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9 Reasons Of Watery Coffee (And How To Fix It)

So, you finished making a fresh pot of Joe only to find it’s weak and watery?

Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world (or coffee).

As a former barista, I’ve got quite a bit of know-how when it comes to what makes good coffee and what doesn’t.

In this guide, I’ve gone over the most common reasons why your coffee might become watery.

Plus, I’ve thrown in some pro tips to help you avoid making the same mistake again.

Let’s get to it!

Why Your Coffee Is Watery and Simple Hacks to Fix It

A cup of watery coffee means there’s less caffeine. So the effect won’t be as strong as drinking a regular-tasting cup. 

We don’t want that, do we?

There are quite a few different reasons that your coffee might be watery. The fix varies depending on which of those reasons you’re dealing with. 

So, let’s fix your coffee.

1. There’s Excessive Water

pouring water over coffee filter

Probably the most obvious reason your coffee is watery is brewing with too much water. Too much water means more dilution, making the water-coffee ratio incorrect. 

Remember, you want one to two tablespoons of coffee ground for every 6-ounces of water you brew with.

If you use more than six ounces of water, the coffee granules are more diluted. That makes your coffee watery and weak.

2. You’re Lacking Coffee

If your coffee is too watery, then maybe your brew lacks a sufficient amount of coffee granules. Again, it boils down to the right coffee-water ratio. 

Always follow the recommended amount to get the best-tasting cup. 

Remember, you want two scoops of coffee for every six ounces of water. This will help you get a brew that’s not overly weak or overly extracted.

3. The Brewing Method Might Be Off

moka pot with coffee

The way you make your cup of Joe also affects your coffee’s flavor. Like any other skill, it takes time and practice to master the art of coffee brewing. 

For maximum coffee flavors, the brewing time should be long enough. Otherwise, you risk making a weak cup with no extraction at all. 

Remember that under-extraction can also produce a more sour or acidic taste for your coffee.

Here’s a quick rundown of brewing methods and their extraction time. 

Brewing MethodExtraction Time
French Press4-5 minutes
Moka Pot3-4 minutes
AeroPress2.5 minutes
Chemex4.5 minutes

Also, depending on the type of roast, you should follow a set of strict parameters to achieve the perfect brew. If not, expect your coffee to taste like it’s watered down. 

For example, French Press and Chemex work best with medium roasts. Moka Pot and espresso, on the other hand, are best made with dark roasts.

4. You’ve Got The Wrong Grind Size

The perfect coffee grind size depends on your preferred brewing method.

If you experience tasting a watered-down coffee, chances are your coffee’s grind size is way too big

For instance, a Moka Pot requires finely ground coffee. If you make your brew with coarsely ground beans, you’re going to wind up with a watery brew.

Before you try brewing coffee, make sure you know how big or small the grind needs to be. That way, you avoid unpleasant brews.

BOTTOM LINE
Finer grind requires less extraction time than coarse grind, and produces thicker coffee.

5. The Water Temperature is Not Optimal

preparing drip coffee

Most people don’t know that their water temperature affects coffee quality

When the temperature isn’t right, you’ll be drinking watery, most likely lukewarm coffee. 

There are consequences for brewing with water that’s too cold as well as for brewing with water that’s too hot. 

If it’s boiling, your coffee beans end up getting burnt. This gives you a more bitter and tangy taste. 

On the other hand, cold or lukewarm water will lead to weak coffee without much flavor.

When brewing your coffee, make sure your water is between 190 and 205ºF. That’s the right temperature range for a good cup of coffee.

6. You’ve Got Weak Caffeine Content 

Depending on the type of coffee, the caffeine content can also differ. Decaf coffee calls for having the lowest caffeine levels, while regular coffee has about 100mg of caffeine.

Sometimes, watery coffee comes from weak coffee that’s low in caffeine content

If you just want to improve your coffee’s watery taste, add more coffee beans to your brew. You’re doing this to achieve the caffeine strength and strong taste you desire.

