The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Scale question

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coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

Scale question

I am new to baking and have a kitchen scale. The scale I have measure to .000 Lb's or to 1/8 of an OZ. Most of the recipes I see call for Grams. Am I ok with this for a while with a conversion chart available or should I go looking for a replacement scale. I would rather spend money on different flour and topping's today and maybe one of those fancy boule proofing bowels. I am just trying to make sure I am not complicating my life by starting with improper equiptment.


 


PS I am a from scratch home chef. I rarely measure ingredients for a recipe so this is a culture change for me. I would rather start correctly then develop bad habits that are hard to break.

dwcoleman's picture
dwcoleman

I would get a new scale.  Mine is capable of weights in g, oz, kg and I can zero it out.  It was $10 and it does the job for me with my 20 quart mixer even.


You could just convert every recipe over to ounces, but I find grams is way more precise.  Too litle or too much salt is always bad for bread.


Baking is more of a science than art, at least when you want consistency.

BakerBen's picture
BakerBen

Hello and welcome,


Using a scale that measures in grams allows for more precision in scaling ingredients and would be my recomendation.  I use an OXO digital scale that retails for $50 and you can find them on sale (e.g. Bed, Bath and Beyond with 20% coupon for $40) and it has served me well - don't know how accurate it is but it does allow me to be consistent.  


In baking consistency will allow you to eventually allow you to become a good baker through noticeing what occuts from bake to bake and making any necessary modification to the formula.  There are many other factors which a good baker will try and either control, or compensate for, such as ingredients, temparature, and humidity just to name a few. 


Your current scale is ok but to see the difference in precision note the following with respect to "unit granularity" - ounces versus grams:


1/8 oz = 0.125 * 28.35 = 3.54375 grams so the possible error is 1.771875 grams too much or too little ingredient.


So if you are weighing using a scale that uses a unit of grams the possible error would be 0.5 grams.  The "real" difference in prcision is 3.54375 versus 1 gram.   You can see that there is a fairly large difference in the precision caused by the use of ounces verses grams. 


Now, you are asking yourself - "does this precision really make a difference".  It's importance comes in to play more the smaller amount of an ingredient you are attempting to weigh.  For example, 2 grams of instant yeast.  I can weigh that amount but you can not.  


The final answer is that if you get serious about baking you will want to most likely want to be as precise as possible with your scaling and that will lead you to using grams and that means you will need to acquire a new scale.  Sooner than later would be my advice since you have already stated that you see a lot of formulas given using grams.


These are just my thoughts and I hope they help.  Good luck and have a good time baking.  Remember baking went on for centuries without a digital scale so it can be done, but they also used woodfired ovens and ground their own flour (both of which still occur too).  I will be interested in other folks comments too.


Ben

Dillbert's picture
Dillbert

if it measures to 1/1000 of a pound, one pound being 453.72xxxx grams,,,, that's a resolution of 0.4 grams. 


I'm suspicious - that's really cutting it fine...  what kind of scale is this?


the non-laboratory general purpose 0-x kilogram kitchen type scales do well to achieve 1 gram.


scales than measure only small amounts (0-200 grams, for example) do well, but are generally of limited use in the kitchen where tare + contents heads into the 2000 gram range.


certainly with a spreadsheet and knowing that it takes 2.204 pounds = 1000 grams you can construct a conversion chart - if you do, stick with decimal pounds - the ounces and fractions of ounces may send you over the edge.


basically it's not difficult to find a scale that does small quantities to three decimals.  an accurate scale that will weigh (for example) 5 pounds to an indicated accuaracy of 0.001 pounds is a very delicate instrument.  made in China may for example _display_ three decimal points, bit it's dicey to believe even the first decimal . . .

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

I will begin my search for a cheap scale that measure grams down to 0.0 precision. If any one has a good link that will help I will take it. Im generally a big gadget geek so finding new tools is always a big percentage of why I like something.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I have a different view for several reasons, the first being that professional bakers and authors Hitz, Hamelman, DiMuzio, Glazier, Leader, and Reinhart all list the ingredients for their formulas in U.S. weights (pounds and ounces).  Some include metric measurements, but not all.








Since you already own a scale (presumably accurate and one that has a tare function), why buy another if what you have will serve you perfectly for now?  


