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January 30, 2017 /
Espresso Recipes: Measuring Yield

After Strength, the 2nd step to every good espresso recipe is yield. Yield is the amount of espresso in the cup after extraction. It’s measured by weight though—definitely not volume. Before we delve too deeply into yield, I’m going to explain why it’s best to use weight to measure your espresso.

This is probably old news to a fair few of you, but I really want to drive this one home. The time has come. Throw out your measuring cups, 30ml jiggers and shot glasses. Volume is out. Weight is in. Get a scale, and start weighing those espressos!

Using volume to measure espresso is fraught with error and inconsistency. There’s a few reasons why it should be avoided.

Shot Glasses are Small

A small vessel doesn’t leave much margin for error when making a reading. This means that any measurement errors are amplified. A misread of 1mm in a regular shot glass could mean an error of up to 5% of the total volume.

Usually, one should measure a liquid by lining their eye up with the base of the meniscus.

It’s quite difficult to measure the depth of a liquid by eye. It’s even harder with an opaque liquid like espresso. You can’t see the meniscus, which adds another level of inaccuracy.

Crema Changes Daily

This is the most pressing reason not to use shot glasses for espresso.

When coffee is fresh, the crema is much thicker. This is because there is still a lot of carbon dioxide in the beans that hasn’t escaped.

As a coffee ages after roasting, that carbon dioxide dissipates and the espresso has much less crema.

Crema is mostly air and its density is far lower than the espresso liquid below, which makes volume measurements close to meaningless.

If you make the same coffee on day 3 and day 14 after roast, the amount of crema it produces will be significantly different. If you used a shot glass to control the size of those two espressos, they would be completely different. The error here can be enormous.

Get some proper scales:

Most espresso bars use cheap almost-disposable scales from ebay or wholesalers. They last a few weeks and are reasonably accurate. If water gets in, they’ll probably die or see problems until dried. Initially cheap, but wasteful and potentially expensive if they’re replaced regularly.

Luckily, it seems like manufacturers are finally starting to listen to the baristas of the world. At SCAA this year, acaialaunched a water-resistant scale called the Lunar. Initial reports are all positive and following the success of their Pearl scale, I’m comfortable recommending this as the best option without hesitation. Pricey yes, but for form and function in a drip-tray scale, it looks hard to beat.

(Not paid to say that, we swears. I mean, just look at the sucker! And it feels so nice and hefty in the hand…like some iPhone 1 vs iPhone 5 type stuff –AB)

Here’s the announcement and detailed blog post from acaia.

How to Weigh Your Yield

If you’ve never made espresso to weight before, here’s a very quick guide:

  • Grind, weigh, distribute and tamp your usual dose into the basket.
  • Tare/zero your cup on a small set of scales.
  • Start the espresso shot and place the cup beneath the spouts.
  • Raise the cup and slide the scales beneath.
  • Make sure the scales are level and reading correctly.
  • Stop the shot when the screen reads a few grams below your yield target weight. This varies from 2-8g due to portafilter retention and scale refresh speed.

Don’t weigh single espressos and multiply by 2. That can be very inaccurate. If you have to split, weigh both cups under both spouts.

Scales are Best-Practice

The best chefs, bakers, chemists and jewelers all use scales to weigh their stuff. This is because they require both accuracy and precision.

Both accuracy AND precision you ask? What’s the difference? Here’s a great video explaining:

Here’s the team at ChefSteps comparing scales to measuring cups and spoons:

Head to acaia to check out the Lunar—they’ll be in stock and shipping mid-july.

Do you have a favorite set of scales? Let me know in the comments. I’m keen to see what everyone is using!

 

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Max Müller
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Max Müller

For home, I am using a german G&G LS2000H scale for EUR 14.- on Amazon. It has a resolution of 1000g x 0.05g and 2000g x 0.1g. You can put a portafilter on it. It is not water-resistant. The scale takes rather long (< 5s) being ready for weighing but it has a good refresh frequency, it is precise, and it is fairly accurate. For testing, I weighed each Euro coin five times (center + each corner). For each coin I got the same reading so its precision is good. Its accuracy had errors between -0.51% and +2.17% (rounded): EUR… Read more »

Alan Bruce
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Alan Bruce

I tend to use the Hario pour over scales, but they’re a little clunky to get on to the drip tray. I think the Lunar’s size could be much easier to work around.

