make our ten cups.
  • What if you want to do coffee for a dinner party and need to know how many scoops for twelve cups? Well, obviously you’ll need to know how much your scoop holds, but it is usually around 5 grams, as we know. Next, do your conversions. 5 fl. oz x 12 = 60 fl. oz equates to 1800 ml. Applying the 1:18 golden ratio, we get 100 grams of coffee for 12 cups.

Additional tips

"Blade Grinders" and "Burr Grinder" coffee compared

Let’s look at some additional tips for helping you to get the amounts right, and also to save money. We should mention a bit about grinding here, because the size of ground particles by the type of grinder you use, and that may mean you fit less grounds in your machine. A burr or mill grinder is the best because it produces coffee grounds of a consistent size. (Blade grinders are less good, as they grind the beans nearer the blade for finely than those further away.) Always ‘tamp down’ or push downwards on your grounds once in the machine pod (many machines come with a special tool to do just that).

The different types of coffees you make will each require different grinds – an espresso needs the finest grounds as they are in contact with the water for only around 30 seconds, and so need the greatest surface area contact with the water. The auto-drip machine can take coarser, larger grounds, and the cafeteria requires the coarsest grounds of all.

Let the percolator take the strain

Many cups of coffee

If you’re wondering what the best way of saving money is when making a large number of cups of coffee is, then look no further than the humble percolator. One pound of coffee (almost half a kilo) will make 100 cups. Just be careful to keep an eye on the brewing process, because the percolator will recirculate brewed coffee a number of times, and so does produce strong coffee.

Don’t be too concerned about getting these ratios right and measuring them out exactly – they’re just the basis to begin with – make them your own with practice. The best ratio to use is really whatever you find is best for you!

FAQs / quick read summary:

Q. How much coffee grounds should I use per cup?

A. A coffee "scoop" is typically 1 tablespoon (tbsp), which is 5 grams of ground coffee per cup (usually defined as 150ml)

Q. What’s the Golden Ratio and what is it used for?

A. A formula used to help people know how best to mix coffee and water - generally between 1:15 and 1:18, (coffee : water)

Q. How many coffee beans usually make one cup?

A. On average, 70 – but it depends on the size of your scoop and your cup!

Q. How much coffee do I need for 8 cups of coffee?

A. Using the handy table (above), we can see that 67 grams of coffee is needed for 8 cups, which is just under 13 tablespoons.

Q. How many scoops should I use for 12 cups?

A. The table above suggests that 100 grams of coffee would be about right for 12 cups

Q. What are some additional tips for getting the amounts right?

A. Use a burr or mill grinder, because they produce coffee grounds of a consistent size, so its easier to measure them out – but remember that the different type of coffees you make will each require different grinds.

Q. What’s the best way to make a large number of coffees and save the most money?

A. Use a percolator - one pound of coffee (almost half a kilo) will make 100 cups – but remember that percolators make quite strong coffee as they keep brewing the beans, so be careful it doesn’t get too strong.