Why Is My Espresso Watery? 7 Common Reasons & Tips to Fix

January 11, 2024 | Coffee 101

Written By: Millie Pham
Last Updated: April 6, 2024

Why Is My Espresso Watery? Quick Answer

  • Your espresso is watery most likely because the water temperature was too low.
  • Another reason your espresso is watery could be that the coffee grounds were too coarse or not tamped firmly.
  • Your espresso might be watery because you used too little coffee for the basket size.
  • The watery taste could also come from not maintaining your espresso machine properly, leading to clogs and poor extraction.
  • Your espresso could also be watery because the machine's pump is not generating enough pressure.

We've all been there, standing by our espresso machines, eagerly awaiting that first sip of rich, aromatic coffee to start the day.

But instead of a thick, velvety shot topped with golden crema, we're left staring down at a cup of something thin, lifeless, and watery espresso.

It's a coffee conundrum that can dampen the spirits of even the most enthusiastic espresso lovers.

If you're wondering "Why is my espresso watery" and how you can turn things around, you're in the right place.

In this article, we'll explore 7 common reasons why your espresso might be coming out watery and provide practical tips to help you fix it.

1. Your coffee grounds are too coarse

When your espresso shot comes out weak and watery, one common culprit could be that your coffee grind is too coarse.

For that perfect shot, the size of the coffee grounds is key. If the grounds are too chunky, water rushes through them too quickly.

This means the water doesn't have enough time to pull out all the rich flavors and coffee oils from the espresso puck.

You want a fine grind that feels like gritty sand for the best espresso. This helps to slow down the water and extract all the flavor you're after.

Remember, the goal is to make the water and coffee hang out together long enough for a rich, bold espresso shot.

Quick Tip:  If you're unsure about the grind, use the grind setting to get your flow rate right, aiming for 18 grams in and 36 grams out in around 30 seconds. 

Then, taste it and adjust.

If the espresso is still very sour, go finer.

If it's too bitter or there's channeling, go a bit coarser.

Make big changes with the grind setting, but avoid frequent small adjustments, especially if you're new to espresso making.

This approach helps to reduce waste from purging and frustration from frequent tweaks.

2. You didn't press the coffee grounds evenly or firmly enough

When you're making an espresso, how you pack the grounds into the espresso puck really matters. If you press them unevenly or not firmly enough, you'll end up with a weak shot.

Here's why:

The water pressure in your espresso machine is pretty strong. If the grounds are loose or uneven, the water will flow through the path of least resistance.

That means it zips through the loose spots instead of going through all the coffee evenly and picking up all that delicious flavor.

So, take a little extra time to tamp down your grounds evenly and with a good amount of pressure.

It's a simple step, but it can make a huge difference in getting that rich, full-flavored espresso shot you're craving.

Quick Tip: Here's how to tamp your coffee grounds the right way:

3. Your coffee is stale, not fresh

If your espresso is coming out too watery, it might be because of the quality of your coffee beans.

Coffee that's been sitting around for a while doesn't make a good espresso.

Fresh coffee beans have special oils that make the espresso taste strong and rich. When the beans get old, they lose these oils.

A fresh bean makes a tight espresso puck in your machine, which is important because it helps control how the water goes through the coffee.

If the puck is too loose or wet, like what happens with old beans, the water just flows through too quickly.

Quick Tip:  To fix this, make sure you're using fresh coffee beans and storing them properly.

Keep your beans in an airtight container, and store them away from heat and light. This will help keep your beans fresh and ensure your espresso shots are flavorful.

4. Your water isn't hot enough

If your espresso is coming out more like a weak and watery shot, it might be because the water in your machine isn't hot enough.

Hot water is a must for good espresso because it pulls the flavor out of the coffee grounds.

But there's more to it than just the water temperature.

To make sure your espresso comes out hot and tasty, you should also warm up the parts of the machine that touch the coffee.

This includes the brew group, which is the part where the water comes out, and the portafilter, where you put the coffee grounds.

Don't forget about the cup, too! 

A cold cup can suck the heat right out of your espresso.

Quick Tip: An easy way to heat everything up is to run a cycle with just water, no coffee. This gets the brew group and the portafilter hot.

Plus, you can catch this water in your cup to warm it up at the same time. Doing this means everything's nice and toasty, ready for your espresso.

With everything warmed up, you'll get a shot that's just the right temperature and tastes great.

5. You used too little coffee

You see, double-shot baskets can hold between 14 to 21 grams of coffee.

If you've got a basket meant for 18 grams and you only put in 14 grams, you will have too much empty space.

That space means the water can just rush through without properly soaking into the coffee, which leads to that soupy espresso puck we all want to avoid.

Quick Tip: : find out the perfect grams of coffee for your basket.

Usually, you can play around with one gram more or less than that number. Stick to this rule, and you'll dodge the dreaded goopy puck.

Remember, getting the right amount of coffee is key to a great espresso!

6. Your machine's pump is not generating enough pressure

 Espresso requires a certain amount of pressure to push water through the finely ground coffee. If your machine's pump isn't up to snuff, the water flows through too weakly, and you end up with a watery shot that lacks the rich flavor and creamy texture.

If your shots are coming out on the watery side, it might be time to check your machine's pressure. Sometimes, it's as simple as a setting that needs adjusting.

Most machines are designed to hit around 9 bars of pressure, which is just the sweet spot for making a perfect shot of espresso.

Other times, it could be a sign that your machine needs a little TLC. Regular maintenance can go a long way in keeping that pressure where it should be.

Quick Tip: If you're not sure how to check the pressure on your machine, take a peek at the manual or look up a tutorial online.

Keeping an eye on the pressure gauge (if your machine has one) can also give you a good idea of what's going on.

If you're still having trouble, it might be time to call in a pro or consider giving your espresso machine a well-deserved upgrade.

7. Your espresso machine isn't properly maintained

Just like any appliance, an espresso machine can get clogged with old coffee grounds and scale from water, which can mess with the pressure and temperature.

These issues can prevent the water from extracting all the rich flavors from your coffee, leaving you with a weak, watery shot instead of the thick crema you're after.

Quick Tip: Stick to a maintenance schedule. Regularly clean the machine's filters and group head, and descale it to prevent buildup.

Also, check for any worn parts that might need replacing. Keeping your machine clean helps make sure each dose of coffee turns into the best shot possible.

Thank you so much for reading. We hope that these insights and tips can help you answer your question 'Why is my espresso watery'

Millie Pham

Hi there! I'm Millie Pham, a devoted brewer and tea lover at heart. As the founder of Bean Leaf Cup, my mission is to share my tea and coffee expertise with you all. I firmly believe that creating a fantastic cup of tea or coffee should be easy for everyone. No matter if you're already a coffee or tea expert or just beginning your journey, I'm here to help you navigate the world of brewing. Welcome aboard!

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