Mikaël Portannier
Guest
Mikaël Portannier

Scales : Brewista, Hario, Jeyfrex, etc.. 😉

Eric Squires
Guest
Eric Squires

I’m holding out for the Brewista Smart Scale. In the meantime my shop uses AMW-SC-2KG scales. At $18US it’s hard to make the jump to the Acaia, especially with a feature filled/water proof $50 scale on the way.

jaywoo
Guest
jaywoo

“Stop the shot when the screen reads a few grams below your yield target weight. This varies from 2-8g due to portafilter retention and scale refresh speed”

This to me doesn’t sound any more accurate than the mentioned pit falls of a shot glass. Though both can be accounted for through trial and error IMO. In the cafe environment I’m in Volumetrics for consistent speed while I’ll crack out the Acaia to experiment with recipes coupled with the Volumetrics. Home shots are always with the Acaia because I have the time and like to geek out 🙂

Andrew Bettis
Guest
Andrew Bettis

I use an Acaia Pearl for dry dose because 0.1 g makes a significant difference in flow rate. We have gone through 2 Bonavitas, and I would not recommend them. They are not very durable (even though we were very gentle with them). Even when functional, they tended to read inaccurately, even though our bar is very level.

For outdose, we use a CJ4000 in a Chicago Metallic eighth size tray. It has lasted almost 2 years.

Andrew Bettis
Guest
Andrew Bettis

Once you’ve determined how shy of your target outdose to stop a shot, it should be very consistent. I use a Synesso, and we conclude shots 3g shy of outdose, and it’s very consistent.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

So once you have figured out the delay, you’ll be within +/-0.75 grams from your target every time. No way volume could ever approach this.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Great tips!!! Thank you

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Haha it sounds like we have similar hobbies..

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Yeah I’m not a big fan of those. A little slow and very clunky!

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

Yes, weighing does slow down the process a bit until you have a system with it dialed in. Then it is near marginal, near being the operative word. Working with volume will ALWAYS be a guessing game and a noticeable variable. You have to do the exact same thing using volume that you are complaining about with weight protocol. This is pointed out using a scale, not because of using a scale and shows the added inherent flaws of shots by volume. Weight is weight, (leaving scale quality out) you know what you have every time. It surpasses volume in… Read more »

Dan Kennedy
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Dan Kennedy

More on this feature filled $50 scale please?!?

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

Matt,
it is a pleasure to read the results of all your intense, hard work, laid out and set up for the most usefulness and accessible to a very wide audience while still maintaining a high precision and standard. Those two aspects have been sorely needed in the industry for a very long time. To be able to add to that is very rewarding. Thank you for all your hard work and sharing it all with us!
Otsukare sama desu!

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Once you find a good one, it’s hard to ever buy another.

Mat North
Guest
Mat North

its pretty good, i got to beta test them earlier this year. quick to read and accurate, with good water resistance. once the bugs are ironed out it will be excellent value for money.

Mat North
Guest
Mat North

They are going to be available later this year as far as I know

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

Ahhhhh! Good to know. Thanks for the intel Mat! Not familiar with them.

Mat North
Guest
Mat North

The brewistas referenced above. They are not completely water ingress proof, but have treated circuitry and components so as to be water resistant. the accuracy seems to be on a par with the german G&G scales mentioned below, so not ideal, but within decent tolerances.
Currently using the Acaia Peals for over a year now with no issues. We leave them in situ to avoid any problems with inconsistency due to movement after Tare.

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

sounds good but what make and model of scale are you talking about is what I’m ultimately wondering. Hmmmmmm?!?

Hendrik Biebouw
Guest
Hendrik Biebouw

He still does.There is a video of this “Pergerism” about Volumetrics floating around on Youtube.

So I guess me and Chris is anxious to know why don’t you, Matt, take it down?

Hendrik Biebouw
Guest
Hendrik Biebouw

But seriously, Matt, will you pay 250 for the Acaia? (And since there are three group heads (for most institutions) the bill will amount to 750). Monied Barista’s (can I still use this job description when referring to you?) must take the realism of economics into consideration before penning it down. There are other pluasable alternatives, like the Hario scale for a mere 60 Dollars. You can buy a trio of these and still have money left than to initially purchase a mere one Acaia Lunar!?

Kudos to your work though. Always informative and stimulating. Keep-it-up.

