How To Master The Ratio For Drip Coffee Brewing

Ratio for drip coffee
Coffee water ratio

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We’ve all been there. You buy a bag of expensive, high-quality coffee beans, grind them, and brew a batch of coffee in your drip coffee maker. 

You can’t wait to taste the exciting flavor nuances of this new bean but, when you take that first sip, what you taste is somehow both bitter and bland at the same time. What gives?

Many factors affect the taste of the final brew, but commonly overlooked is the coffee water ratio for drip coffee. In fact, this is where many go astray before they even start brewing.

So is there one ideal ratio for drip coffee? Let’s take an in-depth look at drip coffee and find out.

What Does Drip Coffee Mean?

By definition, drip coffee refers to coffee made by slowly dripping near-boiling water through ground coffee. Drip coffee can technically refer to several different brewing methods, including pour over.

But these days, drip coffee is most commonly made using an electric drip coffee maker. When people use the term “drip coffee,” this is what they’re typically referring to, rather than other manual brewing methods that also involve dripping coffee.

So when we refer to the ratio for drip coffee, we refer to coffee made with electric drip coffee makers. For more information on other drip methods, check out our articles on pour over coffee.

Ok, we’ve settled on a definition for drip coffee. But before we get to the ratio for drip coffee, let’s examine some of the other factors that might be affecting your brew.

What does drip coffee mean
What is automatic drip coffee

Grind Size For Drip Coffee

While the ratio for drip coffee is a critical piece of the puzzle when brewing delicious coffee, we’d argue that getting the grind size right is equally as important. And most people fail at this step of the process before they even get to the coffee water ratio.

The size of the grind determines the rate at which the coffee is brewed. An incorrect grind size will result in one of two potential outcomes: under-extraction or over-extraction. Under-extraction occurs when the grind is too coarse, and the water moves through the coffee grinds too quickly. The resulting cup will taste sour and acidic.

Over-extraction occurs when the grind is too fine, resulting in a bitter and dull brew devoid of defining characteristics. So while getting the correct coffee water ratio for drip coffee is essential, it won’t do you any good if your grind is off.

The best grind size for drip coffee is medium. The ground coffee should resemble regular sand.

Getting a precise, consistent grind is critical to brewing the best cup of drip coffee possible. To get the grind just right, you’ll need a burr grinder

grind size for drip coffee

Pre Ground Coffee Vs. Freshly Ground

Fresh is best for coffee, and, just like other fruits, coffee does expire. When green coffee beans are roasted, they release carbon dioxide and oils from within the bean. 

The coffee beans begin to oxidize immediately after roasting as the outside of the beans are exposed to air. Once the coffee is ground, more of the bean is exposed to air, thus speeding up the oxidation process (aka, ground coffee becomes stale very quickly).

When you purchase pre-ground coffee, it’s already stale before you even open it (gross). Grinding coffee beans just before brewing ensures maximum freshness and the best possible flavor from the beans. 

Pre-ground coffee is typically ground to medium grind size. While this is the correct grind size for drip coffee, buying pre-ground limits your brewing options. Grinding the beans yourself with a burr grinder allows you to experiment with several different brewing methods, which is way more fun.

So always buy the freshest whole coffee beans available and grind them just before brewing. Store your beans whole in an airtight container or in the resealable foil bag that they came in. Once opened, peak freshness lasts about 2 weeks (or 90 days unopened).

The Ideal Ratio For Drip Coffee

Now that you know how big of a role the grind size plays in brewing epic coffee let’s get down to the ratio for drip coffee. 

But, is there one ideal ratio for drip coffee? In a word, no.

Now that isn’t to say that there aren’t guidelines and suggestions for the best ratio for drip coffee but, when it comes down to it, coffee is a very personal experience.

Sorry to leave you hanging there.

The coffee experience is highly subjective, and drip coffee is no exception. As with any brewing method, drip coffee brewing requires some experimentation to figure out how to make the perfect cup of coffee for you.

So what’s our recommended ratio for drip coffee?

Drip coffee measurements
Recipe for drip coffee
Drip coffee vs keurig

We advise starting with a 1:15 coffee water ratio and adjusting from there. But for best results, we recommend staying somewhere between 1:15 and 1:18.

Why the range? When deciding on a coffee water ratio, one thing to consider is how you, or your guests, prefer to take the coffee. If the coffee is diluted with cream, this must be considered in the ratio for drip coffee.

A higher coffee to water ratio is a better place to start for those who take cream and/or sweetener in their coffee. If the coffee will be consumed black, there is more room to play with the ratio. We find that a 1:17 coffee water ratio works exceptionally well for black coffee, as more of the flavor nuances are drawn out with the additional water.

