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Why Does My Coffee Taste Watery?
Plus Quick, Simple Solutions

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By Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Nothing is more upsetting than weak coffee. Even bad coffee is better than weak coffee. If you take a sip expecting a full-bodied brew and get a watery mess, it can ruin your day. So, if you’re unintentionally microdosing coffee you may be scratching your head and wondering ‘Why Does My Coffee Taste Watery’?

Watery coffee is caused by not getting enough of the flavor molecules from the coffee grounds into the water. This can be caused by too short an extraction time, incorrect coffee-to-water ratio, wrong water temperature, or low pressure.

Luckily, each of these issues can easily be fixed for all coffee brewing methods. So if you follow these quick and simple solutions, you’ll soon be enjoying full-flavor, good coffee again.

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Infographic: 4 reasons your coffee is watery
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1. Extraction Time Is Too Short

If the water isn’t in contact with your coffee grounds for long enough, it won’t take on all the delicious flavors from the coffee.

This can take different forms depending on your brewing method. For example, not steeping the coffee long enough in a French press, or having the water run through your espresso puck or pour over too quickly. The result will be watery coffee that also tastes quite sour.

Solution

For French Press

This is the easiest to fix:

It should take 4 minutes to properly extract French press coffee. So if you’re not steeping for 4 minutes and you’re getting weak brewed coffee, then steep for longer. But be careful – steep for too long and you’ll get bitter-tasting coffee instead.

Luckily, most people carry a timer around in their pockets – your cell phone. So it couldn’t be easier to nail this quick fix.

For more top tips, check out our French press coffee guide.

For Pour Over

It should take a similar length of time to produce your pour over – around 4 minutes.

If you’re finding your water is running through the grounds faster than this, producing a brew in 2-3 mins, it’ll taste watery. Try grinding finer to slow the water’s progress through the grounds until it takes the coveted 4 minutes.

For Espresso

If you’re using a 1:2 ratio of coffee grounds in to brewed espresso out but it’s watery, then grind finer. Using a smaller grind size will increase the time that the water spends in your coffee puck, getting better flavor extraction. Overall, it should take 20-30 seconds for the perfect extraction.

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2. Incorrect Coffee-to-Water Ratio

Making great coffee is just like any other recipe. You need the right quantity and balance of ingredients otherwise it throws the whole thing off.

In this case, you need to have the right amount of coffee for the volume of water you’re using to get a great-tasting cup of joe. Too little coffee or too much water will lead to watery tasting coffee.

Solution

For French Press

The golden ratio for French press coffee is somewhere between 1 part coffee to 11 parts water and 1 part coffee to 17 parts water, depending on how strong you like it. The more water you use for the same amount of coffee grounds, the more watery your brew will taste.

So, if your French press tastes watery, use the same weight of coffee grounds with less water. To make the maths of it all simpler, you can use our French press ratio calculator – it will tell you the exact amounts in your preferred units of measurement.

For Pour Over

The ratio for pour over is a little different and depends on the gear you’re using. In general, you should aim to use 15 parts water to 1 part coffee. But it depends if you’re using a Kalita Wave, Chemex, or V60.

To help you get the exact amounts you need to avoid watery coffee, use one of our calculators:

For Espresso

Espresso is a little different. You’re looking for a ratio of double the espresso out as the weight of coffee in (1:2). So if you’re using 1oz of coffee grounds, you should get 2oz of espresso out. The important part is that this should take 20-30 seconds to extract.

Nailing espresso is always a combination of multiple factors. But if your ratio is more like 1:4 then you need to reduce the water or increase the coffee dose to get the correct ratio of twice the weight of espresso out as coffee grounds in.

If you are using a manual or semi-automatic espresso machine, this means you need to stop the flow of water sooner. But if you aren’t in control of this, you need to increase how much ground coffee is in the portafilter.

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3. Wrong Water temperature

Maths lesson over, it’s time for a spot of science:

Chemical reactions are sped up by introducing more energy, like more heat. And the coffee brewing process is no different. So if your coffee is coming out watery, it may be that your water isn’t hot enough.

But, take care not to go too hot or you’ll go from watery to burnt coffee in the blink of an eye.

Solution

For French Press

When using a French press, you want to ensure your water is just off the boil before you start steeping. Around 200°F (93°C) is the ideal temperature here.

