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A Comparison of Brewing Scales

A Comparison of Brewing Scales

Oct 29th 2020 Written by Caleb Spindler

To the uninitiated, the new-to-coffee person, seeing a barista use a scale to brew coffee is like watching your best friend’s dad get out a yardstick to measure the distance between his golf ball and the first hole at Pappy’s Putt-Putt for Kids. It seems superfluous, and sometimes pretentious.

But the reality is that the benefits of using a scale far outweigh the associations someone might make between you and any overzealous recreational putt-putter. Measuring by weight offers precision and consistency, which are two key components of coffee brewing.

Precision. Weight is far more accurate than volume. If you were to measure out one cup of coffee beans, for example, you would not get exactly one cup of grounds. The empty space that was once between and within the whole beans is nearly erased after grinding, especially on the finer settings, so the post-ground volume will be lower than the pre-ground volume. The weight, however, will remain the same. In other words, looks are deceiving.

Consistency. Have you ever had a cup of coffee and thought, Wow, that’s great, I want to drink this every morning? With the help of a scale, you can. A scale allows you to use the same amount of water and the same amount of coffee for every brew. Once you’ve dialed in a particular coffee, then, you can recreate it daily until it’s time to buy a new bag.

Whether you are making coffee with a manual brewer or with an espresso machine, there are a number of scales on the market for you. Here’s a look at our favorites.

The prices below are current as of October 2020. Please see the product pages for the most up-to-date prices.

ESPRESSO SCALES

ProScale XC2000 - $35

A Pro Scale with white background.

The ProScale, with its retractable control panel, modest footprint (4.5” x 3.5”), and lightweight body, is a good option for the home or traveling barista. It has a 2kg (2,000g) max capacity and weighs in increments of 0.1g. And although it is sensitive enough to weigh individual coffee beans, it has a relatively slow response time of about 2 seconds. The ProScale is powered by 2 AAA batteries and has a 30-second auto-off function that cannot be disabled. In addition to grams, ounces, and pounds, it weighs in grains, carats, pennyweight, and troy ounces. So, if you plan to weigh other things besides coffee, like your stacks of gold or bags of diamonds, this will work splendidly.

The ProScale can work as an espresso scale, but the reading lags behind the true measurement, so it is necessary to cut off the water about 3-4 grams before it hits the target weight (about 2 grams earlier than the Lunar). For a 40g espresso, for instance, the water should be cut off at about 36g. One caveat, though, is that the ProScale is not waterproof, and, due to its design, appears to catch liquids that fall off the weighing platform. However, in the end, the ProScale makes a great espresso scale at a price that doesn’t hurt much.

As a pour over scale, it functions much better with single-cup drip brewers or an AeroPress than with larger brewers, like a Chemex, which can cover the control panel or slide off the back of the scale. Nevertheless, this would make a great travel scale, perfect for backpacking, taking back and forth between home and the office, or the businessperson who spends a lot of time on the road.

Highlights:
  • Compact size, excellent for espresso or travel.
  • Pop-out control panel.
  • Weighs in increments of 0.1g.
  • Sensitive enough to weigh 1 coffee bean.
  • Fits on most espresso machine drip trays.
Drawbacks:
  • 30 second auto-off function cannot be disabled.
  • Slowest response time.
  • Design seems to catch spilled liquids and does not accomodate large manual brewers.
  • Not waterproof.

Acaia Lunar - $225

Gray Acaia Lunar with white background.

Like the Pearl, the Lunar has a 2kg (2,000g) max capacity, an ultra-fast response time, the ability to measure in grams or ounces, 0.1g increments, a built-in timer, a rechargeable battery, an adjustable auto-off timer (5, 10, 20, 30, 60, off), touch-sensitive controls, 6 modes of operation, Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities, and enhanced features alongside companion apps.

Unlike the Pearl, however, the Lunar features an anodized aluminum body that is completely waterproof. In fact, you can completely submerge this scale under water, dry it off, and return it to use without harm. Moreover, Acaia’s two year warranty covers liquid damage.

The Lunar also differs from the Pearl and other brew-specific scales in that it offers different modes that are more tailored to making espresso. You can change between these modes by using a long hold on the power button. These modes include: Weight only, Weight and Timer, Auto Start Droplet (starts and stops when scale detects water flow), Auto Start Triangle (scale auto-tares after a stable weight is added, then timer starts), and Auto Start Square (auto-tare of stable weight added to scale).