Another point to consider is the type of coffee bean. While a lighter roast may taste better at a 1:15 ratio, you might find that your favorite medium-dark roast is better extracted at a 1:16 ratio. 

But, for most people, a coffee water ratio of 1:15 will work well. Start here and adjust as needed.

How To Measure Coffee Per Cup

Now that you know to start with a 1:15 ratio for drip coffee, how exactly do you measure the coffee and water? In grams? Ounces? Cups?

First things first: a cup, when referring to the capacity of a drip coffee maker, is not 8 ounces. The standard drip coffee maker “cup” size is typically 5-6 ounces. And considering most Americans consume coffee in a 10-12 ounce mug, one “cup” from a drip coffee maker really equates to half a mug of coffee.

For this reason, using a scoop to cup ratio is a highly inaccurate method for measuring the coffee water ratio. Another problem with using a scoop to measure coffee is that densities and weights vary from bean to bean, so, ultimately, the scoop method will never be accurate.

If using a scoop to measure coffee, you’ll want to stick to a tablespoon-sized scoop to be sure you’re getting the right ratio for drip coffee. The coffee water ratio changes as the units of measurement here aren’t interchangeable. The best ratio for drip coffee using a scoop is 1:4, or 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 8 ounces of water.

coffee scale, timemore coffee scale
Image Courtesy of Timemore

But to be much more accurate and to make the math more manageable, we prefer to use a scale and measure both coffee and water in grams

So for our 1:15 coffee water ratio, we use 60 grams of coffee and 900 grams of water. This recipe for drip coffee yields about 32 ounces of coffee.  

How To Clean Drip Coffee Makers

While the ratio for drip coffee is a critical piece of the brewing puzzle, cleaning your drip coffee maker is also an essential step in ensuring the best brew possible. 

Drip coffee makers should be cleaned regularly to avoid the growth of bacteria and mold on any of the components. Think about it, mildew and bacteria thrive in environments that are moist and warm. Aka, your coffee maker.

The best way to keep your drip coffee maker fresh is to clean it daily (sigh). But, it’s easier than you think. After use, simply wash the pot, reusable filter, and other removable components with warm water and dish soap.

Ensure the water chamber is completely empty and leave the lid open to let the chamber dry completely. That’s it!

We also recommend a monthly cleaning for the internal parts that soap and water can’t easily reach. To accomplish this, simply pour about 4 cups of undiluted white vinegar into the water chamber. Let it sit for 30 minutes.

Run the brew cycle with the vinegar, then follow this cycle with 2-3 cycles of just water. Dry the machine completely, and you’re set. 

Final Thoughts

Now that you know a bit more about how to find the right coffee water ratio for drip coffee, you’ll be brewing better coffee in no time.

While it takes some experimenting to get the ratio just right, it’s a fun challenge and one that’s easily tackled for any coffee enthusiast.

Just remember, always buy whole beans, grind just before brewing, and start with a 1:15 ratio. You’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of most folks if you get these steps right. And who doesn’t love winning at the coffee game?

And the crowd goes wild…

Drip coffee water ratio
Using filtered water for coffee

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Drip Coffee Better Than Keurig?

In theory, we love the idea of the Keurig. A one-cup brewer is incredibly convenient for those looking to brew a single cup of coffee with almost zero effort.

But, convenience aside, we would argue that in the drip coffee vs Keurig debate, drip coffee dominates Keurig coffee for two fundamental reasons. 

First, with drip coffee, you control the amount of coffee you use and the coffee water ratio. Additionally, you maintain the freshness of your beans, how they’re ground, etc.

Second, drip coffee is significantly better for the environment. K-cup single-use plastic pods are neither biodegradable nor recyclable. They contribute heavily to the amount of plastic piling up in our landfills and spilling over into rivers, lakes, and oceans. 

In fact, they contribute so heavily to the plastic problem globally that John Sylvan, the inventor of the K-cup and founder of Keurig, says he “feels bad sometimes” that he ever started the company. He does not use a Keurig to make his coffee.

Is Drip Coffee Bad For You?

In a word, no. Coffee has been shown to offer numerous benefits like antioxidants and other nutrients. Drip coffee is no exception to this and is considered part of a healthy diet.

For those with caffeine sensitivities, however, coffee may be troublesome. You might consider switching to decaf coffee if caffeine causes any side effects or interacts with medications. 

But whether it’s caffeinated or decaf, drip coffee is not bad for you.

What Is Automatic Drip Coffee?

Automatic drip coffee simply refers to coffee made with an electric drip coffee maker. As we mentioned earlier, the term drip coffee can include coffee made by manual drip methods like pour over.

Referring to drip coffee as automatic drip coffee simply distinguishes automatic brewing with a machine and manual brewing that’s done by hand.