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I have recently started making bread, and I am using a fairly complex recipe. I believe that the primary source of the inconsistency in the bread is the repeatableness of my measurements of the DIAX Diastatic Malt Flour. It has the following properties:

  • I use a small amount, currently 1 1/4 teaspoons
  • The resulting bread is sensitive to relatively small changes in the amount
  • It is a compressible powder, such that a certain volume can contain much more if you pack it in

What I am currently doing is scooping some into a rounded measuring spoon, then flattening off the top with the handle of a spoon held at 45%. I then put this into my flour mix on a cheap electronic kitchen scales and the weight changes by between 1g and 4g. This is a massive variation, but I do not know how much is coming from the scale and how much from the compression/density variation in the measure.

What is the best way to repeatably measure out a small quantity of a compressible powder such as DIAX (or ordinary flour, but that does not usually need such sensitive measurement)? I do not really care about knowing the actual weight in grams, but I do care that today's measure is the same as tomorrow's measure and that I am able to change the amount with some sensitivity.

This previous question had a lot of answers, but they do not really help me:

The more accurate scales option is a possibility, but the recommended one seems to cost $64. That is a significant amount of money for me.

The suggestions of measuring spoons is addressed above.

Dividing a larger quantity in half multiple times would require storing small measured aliquots of powder for days, which is not really practical or cheap. Throwing away excess is expensive.

Making a stock solution of DIAX would be impossible as it is mostly composed of insoluble starch.

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  • Mid pandemic, I purchased my wife this amazon.com/gp/product/B005UGBG20 scale for just this reason. We already had a scale accurate to 1g that will measure much larger quantities. I also got her a set of mini measuring spoons amazon.com/gp/product/B00KH9PSNI too. This set goes down to 1/64 tsp. If you are splitting a recipe that calls for something like this, your better bet is to weigh 1tsp of the powder, do the division, and use the precision scale to do your measurement. Write it on the recipe for next time. Also, look for recipes in bakers percent. Commented Feb 5 at 21:18
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    You could weigh the flour in a simple balance scale. Balance against water measured precisely with a dropper or syringe.
    – Theodore
    Commented Feb 5 at 22:49
  • Also, as a former brewer I read "diastatic" and wonder whether the inconsistency in results is from measurement or from poorly controlled enzymatic reactions.
    – Theodore
    Commented Feb 5 at 22:52
  • @Theodore I am making the bread in a bread maker, taking some effort to control the temperature of the water I use. I would expect that to be fairly consistent.
    – User65535
    Commented Feb 5 at 22:57
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    That scale you are linking is total overkill and rather overpriced for the range it does offer besides. Expect scales to be roughly priced based on the number of units they can measure--that's 3,000g at 0.1g steps, thus 30,000 steps. I've got one in the kitchen that's 500g at 0.01g steps for about a third of that price. (Admittedly, the pictured scale can use AC power--whether that's good or bad depends on how you use it.) Commented Feb 6 at 6:22

9 Answers 9

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Get a precision scale. Not the one you posted; it’s way too expensive, since it needs to be both high-capacity and high-precision. Here’s the one I use, and it’s fifteen bucks, and ten times as precise.

The alternative is to bulk your powder with some other powder that won’t get in the way (in this case, perhaps flour or corn starch or maltodextrin). That way you can measure a larger amount of the mixture and know the quantity of the target ingredient it corresponds to.

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    +1 for the scale, but I'm not very keen on your bulking idea. Even if mixed well at the beginning, mixed powders tend to self-sort into an uneven distribution over time. That's why things like self-raising-flour and jam sugar have to be used as whole packages, and produce inconsistent results when measured out.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 5 at 12:20
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    A precision scale is definitely the way to go. When you work with xanthan gum, guar gum or other additives you often can't reliably use even small spoons as the quantities are very small. My precision scale is a separate instrument which goes down to hundredths of a gram, I measure my powders in a small bowl and add them separately.
    – GdD
    Commented Feb 5 at 12:49
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    0.1g scales are on ebay for around £/$/€ 10. Mine work well and are sold for use with coffee (many are sold for use with "herbs" - but there's only one plant with the pictured leaves)
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 5 at 13:15
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    Just to raise the price a little: with the cheap 0.1g scales, you absolutely must by the calibration weights, raising the cost around $7. I teach glaze making classes, and about 1 in 3 of those scales is significantly out of calibration.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Feb 5 at 18:35
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    @FuzzyChef He doesn't need the calibration, merely reproducibility. Commented Feb 6 at 6:14
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There is a misconception in your question. You say:

I do not really care about knowing the actual weight

and

I do care that today's measure is the same as tomorrow's measure

In fact, the "measure" you care about is the measure of weight. In baking, your bread will only be the same every day if you use the same weight of malt every day. The measure of volume is just a bad proxy for the measure of weight.

Following that, your only option to have what you want is to get a scale. Scales come in different types, you need one that is accurate in the range you describe. You don't need a scale which is accurate from 0.05 g to 5000 g, but you can't use a scale which is only accurate from 5 g to 5000 g, which is a very typical range for a kitchen scale.

So, just go and look at scales for that range. The answer to your question "what is the cheapest and accurate way" is to get the cheapest (suitable) scale you can find. If you can afford it, great. If you can't afford it, then your question has no answer, and you're stuck with getting inconsistent results in your bread.

