The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Scale question

coffeetester's picture

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

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

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.


coffeetester's picture

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

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

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.

highmtnpam's picture

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.


flournwater's picture

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:

copyu's picture

and find no real problem

People who use pounds and ounces usually use 'spoon' measures, too, which I rather like, for small'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...


coffeetester's picture

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

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's picture

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

yozzause's picture

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)!