A good set of coffee scales is a little bit like an air conditioner in your home. Weird comparison right!? Well for context we are kiwis living in Australia where the summer feels too hot and the winter feels too cold. So while technically you can get away without one, there is no doubt that having an air conditioner makes life a heck of a lot easier and more enjoyable!
A reliable set of scales is much the same. There is no doubt that you can make a great cup of joe without one, but there is also no doubt that owning one will up your coffee game, make life that little bit easier, and allow you far greater precision in experimenting with brewing recipes and ratios.
Still not convinced that you need to invest in a set of scales? No problem 🙂 let us do our best to try and convince you!
Our pick: Acaia Pearl
If you are already convinced and just want our recommendation then basically we think that the single best set of coffee scales on the market is the stylish Acaia Pearl. While it doesn’t come cheap, this scale is the gold standard for specialty coffee scales. These are an incredibly accurate set of scales made specifically for the coffee industry with a a stack of amazing features as well as bluetooth capability.
Why you should Consider Investing in a set of Coffee Scales
The reason why you should think seriously about investing in a set of scales is basically precision and consistency. A reliable set of scales allows you to experiment with your coffee-to-water ratio down to .5 of a gram or less and so find the perfect coffee recipe for your palate. And just as significantly, a reliable scale ensures you have complete control over the various parameters and so can replicate a fantastic coffee day after day.
Now maybe you find yourself thinking, ‘but I measure my beans out with a scoop already, isn’t that good enough?’ The short answer is no, it’s not good enough. And the reason is that a scoop or a spoon is never completely accurate or consistent. While eyeing it can put you in a similar ballpark every time, it can never ensure perfect uniformity. Furthermore, the volume and weight of coffee beans actually changes depending on the type of bean and whether it is light, medium, or dark roasted. So a level tablespoon of beans one day may actually be a significantly different weight from another day which will go on to affect taste and extraction.
For both manual and espresso brewing styles the ratio of coffee to water has a direct impact on the extraction time and subsequent taste. In fact for brewing methods such pour over, scales are a virtual necessity. And as if there weren’t enough reasons already, just go and ask your local barista. Good cafes are a case in point that good scales are part of the road to consistently good coffee.
What to Look for in a Set of Coffee Scales
So now you are (hopefully!) convinced that purchasing a set of coffee scales is a worthwhile investment to up your coffee game. Next you have the harder choice of which set of scales to go for; general kitchen scales or speciality coffee scales? Big or small? Basic or bluetooth enabled? The range is almost endless! To help you figure out which is the right set of scales for you we have compiled a list of different factors to consider.
The single most important factor to look for in any set of coffee scales is precision. If they can’t be trusted to measure with accuracy then simply put, they are a waste of money. The level of precision can be quite different across different scales but as a minimum they really need to be accurate within 0.1g. While your budget will likely determine the final choice of scales (the price gap between the Acaia Scales and the HuiSmart is rather astounding) accuracy is the most important consideration.
The next important factor to consider is usability or functionality. Because you will be depending on your scales regularly they need to be able to fulfil your specific needs. So for example, the buttons need to be easy to push and use so that you are not fiddling with them in the midst of your careful coffee routine. Similarly, response time is can make or break the functionality of a scale. Especially for pour over and espresso, a slow response time can significantly hinder a scale’s usefulness and mess up careful time and weight parameters.
One key function that any set of scales for coffee brewing requires is a tare function. This allows you to put your portafilter onto the scales and then ‘tare’ the weight to zero so that you can then measure out your coffee grinds.
Another important thing to note is the auto-off function. Most scales that are not specifically designed for coffee will have auto off function that kicks in after one or two minutes. This can be incredibly frustrating for some manual brewing styles such as pour over or drip coffee that have longer extraction times. So if you opt for a set of generic scales try and find one without an auto-off function.
Also how easy is it to clean? Without a doubt you will end up on occasion spilling coffee grounds or a few drops of water on it. So is it easy to clean or will those grinds end up wedged in the push buttons? (this is one advantage of touch sensitive buttons).
The size that will work best for you will largely be driven by what brewing style you will use it for and where you will use it. If the aim is to use the scales for espresso then it is important to get one that is small enough to fit comfortably on your drip tray. Likewise, if your preferred method is the Chemex pour over, then you want one that is sturdy and large enough to have the Chemex on it and still be able to see the screen.
Another factor to consider is where you are intending to do your brewing. If this is for your morning coffee at home then size is probably not an issue (depending on how those who live with you view your growing coffee collection!). But if it is for those regular business trips or holidays then you really want a set of scales that are durable and take up little space.
As with just about anything in life these days, scales range from basic functionality to the Rolls Royce with all the bells and whistles. And this is basically going to come down to what you want your scales to accomplish and how much you are willing to spend.
One special feature that is particularly helpful is an inbuilt timer. Most speciality coffee scales boast these and they do just make life that little bit easier especially for manual brewing which requires careful time parameters.
Another helpful feature that some of the high end scales have is a waterproof or water-resistant construction. Again this simply means one less thing to worry about and tends to make for a longer durability.
