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What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:42 pm
by Eton
I understand the importance of weighing everything while brewing for R&D purposes, recipe development, our own professional development, and just to geek out… However, am I the only one who sees this as a bad message to home-coffee-people/restaurants? I’m worried that we are starting to send a message to people who enjoy great coffee at home that they can’t produce a good cup without gram scales, thermocouples, and all the other techie stuff that the “best coffee shops” are using on a daily basis. After all… we are the professionals… if we can’t make a consistently great cup of coffee without the use of specialized equipment then what are we saying to the home pour-over user and restaurants who would be interested in personal cup brewing programs? I remember a few years ago when lots of ppl in our industry were trying to convince home consumers and restaurants not to brew espresso at home… aren’t we heading that way with brewed coffee now too?

For the brewers cup I did weigh my dose and measured final volume by eyeballing with 100mL markers on my servers. I did mess up on my 2nd cup in the finals just because I wasn’t watching quite as well as I should have been but, my final TDS% were 1.52%, 1.44% (the one I messed up on), and 1.54%. So yes... you can brew a consistent cup without weighing the crap out of everything...

If we really understand coffee brewing shouldn’t we be trying to simplify it to make it more accessible then clouding it in a sea of measurements and putting it on a pedestal?
Facebook quote of the week due to a twitter blow up, Nick Cho “Brewing coffee with scales is the new latte art”. Im sure he was joking about this… or maybe not. =P

There’s my rant… and im stickin’ to it.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 12:29 am
by Alistair Durie
The first importance of having a scale is weighing the coffee. Its very difficult to measure coffee with any accuracy or consistency without one.

I find using a scale EASIER and makes measuring seem like a lot more work.

I also consider a gram scale an essential kitchen tool. Makes most sense to bakers. I convert all baking recipes to weights, it makes them quicker and easier to assemble and repeat. I could use measures when I make my coffee... but I find using a scale is quicker and easier. So its not about getting technical, its about ease of repeatability and not having to fuss around with measures.

Once consumers have a scale and understand the ratio of 60-70g of coffee to 1000g of water, they can brew coffee with just about anything.

When in doubt, I like to ask: how good do you want your coffee to be?

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:53 pm
by nick
Eton, I'm with ya buddy.

"Scales is the new latte art" was only half-joking. Like latte art, nobody who knows better would serve a cappuccino without latte art... but often, people overvalue latte art... we've all had a beautiful capp that tasted yucky. I've had so many brews with scales utilized... and most have tasted mediocre.

Technique, technique, technique. Technique, however, relates to the brewing device used, and the geometry and brewing dynamic you're using.

I agree with Alistair. Using scales is easier than eyeballing. However, not unlike "clock-watching" when making espresso, there are many things overlooked that cause concern when someone's got their eyes locked on the gram scale's LCD display.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 10:07 am
by theotherone
Scales are a very simple, easy way to replicate results. Of course if you can make sub par coffee even with the use of a scale, a scale doesn't make good coffee, but you can control rather precisely the variable of your brew ratio which allows you to concentrate on other brew variables, such as temperature, grind size, water quality, turbulence, etc... If I were to use volumetric scoops to measure my coffee mass, it would result in 5g-10g differences, and if I were to pour water by eye, the variance can be as much as 20g which can throw a brew ratio off immensely. Especially with brew techniques which have water pouring through continuously. Clever or French press could potentially be a little easier to control with a mark at the total fill line, but even so, the blooming slurry can mess with even the best of us.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 10:12 am
by theotherone
Also, Eton, you are measuring in a similar way to a scale. Measuring the volume of the brew is accomplishing the same thing as a scale, hence your rather consistent refractometer readings.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:09 pm
by Ryan Willbur
I have to second what Alistair said about gram scales being an essential cooking tool. As 'foodie culture' grows and more people are trying to replicate recipes at home, I think that kitchen scales are no longer an odd item to be found in one's usual mess of gadgets and tools.