Thus, Acaia has taken all of the amazing things about the Pearl and shrunken it down into a smaller scale with a few more benefits, making the Lunar a near-flawless scale for making espresso. It truly is an ideal scale for the quality-focused café or the home espresso-making enthusiast, situations where precision is central, multifunctionality is desired, and durability is important.

Highlights:
  • Attractive, modern-minimalist design.
  • Incredibly fast response time.
  • Scale sensitivity of 0.1g all the way up to max capacity.
  • Adjustable auto-off function (5, 10, 20, 30, 60, off).
  • Built-in, rechargeable battery (20 hour battery life).
  • Acaia Apps and Bluetooth capabilities allow an enhanced brewing experience.
  • Includes protective feet, 100g calibration weight, and a heat-proof silicone pad that can hold a portafilter.
  • 2 year warranty covers liquid damage.
Drawbacks:
  • Expensive.
  • A larger learning curve than for other scales.

Hiroia Jimmy Digital Brewing Scale - $289.95

Hiroia Jimmy with white background.

The Hiroia Jimmy works as either a brewing or espresso scale, but its core features make it a better fit for life on the drip tray. The most obvious and special feature, one not shared by any other scales on this list and maybe no other scale out there, and which justifies the high price tag, is the detachable, magnetic Bluetooth (v4.1) display that includes time and weight readings. This feature effectively eliminates the pains brought on by not being able to see the display under a bulbous carafe, in the case of brewing, or because of errant water or espresso on the drip tray. This feature is also convenient because it allows baristas to put the weight and time display on the face of the espresso machine at eye level and directly next to the buttons. You can track the weight and time and hit the button at the exact right time for your target weight without looking down or away. When not on the espresso machine, the Jimmy’s detachable display can be laid down facing up or forward and can be moved during operation without affecting the precision of the reading.

Beyond the detachable display, which admittedly is the defining feature, the Jimmy has the standard features of a premium scale—a large capacity (2kg/2,000g), rechargeable battery (with up to a 15-hour life) with micro-USB port (cable included), 6 brewing modes (3 dedicated to espresso), measurement to the tenth of a gram—and a companion app (iOS or Android) that allows you to track espresso, pour over, and scale display data, and to save recipes for future reference. Plus, it is durable. The anodized aluminum frame feels just as substantial as the Lunar and, while not completely waterproof like its competitor, is water resistant.

Highlights:
  • Innovative detachable touch display with Bluetooth connectivity (to the companion app and the weighing platform). .
  • Magnetic display can be attached to a variety of equipment, including espresso machines.
  • Rechargeable battery (10-15-hour battery life).
  • 6 brewing modes.
Drawbacks:
  • The most expensive scale on this list.
  • The Jimmy app is not as sophisticated as Acaia’s Brewguide.
  • Constant Bluetooth connection (for screen) hastens battery drainage
  • Not waterproof.

COFFEE SCALES

Jennings CJ4000 - $29

A Jennings Scale with white background.

The Jennings Scale is one that can be found in a number of coffee shops and kitchens. It offers nice functionality at a fantastic price point. It has a max capacity of 4kg (4,000g) and can easily switch between weighing in grams, ounces, pounds, or even pieces. It measures in 0.5g increments and has a moderately fast response time, though it can feel a bit laggy (264g mug took about 1 second), making it a satisfactory scale for manual brewing. The CJ4000 has a 2-minute auto-off function, which can be disabled, and is powered either by 3 AAA batteries or an included AC adapter. It also comes with a plastic cover that functions as a multi-use bowl, capable of holding a portafilter or other items larger than the scale’s weighing platform.

The Jennings CJ4000 is a great bang-for-the-buck (or maybe bounce-for-the-ounce?) scale, perfect for manual brewing on a limited budget. The 0.5g increment measurement makes it a little less espresso-worthy than other scales on this list, but its large capacity (4,000g) makes it suitable for small Fetco batches or pour-over brews.

Highlights:
  • Superb introductory price.
  • Auto-off function can be disabled.
  • Powered by AAA batteries or the included AC adapter.
  • 20 year warranty.
Drawbacks:
  • 0.5g increments (not a huge issue for manual brewing, but not ideal for weighing espresso doses).
  • Bulky and uninteresting aesthetic.
  • Not sensitive enough to pick up 1 coffee bean.

Hario Drip - $48.03 (black); $49.73 (white)

A Hario Drip Scale with white background.

