Brewing Coffee

Whole Bean or Ground Coffee

Preparing and enjoying a great cup of coffee is a pleasure, and few things as simple as brewing coffee provide such rich rewards. Brewing coffee is a lot like cooking with fresh produce: Start with the best, freshest ingredients, take care to do it well, and you will create something astonishingly delicious.

Table of Contents

In the table below we have summarized the rule of thumb for brewed coffee yield.

Bag Size (pounds) Bag Size (ounces) Number of standard cups of brewed coffee
1/2 lb. 8 oz. 41 (9 oz. cups)
3/4 lb. 12 oz. 62 (9 oz. cups)
1 lb. 16 oz. 82 (9 oz. cups)
5 lbs. 80 oz. 410 (9 oz. cups)

The information above can be used as a rule of thumb.  A lot of things determine the yield from a pound of coffee, including personal taste preferences and how much coffee is used in brewing.  Since most people measure their coffee by volume instead of weight, we have converted weight (oz./lbs.) to volume (ounces) to create the table above

*Rule of thumb to convert (weight to volume) coffee:  1 pound of coffee equals 100 tablespoons of coffee (whole coffee beans or ground coffee)

Should I Grind My Own Coffee Beans?

The best way to enjoy coffee is to purchase whole bean coffee and grind it yourself, just before brewing.  More more people are discovering the amazing amount of freshness that comes from freshly grinding coffee at home.  Whole beans maintain their freshness much longer than purchasing ground coffee.

If you grind it yourself, it is wise to invest in a good “burr” coffee grinder.  The less expensive “blade” grinders essentially chop the coffee bean instead of grinding it.  Most use a push button without a predetermined time for how coarse or fine the coffee is ground.  This leads to inconsistent grinding.

With a blade grinder, it is difficult to grind to the proper coarseness.  Blade grinders also create a lot of heat, which reduces the quality of the coffee.  A blade grinder cannot sufficiently grind coffee fine enough to use for espresso.

In contrast, a good “burr” grinder will consistently grind your beans to a desired level of coarseness.  They generate less heat and create a much more consistent grind.  If you use an espresso machine, make sure the burr grinder you purchase can grind the bean fine enough for espresso.

What Type of Coffee Grind Should I Use?

Whether you choose to grind your own coffee beans or purchase ground coffee, you should be familiar with the type of coffee grinds.  Standard grind levels are (from most coarse to most fine):  French Press Grind, Percolator Grind, Auto Drip Grind, Fine Grind, Espresso Grind, Turkish Grind.

For most people, the “auto drip” grind is the proper choice.  This is for modern coffee makers that use a drip water system.  These are standard coffee makers that most people purchase.

  • Auto Drip Grind– For standard, modern drip coffee makers.  This is the most common grind type.  The grind consistency should be similar to standard granulated sugar.
  • Percolator Grind – These are for the old fashioned style “percolator” coffee makers that most people used during the 1950’s through 1970’s.  They are still sold today, but not widely used.  Percolator grind is coarser than “auto drip”, but not as coarse as “French Press” grind.
  • French Press Grind – This is a coarse grind for use in a french press or press pot.  The coarser grind prevents the coffee grounds from seeping through the mesh screen of the press.  French Press grind also works well for use in vacuum coffee makers and for use with a cold brew method of brewing.
  • Fine Grind – This is a finer ground coffee intended for use with most home espresso machines.
  • Espresso Grind – This grind is a very fine grind intended for use with commercial espresso machines.  Generally it is too fine for use with most home espresso machines.
  • Turkish Grind – This is an extremely fine grind (rarely used in the U.S.) that grinds the bean into a very fine powder.  Some European and Asian countries make their coffee in this style.

Coffee By Weight or Volume?

There are many misconceptions about purchasing coffee, grinding coffee beans and the ratio of coffee used per water.  The first thing we need to clarify is that coffee is sold by weight, not volume.  Typically, coffee is sold in 1/2 lb., 3/4 lb. or 1 lb. packages.  We are also starting to see a lot of 10 and 11 ounce coffees on the market from grocery store brands.  This is a way to increase the price by adjusting the volume.  Many people mistake a 12 ounce bag for 1 pound, because they assume all coffee is sold in 1 lb. bags.

Typical Coffee Sold by Weight

  • 1 lb. – 16 oz.
  • 3/4 lb. – 12 oz.
  • 1/2 lb. – 8 oz.