That said, who wants to make coffee at home as well as we do in our businesses? Who ACTUALLY pays attention to the things were saying, the blogs, the twitter chatter? I'm willing to bet it's mostly the same sort of folks who are willing to buy a kitchen scale... My point is, using a scale for brewing is not an elitist thing. Is it geeky... Yes. Then again, I've purchased many things for my kitchen (Non coffee related) that would also be considered geeky.

So, what is the scale for? Repeatability. It's the more exact measurement that we can pass onto a customer to help them get a little closer to what we practice all the time. What an obsessive coffee dude might do 5-8 times till they get it right, a home brewer will probably only do once a day... So, the more we can narrow the measurements and variables, the easier we can instruct them on how to brew a great cup.

It's the same reason scales are valuable for espresso. Not so that you can weigh out every single extraction to perfection, seeking only the perfect extraction for percentage... It's for communication. It's so that we can better communicate the experience of a coffee or brew method that we are trying to share.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 7:29 pm
by sutono
I've gotta say that I'm with Eton on this one. I also believe that many of you misread his post - Eton was asking not if scales are better than not scales, but whether instead we are scaring customers away from the process by over-equipmentizing them. Whether we risk making things appear more complicated than need be. After all, at it's heart pour over brewing is a very simple process.

Surely there has to be an easier way to get this across. Alistair, Kyle, Jonathan - you are all correct - gram scales are important, and do lead to cups that are more precise. Volume is not a good indicator for dose. However, do we want people to try to make pour over coffee at home, or do we want to scare the living shit out of them?

Moreover, shouldn't we all weigh our espresso doses for the exact same reason? Fess up - who weighs every espresso dose? not me.

Most of our customers are brewing coffee in a Mr. Coffee. Most of them are grinding with a blade grinder if at all. We should think about easing people into great coffee - otherwise we're not really growing our base. Do you really believe that you need a $200 thermometers, a $70 kettle, and a digital cocaine scale to make a great cup of pour over coffee? I think not.

dang, i gotta stop drinking matcha shots before i check out coffeed.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 9:05 pm
by theotherone
I agree with you Tony, scaring off the customers is not good. However, I still stand by the scale. Even a customer who brews on a Mr. Coffee can weigh their water ONCE, divide that number by a recommended brew ratio, and use the quotient to brew a consistently better cup by weighing the coffee being added to the coffee maker. It's not that hard, and I know that customers jump at easy ways to improve their coffee at home. Scales aren't too nerdy in my opinion, and not too expensive either, I bought my scale for $29 at Target. Funny you mention thermocouples Tony, one of my customers actually has one as well as multiple brew devices. That just proves the point though, only ONE of my customers has one. We need to be sure to taylor our brew advice to the customers who actually pay the bills, not just the fun ones who get schoolgirl giddy at the mention of self heating Hario kettles just like us. Whether it be press pot or Mr. Coffee, we can easily help people with tips and tricks given in a friendly and genuine manner. However, I still will recommend that they get a gram scale, maybe just not to the tenth of a gram.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 9:43 pm
by nick
This thread is getting a little (only slightly) off topic, but I kinda like it. :twisted:

Not to make excuses for anything or anyone, but let's all remember, we face unique tasks: we must produce and serve excellent coffee beverages, and we must educate our customers about making coffee at home. There are very few out there who face a similar challenge. Where else can you buy an artisan finished product AND leave with the ingredients, tools, and education about how to replicate it? There's probably something comparable out there, but I certainly can't think of anything right now.

Take espresso. Most of us on this forum, if asked the question, "Can you recommend a good home espresso machine?" would probably all say some version of the same thing: "Well, I've heard the Rancilio Silvia is pretty good." What about a Giotto? Andreja? Oscar? Brewtus? These are all respected home espresso machines that I've read about over the years, and I've gotta confess that I don't know a damn thing about them. A few of y'all out there might, but that's not my point. Most of us are clueless. Ask a roastmaster about home coffee roasting machines... the vast majority will stare back with blank stares. Something that starts with, "Well, I've heard that..." is probably the best most will have to offer.

