Why Is My Coffee Watery? A Guide to Strong Coffee

You get up, brush your teeth, start getting ready to go out, half asleep. You pour yourself a cup of coffee but there's something wrong. It's weak and it feels like you're drinking coffee sprinkled with water. What went wrong? Let's see what are the main reasons your coffee is watery.

Why Does Your Coffee Taste Watery?

 

There are many reasons why you might end up with watery coffee and most of them are very easy to fix. They all depend on your brewing method, as there is one set of things that can go wrong with espresso and a completely different one that can go wrong with drip coffee, Moka pot coffee or with pour over. Don't worry, though, we'll look into all of them. Let's get crackin'.

Bad Tamp

A bad tamp can absolutely ruin an espresso. As this type of coffee is made with a very high pressure, you need to make sure that the coffee is evenly spread out in the portafilter. This is the only way to let the water evenly extract your coffee and the only way to have a good coffee, no matter what kind, is even extraction. The best way to get an even tamp is to get the high quality calibrated pressure LuxHaus tamper. Buy yours now.

What would happen if you don't tamp your coffee well? There are two possibilities here. One is if you tamp too hard and the other if you don't tamp hard enough.

Let's look into what happens if your tamp isn't hard enough. As the water will flow through your coffee very quickly, under 9 bars of pressure, it'll push the coffee out of the way. This way you will get the so-called "floating" which is basically your filter filling up with water and the coffee floating around. While you're still going to get something in your cup it's going to be a very watery cup of coffee that you can only throw out. 

On the other hand, not tamping your coffee hard enough can also have a negative effect. If you push it too hard, the grounds will be too compressed. This will mean that water can't flow evenly through the coffee and will form little channels, in a process known as channeling. The problem with this is that the water will over extract your coffee where it flows and won't get in contact with the rest. This will leave you with a watery coffee that also tastes burnt. You'll definitely want to avoid that. 

As we already mentioned the best way to avoid watery coffee due to poor tamping is a calibrated pressure tamper. It always gives you exactly 30 pounds of pressure which is perfect for your espresso. You can also do that manually but it requires a lot of practice and you're likely to get it wrong sometimes.

Wrong Coffee Grind

The wrong sized coffee grinds can ruin any type of coffee, and just your espresso. The way coffee is produced is, after picking the beans off the plant, cleaning and drying them, they're roasted. Some producers then directly put the beans in a pack and sell them to you. Others grind them first, and then you get your coffee.

If you buy your coffee in a bean form, you'll have to grind it yourself. This is where something can go wrong. Most types of coffee require a specific size of coffee grounds. Espresso and Turkish coffee require a fine grind. A Moka pot coffee requires a slightly more coarsely ground coffee. Then you have pour over that is medium to coarse, French press that requires more coarsely ground beans and cold brew that requires the grounds to be even more coarse.

The problem with the wrong coffee grounds size is that if they're too coarse for the type of coffee you've decided to go for, it'll be watery. This is because the water that flows through it won't be in contact with enough coffee for enough time. That's why you should always check  what is the best grind size for your coffee maker.

On the other hand, if the grind is too fine, your coffee will be over extracted. This will happen because most coffee makers that require a fine ground generate a lot of pressure, which means that the water flows through the coffee for a very short time. That means that coffee makers that require a more coarse ground generate less pressure and the water flows through the coffee significantly slower. That's why if your coffee is ground too fine your brew will be bitter and burnt.

Not Enough Coffee

 

The wrong amount of coffee is one of the main reasons why it mind end up watery and it's pretty obvious why. Even if it's evenly spread and ground, if there's not enough coffee, you'll have more water in your brew. The best way to know you've put enough coffee in your coffee maker is to check its user manual or go online and find the answer.

Too Much Coffee

If you put too much coffee it might also come out watery. Even though that sounds a little counter intuitive, it's very logical when you understand what happens. This may only happen with espresso or a Moka pot coffee as they produce more pressure than other brewing methods.

What's going to happen here is what we mentioned in the bad tamp section. To fit more coffee in the filter you'll need to press it down, which is basically tamping it. This way you'll have your coffee channeling and the water under extracting it. The way to fix it is to put less coffee next time.