Even though coffee is sold by weight, it is typically measured and consumed by volume.  The SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) created a standard for brewing coffee by weight of the ground coffee to water ratio.  Most specialty coffee shops measure their coffee by weight for brewing.  Most consumers typically measure their coffee by volume for brewing at home.  There may be a few serious coffee drinkers using digital scales to weigh their coffee filter, but most people use a dry measure like a scoop or tablespoon.

A Common Question – Does 1 lb. of whole coffee beans weigh the same as ground coffee?  Yes.  1 lb. of whole coffee beans weighs 1 lb. after grinding.  The answer may seem obvious, but the confusion arises because of the weight vs. volume issue.  When a pound of whole coffee beans is ground, it may well take up less volume in a package, but the weight does not change.  Keep in mind we buy coffee by weight, but measure coffee by volume.

This creates some confusion about the amount of coffee used for brewing.  We get into the specifics for coffee to water ratios below, so we won’t cover that here, but the point I want to make is that coffee beans and ground coffee vary by volume.

Dark Roast Versus Light Roast

Have you ever noticed that a bag of dark roasted coffee is typically larger than a bag of light roasted coffee?  Dark roasted coffee is lighter in weight so it takes more volume to fill a 1 lb. bag.  I have recently noticed that some grocery stores are selling coffee in the same sized bag, but their darker roasts weigh less, but the package looks the same size.

Green coffee beans contain moisture.  As the bean is roasted it also dries and moisture is removed.  The darker the roast, the longer the coffee bean is roasted and more moisture is removed. 

As moisture is removed from the bean it also weighs less.  A darker roasted coffee bean weighs less than the same lighter roasted bean, but takes up the same volume.  It takes more dark roasted beans to equal the weight of the lighter roasted beans.  Remember, coffee is sold by weight, not volume, so a 1 lb. bag of a dark roast is larger than a 1 lb. bag of a light roasted coffee.

Another variable is that different coffee beans from different coffee growing regions vary in size and weight.  For instance, coffee beans from Ethiopia are smaller than coffee beans from Colombia.  They simply take up less room.

When purchasing coffee, just be aware that coffee is sold by weight, but typically consumed by volume.  Just check the weight to compare apples to apples regarding pricing.

Grinding Flavored Coffee

You should not use the same coffee grinder for grinding flavored coffee beans and straight (regular) coffee beans.  Flavored coffee beans are coated in an oily, somewhat sticky flavoring that creates two problems.  The same goes for burr grinders as well as blade grinders.

The main problem is that grinding straight beans after flavored beans will retain the flavor of the flavored coffee beans.  It will take quite a few grindings of regular coffee before you totally get rid of the flavor.  The second problem is that flavored beans leave an oily, sticky residue that can really gum up a grinder.  Your grinder will require frequent cleaning to keep it running properly.

When we grind coffee for our customers, we use two different commercial grinders.  One grinder is only designated for straight coffee and the other is only for flavored coffee.  Believe me, the flavored coffee grinder requires much more upkeep and more frequent cleaning.

Our suggestion for those of you drinking both flavored and regular coffee.  If you only occasionally drink flavored coffee, just purchase it ground from the roaster.  Or you might want to invest in an inexpensive grinder designated for flavors.  If you drink both coffees frequently, just break down and buy two grinders or purchase one type of coffee pre-ground.

How To Brew Coffee

Below we have summarized the coffee to water ratios for brewing coffee 

  • Auto Drip Coffee Makers
Drip Coffee Maker Cups Tablespoons of Coffee
10 Cup Pot8 Level Tbsp.
12 Cup Pot 9 Level Tbsp.
14 Cup Pot10 Level Tbsp.

This table is our recommended starting point in determining your coffee to water ratio for auto drip coffee makers.  Adjust according to your taste preference, more coffee for a stronger brew and less coffee for a weaker brew.

Auto drip coffee makers usually come in three standard pot sizes, 10 cup, 12 cup, and 14 cup.  These “cup” standards by coffee manufacturers are typically 4.8 to 5 ounce cups.  A normal coffee cup is an 11 ounce mug holding about 9 ounces of coffee.  This is why a pot of coffee never quite makes as many cups as most people expect.