With manual brewing, it seems that a lot of the gap should be closed, but it's not so easy. That's one of the main reasons I love the Clever Coffee Dripper... with a decent grinder and good coffee and some simple step-by-step instructions, you've got the makings of some awesome single-cup brewing.

Just some thoughts. Interestingly enough, for anyone who saw Eton's technique at the SWRBC Brewers Cup, you'd know that what he did would be damn near impossible for the average pro barista to bang out, not to mention a home user. Eton's technique took specialized tools and a shit-ton of practice (though, no scales :P). I have a smaller version of the exact same kettle he used, and I can't get the water to do what he did. Kinda sorta, but not with the control he has. Wanna see what I'm talkin' about? Check out the two videos Eton's brother Devon made: HERE and HERE!

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 1:42 am
by James Hoffmann
Why on earth do scales send a bad message?

The are cheap, accessible and help you not screw up. With many brewing methods they can help make coffee brewing incredibly simple, and repeatable.

Your drip technique still saw a pretty wide variance in strength/extraction and - as Nick says your technique was a lot more intimidating for restaurants/home users.

Measurement allows us to create and share recipes. They will not reproduce exact experiences (water quality alone tramples all over that) - but there isn't currently a better way.

The reason I started brewing on scales was that I was at home, and suddenly felt like I'd lost all control of coffee brewing. This helped me start to do it better. The cost - $10-15, and I get a tool that I can use for all sorts beyond coffee making.

I'm not saying scales solves all problem, or is a replacement for technique. It is a useful addition that reduces inconsistencies and provides helpful feedback. They don't guarantee good coffee any more than a correct shot time - but I still like to know my shot times because when I taste the coffee I have more data to help improve it.

In its place - what do you suggest customers do instead? Guess? Live with the inconsistency of their morning brew? Widen the gap between what we serve and what they can produce at home?

Let's say I have a 4 cup french press. What are you going to tell me in order to get me to brew your coffee right, if I don't have any scales? I'm genuinely interested in the answer to this.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 4:11 am
by Jesse Crouse
Right or wrong James, most shops would say put coffee in it and fill it to the top with hot water. And that is if they say anything at all.

I use gram scales for making coffee, baking bread, baking, and some basic cooking. I like to be precise at home because there are factors there that I cannot control, like water quality, ambient temperature in the winter, the list goes on.

I believe there is a difference between telling a customer to go make coffee at home with a scale and telling them that the $60+ scale at your store is the best is not only option, and encouraging them to seek out an alternative to that somewhere else.

Scales do not inherently isolate customers, or make it harder to get our message across. Pompousness does, laughing because someone does use a Mr. Coffee at home when they tell you their brew method of choice. I would have a hard time being sold on this argument.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 6:44 am
by theotherone
That's easy James, put coffee in the press to fill the space between filter screen and bottom of press pot when plunger is fully depressed. I have no idea how much coffee this is, but I actually used to recommend this technique...I didn't know anything better at the time. Makes me want to try it now.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:08 am
by Tim Varney
Wow. Amazing. I can't believe some of you are even questioning the usefulness of scales.

Is it that it is too labour intensive? Or time consuming? Or too much for 'stupid mr home user' to understand? I don't think so.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:42 pm
by sutono
Tim, no one is questioning the usefulness of scales. Chill. Is that really how you want to remember your first post to Coffeed? Instead, Eton's question is whether too much gear can make great coffee seem unapproachable, or can get in the way between a barista and a customer.

Personally, i don't believe that the scale gets in the way. in fact, it is almost invisible in the pour over brewing process. However, i agree with Eton that baristas often focus more on tools and techniques, rather than the human being in front of them, or on the benefits of the coffee that they are brewing.

Why pour over? Scott Rao nailed himself to the cross for saying it, but it is way more difficult to get consistent extraction with pour over than with Fetco. That said, pour over/single cup is extremely low tech - it is the one thing that we do in our cafes that should seem fairly easy to accomplish at home. It also offers an opportunity to bond with a customer over a 3-4 minute extraction.