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    To clarify what I meant, I do not need to know if the amount I am using and find gives the best results is 1.7g, just that I can do it again every day and can increase it by a small amount.
    – User65535
    Commented Feb 5 at 12:21
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    @User65535 yes, sure. I think we agree that you need the same weight consistently - so automatically, methods like measuring spoons, dividing by eye in half, etc. are unsuitable. You need a way to measure weight, and that's a scale.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 5 at 12:40
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    @JohnMontgomery (and rumtscho) There's a difference between reliably replicating something and measuring it. Yes, measuring it inherently leads to the ability to reliably replicate it, but sometimes the measuring is more difficult than alternative methods to reliably replicate something. OP's point wasn't that the weight must remain a mystery, but rather that it's not inherently required to be part of the answer, as long as the answer entails a reliable replication. Both of you are implying that you need to know the weight. It's one way to do it, but not necessarily the only way to do it.
    – Flater
    Commented Feb 6 at 0:17
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    I'd argue OP needs to portion a consistent mass. Weight is a proxy for mass, just like volume is. It's just that in the case of a compressible powder, weight is a more reliable proxy.
    – marcelm
    Commented Feb 6 at 15:26
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    Unless OP will be baking at wildly different elevations (say, sea level vs geosynchronous orbit) or on the Vomit Comet, the difference between weight and mass probably isn't relevant.
    – chepner
    Commented Feb 6 at 21:51
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You could get a small sifter and sift over your measuring device to get fairly uniform measuring.

You would of course do this over a large plate so you can reclaim the excess flour.

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Albeit, realistically, a precision scale is the way to go. You'll find it's useful for much more than this very specific bread recipe.

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    I’m not sure I understand… why would sifting improve the uniformity of the measurements?
    – Sneftel
    Commented Feb 5 at 21:58
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    Sifting the flour into a container, rather than packing or scooping it, means the density of the flour in the container is constant (at roughly whatever the minimum possible density is.) Commented Feb 5 at 22:06
  • At the very least, you could use this as a consistent technique to add small amounts of ingredient to sneak up on your desired value with a scale.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Feb 5 at 23:56
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    @GlennWillen Not really constant (because differences in how the individual particles settle will still happen with sifted powders, and any sizable mass will still compress), but it should be orders of magnitude more consistent than just dumping the powder into the measuring container or scooping it out of storage. Commented Feb 5 at 23:59
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    @AustinHemmelgarn I don't think Glenn was implying a perfect constant but rather it's better than merely dumping or scooping just as my answer states via "fairly uniform measuring".
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Feb 6 at 13:09
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Is your storage location subject to large variations in relative humidity? Having worked in laboratories where seasonal variation in humidity affects the weighing of various leaf and grain samples, perhaps keeping the flour in a consistently humidified (or dried) state might be a solution. (There has been discussion amongst my peers whether scooping or weighing soil samples is the better choice for analysis, not dissimilar to your issue with the malt). Silica gel bags (dessicant packets, like the ones in packaged foods/shoe boxes etc) might be enough to lower the humidity inside your storage container. I don't know if they are re-usable by drying in a moderate oven when fully hydrated, but they might be cheap enough throw away when no longer effective.

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  • this. moisture will also affect weight, so scales alone will not necessarily be a solution.
    – ths
    Commented Feb 9 at 19:56
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In addition to all the things people have said about weighing the powder for accuracy, you should NEVER scoop up a compressible powder into a measuring device, as variations in technique will cause variations in compression. Instead, stir the powder to fluff it up, gently spoon it into the measuring device, then level it off with something completely flat -- the back of many knives would work well, or I use a sharp-edged flat metal chopstick.

My canister of baking powder has a built in metal edge for leveling off measuring spoons, though that is after I scoop the powder into the spoon.

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As you've already heard the best way to measure is weight but you can get 0.01g accurate scales to a max of 100g on ebay for less than $10. You'll be using a tooth pick as a scoop to get your weight of flour that precise.

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  • These scales have a display of 10 mg, but won't have that precision nor accuray. Still, one of those will likely solve OP's measurement problem. (10 mg are more a tip-of-a-knife amount than on-a-tooth-pick.) Commented Feb 6 at 16:57
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Is this mixed in with dry ingredients? Because, from chemistry, we make up stock solutions for pretty much this reason. You could just make a dry stock mix.

You'd take several days worth of flour, and several days worth of malt powder, sift them together, and use that.

It'd give you an accurate (because less percentage of the measurement will be due to scale error) measurement on the powder.

It will also accomplish your other goal, which is to use consistent amounts of malt powder. Each large batch will, if sifted and combined properly, have the same proportions of flour and malt powder in each measure.

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I agree that you should be able to find a scale that meets both your precision needs and your cost target. In addition to the extensive options on the 'net to find cheap new stuff, you can look for used scales either on the 'net or locally. Or you may be able to borrow something on an extended basis.

That said, if you're looking for something cheaper than a scale, try a balance. A high-quality balance will be more expensive than a cheap scale; but a cheap balance could be quite cheap indeed; you could even make one with materials around the house.

One you have a balance, you just need to find something consistent (and preferably adjustable) to compare against. A certain quantity of paper clips. Ball-bearings. A known volume of water. Very small rocks.

(Don't expect the rocks to float if you put them into the volume of water, however.)

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For measuring small amounts of a compressible powder accurately on a budget, try this trick: First, find out the average weight of the amount you need by measuring it out several times, leveling it off each time, and weighing it. Let's say you're using 1 1/4 teaspoons of your powder; scoop it, level it, weigh it, and do this a few times to get an average weight.

Once you've got that average, you can simply use your scale to measure out that exact weight each time you bake. This way, you're ensuring you're always using the same amount of ingredient, despite its compressibility. It's a bit of a DIY approach but does the job without needing to splash out on fancy gear. Plus, getting consistent with this method means your bread will turn out the same way each time. Just make sure your scale is decently accurate for small weights, and you're good to go!

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