As  you are new to baking, I think you would be better served by getting a book on artisan breads by any of the above authors.  There's  more to baking bread than just measuring ingredients and following a recipe. Your local local library or bookstore should be able to help you.


The holidays are approaching.  I'd invest in a good book, a good couche, and a good banneton/brotfrom and put a new scale on my wish-list.


You won't develop any bad habits by scaling your ingredients in U.S. weights rather than metric, nor will your breads suffer.


Enjoy yourself and bake well!


coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

I went looking for scales. I found that I could find a just as good scale with a little less precision then my current scale gives me. If I truly wanted a really good scale I would need to spend 200$. At this point I am going to wait at least for xmas and see how much baking I do between then and now.


 


As for books I already purchased one


 


The Taste of Bread : Raymond Calvel (Hardcover, 2001)


 


I read a lot of good reviews on this one.


 


PS Its Coffeetester. I love Coffee and im a Quality Engineer so I spend the majority of my time drinking coffee and testing software. At least with Coffeetaster it still sounds cool.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Coffeetaster,


Welcome to TFL. 


As far as scales are concerned, although top of the range is desirable there are cheaper options which would offer the main things needed - the ability to weigh in grams or ounces and to tare. 


I am in the UK and have an inexpensive Khun Rikon that does all this. It has a fierce shut down time - 1.5 mins. which teaches you to have everything in place before weighing but that could be seen as a good thing! Tare function is very useful.


I can't see this on US Amazon but this Eat Smart scale has all these features and gets good feedback at $25 free shipping. Although it's top capacity is only 5kg it seems very accurate. One reviewer tested it against a post office scale and got the same result. There are other makes also. A lot of people like Escali.


http://www.amazon.com/EatSmart-Precision-Digital-Kitchen-Silver/dp/B001N07KUE/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1287618781&sr=8-1-fkmr1


I haven't tried this scale but others might have. Getting a new scale wouldn't mean your old scale is redundant - it's always good to have a backup.


Many top bread formulae are given in ounces and grams so it's good to be able to weigh in both. I find for home baking, however, when I try to adapt recipes (as most bakers do!), it is easier for me to scale down grams. I'm not good at managing fractions of ounces to 2 or 3 decimal points. With Hamelman's bread for example I tend to scale down the professional formula in grams rather than grappling with the domestic measurements.


If you check software you are probably better with smaller decimals than me! However you must also know as a software checker if a maths error gets in the code it effects the whole programme and this is the same with adapting baking formulae. 


I'm not trying to elevate baking with grams over baking with ounces, I just found as a novice baker that having a scale that could do both really helped my baking. I have a balance scale with both ounce and gram weights as my backup. The original iron weights aren't quite true any more due to oxidation but the battery never runs down! 


Wishing you continued good baking. Kind regards, Daisy_A


 

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

I use two scales.  One pocket scale just for salt and yeast (2"x4"-about $20) and a larger scale that will scale 6 lbs or more, so that I can put my mixing bowl on the scale and use the tare function to weight all my flours, and liquids and starter. These scales are around $40  soo  more accuracy and only one dirty bowl.


Pam

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Like you, I am an "at home" chef.  I've been cooking for man decades and I rarely measure ingredients.  Since developing an interest in bread making I've learned that cooks are not bakers; and vice versa.  It's not that a cook can't bake or that a baker can't cook, it's just that the approach to the tasks involved in each discipline are diametrically opposed and preciseness is critical to baking.


Get a good digital scale that measures both ounces and grams.  Learn to rely on grams for greater accuracy and make sure the scale has a "tare" feature so you can zero it after you've loaded it with a bowl or other container.  I sometimes weigh the water, zero the scale, weigh the flour, zero it again and weigh the yeast before offering it to the mixer. 


I like this scale:


http://www.amazon.com/Oxo-1130800-Grips-Pull-Out-Display/dp/B000WJMTNA/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I1RBG9PWGGXIW9&colid=2SHMTPZXAMLTX

kmrice's picture
kmrice

Just go ahead and get a scale that measures in grams.