I've had many pour overs at many bars, and often, the barista is so enraptured with the display on the scale, with the dosing and grinding and filter wetting and cone preheating and so on that they forget to engage the customer in front of them about the coffee.

With a perfectly brewed pour over, accounting for dose, temp, grind, time, preheat, prewet, rinse... we may win the battle (the cup) but lose the war (winning customers over to better coffee).

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:24 am
by Tim Varney
The scales, nor any of the other gear, have anything to do with making coffee unapproachable - that is all left in the hands of the barista.

Tyler Madden just summed it up quite well on Twitter, of all places...

"The best part about brewing with scales is that it allows honest communication with your customer re: how do I get my coffee to taste like what you just brewed? The notion of a recipe is simple and communicable to customers. The idea that it's easy to eyeball it and just intuit what will be a good brew is elitist, and privileges the pro barista way more than a kitchen scale does. Any idiot can make bad coffee with scales, but people who are already competent at brewing coffee only improve precision and consistency by using scales. Not attempting to share the margin of improvement that my brews have made with the use of scales with my customers would be akin to not bothering to tell them they should use freshly ground coffee and filtered water. Trying to simplify something that isn't simple doesn't help anyone brew better coffee. It widens the margin between shop brew and home brew quality, and contributes to the notion of baristas as brew-sorcerers, when the real work, I think isn't so much the repetition of brew, but the dialing in of the recipe."

Plus, I certainly am not bothered about how i will remember my first post on Coffeed, as this is exactly the same tone i would use in person.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:12 am
by Alistair Durie
The enthusiastic home brewer should not be underestimated. A kitchen scale is a simple and everyday kitchen tool. Brewing on top of a scale may at first appear odd or technical, yet when understood it is as indispensable as a proper measure scoop or thermometer (oh ya, one of those would be good too).

Likely there will be more machines that automate the process, but manual brewing with precision and repeatability is positive and evolving . I have a silly home setup... digital probe, scale, pouring kettle and a cupboard full of devices -- and am still challenged to brew coffee to my expectations! Yet all these tools are easy to find and use, and do not cost much.

I understands Eton's point and agree that a scale could appear ridiculous to the new / average user. However, I don't think the issue is whether these things are "too much" for stupid mr home user -- it is about how to present it as simple and useful to stupid mr home user... and not look stupid ourselves.

How to present brewing coffee at home without looking like geeks and intimidating people. Good discussion.

If you bake a great loaf of bread by using your hands alone, you're a master (or you got lucky). If you do this using scales and thermometers, maybe you're just a great baker who wants to make great bread.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 8:13 am
by Christopher Schooley
I really don't like it when there are still scales on fish that I'm eating at home or a restaurant. I can see how a consumer would be intimidated by scales, I mean you wouldn't want a piece of chicken with feathers still on it. Scales also make me think of Rounn the great Western Serpent and eater of wizards' souls.

What's going on here, is that what intimidates a home user is the way it's presented. This is the thing that I most was excited about at the Brewer's Cup that I saw in the NW, Will from Batdorf mentioning how much he liked a certain brew method because customers could see how easy it was and get excited to brew coffee at home. With the clevers, I always tell people what I'm using for measurements and then I tell them how I would eyeball it, and then tell them the make adjustments to their tastes. The customers get excited about brewing at home if the person brewing on the device at the shop makes it fun and easy whether they're using a scale or not. If the person preparing the coffee makes it look complicated and doesn't explain what they're doing while they're fussing about with their magic wand stir paddle, then the scenario that Eton is painting does become a problem. I do always worry about presentation and the message that we are giving consumers. This is why I think that in delivering the craft coffee message to the public, customer service is so crazy important. It's not just professionalism, knowledge, and smiling, it's getting people excited about something. Translatable Enthusiasm makes everything easier.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:16 am
by theotherone
Just the thought of Rounn sends chills down my spine. Also, easily replicatable = radical.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:18 am
by JaredLinzmeier
I'll sometimes suggest home users calibrate themselves once a week or so with a scale on hand to be aware of their measurements (how many grams am I typically getting in my scoop, how many ounces do I usually use?) An increased margin of error in brew quality seems relatively fine so long as one is conscious of the compromise and intentionally skimming over the details.