Chris Gates
Guest
Chris Gates

Matt in the earlier days of Pergerism you were keen on using volumetrics for consistency. Do you use that at all now?

Luiz
Guest
Luiz

How do you call the ability of the scale to measure 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 versus 19.0 19.2 19.4?

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Why do you need 3?

The Harios are inaccurate, oversized and definitely not waterproof.

Chris Gates
Guest
Chris Gates

Not really my direction at all. I was interested if in a busy cafe environment weighing yield was achievable or if that was used for setup and the volumetric equivalent used for mass production.

Wouldn’t want to see any thing of Matt’s removed. The interweb is full of advice that in no way is representative of the modern Australian coffee scene. Anything Pergeristic is. Keep it up and keep it coming!

Hendrik Biebouw
Guest
Hendrik Biebouw

Yes you can with a lot of love and experience. Being pedantic is possible via scales, for me that is using the Hario, and also avoiding them “Vols” machines as Matt elegantly put it.

Hendrik Biebouw
Guest
Hendrik Biebouw

Then you just rendered your article irrelevant Matt.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Definitely still use and recommend volumetrics for every single espresso making situation. Regardless of drinks/hour and barista skill level. Vols always win.

AndyS
Guest
AndyS

@mattperger:disqus : Agree 100%. LRR is irrelevant for espresso. And keeping the CO2 and moisture values at 0% is important so that everyone is comparing apples to apples.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Don’t worry about LRR for espresso. Only use that setting when using brew water weight. Espresso is always beverage weight, because you can’t know how much water was used.

I also like to keep everything at 0 because I don’t use the VST app for absolute precision – I use it for calibration. This way, all our bars will report numbers that are meaningful to each other, rather than being perfectly accurate on their own. Hope that makes sense 🙂

Mike Marquard
Guest
Mike Marquard

Matt – what settings do you usually use for moisture, co2 and LRR for espresso? I’m typically using 0 for CO2 because I’m weighing ground coffee. LRR can probably be negotiated by weighing dry/full porto handle vs wet/full porto handle. What about moisture? Or anything else you recommend I change?

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

?? You use the scales for calibrating everything. Then the volumetrics keep you sane throughout the day. I pity anyone who watches a set of scales for every single espresso they make!

Amit Ahuja
Guest
Amit Ahuja

Although, I am a newbie to coffee but getting addicted to it. I was looking for some easy recipe for home and saw this http://www.friedcoffee.com/how-to-make-cafe-cappuccino-mix-at-home/. It’s easy to prepare at home but is it really good or some suggestions for it?

Regan
Guest
Regan

so i was wondering…do you use this weighing method with espresso blends? I’m pretty sure using the weighing method would provide me a more consistent way of getting espresso shots if I’m using single origin beans..but with espresso blends that have at least 2 different types of beans it can get tricky.. how would I know everytime that I dose and grind I’ll be getting roughly the same number of the different type of beans in the portafilter?

Eric Squires
Guest
Eric Squires

Sorry for the belated reply. Check out mybrewista.com. Scales are actually coming in closwer to the $60 price point, but still considerably cheaper than other similarly featured scales.

Yang Jerng Hwa
Guest
Yang Jerng Hwa

I would enforce weighing every shot-out if there was an ergonomic way about it. It can’t be more difficult than watching a shot timer. Shot timers are now built into many machines – it’s just a matter of time being more machines have built-in scales (which, if properly designed, would take away the anxiety of potentially bricking all these temporary solutions that we stick on drip-trays every time we weigh a shot-out.) Back to OP: Ohaus Valor 3000 Xtreme – not for shots-out, but a tank and super responsive for dosing (we would teaspoon every dose to within 0.1g of… Read more »

Neeraj Sheoran
Guest
Neeraj Sheoran

Hi Amit, welcome to the fantastic world of coffee, but what your are talking about is instant and we don’t even consider that as coffee, if you need more assistance regarding coffee beans, brewing methods and equipment in india, check us out at http://www.curiouslifecoffee.com

Arnhem Coffee Roastery
Guest
Arnhem Coffee Roastery

I have an Acaia balance, got one when they first released them on Kickstarter. It transformed my coffee prep, I had always struggled to find a suitable balance until then. I use them to weigh my beans for every coffee and then to check my extractions on a regular basis, or if I change something, (bean, roast level, etc). Highly recommended.

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