I’m Confused, How Much Coffee Should I Use?

in Brewing Coffee

Question: “Hi Marc, I love coffee and have been striving to make the perfect cup for years. I’ve always been mixed up with the coffee/water ratio, however. You say 1-2 tbsp per mug. Not only is 1-2 tbsp subjective but what about the mug size? Let’s say I want to make 8 cups of coffee. By 8 cups, I mean 8 coffee cups, not and not 8 250ml cups. Many sources have said 2 level tsbp ground coffee per 1 coffee cup (I think that is about 170 ml), other sources have said 1 heaping per 2 coffee cups…. I have a Krups coffee grinder that I just indicate how many cups I want and it takes care of grinding the correct amount. The manual on the grinder says 2 tbsp per 1 coffee cup, however, when I actually measure it out on a tbsp it’s closer to 1 tbsp per coffee cup. What are your thoughts? Also, I’ve heard to brew at full strength and add hot water to weaken (if desired) as opposed to reducing the amount of coffee grounds. One more thing… are the ratios the same if using a coffee press??? Thanks so much for the help! Love the website by the way.” – Brad

Answer: Awesome Brad, thanks for the comments.  I still remember how confused I found referring to cups of coffee, whether that’s a coffee mug or a 250mL “metric cup” of coffee.  Your question made me realize how unconsciously I make my coffee but unconscious or not, how consistently I make it.  This advice should work:

  • Drip Brewer: Just about every drip brewer today measures volume in the carafe by number of metric cups.  So a 10-cup brewer makes you ten metric cups of coffee.  I consider this roughly five mugs of coffee, but don’t let me confuse the issue…use this guideline.  For each two metric cups of water you pour into the carafe, use a heaping tablespoon or coffee scoop of whole beans, or a level scoop of ground coffee.  Adjust to taste from there, but that should be a good starting point.
  • French Press: This one is a little trickier because as you mention, we have to consider the size of the mug now.  With the drip-brewer carafe, you can measure your coffee to the cup measurements on the carafe.  With a French Press, there usually aren’t volume indicators on it.  What I do to get around this problem is estimate one heaping tablespoon or scoop of whole beans per “standard coffee mug” worth of water I pour into it.  I know, just barely scientific but I use the same mug of coffee for drip-brewed coffee as I do for pressed coffee so for each one of those I boil in water, I use one heaping scoop of coffee.

I either solved your problem or confused you even more!  The problem I have with most standard advice is that it’s not that practical for me to measure the coffee I brew by “standard coffee cup sizes” or volumes of water because my gauge is either the volume indicators on the carafe or else the number of mugs I intend to drink.  I hope you find this advice practical.


  1. Try to apply using a scale as a tool. This will allow you to be more accurate on your ratios and give you a better judgement when it comes to tweaking your brew habits. The scale will allow for more finer tuning and understanding.

    Comment by Justin - modcup — November 19, 2013 @ 11:05 am

  2. That might be a good investment to ensure some consistency from one cup to the next.

    Comment by Marc Wortman — November 21, 2013 @ 9:30 am

Add your comment