Although measuring the amount of coffee needed to make your morning brew doesn’t usually involve counting out individual beans, a common question we still get is how many coffee beans are in a cup of coffee.
The often-cited “rule of thumb” is that it takes 76 coffee beans to brew a standard cup of coffee.
But how accurate is this number?
Like most things in life, the amount of coffee beans needed to make a cup of coffee can vary depending on a combination of factors.
In this article, we discuss those factors as well as perform an experiment to see if 76 actually is the number of coffee beans in a cup of coffee.
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Factors Impacting the Number of Coffee Beans in a Cup of Coffee
There are three main factors that impact the number of coffee beans needed to make a cup of coffee:
1. Cup Size
While a standard U.S. cup equals 8 fluid ounces, a cup of coffee is typically defined as 6 fluid ounces. This measurement is a carryover from the traditional English teacup, which holds 6 ounces.
However, most cups and mugs don’t stick to the traditional 6 oz size. Visit any retailer that sells coffee cups or mugs, and you’ll be presented with a variety of different shapes and sizes to choose from.
Ultimately, the size of your coffee cup, or more specifically, the amount of brewed coffee you want in it, is going to have a direct impact on the number of coffee beans needed. The larger the cup, the more coffee required to fill it. And vice versa.
2. Coffee-to-Water Ratio
The desired strength and intensity of your cup of coffee also play a significant role in the number of coffee beans needed to brew it.
For example, if you prefer a stronger, more robust cup of coffee, you’ll need a higher coffee-to-water ratio. This requires using more beans.
Conversely, if your goal is a lighter, milder brew, you’ll want a lower coffee-to-water ratio. Thus, fewer coffee beans.
It’s also important to note that the ideal coffee-to-water ratio can vary based on your chosen brewing method. For example, espresso will require a different coffee-to-water ratio than when making pour-over or cold brew coffee.
3. Bean Size, Weight, and Density
Another important factor is that not all coffee beans are created equal. The various growing regions found within different coffee producing countries often produce unique varieties. This can result in beans that vary significantly in size, weight, and density from one region to another.
For instance, a coffee bean grown in Ethiopia can be smaller and denser than one grown in Costa Rica. This is why it’s common for coffee blends to have a mix of different-sized beans.
However, size differences aren’t just found between growing regions. Even single-origin beans of the same type and variety aren’t perfectly uniform in size.
The type of roast also plays a significant role in a coffee bean’s physical characteristics. Light roasts typically retain more moisture, which can make them heavier. Dark roasts, on the other hand, lose more of their moisture during the roasting process and thus can be lighter and less dense.
How Many Coffee Beans Are in a Cup of Coffee?
Given the factors discussed above and how widely each can range, this brings us back to our original question…
How accurate is the 76 coffee bean rule of thumb?
To answer this question, we decided to conduct an experiment of our own. To do this, we started by defining the factors for our experiment as follows:
- Cup Size: 6 oz (although we typically prefer a larger cup of coffee, we decided to stick with the traditional definition).
- Coffee-to-Water Ratio: The “Golden Ratio” (The Specialty Coffee Association defines the “Golden Ratio” as 55 grams of ground coffee beans for every liter of water. This equates to 10 grams of ground coffee beans and 180 ml (180 grams) of water to produce a standard 6-ounce cup of coffee).
- Bean Size, Weight, and Density: Tested a light roast from a national coffee chain, a medium roast from a specialty roaster, and a dark roast from a local coffee chain. Each was a coffee blend.
We then counted out the number of coffee beans needed to equal 10 grams for each roast type three separate times.
Here are the results:
While there’s nothing scientific about the method we used for our experiment, we can confidently say that 76 coffee beans isn’t a useful rule of thumb when it comes to the question of how many coffee beans are in a cup of coffee.
Any slight change in any of the factors discussed in the prior section can have a meaningful impact on the number of beans required. This is why the most accurate way to measure the amount needed to brew that perfect cup of coffee is by weight rather than by volume.
Although the question of how many coffee beans are in a cup of coffee doesn’t have a hard and fast answer, that doesn’t mean you can’t find the right number for you. Half the fun of making coffee is experimenting with different types, methods, and ratios to determine what you like best.
If you’d like to continue furthering your coffee knowledge or are looking for advice on how to improve your home barista skills, check out our brewing guides as well as the coffee basics section of our website.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, the brewing method plays a significant role in how many coffee beans are in a cup of coffee. For instance, French press coffee uses a coarser grind and typically has a higher coffee-to-water ratio compared to drip coffee. This means you’ll end up using more beans for the same volume of water.
The main difference between iced and hot coffee in terms of the number of coffee beans needed to brew them is related to dilution from ice. For iced coffee, you may need to use more coffee beans in order to produce a more concentrated brew. This will help ensure the coffee remains strong even after the ice melts.
Yes, the number of coffee beans used during brewing directly influences the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. The more beans you use, the higher the caffeine concentration. Different beans also have varying levels of caffeine, so the type and number of beans used will ultimately determine the overall caffeine level of your cup of coffee.