Using Old Coffee

 

One of the most important factors that decide whether you get watery coffee or a delicious strong cup of brew is how fresh it is. That's why high quality coffee always has the roast date on the package. This is the same reason why coffee enthusiasts decide to invest in a grinder and grind their own beans, to make sure they're fresh. 

Even though coffee needs a lot of time to go bad, it gets stale over time. If you buy pre ground coffee it's more likely to end up watery as it was ground and packed in advance. If you grind your own coffee, you're recommended to only do it just before brewing to get it tasting the best it can.

No matter if you buy your coffee pre ground or you ground yourself in advance you should keep it in an airtight container. This will slow down the process of the coffee getting stale and you're more likely to have a delicious cup of brew.

Low Quality Coffee Beans

If you grind your own coffee and it's always fresh, there might be another reason you're getting a watery brew. The coffee grounds you're using might simply be low quality. Even though some coffee beans can be very expensive, it's worth considering trying them to get a better taste out of your coffee. In most cases they're worth the extra cost.

Wrong Water Temperature

Water temperature is equally important for coffee brewing as the coffee itself. The perfect temperature for most coffee makers is around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is just before the water starts boiling and according to coffee experts that's when the richest flavor will be extracted from the coffee grounds.

The only exception to the rule is cold brew. There you start with cold water, pour it over the coffee beans and leave it in the fridge for a day. If you start with hot water, your coffee will be massively over extracted and will be undrinkable.

Bad Timing

For how long the water stays in contact with the coffee is another important factor you should consider if your coffee is watery. While most espresso machines do that automatically, if you're using a manual method like a Moka pot, pour over or French press you can change it. If your coffee comes out watery, you will want to increase the brewing time. We recommend doing that in 30 second steps so you can see precisely when your coffee has the best taste.

Weak Brewing Method

This is another probable reason why your coffee might be watery. If you've noticed it's not as strong as the coffee you're getting at Starbucks or any other coffee shop you go to, it could be simply that your coffee maker doesn't make strong enough coffee. 

What you can do in that case is get another coffee maker. While espresso is among the strongest types of coffee out there, an espresso machine is usually very expensive. That's why the best option in that case might be a Moka pot. The coffee that it makes is around half as strong as espresso but it's still got enough caffeine to wake you up. In addition, the taste is amazing and a high quality Moka pot like the LuxHaus one will only set you back $31. Go and get yours now.

Faulty Coffee Maker

A faulty coffee maker could potentially be yet another reason for watery coffee. There are many things that could go wrong with most coffee makers. Espresso machines, in particular, are among the most complicated pieces of kitchen equipment and understandably there's a lot that can go wrong with them. If you've tried everything we previously mentioned and are still getting bad coffee, you might want to look into it.

When it comes to Moka pots, they're significantly simpler and cheaper to repair. If you're getting bad coffee out of your Moka pot, you might want to change the seals and make sure your filter is clean.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Why Is Your Coffee Bitter?

There are few things that make your coffee bitter. The most common one is the temperature of the water you used to brew it. Others can be old beans, over extracted coffee due to prolonged brew or a fine ground when it's not needed. 

If you have already made a cup of bitter coffee, what you can try is adding milk or sugar. Something else that coffee experts recommend is to add a tiny amount of salt to bring out the natural taste of the coffee.

Why Is Your Coffee Sour?

A sour coffee is the opposite of bitter coffee. It usually happens because of an under extracted cup of coffee. If you don't brew your coffee grounds for long enough or they're too coarse your coffee will have a bitter taste.

The easiest way to fix a cup of sour coffee is brewing it for just a little bit longer the next time. This will help you achieve the perfect extraction and therefore the perfect taste of the brew.

What to Do with Watery Coffee?

There isn't much you can do if you have a cup of watery coffee. You can either throw it out or use it for cold brew after the water evaporates.

One more trick that you can try is adding some instant coffee. It will boost the taste of your coffee but also make it sweeter. This will only work if you do it a short time after brewing while the temperature of the coffee is still high.

Final Word

Even though coffee is very easy to make at first glance, there are a few things that can go wrong. These include the water temperature, the coffee grounds size, the coffee beans and many more. 

The hardest one to fix, though, is the tamp. To make sure your espresso is always consistently tamped you should get a calibrated pressure tamper. Head over to our catalog and get your LuxHaus calibrated tamper now.