The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Volume vs. Weight

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

Volume vs. Weight

i see occasional questions/discussions on the forum regarding how to measure ingredients, so I performed this little experiment to satisfy my own curiosity.  If you want to try this yourself, all you will need is an accurate digital scale, a one-cup measuring cup, and a tablespoon.  Oh yes, and a pencil and paper.

To begin, tare your measuring cup, that is, put the cup on the scale and press the “Tare” button to set the scale to zero so you don’t have to subtract the weight of the cup for each repetition.

Next, we need to compare the results of using different measuring techniques, so we will start with the “scooping” method.  Scoop into your flour container with your cup so that it comes out filled to overflowing.  Use a straight edge such as the back of knife to scrape off the excess so that the flour comes exactly to the top of the cup.  Put the filled cup back on the scale and record the result.  Repeat five times, emptying the cup into a bowl each time; this is because that cup full has been disturbed and is either fluffed or compressed, and we don’t want to scoop that same flour again.  Now find the average of the five repetitions.

Step two is to repeat all of the above using the “spooning” method.  Here we simply repeat all of the above, but instead of scooping we use the tablespoon to spoon the flour into the cup, again using the knife to level the top.

Now compare the two averages.  You almost surely find that the scooped measurements are heavier than the spooned measurements.  This is because scooping compresses the flour into the cup, whereas spooning fluffs it.  Further, you will likely find that the spread, that is, the difference between the high and the low of each of the two sets of measurements, is greater for the scooped method than for the spooned method.

The long and the short of all this is that if you insist upon using volume to measure your flour, use the spooning method, but since you have a scale (since you couldn’t have done this experiment without one), use it.  After all, 500 grams of flour is 500 grams of flour, regardless of its volume.

Wow, was that an essay?

Maverick's picture

I always use a scale for bread making (not for cookies though). I am curious what your results were. Can you post them?

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

Hi, Maverick.

I had them in an Excel spreadsheet, but it appears I’ve deleted it.  It was a long time ago.  Perhaps I’ll do it over to see if the results are similar to the first time.  What I distinctly recall, however, was the wide spread across the “scooped” measurements and the significant difference in the average weights of the two methods.

i also want to test different brands of flour to see if a fixed volume is significantly different in weight.  I’ve seen it said that across the US there can be large differences, even among different lots of the same brand.  The main point in all of this, however, is whether any differences are large enough to matter.  Seeing is believing, right?

pmccool's picture

is that I average about 125g per cup of flour for AP or bread flour if the flour is first stirred, then spooned into the cup.

"Scooped" cups are all over the map, ranging from a low of 140g/cup to 165g/cup.  And yes, it is possible that they could be even heavier.

That means for a recipe calling for 5 cups of flour, the weights could vary from 625g (spooned) to 825g (scooped).  I'd say that's significant.

I recall making somebody's aunt's recipe for cinnamon rolls.  Auntie was apparently a scooper, since it took another three cups of flour (spooned) for me to get the dough to a workable consistency.


BreadLee's picture

Thank you for this post.  Might help clear up things for plenty of folks.  

I weigh things all sorts of ways.  I have no idea what I'm doing.  But it seems to work.