The most common form of measuring coffee for home brewing is by volume of 1 level tablespoon, also referred to as a “melitta” in the coffee industry.  Most coffee scoops are 1 melitta (1 Tbsp.).

Below is a table of normal standard coffee cup yields from an auto drip coffee maker.

Auto Drip Coffee Maker Cups Actual Yield - Number of 9 oz. Cups
10 Cup6 Cups (9 oz. mug)
12 Cup7 Cups (9 oz. mug)
14 Cup8 Cups (9 oz. mug)
  • French Press (Press Pots)
French Press Standard Size Yield (9 oz. cups) Tablespoons of Coffee
3 Cup Press (12 oz.) 1 Cup 2 Level Tbsp.
4 Cup Press (17 oz.) 1.6 Cups 3 Level Tbsp.
8 Cup Press (34 oz.) 3.4 Cups 6 Level Tbsp.
12 Cup Press (51 oz.) 5.3 Cups 10 Level Tbsp.

The table above is our recommendation for a starting point of coffee to water ratios for a French press.  As with drip coffee makers, you may need to adjust the volume of coffee for your personal taste preference.  For a French press, we recommend using 1.5 times the normal amount of coffee you would use in a drip coffee maker. 

The grind should be a French Press grind (coarse grind).  A coarse grind is recommended for a French press so that the coffee grinds do not seep back through the mesh screen when pushing the plunger.  A finer grind will lead to coffee grounds in the coffee.

As drip coffee maker manufacturers advertise their coffee pot size in cups that are actually 4.8 to 5 ounce cups, French press manufacturers advertise their press pots in a similar fashion. 

The most common French press sizes are 3 cup (12 oz.), 4 cup (17 oz.), 8 cup (34 oz.), and 12 cup (51 oz.).  The actual number of standard coffee cups the presses yield are much smaller.  Use the yield guide above to determine how many actual 9 ounce coffee cups you will get from the advertised French Press size.  A normal coffee cup is 11 ounces, actually holding about 9 ounces of coffee. 

How To Use a Drip Coffee Maker

A drip coffee maker is how most people and coffee shops brew coffee in the U.S. today.  These are some basic guidelines for using your drip coffee maker:

  • Keep the machine clean– Do not leave old coffee grounds in the machine, and keep it clean.  To keep residue from building up, a simple solution of water and a small amount of white vinegar can be used to flush the machine.  Just add this solution and run your normal brew cycle without the coffee.
  • Use good water – This sounds simple, but it is essential to a good cup of coffee.  In geographic areas where the water tastes bad, your coffee will also taste bad.  We recommend using a water filter for the best quality of water.  Whole house water filters and point of origin filters work well.  Many coffee makers sold today also contain a disposable carbon filter.  These do a good job of filtering out many unwanted tastes, primarily chlorine.  If you use a disposable filter, make sure and replace it often.  A dirty filter can harbor unwanted bacteria.  Do not use carbonated water, distilled water or mineral water for brewing coffee.
  • Freshly grind your beans – Buy fresh beans and grind as close to the brewing time as possible.  If you don’t want to grind your own coffee beans, make sure and use recently purchased ground coffee that has been stored properly.
  • Do not let coffee sit – It should be consumed as soon as practical after the brewing cycle is complete.  For optimal quality, coffee should be consumed within 20 minutes after brewing.
  • Do not pour a cup before the brewing cycle is complete – Many newer coffee makers allow you to pour a cup during the brew cycle.  What happens is the first part of the cycle is very strong and the last part is weaker.  You should wait for the entire pot to be brewed for the best cup of coffee.
  • Use the proper coffee to water ratio – This is ratio is somewhat subjective, depending on how strong you like your coffee.  We recommend a 1:1 ratio.  Essentially, 1 level tablespoon of ground coffee to each 1 cup measure on your coffee maker.  For most home coffee makers, the 1 cup measure on the coffee pot is 5 ounces.  This is a good starting point.  If you have a 10 cup coffee pot, start by using 10 level tablespoons of ground coffee.  You may need to adjust the coffee ratio depending on your personal taste.
  • Contact time – Most drip coffee makers should brew your coffee in about five minutes.  Most coffee makers made today are adjustable.  This should be adjusted to your taste.  However, if your coffee is not optimal, you could be overbrewing (“overextracting”) your coffee.


The Bottom Line – just use common sense.  Start by purchasing quality arabica coffee.  Try to store your coffee by avoiding air and moisture.  Grind it as close to brewing as practical.  Consume your coffee as close to brewing time as practical.