Pretty soon you'll want to scale recipes up or down, at which point pounds and ounces will drive you crazy. I can fit 2 large chalahs on each of my stones but my recipe is for three. Converting to 2/3 or 1 and 1/3 so I can make 2 or 4 loaves used to drive me crazy. Now its easy (especially with the $4 calculator I just bought to leave on the counter).


Also, sooner or l;ater, being an engineer, you will want to look into using the baker's percentage method, where all recipes ("formulas") are expressed by weight as percentages of the total flour. Sounded complicated to me when I heard it (I'm not an engineer) but it really isn't difficult, and makes scaling up or down a cinch.


I use the Escali Multifunction Scale. Goes up to 11 lbs, measures in pounds, ounces, grams, whatever you want, accurate to one gram (which is all you really need), tares to zero, and costs about $25.00.


Good luck. You can be both a great cook and a great baker as long as you recognize the differences in the two. Both are art.


Karl

copyu's picture
copyu

and find no real problem


People who use pounds and ounces usually use 'spoon' measures, too, which I rather like, for small quantities...it's quicker than weighing!


What I cannot tolerate is those stoopit VOLUME ("CUP") measures...they'll do for making a stew, or a frying batter, or pancakes, but are absolutely useless for baking bread and only a few steps 'down' from useless, for many other baking tasks.


I'll use the cup-measure recipes, if I've got them, and the recipe is "pot-luck" style; however, I won't post them and refuse to download them, now, no matter how 'enticing' the accompanying photos may look...


copyu

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

So I pulled out excel and did a little math. My scales smalled pound measurement causes this much error


Lbs Grams
0.005 2.26796


 


I could be fairly close but at the end of the day making bread comes down to measuring correctly on the smaller ingredients. Here is my plan:


 


For this XMAS buy a good but not expensive scale for measuring small measurements. It should have a 0.5 gram or 0.1 gram precision. This will be good for yeast and salt which if off by 2.26 grams will cause issues.


 


Next year invest in a good scales ($100) that does not shut of quickly, has 1 gram precision (I can fake it with the two scales at this point).


 


Between a 0.5 and 1 gram bulk scale I should be able to replicate or scale any recipe. I am glad I was not impulsive yesterday. I would have bought a 35$ scale with 1 gram precision. Thanks for the input.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

For the "small" scale, I suggest the FastWeigh M-500. It supplies what appears to be a fully meaningful 0.1 gram resolution. I use mine for yeast and salt even on very small batches all the time and really like it. It should cost only about $6. (You may see it listed --at least on Amazon-- as MS-500 or even MS-500-BLK. Beware this scale --designed and made in China-- is resold here under several different brand names at dramatically different prices. Some of the prices are two or even three times [!] some other prices; look around and don't pay a high price for no good reason.)


For the "large" scale, I suggest budgeting only $50 (or even $40) rather than $100. While spot prices can be rather high, shopping around the competition a bit (and sometimes even waiting for a sale) can save you quite a bit. If you're like me, if you budget $100 you're giving yourself permission to not shop carefully, and will wind up spending $100. (If you can live with no brand name and no guarantee and no service and poor documentation, finding equipment on eBay "buy it now" that's sent from Hong Kong often provides great deals. I've done that several times and never been disappointed yet. [These are items that were manufactured "on spec" and haven't found a U.S. distributor yet. That's why six months later the same thing is hardly ever still available via eBay.])

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam
highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

Sorry my link doesn't work.  First one I have tried and, obviously, I need more instruction.   Pam

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi pam.


My links don't work either in my current browser unless I put them on their own line so the browser can read them as one unit. Might be worth a try? Otherwise Floyd's info on formatting shows how to do it as [url=link url ]link phrase or word [/url]. Again this does not always work on my browser unless on a separate line.


Kind regards, Daisy_A

yozzause's picture
yozzause

I bought a digital pocket scale on ebay from china for $6.00 Australian and now pretty much the same American they measure from 0.1g to 1kg absolutely perfect for dry yeast salt or any other critical additions. Also great for working with smaller starter quatities. i was so impressed that i bought several more sets for friends.


Do be careful though, on a court case as a juror i had to listen to a detective equate precision scales  and small plastic bags as drug paraphanlia. I have small plastic bags for feather samples for DNA testing of birds that i keep and i now have scales (how come im not rich)!