Last Updated on November 12, 2022 by Timothy Byron Smith
Nothing can ruin a perfectly good day more than a watery Espresso. This popular caffeine beverage is expected to be rich, thick in consistency, and crowned with a layer of crema. Anything short of it is monstrous and must make you wonder why is my Espresso watery?
There are several reasons why your espresso is probably coming out watery. The cause can be anything from under extraction, to improper temperature or grind size, etc. But don’t worry. This is a common problem and can be easily solved. We have the best tips and hacks to help you regain the authentic espresso experience!
Is It Okay to Have Watery Espresso?
If you’re thinking, ‘but that’s how espresso normally is’ or ‘that’s the normal consistency of espresso’ then you couldn’t be more wrong. You are truly drinking espresso the wrong way! It is absolutely not okay to have watery espresso because you’re wasting precious milk, water, and power and making a liquid that is not espresso!
A watery espresso is exactly that; it is watery. It is more water than any flavor of coffee. This is because the extracted liquid has most likely failed to blend with the ground coffee in the espresso machine. As such, you aren’t consuming the authentic espresso taste rather barely even a fraction of it.
If you are not exactly an espresso lover or don’t particularly enjoy the strong espresso flavors, it is possible you won’t notice the difference. That’s because the watery espresso might be appealing to your palette. However, that is not the true espresso experience and is mostly a waste of resources.
Why Is My Espresso Watery? (Top Reasons)
Wish to avoid a bland, watery, and poor-tasting espresso? The key to avoiding this abomination is to correct the espresso machine settings, fix your extraction time, and practice proper tamping, among other things.
Ideally, the perfectly brewed espresso shot takes around 25 to 30 seconds of extraction time. Anything longer than that and you will have to put up with a bitter espresso shot. Moreover, anything less than 25 seconds and your espresso shot will be too watery.
So, to ensure you only brew the perfect shot of espresso, let’s find out what exactly makes the espresso watery. Once you know that, you will know how to fix it to enjoy a fantastic rich cup of espresso.
1. Espresso Beans Freshness and Quality
Regardless of whether you are using espresso beans or coffee beans, make sure they are top quality and a fresh batch. It is easy to ignore the importance of good beans for coffee. You think you’ll throw in just any coffee beans and enjoy a good shot of espresso. But that’s not how it works.
You might need to experiment a little bit to find a reliable and quality brand for coffee beans. However, there are several popular brands that many coffee lovers trust for the consistency of their flavors and grind size.
Finally, make sure the coffee beans are properly sealed. The freshness of coffee beans significantly influences espresso extraction. It is recommended to buy whole beans and grind them yourself for optimal freshness! Old and stale beans make for poor espresso shots. Store them in a cool dry place for longer freshness.
Recommended Read: Best Espresso Beans To Satisfy Your Taste Buds
2. Grind Size
The perfect shot of espresso is made from coffee beans that are tiger finely ground or ultra-finely ground. To avoid a watery espresso it is very important to maintain this grind size. However, it can be difficult to find the right grind size so again, you’ll need to play around and experiment a little with grind settings.
The coarser the coffee beans, the easier it is for the water to pass through them. As such, the water does not blend with the coffee flavors and intensities enough to create a rich liquid. It quickly passes, not retaining any flavor and you end up with a watery espresso.
The finer your ground coffee the slower water will pass through it. Consequently, it will have more body and flavor when it’s extracted as espresso. Finely ground coffee allows optimal extraction and produces the perfect espresso shot. So, get a quality espresso grinder if you want to enjoy good coffee.
3. Espresso Shot Channeling (Most Likely Culprit!)
Espresso channeling occurs when pressurized water creates channels and pathways in the ground coffee. It forces through the least resistant areas of ground coffee and easily tunnels out into the mug. This means it does not blend or mix with the coffee effectively.
When espresso shot channeling occurs, most of the ground coffee in the portafilter or machine is not used. That is because water has found other pathways to stream out. The result, therefore, is a bland and thin body, watery espresso that is under-extracted. It lacks intensity, flavor, richness, and even proper aroma.
You can check the channeling by analyzing whether the espresso puck is wet uniformly or not. A lack of crema, flavor, and aroma are other indicators of channeling. To avoid this make sure the grind size is right and tamp the coffee well.
4. Amount of Coffee Grounds
The dose of coffee grounds that you put in your coffee machine determines how good or bad your espresso tastes. The amount of coffee grounds can vary between 5 and 30 grams depending on the kind of ground coffee you are using.
Using too little coffee will result in a faster shot which means a watery shot. Too much coffee, on the other hand, will create a slower, more bitter shot. While some of you might even prefer the latter, all your cherished espresso drinks will be ruined by the former.
You need to practice more and more in order to perfect the shot. It will take time to figure out the right dose. It can be agonizing but the patience and effort are worth the heavenly coffee you will eventually get the hang of brewing.
