Monday, February 7, 2011

What IS a teaspoon?

These are my volumetric measuring devices.

From left to right : Tablespoon, Teaspoon, 1/2 Teaspoon and 1 Pinch
These have a volume of 15ml, 5ml, 2.5ml and 1ml respectively.

In order to use these, you'll need to CALIBRATE the volumes vs weight for each substance, and every time you change anything, like you get a new box of lets say soda, you need to ascertain the weight vs volume, by weighing out and checking vs previous measurements.

No big deal, really.

My wife bought these measures in a set, I have "lent" them, so far without any repercussions!

How to use a teaspoon? Well since we are having a discussion across time-divides and geographic dvides, the most important is to establish a baseline.

US and british measurements are totally unsuitable for this, we need to use a standard, a prescise and universal standard, that always needs to be the baseline standard.


Always when discussing recipes, they are meaningless, unless the data is backed up by grams and millilitres, anything else will give rise to misinterpretations, uncertainity and bad results and incomprehensible catastophes, with no images on film.

However once established, weight can be measured out quickly, repeatable, and prescise by volume - if one knows HOW.

Using measures - know your powder!

Soda, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, KBr - these are chemicals, and easy to measure out by volume. If one does this RIGHT, the variation from batch to batch will even be less than by weight measured from an old, cheap weight, even modern electronic weights are sometimes less prescise, since they often don't have the RESOLUTION needed.

Any weight bought for the kitchen is most times less than desirable.

So in order to calibrate, one measures out svereal measures, 10 to 20, and weigh that as best as one can, the result divided my the number of measures.

This will be the calibrated weight per measure for the chemical in question.

However, it is important HOW this is done, one must use a volumteric measure exactly the same each time :

1. Scoop up the powder, make sure the measure is full and topped a little.

2. Hold the measure level over the container, and strike off the surplus with a knife or something similar, leaving a full and level measure.

3. Empty the measure into the water.

4. Repeat as necessary.

When one does this the same way every time, measuring out powder by volume is more than accurate enough for all photograpic purposes.

Coffe however is a special case, instant coffee is grainy, and varies there are grains, granules, powder and anything in between. If one tries to level off, the biggest grians will, either drag with them the fine powders, or be pressed into the measure, compacting the contents. This means there will be no repeatability.

Therefore a slightly different approach for coffee :

Just scoop the measure full, with a little top ("rounded" as the americans call it), try to do exactly the same each time, and pretty quickly you will do the same each time, once calibrated, it will be more than good enough.

Establish your calibration as outlined above, but with "rounded" measures.

Thats all there is too it. Once done one can do as I have done, go from metric weights and volumes, to fast and simple measures.

I use and stick by Coffenol CCH as outlined in Reinhold's blog, measures in ml and grams, but have adapted them to my Kaffenol 327, same thing, really but more practical and quicker.

I advocate that anyone who want to try the same follow the simple instructions given here, and follw this simple standard, that way it will also be possible to compare notes across oceans!

Best of luck!


Like, if you only have spoons like these?

Well its really simple, as you can see a tablespoon might have double the volume from spoon to spoon, the same with teaspoons.
Therefore, trying to establish rules and trying to tell others what to do, based on these are meaningless.


Simply establish YOUR calibration, based on the principles above, and use them meticulously, you will be succcesful.

But NEVER try to use what you have in your house as a world standard!

If you choose to go down this road, always translate what you find into grams and millilitres, or grains and fl. oz. , which is the same thing but to different standards.

Whatever you choose, YOU will be succesful, this is easy and fun!


  1. Hello Eirik,

    one cannot stress enough that you first MUST determine the specific weights of the used ingredients. F.e. your 3-2-7 recipe translates to 8-1-10 for the kind of VC, soda and coffee I use. And what sense does it make to publish a recipe for 320 ml instead of 1 liter? I use 260 ml for my Jobo-tank, another one will use 250 and the next one will need 350 ml.

    Your x-y-z recipes always MUST include the amount of water, the millilitres your teaspoon eqals and the specific weight of the used soda, VC and coffee to be comparable and reproducible. Isn't that really confusing? I agree that you CAN measure by volume with sufficiant accuracy, but recipes basing on volume ALWAYS are unreliable if not declaring ALL these parameters.

    Best regards - Reinhold

    1. Didnæ't catch this until now.

      Reinhold donæ't understand this, when you measure something by volume, and THEN weigh it, you already have the specific weight, it is just a matter of plugging the numbers into a very simple formula and do the calculus.

      Sp. wght = weight/colume = gram/cubic centimetre

      So even if it SOUNDS very learned and impressive what is written just above here, it is just hot air, ikt means nothing because it does not address the simple facts I put forward.

      I think this is very sad, because I have stressed over and over gain, the recipes I put forward and support as Caffenol are Reinhold's, and I said from the beginning that his C-CH recipe is the best out there. What I'm talking about is translating the recipe into the US kitchen-bench measurement system, whqat to do if you don't have an accurate enough weight.

      And what I've stated is correct!