Troubleshooting a Drip Coffee Maker

Brewing good coffee is the process of properly extracting the flavor of the coffee bean.  This brewing process requires the proper amount of ground coffee used; how coarse or fine the coffee is ground; the quality of the water used; and the contact time (time that the ground coffee is exposed to water). 

Typically an adjustment in these four things will solve any brewing problems you might encounter.

Coffee Overflows When Brewing – coffee and/or coffee grounds overflow out of the top of the brewing basket or filter.

  1. Too Much Coffee – Many times there is simply too much ground coffee in the basket or filter.
  2. Coffee Ground Too Fine – Coffee ground too fine will slow the extraction process and can cause overflows.  Just adjust your grind to a coarser grind.
  3. Check Spring Assembly – Most drip coffee makers today operate with spring activated contact between the basket and the coffee pot or carafe.  It is a good idea to keep the spring assembly clean and inspect to make sure the spring is activating correctly.  A spring can become weak over time and may need to be replaced.  Most often, it just requires cleaning.


Coffee is Too Weak

  1. Not Enough Coffee – Try slightly increasing the amount of ground coffee.  Start with a 1 to 1 ratio, 1 level tablespoon of ground coffee to 1 cup (cup as marked on coffee maker) of coffee.  Use this as a starting point and adjust to your personal taste.  Make sure your filter does not overflow.  If it overflows you’ve added too much coffee.
  2. Coffee Ground Too Coarse – If you are purchasing your coffee already ground, it is probably ground for an auto drip coffee maker.  This should be fine and you should look at adjusting the amount of coffee.  If you are grinding your own coffee beans and the flavor is weak, try grinding the beans slightly finer.  This increases the contact time and provides a richer flavor.  Be careful that a finer grind does not cause your filter to overflow.  If it overflows you’ve ground your beans too fine.

Coffee is Too Strong

  1. Too Much Coffee – Try slightly decreasing the amount of coffee used.  Start with a 1 to 1 ratio, 1 level tablespoon of ground coffee to 1 cup (cup as marked on the coffee maker) of coffee.  Use this as a starting point and adjust to your personal taste.
  2. Coffee Ground Too Fine – If you are purchasing your coffee already ground, it is probably ground for an auto drip coffee maker.  This should be fine and you should work on adjusting the amount of coffee used as noted above.  If you are grinding your own coffee beans, try grinding your beans slightly coarser.  This decreases the contact time and provides a weaker brew.

Coffee Flavor is Not Good

  1. Coffee Quality – First, make sure you have purchased good, fresh coffee.  Only use 100% arabica coffee beans and purchase your coffee fresh, from a reliable source.
  2. Water Quality – Water is the key culprit when your coffee does not taste as it should.  Most of the time a bad taste in the coffee results from the water source providing minerals and chemicals that alter the taste.  The most common taste is a chlorine flavor, which can be eliminated by using filter water.  Today, some coffee makers come with a charcoal filter, which needs to be replaced at least every 3 months.  If not, it can harbor bacteria that can become detrimental.  The best way to filter water is with a household water filter.  Also, most modern refrigerators use a water filter that provides good tasting water from the dispenser.  You can also use bottled water, but do not use distilled water in a coffee maker.  A hard water supply can also contribute to minerals providing unwanted tastes in coffee.  If you have hard water, use a water softener or filtered water.
  3. Change Your Coffee – If filtered water does not solve your problem, simply switch your coffee.  You may not enjoy the coffee brand or the origin of the coffee.  Visit our “Choosing Your Coffee” page for recommendations of coffees you may enjoy.

How To Use a French Press (Press Pot)

A French press, sometimes called a press pot, is a wonderful way to enjoy coffee or tea.  Many coffee purists believe this is the best way to brew coffee.  This type of brewing is called direct contact brewing, because a french press uses no paper filter, yet relies on a flavor transfer through direct contact of coffee and water. 

Not only is this a wonderful way to brew great coffee, it is also a handy way to enjoy coffee when you find yourself without the use of a drip coffee maker.  A personal size press pot is a great soluction for office coffee provided you have access to hot water.  My family enjoys camping and the best coffee I’ve ever consumed has been on chilly mornings in the middle of nature, heating my water on a camp stove, and using my French press.  Invest in a French Press and you won’t be sorry.