Finally the Acaia range of scales are all Bluetooth compatible and so connect to your smartphone where you can do everything from save recipes, to start the timer, to give your instructions on various brewing styles.
Coffee Scales Review
The extremely modern and elegant Acaia scales mark the gold standard of coffee scales. This range of scales are renowned for commercial grade accuracy combined with elegance and a bucket load of high end features. The Acaia range is perhaps most well known for their Bluetooth compatibility which allows the user to save recipes, use pre programmed modes, and even to control the scale from your smartphone (available in both Android and iOS)! This is definitely the most accurate scale on this list with an amazing 20ms response time and is designed for either a commercial setting or the serious home brewer. The designers boast that the scales are so accurate that they can even detect evaporation!
The Acaia Pearl is specifically designed for manual brewing and so is a larger size and water resistant. Its big brother is the Acaia Lunar which is designed for espresso and so is significantly smaller (to fit comfortably on a drip tray), completely waterproof, and specialized for espresso. The Acaia scales are more than simply scales; they are statement pieces which don’t come cheap, but grace any benchtop and give the precision to significantly up your coffee game. While expensive the Acaia range are indisputably the best coffee scales on the market. This is a scale that we believe you will never feel the need to upgrade from.
This Japanese company have become well known in the coffee world for quality coffee gear that is aesthetically pleasing and this scale is no exception. The Hario boasts an inbuilt timer with a LCD screen that is split between the timer and the weight which is super convenient for manual brewing. It also has the helpful function that whenever the timer is activated the auto-off is disabled until the timer is stopped.
In terms of technical precision and accuracy, it has a max limit of 2kg and has three levels of accuracy. From 2g to 200g it measures in 0.1g intervals, from 200g to 500g in 0.5g intervals, and above 500g in 1g intervals. Basically is it accurate and reliable? Absolutely! This scale particularly comes into its own in manual brewing methods. Because of its size, it isn’t great either for regular travel or to be placed on espresso drip trays. Overall the Hario is a great entry level coffee scale which has a good track record and you can buy without mortgaging the house (something that might not be true of the later scales intended for espresso). This is the coffee scale that we have been using for some time now. This scale has been really helpful for us with our only complaint that the response time can lag which is a pain for pour over.
The ERAVSOW is a great all round coffee scale for an incredibly affordable price. This stylish scale uses a high precision G-sensor to weigh beans and as with most of the other scales on this list is accurate to 0.1g. Like the Hario it has an inbuilt timer, and it also comes with an auto-off after a generous five minutes. Another helpful feature is the ability to switch between ounces, grams, and even millilitres.
This scale is made of brushed stainless steel which is known both to last and to be very easy to clean. It also has a large LCD display that is easy to read. Because of the somewhat unique circular shape it is too large for either travelling or placing on an espresso drip tray. This is a great all rounder for the coffee enthusiast who is looking for a reliable set of scales that won’t break the budget.
The HuiSmart is somewhat unique as a specialty coffee scale in that it boasts that it can also double as a normal kitchen scale. It has an inbuilt timer with a split screen display so that the timer is also showing alongside the weight measurement. It is accurate to 0.1g with the same gradations as the Hario and can swap between grams, ounces, or pounds (which makes sense if you want to use it more generally in the kitchen). It has a blue display which is clear to read but is somewhat small (especially if you have just rolled out of bed for your daily shot of caffeine!).
It can hold up to 3kg weight and also comes with a silicon mat to prevent spills or other forms of damage. It has an auto-off function after 4 minutes. The small size of this scale makes it great for travel and easy to store (it even has an inbuilt hole to hang it up). The real attraction of this scale is its multi-functionality so it might be great option for the coffee lover who is struggling to convince the wife to buy ANOTHER piece of coffee equipment. All they need to know is that it is a great ‘kitchen’ scale which happens to work well for coffee as well…
Brewista are a well known and respected brand in the coffee world and for good reason. This scale ups the level from entry level home brewer to professional barista in a commercial setting. This is an across-the-board great scale which shines in virtually every brewing style. It is incredibly accurate and its tiny size makes it incredibly portable and versatile. It is water resistant and comes with a protective silicon cover making it great for espresso and use on drip trays.
What really sets the Brewista II apart are six pre-programmed modes for different brewing styles. These cover four different variations of espresso and two separate pour over modes. In addition it has an auto-off function that can be set for one, two, or three minutes, or even completely disabled. It is powered by a USB rechargeable battery with good battery life. This is a great option for the serious espresso enthusiast who is not afraid to spend some money.
We hope the above reviews have been helpful for you in your coffee journey. Any of these scales have the potential to lift and optimise your coffee experience.
Our recommendation is that while the Acaia Pearl for Manual or Acaia Lunar for espresso may require you to mortgage your house, it is worth it! These are scales completely optimised for coffee with every feature you could ever want or imagine.
Alternatively, if (understandably!) you baulk at the price of the Acaia, then the Hario Drip Scale is a great entry level scale at a fraction of the price.