7. Uneven Water Distribution

preparing coffee with french press

Uneven water distribution has to do with improper bean preparation. Basically, this means that grounds aren’t evenly distributed in your brew system

You need to ensure the coffee grounds are evenly distributed in the basket. There should be no clumps, and you should be using loose, even grounds. 

Otherwise, you risk uneven water distribution, causing incomplete flavor extraction. This is because the entire area will have varying densities. 

The result? 

Water will favor less dense areas, so it will naturally flow there. 

When water enters less dense areas, flavors can deplete more quickly, giving you a bitter and watery cup.

PRO TIP
An effective way to ensure an equal level of coffee grounds throughout the basket is by shaking or tapping the filter a bit. This helps spread the beans out for more even water distribution.

8. Coffee Floats on Top 

Have you had instances when you could see coffee grounds floating on top of your drink? Then, when you take a sip, you notice your coffee’s watered down.

When this happens, the most probable reason is that the grounds don’t have equal grind sizes. When sizes are unequal, only the fine grouds are extracted. 

So, what should you do? 

Get a good quality burr grinder. This ensures coffee beans are grind to perfection. 

Plus, a burr coffee grinder offers different grind settings to help you achieve the right size for your preferred brewing method.

9. Coffee Beans Were Not Fresh or Roasted Enough

spoon with coffee ground

If you got coffee beans that are not roasted according to your taste, you might find your coffee tasting too watery.

Coffee beans come in three major roasting types: light, medium, and dark. The taste, aroma, and flavor extraction time differ among the three. 

Light roasts tend to be sourer, while the darkest ones are the most bitter. 

Also, because dark roast coffee beans are more porous, they should have a quicker extraction time. The longer you try extracting their flavors, the more bitter they become. 

So, if you want to achieve that strong bitter taste, go for dark roasts.

NOTE
You don’t need to throw away the bag of light coffee beans if it doesn’t match your taste. Try roasting it at home until you achieve your preferred coffee bean roast level.

Now, here’s another bean-related problem that can cause watery coffee.

Using old grounds can also result in weaker and staler-tasting coffee. So, it’s always best to consume the beans before their specified use date.

If you’re a casual coffee drinker, I recommend buying your beans in small batches. After getting what you need, make sure to store them properly.

Watery Coffee in Different Brewing Methods: Explained

Sometimes, watery coffee is caused by specific brewing methods. 

Let’s go over a few different brew methods that can sometimes lead to watery coffee.

Watery Iced Coffee

If your iced coffee tastes watery, you should probably blame it all on the ice. Remember that ice is frozen water, so it can make your coffee more diluted.

The good news is that fixing watery iced coffee is usually pretty easy.

Because you know you’d be diluting your cup with lots of ice, you can make your coffee stronger than usual. It always helps if you taste your coffee first before pouring ice to make sure it’s strong enough.

PRO TIP
Another way to avoid watery iced coffee is to create ice cubes out of coffee. The next time the ice starts melting, it adds more coffee taste to your cup! 

Watery Keurig Coffee

When you get a watered-down coffee with your Keurig machine, it’s probably because the needles are blocked

When the upper Keurig needle experiences a blockage, it prevents the flowing of water into the K-cup. This makes your coffee taste watery because of under-extraction. 

It’s easy to fix this problem. Just remove the blockage from your Keurig needles. Most Keurig coffee machine manuals come with instructions on how to do this.

Watery Instant Coffee

Most people prefer drinking instant coffee because it’s more convenient to brew. Just pour the powder, add water, and you’re good to go! 

However, one disadvantage of instant coffee is its frequent tendency to be watered down. This happens because of two possible reasons:

  • Too much water is added
  • There’s too little coffee

The best place to start is by adding one to two teaspoons of instant coffee to a single cup. Then, gradually adjust the amount of coffee. 