Also, what looks more intimidating to me is the type of attentiveness I see in Eton's video. Not that I'm advocating against attentiveness, but if scales are to be substituted with hours of practice and painstakingly monitoring every second of the brew, is that the most approachable alternative? Really, if a consumer can know it's as simple as weighing out coffee, weighing out water, and letting the rest fall in the hands of the grinder, the coffee, etc., I think many are relieved.

Also, Tim--wonderful first post.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2011 11:42 am
by jason dominy
For me, it's all about repeatability and consistency. It's certainly easy to eyeball it, and we certainly want to make it easy for our customers to repeat at their home, but we're not doing them any justice by teaching them the wrong way. The fact is, with manual brewing like this, very small differences are magnified in the cup, and to be consistent, scales make it easy. I watched Eton's Brewers Cup run with awe and love, the guy really is a great brewer. But I can see how customers would do this at home, and most do it this way anyway.

Just eyeing it, a "cupful", or a couple of spoonfuls. Was the cup or spoon perfectly level? Are you sure you used the right amount of water? "Crap, tastes watered down today!" "Crap, it tastes too strong today!" It doesn't do the coffees any justice at all, and the fact is, scales actually make it easy to replicate great cups of coffee at home all day long. And that's what we're going for. My home setup is a Clever Dripper, a $25 AWS ONYX scale, and a Hario Buono. In total, the cost is $85. Affordable, accessible, and awesome. And anyone can have this setup with great results. It's not like the scale is hard to use, either.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 9:51 pm
by Eton
Just to clarify here even though Tony did a great job for me… (thanks). I am not dissin’ on scales or exact measurements or anything about how coffee brewing and extraction is becoming more exact. IM ALL FOR IT... Just about how “we” (im generalizing here) present it to our customers. By “customer” I mean Jo Jackson who comes into our shops for coffee because our coffee is smoother tasting then the local chain store. I know that most home-coffee-geek/types do have scales, just as foodies and our current passionate customers most likely have scales, a technivorm, pour overs, fp’s etc. Im not talking about them… they already get it.

Im talking about the people we are trying to convert. A $60-$80 investment may not seem like much for great coffee everyday… but its pretty substantial to someone new... I can buy a week of groceries on $60 or even a bottle of Ron Zacapa 23yo. Its money spent on a manual method not a brewer so it takes time, energy, and attention in the morning when they need their caffeine fix. Also, that’s a huge investment to that convert-coffee guy who spends $10/lb or less for coffee. Percentage wise compared to that convert-customers current home brewing setup its prob like... a lot more... =)

Tony also posted someplace in this thread about pour-over being low-tech. Pour-over IS low-tech, slow extraction coffee brewing in general has always been low tech. However, it starts to get more artisanal and less tech especially when we get away from FP, cowboy coffee, “traditional American preps”, etc. It’s supposed to be the most accessible way to create a good or acceptable cup of coffee and I think it should stay that way… or displayed that way in the eyes of the masses (in a café/wholesale setting).

My technique was called out as, and it is very artisanal, and/or low-tech/high-tech depends on how you view bending your water pitches spout for hours on end… and is defiantly not easily replicated by the home user or even the pro barista (Thanks to Nick Cho for pointing that one out ^_^). However, I have noticed through service that my technique does not scare off people as I think scales/tech does... but actually engages customers in discussion because it is what it is... my caveman reasoning says:

hand poured+manual brewed = yea... scales + manual brew = eRrr?.

