Coffee Brewing Help: Why is my coffee watery?

Is your coffee weak and watery tasting? Here's how to fix it!

Here at One Great Coffee, we pride ourselves in selling some of the most flavorful fresh-roasted Arabica bean blends around. However, no matter how good your coffee is, if you are having trouble brewing it correctly, the final outcome could be disappointing. If your coffee tastes watery, bland, burnt, or just plain weak, there could be one of many common issues at play. Life is too short to drink bad coffee! In this guide, we will go over some common reasons for watery coffee and tell you what you can do to improve your daily brew. 


The Most Common Reasons for Watery Coffee: Troubleshooting Bland Coffee

Not using enough coffee grounds, not brewing your coffee for long enough, or having a coffee machine that is not heating up water to an adequate temperature for extraction are the most common reasons for watery tasting or weak coffee

To correct this, first, make sure you are using the right ratio of coffee grounds to water. (Approximately one and a half tablespoons of coffee grounds to every 6 oz of water is a good ratio to follow.) 

If you are using a drip grind coffee maker, check to ensure that it is working properly and heating water to a temperature of at least 185° F. 

If you are making cold brew coffee or using a pour-over or French press coffee maker, be sure that you are allowing a long enough brew time for full extraction to take place, and heating your water to the proper temperature.  


Understanding Under-Extraction 

Things like changing the grind size of your coffee grounds, adjusting your water-to-coffee ratio, and using the right temperature to brew your coffee can help rectify issues of blandness or solve the problem of watery-tasting coffee. 

Most commonly, weak or watery coffee is caused by under-extraction. Extraction is the process of extracting the compounds, flavors, oils, and other important essentials from coffee grounds needed to make your coffee taste bold and flavorful. Extraction occurs when coffee grounds make contact with water, whether that water is hot or cold. If there is an issue with extraction, there will be an issue with flavor. 


Often, under-extraction occurs when:

  • The coffee grounds are not able to make contact with water for a long enough time
  • Coffee grounds are the wrong size and do not allow water to pass through 
  • The grounds are brewed at the wrong temperature 
  • Pressure is required for extraction in a coffee maker (as with an espresso machine or K-cup/single-serve coffee maker)

Heat isn't needed to brew coffee, but it does speed things up.

It all comes down to the chemical processes that take place when different liquids are used to extract solvents from solids. Heat is not necessarily required for extraction to take place. For example, cold brew coffee can be crafted with no heat or pressure, by lengthening coffee ground steeping and extraction times. When coffee is made at lower temperatures, as with cold brew, for example, longer steeping and extraction times are generally required. 

Generally though, hot coffee takes only a few minutes to brew because the heated water speeds up the extraction process. Pressure can also expedite the extraction of coffee grounds, as we see when making a single-serve cup of coffee with a Keurig or pulling a shot of espresso for a latte. 

On the contrary, too much heat, pressure, or contact between the coffee grounds and water leads to a burnt taste, often known as over-extraction.


Calculating Your Coffee-to-Water Ratio Properly

Another one of the most common reasons for bland or watery coffee is an unfitting coffee-to-water ratio. Ergo, using too much water for the number of coffee ground scoops can lead to a bland flavor. (We have a whole article on how many scoops per cup for the correct coffee-to-water ratio.)

Many people use one scoop of coffee grounds per every cup of coffee they want to brew. However, this is a little weak for some coffee drinkers. Another way to look at this is a “1 to 17” ratio. For every gram of coffee used, add 17 grams of water. Others argue that the ratio is in fact, 1:18. Still other coffee lovers use the golden ratio for brewing coffee, which is about one heaping tablespoon of coffee grounds for every 6 oz of water added. It all depends on who you ask. 

Keep in mind that some people actually prefer their coffee on the weaker side of things. One story that I always share with my friends is of the time my cousin from Europe made me coffee. One sip was so strong that I had a hard time swallowing! The next morning, I got up early and made HER a pot of coffee (to prevent another instance of me being “blown away” at the first sip). Her immediate response was to eyeball the glass coffee pot and ask me why the coffee inside was “see-through”. Apparently, in her part of Europe, black coffee really means BLACK COFFEE. The coffee I liked she called "coffee tea."  

My point is that not everyone likes their coffee brewed at the same strength. So, what one person considers watery may be absolutely fine in the eyes of the next coffee drinker.

In the end, you may have to experiment with a few pots of coffee to get things right. Just be sure to note how much coffee you are using, what size your coffee grounds are, and which type of coffee pot you have. That way, you will be able to consistently brew delicious coffee that is the perfect strength for your unique pallet!


Some Helpful Coffee Terms to Know

There are various important terms to know about coffee that can help you order or brew the Java just how you like it! In fact, you can check out in-depth coffee terms glossaries (like this one) to help you bulk up on your coffee knowledge. Here are some terms as they relate to the strength of your coffee. 

Grind Size = How big coffee grounds are 

Over-extracted = bitter, or burnt 

Under extracted = sour, weak, or bland


Why is my coffee machine suddenly making watery coffee? 

If you've tried everything else and know that you are using the right grind size and the correct coffee-to-water ratio, perhaps, the problem lies within your coffee machine. If you’re used to brewing a certain way and generally achieve coffee that isn't weak, but suddenly one day your coffee is terrible, a burnt-out or broken heating coil element could be to blame. 

There's a simple way to test this. Simply run water through your coffee machine with no grounds in the filter chamber. As the clear water drips through into the coffee pot, check and see how hot it is. If the water is coming through lukewarm or cold, the coil or heating element of your coffee maker is probably broken. It might be time to get a new coffee machine.


Final Thoughts on Making Coffee Stronger 

All in all, if you want to brew stronger coffee, be sure you are using the right coffee-ground-to-water ratio, that your coffee maker is working correctly, and that the grind size of your coffee grounds is small enough. If you want to brew coffee weaker, lower the water temperature, increase grind size, and decrease extraction/brewing time. 

For delicious coffee that always has a bold flavor and a mouth-watering aroma, we recommend checking out this incredible selection of fresh roasted Arabica coffees sold online and shipped on the same day that roasting takes place! 

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