You need that strong cup of coffee in the morning to get ready for the day. And then your coffee turns out weak and watery. Not only does that ruin your morning, you want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The biggest reason for watery coffee is that the water doesn’t have enough contact with the coffee grounds to properly extract them. This can be caused by not using enough coffee but also a coffee bed that’s too thin in certain places so the water passes through too easily.
A drip coffee machine can have a few other problems that cause watery coffee. Keep reading to find out.
1. Wrong ratio
The problem can be as simple as not using enough grounds. Coffee grounds have a limited amount of “taste” they can give up. You can just run a gallon of water through 5 grams of coffee and expect it to brew good coffee. Ok, that’s an extreme example but you get the point, you’ve got to use enough grounds for the amount of coffee you want to brew.
A normal drip filter coffee maker needs about 60 grams of coffee grounds per liter of water. Weigh both the water and grounds the next time you make coffee and see what happens.
If it’s still weak and watery, go up to 75 grams per liter and see if you like it then. If that’s still not enough, something else is likely going on.
2. Water temperature
The coffee maker might drip water over the coffee grounds and there are enough grounds to brew good coffee but what if the water is cold?
It’s possible the heating element in your coffee maker has broken and it’s now trying to brew with cold water. While cold brew coffee is a thing, it takes hours to extract everything you want from the coffee, not minutes like with a hot brew.
I wouldn’t recommend putting your hand under the drip nozzle to test the temperature, it will burn you if it’s working properly.
The compounds in coffee grounds that give it its taste, dissolve into the water at different temperatures. Some of those compounds only dissolve at higher temperatures. If the temperature of the water is too low, these compounds just don’t dissolve into the water which means you only have half the stuff you want in your coffee.
The heating element could be broken although it’s unlikely you won’t notice the heating element is completely broken since you’ll end up with cold coffee. You’ll notice that pretty quickly when expecting something hot. It is possible the heating element is covered in deposits. Those deposits can cover the heating element and insulate it. That means heat isn’t transferred to the water and it doesn’t h
What you then end up with is coffee grounds that don’t extract enough and therefore leave you with weak coffee.
If the coffee is cool enough to drink immediately after brewing and this wasn’t the case before, try cleaning your coffee machine. If it’s completely cold, the heating element will have to be fixed although in most cases that means you need to buy a new coffee machine.
3. Grind size
Coffee has to be ground to the correct size for the brewing method. For a drip coffee maker, buy bags that say ‘filter’.
If you grind your own beans, try grinding a bit smaller. The smaller the grounds, the more surface area the coffee grounds have. More surface area means the water touches more of the grounds and therefore extracts them faster. Faster extraction means stronger coffee. Keep going slightly smaller until you like the taste.
4. Water distribution
Some simple drip machines drip the water in the same spot over and over again. This will displace the grounds the water hits.
This can create a spot where the coffee bed becomes really thin. This means that’s where all the water is going through. It moves through it faster because there is less resistance. That means less contact time and less contact surface. And after a while, those grounds will be depleted which means the water that touches it after that doesn’t get anything.
Check the coffee bed in the filter after the machine is done brewing. Is it pretty flat or do you have a hole in the middle? A flat bed is good, that means this is not the problem. If there’s a hole in the middle and the machine is functioning as it should, a better machine is really the only solution to this problem.
5. Floating coffee
If coffee is very fresh, a lot of it can start floating on top of the water. When this happens, the coffee infuses the water a little but because there is less coffee in the bed, the filter will drain too quickly so there isn’t much time to infuse.
It’s pretty easy to see this happen. If it does, try stirring the floating coffee with a spoon and it will often sink to the bottom.
Water has to pass through a bed of coffee to extract the coffee. But, water will take the path of least resistance. So if there is a path for the water to go through the coffee bed with less resistance than the coffee provides, that will be the path most water takes.
Channeling is a term that’s used to describe this. It means there are little tunnels in the coffee bed through which the water can easily flow. This also happens if the bed of coffee is very thin in some places.
Next time your coffee is watery, don’t throw the used grounds away immediately. Check out the bed of coffee in the filter. Can you see any thin spots or even channels that go through the bed? Then this might be a problem.
One thing you can try is to bloom the coffee grounds before you start brewing. Simply pour a little hot water into the grounds. Just enough to get everything wet. Ideally you want to shake the coffee a little bit so the water gets everywhere but with a machine that’s not always possible.
Some machines do this by themselves but not all.
Is the water actually moving through the bed of coffee? In some cases, the water can leak past the filter basket and this obviously dilutes the coffee.
Most simple coffee makers have a lid on top you can leave off or open. That will allow you to see what happens when the machine is brewing. Is water going around the filter basket? If it is, you’re not brewing coffee.
If this happens with a new machine, make sure to read the user manual and follow the instructions. If that doesn’t work try calling or emailing them to see if they can help.
If an older machine has started doing this, it might be time for a new one.
8. Wrong beans
Maybe there is nothing wrong with the coffee machine and the way you’re brewing but you just don’t like the coffee beans.
Some beans (especially specialty coffee) are much milder in taste than the standard run-of-the-mill coffee. Some specialty coffees taste more like tea than coffee.
Try a bag of coffee that’s advertised as “strong” or “bold”. That can make a big difference. Everyone has different tastes. Some people like mild, others bold, and others again fruity. It might be a bit of a journey to find the right coffee that you like but it’s worth experimenting.
Also, if you like a really bold taste with a lot of punch, try a blend that has less Arabica and more Robusta-type beans. Arabica beans are a bit lighter and more acidic in taste, Robusta coffee feels thicker and bolder and has more bitterness. In general, people think Arabica beans brew better coffee but everyone’s tastes are different.