Brewing Methods

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
There are a number of different methods for brewing coffee. Most of them extract between 20 and 25% of the bean’s substance, and produce a cup containing somewhere between 1.3% and 5.5% bean solids by weight. The facing chart places some of the major styles in relation to each other. Standard American filter-drip coffee is the lightest, and Italian espresso the strongest. The initial proportion of coffee to water is 1:15 for American, 1:5 for espresso. One clear lesson from the chart is that it’s always best to use too much coffee rather than too little: a strong but balanced cup can be diluted with hot water and remain balanced, but a weak cup can’t be improved. This principle can help avoid problems caused by the fact that cup and coffee scoop measures vary, and that scoops themselves are a very approximate measure (one 2-tablespoon/30-ml scoop may deliver anywhere from 8 to 12 gm coffee, depending on grind and packing).