If it tastes too weak, add a bit more instant coffee.

Another reason instant coffee can become more watery is its brewing process. 

The dehydration of brewed coffee beans creates instant coffee. And because the coffee grounds are dehydrated, there will be fewer extracted flavors. This gives you a weaker and more watery-tasting drink.

Watery French Press Coffee

french press coffee

The wrong coffee-water ratio or grind can make your French Press coffee taste watery. This is why it’s essential you strictly follow the recommended grind settings and ratio. 

Go for coarse grinds with a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:12

You can also try adding 30 seconds more to your standard 4-minute brewing time. It helps in ensuring your coffee won’t be watered down. 

Increasing the brewing time can help with more time in extracting the flavors. Plus, more prolonged flavor extraction can give you that punchy bitter taste you’re aiming for. 

Watery Cold Brew

Cold brew is great for hot summer days. But if it tastes watery, it’s probably because you simply added too much water. 

This is why following the proper coffee-to-water ratio is necessary. For cold brew, you typically want a 1:14 coffee-to-water ratio

Aside from the optimum ratio, the steeping time is also a major issue. 

Ending the steeping process shorter than usual can also give you a more watered-down coffee. 

If you want the best-tasting cold brew, let it sit in the fridge for at least twelve to eighteen hours. Taking it out before twelve hours is up can give you a watery cold brew. 

Watery Drip Coffee

drip coffee

The most common reason why your drip coffee tastes watery is because of inadequate contact of water with your coffee grounds. This interferes with optimum flavor extraction.

That can happen when the piping of your drip coffee maker is blocked.

Luckily, to clean it, all you need to do is descale your machine.

It will dislodge the minerals that have accumulated in your machine’s tubing so that water can freely flow over the coffee grounds again.

Another reason is that it has a thin amount of coffee, allowing water to pass through it too quickly. Making sure you add enough coffee can prevent you from getting brews that are poorly extracted.

Tips to Make Less Watery Coffee

The good news is that watery coffee is a fixable problem. 

If you find yourself repeatedly whipping up watery coffee, check out these tips. Here are a couple of ways to get your brew back on track!

Add Some Instant Coffee

Instant coffee does not taste as authentic as a brewed cup. But, adding some of it can rescue your watery drink!

Try adding half a teaspoon of instant coffee powder and taste the coffee. You can add a bit more if you feel it’s necessary.

While it won’t give you the best taste, it sure is better than drinking a watered-down cup of joe. 

Re-brew your coffee

Re-brewing your coffee grounds can also help. It can certainly add more substance to your coffee, improve your coffee’s overall taste and make it stronger.

What you can do is use watery coffee instead of water for the second brewing cycle. You can also reuse the coffee grounds used in the initial brew. 

Add Condensed Milk or Heavy Cream

If you’re a fan of sweet coffee, try adding a bit of heavy cream or condensed milk

While doing this won’t make a stronger coffee, you’ll find your drink sweeter and thicker. This is so much better than drinking one that practically tastes like water. 

It can mask the taste of the watery coffee and make a more substantial brew!

The Verdict

Watery coffee can quickly turn a good day into a bad one. Typically, the culprit for this is adding too much water, incomplete brewing, or not enough coffee grounds. 

The good news is that there are various fixes for this problem. Brew your coffee for a second cycle, or add some instant coffee powder. 

Or, doctor it up with milk and sugar.

Whatever you decide, you’ll be back to enjoying your morning brew once more!

Dealing with sour coffee? Check out this guide on sour coffee and a few ways to fix it.

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Jessica Ruth Lee Fleming
Jessica is a seasoned caffeine-addict who spent 3 years behind the bar. Her early coffee days took her from the commercial Starbucks scene in urban DC all the way to helping launch a craft coffee shop in California. Today she prefers sharing her years of coffee capers through media, although you’ll find she does it with a trusty cup of coffee by her side.