Hario, known for their V60, Buono Kettles, and coffee siphons, offers an equally reputable scale. Designed specifically for the specialty coffee community, the Hario Drip Scale brings together both a gram scale and a built-in timer, two things that are essential when brewing manually. It has a 2000g max capacity and varying scale intervals, depending on weight, of 0.1g (2~200g), 0.5g (200~500g), and 1.0g (500~2000g).While the Hario Drip has a slightly somewhat slow response time (264g mug took about 1.5 seconds), its built-in timer, ease of use, and improved aesthetic make this a favorite to many. It is powered by 2 AAA batteries and has a 5 minute auto-off feature, unless the timer is started, which then extends the feature to 99:59.

Brewing coffee manually requires both a scale and a timer, and The Hario Drip Scale is both of those things in one, at a reasonable price, making this a great scale for daily manual brewing without breaking the bank. On top of this, Hario also makes a V60 Drip Station, which adds stability and class to your brewing routine.

Highlights:
  • Built-in timer.
  • Easy to use, with touch-sensitive buttons.
  • Scale sensitivity is fantastic after 2 grams.
  • 5 minute auto-off feature extends to 99:59 when timer is being used.
Drawbacks:
  • Varying increments, depending on weight—0.1g (2~200g), 0.5g (200~500g), and 1.0g (500~2000g).
  • Even when a portafilter is tared out, the scale will not weigh in 0.1g increments.
  • Only measures in grams.
  • Scale does not start weighing until 2 grams are added.

OXO Precision Scale - $49.99

OXO Precision Scale on a white table.

With the 6-lb Precision, OXO has made a scale comparable to the Hario Drip scale, a fact reflected down to the price. The main difference here is that OXO is not often associated with specialty coffee. That said, OXO has included the two musts for a manual brewing scale: measurement down to the tenth of a gram and a built-in timer. The Precision measures in grams (up to 3kg / 3,000g), pounds, or ounces, and the timer reaches to 9 minutes, 59 seconds.

The extras include two battery-saving features—a sleep mode that engages after 3 minutes of inactivity and an auto shut-off that engages after 30—and a meter that shows how close any load is to the max. The included smooth silicone pad protects the surface of the scale from heat and scratches. The scale is not waterproof, but its unique design—a sloping face and narrow moat around the battery case—move water effectively away from the important internals.

Highlights:
  • Built-in timer.
  • Easy to use, with touch-sensitive buttons.
  • Simple interface with timer and weight.
  • Large capacity (~3kg)
  • Battery-saving features (Auto shut-off at 30 minutes and standby mode at 5 minutes of inactivity).
Drawbacks:
  • Mostly plastic parts.
  • Scratches easily.
  • Does not have a rechargeable battery (uses 4 AAA batteries).
  • Not waterproof.

Timemore Black Mirror Basic Plus Scale - $79

A Timemore scale with white background.

Timemore makes beautiful, modern coffee products and the Black Mirror Basic Plus Scale is no exception. In fact, the “basic” here refers both to the features, which are few but well chosen, and the aesthetic, which is clean and modern. When turned off, the scale is just a black matte block with a small white Timemore logo. No buttons or icons are visible, not even the power button. Once powered on, though, the two features—time and weight—light up along with their small icons. The operation is simple, too. The power button powers up and off but also functions to tare; and the time button starts and stops the time but also functions to toggle the sound. The unseen features include the auto-off, which engages after 3 minutes of total inactivity or 15 minutes of inactivity when the timer is running.

The Black Mirror has everything required for a coffee scale—accuracy to 0.1 gram, a 2-kilo capacity, incredibly quick readings, a silicone heat pad, and a built-in timer—but nothing more, nothing extra to get in the way. It is unfortunately a bit too large for most drip trays but is perfectly sized (and comes with a necessary silicone pad) for weighing the portafilter, so it can be used for pour over or to aid espresso service.

Unlike the Hario and OXO scales on this list, the Black Mirror Plus scale has a rechargeable lithium ion battery and is mostly water resistant but for its open USB-C charging port. Unlike the Pearl and Pearl Model S on this list, the Black Mirror has only one weighing mode. The price tag rightly suggests that it sits somewhere between the Acaias and the Hario and OXO.

Highlights:
  • Clean minimalist design.
  • Auto-off function.
  • Rechargeable lithium ion battery.
  • Perfectly sized to weigh portafilters (with silicone mat).
Drawbacks:
  • Only one brewing mode.
  • Does not fit on most standard drip trays.
  • Exposed USB-C port is vulnerable to water.

Acaia Pearl - $140 (white); $150 (black)

An Acaia Pearl Scale with white background.

