My wife got me a Hario digital scale to make coffee with. This is a great example of a thoughtful gift. I’m an enthusiast of coffee preparation methods, and I love (particularly) methods which use, primarily, inert bits of glass, plastic or metal, plus hot water, plus time. I mean that in comparison to fancy devices which plug into the wall and make coffee appear with the mere push of a button. That said, I’ve nothing against a beautiful digital scale to determine the correct quantity of beans.
I once read that you can’t use volume to accurately portion coffee; it was something about the oils within throwing off the weight to volume ratio. So, for pretty much any coffee preparation method you choose, a nice digital scale is the best way to ensure your process remains consistent.
I also use a hand mill made by Hario to grind my coffee. The first step is to place the empty hand mill on the scale, hit the tare button to zero out the scale so that it includes the weight of the mill, then slowly drop the beans in, until you reach the desired weight. For a single Aeropress brew, 15 to 18 grams will do you. For the Chemex, you’re pushing 35-42. After grinding your beans and adding them to whichever device you’re using, you put that device on the scale, and tare once again, this time to accurately measure how much water will be added. Generally, the amount of water, and for how long it’s left in contact with the ground beans, follows a strict schedule.
This is, of course, a bunch of yuppy barista nonsense. You can produce a top-notch cup of coffee by just starting with amazing beans and substitute volume for weight. The Aeropress gives you a scoop and a neat set of steps that will get you there without a scale. Still, I like the obscurity of the full process and the little bits of science lurking behind the details. In the realm of my day job, as a programmer, I helplessly maintain a love of vim. If you have any idea what that is, you’ll understand my penchant for the steep learning curve, replete with limited real world benefits. But, we were talking about my wife - this is a gift that demonstrates that she knows me.
I was vocal about wanting a scale for my coffee prep; I think it’s a good idea to let your loved ones know what you want. But, she came up with the idea of getting a Hario branded scale. I have a bit of an unspoken obsession with the Japanese brand, but she noticed.
The scale comes with a digital timer, one of the previously mentioned key components of making coffee, and a hole cut out of the back so you can wall mount it. This is a surprisingly nice feature, as I can imagine that hanging your scale up will help avoid damaging the sensitive sensors which measure weight. This little, thoughtful notch in the back got me thinking that perhaps I should have a more organized area for coffee preparation. My morning rituals are something like punch-drunk, stop-motion ballet where I whirl around, touching my various counter tops, hefting hot water and coffee machinery around while attempting to avoid stepping on my hungry, attendant animals. Rapidly, images of a shrine to caffeine form in my mind. I have the requisite menagerie of coffee implements. With a bit of rearranging and perhaps a nice coffee related poster, I could perform my rituals with a proper sense of devotion. Just as quickly, though, the mental image of this monument falls apart. The monument is the ritual. We’re messy beings. A shrine won’t help me make better coffee, only the desire to drink better coffee will. It’s easy to confuse the meta-pomp with the important bits that brought you in, in the first place.
It was a lovely gift. I’m a lucky fellow that a girl like that practices love and chooses me as a recipient. The devotion is in the practice, not the shrine. Happy Holidays.