A French press consists of a glass or plastic pot that comes in various sizes.  There is a plunger attached to the cover and a screen press at the bottom of the plunger.

How to Use a French Press

1.  Use “French Press Grind” (coarsely ground) Coffee – purchase or grind your coffee beans to a coarseness level for a french press.  This level is essentially two levels coarser than for auto drip, or one level coarser than percolator.  This degree of coarseness keeps the grounds from seeping through the mesh screen.  If your grounds seep through, you are grinding the coffee too fine.

2.  Coffee to Water Ratio for a French Press – since a French press uses coarsely ground coffee you should use 1.5 times more coffee than you would normally use in a drip coffee maker.  Please see our information on Coffee to Water Ratios where we have a table for the French press.

3.  Add Ground Coffee – with the the cover removed, add your ground coffee into the bottom of the press pot.

4.  Add Water – fill the pot with very hot or boiling water.  Optimal brewing temperature should be about 195 – 205 degrees F.

5.  Place Top on the Press – carefully place the top on the French press with the plunger in the raised position.  DO NOT depress the plunger.

6.  Brew Coffee – let your coffee brew for the desired time, typically about 5 minutes.  Leave the plunger in the UP position during brewing.  If you wish, you can remove the plunger during the brew cycle to stir the grounds and then replace the plunger.

7.  Slowly Depress Plunger – very slowly press the plunger downward, forcing the coffee grounds to the bottom.  It is very important to depress the plunger slowly.  If the plunger is depressed too quickly you will end up with too many grounds in your coffee.

8.  Pour Coffee and Enjoy – it is best to consume your coffee fairly quickly or pour the remaining coffee into a thermal carafe.  If you let coffee sit too long in a french press it will continue to brew with the grounds at the bottom.  The taste can become slightly bitter with continued brewing.  Also, with a French press it is normal to expect a few coffee grounds in your coffee.  Not many, but a few.  If you have a lot of grounds, see our troubleshooting information below.

Congratulations, you have just created a fine brew!

Troubleshooting a French Press (Press Pot)

Most typically ending up with too many coffee grounds in your coffee.

  • Coffee Ground Too Fine – if you use a standard grind (auto drip) or finer grind, you will probably be disappointed with the amount of coffee grounds left in your cup.  Coffee ground too fine will seep through the mesh strainer on the plunger and allow grounds back into the coffee.  Grind it Coarse!
  • Plunger Depressed Too Quickly – if you depress the plunger too quickly, you might receive too many grounds into your coffee.  The grounds simply slide past the outside edges of the mesh screen and end up back in your coffee.  Slowly depress the plunger!

How To Store Coffee

The best way to store coffee is to purchase fresh, whole bean coffee and grind it yourself.  Only grind enough to use just before brewing.  Store the remaining beans in an air-tight container in a cool dark area, typically a pantry, etc.. 

The two key things that are detrimental to roasted coffee is air and moisture.  Make sure your storage method does its best to avoid contact with air and moisture, including condensation.

I recommend a very simple and inexpensive container for storing coffee beans.  Restaurant supply stores sell a white polyethylene food storage container that is standard in the industry. 

You can purchase these at any restaurant supply store for under $5.00.  These do an excellent job of sealing out air and moisture and they last forever.  If you purchase coffee in 1 lb. bags, use a 2 quart container.  If you purchase coffee in 5 lb. bags, use an 8 quart container.

Should I Refridgerate or Freeze Coffee?

Coffee should never be put into a refrigerator with one exception, brewed coffee chilled for iced coffee. 

Coffee has a great tendency to absorb odors, either whole bean or ground coffee.  Placing in a refrigerator allows for absorption of odors and moisture, which degrades the coffee. 

As mentioned above, the only exception is when brewing iced coffee.  After you brew your coffee and allow it to cool, it is fine to pour it into a container and chill for use within the next 24 hours.  Chilled, brewed coffee flavor will not be affected for a short time in the refrigerator.

Likewise, coffee should typically not be placed in a freezer.  If you purchase a large amount of coffee that cannot be used in a normal period, it is okay to store it in the freezer, provided it is placed into an airtight container and is not exposed to moisture or condensation.  Just take out what you need to brew at a given time.  Do not allow it to sit or thaw.  Just use it cold.  Never re-freeze coffee.