To consistently nail this, a temperature-controlled kettle is your best bet. But, if you don’t have one, you can get your water to this temperature by boiling your kettle and then leaving it for 2 minutes after boiling.

For Pour Over

Pour over also works best with water around 200°F (93°C). It’s a more precise brewing method so, for best results, we recommend using a top gooseneck kettle. This will allow you to control the temperature and the water flow for the perfect extraction.

For Espresso

Espresso is best at, you guessed it, around 200°F (93°C). If you have an espresso machine it should be heating the water to this temperature for you. Or, if it has temperature settings, you can put it on the highest one to try and fix watery coffee.

But if you think your espresso machine is faulty, you can use a meat or milk thermometer to test how hot the water is coming out.

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4. Insufficient Pressure

There aren’t many types of coffee makers that use pressure. But the ones that do are, arguably, the most famous: Espresso, AeroPress, and Moka Pot.

Brewing under pressure (the machine, not some weird hostage situation) speeds up the transfer of flavor molecules to the water. This is partly why espresso machines can get full-bodied coffee flavor in just 20 seconds.

For Espresso

A lack of pressure in the filter basket is caused by the water moving too freely through the puck. This can be caused by one of two things:

1. Grind is too coarse – If your grind isn’t fine enough then your puck will have too many gaps for the water to move through, causing a lack of pressure.

2. Tamp is too loose – If you haven’t tamped the ground coffee beans hard enough then you’ll have the same issue.

We’d recommend grinding finer as a first solve as this is the most common cause of espresso shots tasting watery. If you’re very confident with your grind size then try adding a little more pressure when tamping to get a better puck.

For AeroPress

The pressure in an AeroPress is applied by you pushing down. So if your AreoPress coffee is watery, you can try grinding finer (just like for espresso) or you can use your whole weight to push the plunger down with more force.

For Moka Pot

There’s only one reason for a Moka pot to brew with not enough pressure – there’s an issue with it. So, as long as you’ve made sure it’s screwed together correctly it should be fine, and your coffee should taste great.

If your Moka pot coffee is coming out watery then grinding finer or increasing the coffee to water ratio are the best fixes to ensure good percolated coffee.

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FAQs

Why does my instant coffee taste watery?

Instant coffee is freeze-dried brewed coffee. It must be added to the correct amount of water to taste right. So, if your instant coffee tastes watery, add another spoonful of coffee.

Keep adding until you get the strength you like.

Why am I getting watery cold brew coffee?

To properly infuse, cold brew coffee needs around 18 hours. So the reason your cold brew coffee tastes watery will most likely be impatience and not letting brew for long enough.

To combat this, you can try the same fixes as you would for French press. Up the amount of coffee, increase the steeping time, or brew on your counter at room temperature instead of in the fridge.

Why is my drip coffee maker brewing watery coffee?

The most common error with a normal drip filter coffee maker is not using enough coffee grounds. Make sure you’re using the amount recommended by the manufacturer to get full-bodied drip coffee.

If it still isn’t working, then we’d recommend getting a different coffee maker. The best 5 cup coffee makers should brew a full-bodied pot of joe and not leave you disappointed.

Why does iced coffee taste watery?

Iced coffee is made by cooling normal hot brewed coffee with ice. Which melts on contact with the hot liquid. So all that hard work to perfectly balance your ratio of coffee and water is ruined by adding…more water. Instead, try adding whiskey rocks to get all the same cooling goodness but none of the diluted coffee taste.

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Final Thoughts

The smell of a freshly brewed cup of joe is intoxicating. But if that first sip is thin and watery, it will bring you back to Earth with a very heavy bump.

Thankfully, it’s one of the easiest problems to fix. It’s almost always a very simple solution to get you back to that rich and tasty brew you’re after.

So, next time you’re wondering ‘why does my coffee taste watery’, take a walk through these steps. You might have to use a little trial and error – change one element at a time rather than all at once. But you’ll be sipping on full-bodied java in no time.

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Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Matt's coffee obsession started in 2006 when working as a Barista. A tendency to turn up to work hungover kickstarted his coffee journey which quickly turned into a love affair. As he moved on to work as a Restaurant Manager and Sommelier, the obsession continued to grow. Now, his passion is helping others to enjoy better coffee at home.

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