But really... I do it to create the cup I want to present and manipulate the coffee flavor one last time before serving to my customer. The difference between my “spot drip” technique and a more standard technique in the cup is not much if both are done correctly… basically I do it to squeeze that last 5%-10% out of the coffee and cut down brewing time. I do teach a simple and effective way to brew pour over that doesn't require much effort just a little practice and most importantly a 3.30 - 4min water contact time to lots of home coffee people in my area. All of them are happy and it takes me 5min to show them.

Im sure there’s more but I think this is the longest post ive done on coffeed… so Im done for now. =)

BTW... just curious and semi-off topic but... how many of you weigh/measure your cupping. Not just coffee... water, water temp, extraction yield, etc... all the stuff ppl are doing for manual brewing. I bet you do it for drip but not on the table... :twisted: Or maybe im just going out on a limb here. I have a feeling im going to get killed... :twisted:

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2011 6:21 am
by Andy Schecter
Eton wrote:Im talking about the people we are trying to convert. A $60-$80 investment may not seem like much for great coffee everyday… but its pretty substantial to someone new...

Seems to me there is an entry level price for decent home coffee.

The people you are trying to convert don't have a coffee grinder, or maybe they have a $20 whirly-blade grinder -- totally inadequate for good coffee brewing. A Baratza Maestro is probably the minimum investment they'd have to make for an adequate electric grinder at $70-$115. If they want to fool around with the tedium of hand grinders they're still going to have to spend $35 or so.

Either way, they will need to spend far more on the grinder than a $20 scale.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 2011 7:37 pm
by j.k.bladyka
I find this topic fascinating. Especially because yesterday my scale stopped working, and because I'm in the middle of trying to figure out exactly how to open a shop with efficient, consistent brewed to order offerings.

So I made coffee this morning with a chemex and a KONE, and totally eyeballed everything. The whole time I was pouring, I was looking down where my digi readout would have been, and worrying that I was going to destroy my coffee. My coffee tasted fine, way better than that actually, it was fantastic. It was surprising to me how much I had been relying on my scale to tell me how to pour.

What I learned was that while precision brewing is important to practice, it's pretty easy to make a great cup of coffee (especially compared to what most people drink at home) without a scale. I agree with the general sentiment that the industry can sometimes alienate the very people who support us with our geekery. I also agree with the sentiment that scales are a great tool for more consistent brewing in shops. I also agree that it is up to the barista to actively engage the customer, and to educate them without implying some sort of elitism. It's not the scale that alienates the customers, it's the barista that doesn't engage them because they're busy looking at the scale. I think we have a problem with the customer service, not the coffee service.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:20 am
by Jim Cleaves
None of these posts seem to mention grind consistency, so is it fair to infer that most of the target/range for grind particle distribution found in our shops is consistent? Do most of us even have a good way to validate consistency in particle distribution?
We've done some work measuring the relative affects on brewed quality from variations in weight (up to almost 11%) vs. variation in grind size (that most of us have a hard time assessing by eye or feel).
We found that grind size had a greater effect on quality, within the variations typically encountered. Weight is a factor, of course, but because it's so much easier to measure than particle size distribution, we tended to spend more time on weight, and not enough on grind consistency.

Re: What’s up with weighing everything when brewing…~!?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:49 am
by JackieBillings
I certainly am not one to push gadgets on home coffee drinkers... with practice you can make great quality coffee with a Melita and a mug. but I will also say that the biggest complaint that I receive from mail order customers is "I can't make this pound of coffee that I bought taste like it did in your cafe." And of course they can't -- to use a board gaming term, the brew processes that most of us use in our cafes are extremely "fiddly." Grind size and brew ratio are the most controllable and easily futzed with aspects of home brewing. Is it easy to make a good cup of coffee with out a gram scale -- absolutely! That is, for you and me. Because I have a good idea of what 50 grams of ground coffee looks like in my Chemex filter, and that if I'm brewing something like Sumatra, 50 grams looks a little bigger. Because I do it about 10 times a day. You know, as a condition of my employment. I think a gram scale is an important tool for home brewers who want cafe quality coffee -- not everyone does this kind of thing for a living.