Acaia scales have quickly become an industry favorite, offering unparalleled functionality and an elegant, minimalist design. The Pearl is Acaia’s manual brewing scale, featuring a larger weighing platform that’s perfect for any brewing device. Alongside its touch-sensitive controls, built-in timer, adjustable auto-off function (5, 10, 20, 30, 60 min or off), spill-resistant outer shell, included silicone heat pad, and 2000g max capacity (70.54oz), the Pearl features a 0.1g sensitivity, an unmatched response time, Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities, and 6 different modes of operation. And if that weren’t enough, it also features an internal, rechargeable battery that lasts 25 hours per charge (using a common micro-USB cable, charging only takes 1~2 hours). Although the Pearl can be used while charging, accuracy is reduced, being only precise to the whole gram.

What sets the Acaia apart from other scales is its capability to change weighing modes. There are six modes that you can use simply by using a long hold on the power button. These modes include: Weight only, Espresso, Weight and Timer, Auto Start, Beverage, and Auto Tare. So, for example, if you are using the Auto Start mode, the scale will display a timer up to 9:99 and weight in grams, and after zeroing out the brewing materials, the timer digits will flash and automatically start once the user begins pouring.

While all of those features are remarkable, the Pearl shines even brighter when used alongside one of its Acaia companion apps (available on both iOS and Android platforms). These apps allow you to log brewing parameters, share pictures and recipes, adjust scale settings, view detailed graphs with visible reference to your pour rate, and even stay up to date with the latest firmware.

The Acaia Pearl is perfect for the coffee enthusiast, the person who loves to nerd-out over manually brewed coffee, as well as the café with a brew bar, one where precision and craft are of utmost importance.

Highlights:
  • Beautiful, modern, minimalist design.
  • Incredibly fast response time.
  • Scale sensitivity of 0.1g all the way up to max capacity.
  • Adjustable auto-off function (5, 10, 20, 30, 60, off).
  • Built-in, rechargeable battery (25-hour battery life).
  • Acaia Apps and Bluetooth capabilities allow an enhanced brewing experience.
  • Includes silicone heat pad that doubles as a portafilter leveler.
Drawbacks:
  • More expensive than most other brewing scales on this list.
  • A larger learning curve than for other scales.

Acaia Pearl Model S - $185

Acaia Model S with white background.

The Pearl Model S looks like but should not be confused with its predecessor, the Acaia Pearl. This newer model has a larger capacity (3kg/3,000g), a brighter dot-matrix display, a more robust battery (with 15 more hours of life per charge), and—the most notable feature for home baristas—a library of Brewguides available through the new app that make great coffee much more accessible. From the app, you can search recipes or create your own; you can share recipes with others, too, or simply send your favorites directly to the scale. You can also customize your scale’s features in the app, enabling or disabling brewing modes, setting the screen brightness and auto-off timer, setting your desired display units, and creating your own welcome message. This scale can be a little daunting at first because it includes so many extras, but once you get the hang of it, the S will easily become your favorite brewing buddy.

The S also includes other nerdy features, such as the flow rate practice mode, which displays both the flow rate in grams/second and a visual graph of the flow rate, allowing you to perfect your pour, and 7 modes: the aforementioned Brewguide and flow rate modes in addition to weight, timer, portafilter, and espresso functions.

If you love the Acaia Pearl but desire a more interactive brewing experience and the ability to record your coffee journey, the Model S is for you.

Highlights:
  • Beautiful, modern, minimalist design.
  • Incredibly fast response time.
  • Scale sensitivity of 0.1g all the way up to max capacity.
  • Adjustable auto-off function (5, 10, 20, 30, 60, off).
  • Built-in, rechargeable battery (40-hour battery life).
  • Brewguide app with step-by-step prompting.
  • Includes round silicone heat pad.
Drawbacks:
  • More expensive than the original Pearl.
  • The interface, because of all the modes and accessible features, can be a little confusing at first.

Conclusion

The next time someone compares you to their best friend’s Dad who loves putt-putt more than life itself, sleep well knowing that the benefits of using a scale far outweigh (pun intended) those lame associations. Brewing with a scale offers improved precision and consistency (and thus repeatability), giving you a much better chance at finding and maintaining each coffee’s sweet spot.

While there are a number of things to consider when brewing coffee (like your grinder, your kettle, your espresso machine, and your water), a scale is an important piece of the puzzle, and we think that these are the best out there. If you need help finding the best one for you, give us a call or send us a message. We love to talk scales.

 
Oct 29th 2020 Caleb Spindler

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