Recommended Read: Espresso Powder VS Instant Coffee
5. Oil & Flavor Extraction
If you’re trying out a new espresso drink and aren’t tasting the coffee in it, it’s because your espresso lacked the essential flavors and oils. So, regardless of whether you put in a single or double-shot espresso in your drink, it won’t make much difference.
This occurs when the water in the coffee machine does not mix well with the coffee beans. As a result, the coffee beans go unextracted, their flavors and oils remain untapped, and the espresso gets watery. No matter how many shots of this espresso you add to a drink, it will not make a difference.
A lack of oil and flavor extraction can occur if the grind size is not correct, the tamping isn’t done well, or the beans are of poor quality. Coffee beans, once ground, can lose their essence pretty quickly! So, get fresh beans and practice more and more to perfect the shot.
6. Brewing Temperature
One of the most ideal conditions necessary for a perfect shot of espresso is the optimal temperature. The correct temperature and pressure along with properly ground coffee are the key factors here. It is a given, then, that incorrect temperature can render the espresso poor.
The correct temperature is important because it allows the coffee to efficiently dissolve in water. At a lower temperature, however, less coffee is dissolved and less flavors and oils are extracted. As such, the espresso becomes watery.
In this case, having an espresso machine that allows you to control the temperature is fantastic. Ideally, it is suggested to brew espresso at 195-205 F. However, if this doesn’t you, try brewing espresso at various temperatures till you find the correct one.
7. Tamper Size & Pressure
When you’re making espresso at home manually, you might find tamping to be the hardest step. Many people seem to face difficulty in getting a hang of the right tamp pressure. However, it is also one of the most crucial steps.
Tamping the coffee too hard can make it very difficult for the water to pass through. It can create unnecessary back pressure. And tamping too loosely will allow water to find gaps and it won’t blend with the coffee, but rather stream out. You’ll end up with espresso too watery.
The only way to create the right tamp pressure is to practice. Remember to use the right tamp size to avoid creating unnecessary pressure or too less pressure.
8. Coffee Roast
The problem and cause for your watery espresso might actually be the coffee roast you are using. When it comes to brewing espresso shots, the preferred coffee roasts are medium, medium-dark, or dark. All espresso is made from these roast types.
However, people often end up using the light roast for their espresso. Either under the false assumption of lower intensity or lesser caffeine content. Or the false assumption of higher caffeine content. Light roast coffee tends to remain unextracted when pulling an espresso shot.
So, to fix the watery espresso problem, try changing the roast type of your coffee beans first.
9. Regular Cleaning & Maintenance
Finally, if you truly strongly desire the perfect shot of espresso to make your mornings happy, get cleaning! Not your room, but the espresso machine sitting in your home. Many espresso machine problems including poorly pulled espresso shots stem from a lack of maintenance.
As you use the espresso machine (especially extensively), over time it collects coffee residue. This can clog various parts of the machine and even taint the flavor of your freshly brewed espresso. This can result in a poorly brewed or watery espresso.
It is recommended to frequently clean the espresso machine. Ideally after 3 months or as soon as the descaling light starts blinking in some machines. Depending on the usage, clean it as often as necessary and witness the change in espresso taste.
- How To Clean A Breville Espresso Machine
- How To Descale Nespresso Vertuo
- How To Descale Nespresso Vertuo Next
10. Wet Portafilters
You might have a habit of rinsing items before using them. However, if you rinse the portafilter before adding coffee, it is absolutely necessary that you dry it first! If you use the portafilter without drying it first it can be because of espresso shot channels.
The wet portafilter creates weak areas that the water finds less resistant to travel through. Water quickly travels through these areas without interacting with the coffee. As a result, channels are created and the espresso shot becomes watery.
Remember, 65% of coffee is consumed for breakfast and you probably start your day with it too. So, save your mornings and do not make the blunder of using wet portafilters. Keep them dry and use them dry!
- A Quick Guide To Different Types Of Portafilters
- Bottomless Portafilter VS Regular Portafilter
- Pressurized Vs Non Pressurized Portafilter
What is a Watery Espresso Puck?
The espresso puck is the scoop of coffee grounds used in the portafilter to brew espresso. If too little amount is used it can get super wet when the pressurized water makes contact. As a result, the espresso puck becomes watery.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is meant by a soupy espresso puck?
A soupy espresso puck is ground coffee that is too muddy or soft. This occurs when more water interacts with very little amount of finely ground coffee. The muddy texture created is called a soupy espresso puck.
2. How can I make my espresso thicker?
In order to brew thicker shots of espresso keep the pressure high, the grind size fine, and pull the shot short.
3. How hard espresso should be tamped?
Applying a pressure between 20 to 30 pounds is usually recommended for tapping. However, the right tamping pressure is only figured out with practice.
The bottom line is, that there are several answers to the question ‘ why is my espresso watery’? Making espresso to your taste is an experimental process that takes time. You can be doing several things wrong and not realizing it.
However, there is no need to give up, for the sake of coffee and caffeine don’t! The next time you get stuck with a watery espresso just try to figure out which of the above-mentioned ten reasons caused it. Fix that, and you’ll soon be enjoying the most delicious shot of espresso.