Why Does My Coffee Taste Like Water?

A cup of strong coffee is the highlight of our day. It is a therapeutic experience in itself that is akin to a morning ritual for most people. One of the worst things that can ruin your day is a weak coffee. If you are wondering, “why does my coffee taste like water?”, we have some answers for you. 

Why Does My Coffee Taste Like Water?

Your coffee can taste like water for numerous reasons, such as less brewing time, the wrong grind size, and incorrect coffee to water ratio. It can also be a bad batch of coffee beans or an incorrect water temperature. Fixing these issues can make your coffee taste much better and more enjoyable.

Woman realizing that her coffee tastes like water

Now that you have a general idea of why your coffee has a weak, watery taste, allow us to elaborate further on the reasons. Moreover, read on to find out how you can fix the issues so you never again have to consume a bad-tasting cup of joe.

Coffee brewing is an art governed by a fixed set of rules. If your coffee is turning out to be weak and watery time and again, check out the following reasons. These can help you determine if you need to improve your coffee brewing technique or find a new coffee supplier.

Inaccurate Coffee to Water Ratio

One of the first courses of action to fix a watery coffee is to determine if you are using the correct amount of coffee. The amount of coffee you use depends on your brewing method. If you do not add enough ground coffee to your coffee machine, your cup of joe will be weak and tasteless.

The coffee to water ratio for each brewing method is a recommended parameter that can yield the best results. Of course, you can alter the ratio slightly depending on your preference. However, too much deviation from the norm can completely change the taste and smell of your coffee.

Following are optimal coffee to water ratios for some of the most popular brewing methods:

Brewing MethodCoffee to Water Ration
Chemex1:17
Coffee Maker1:15
Pour-Over1:15
French Press1:14
Cold Brew1:14

*A ratio of 1:17 implies that for every 1 gram of ground coffee, use 17 grams of water

Incorrect Brewing Time

Brewing the perfect coffee requires time and patience. If you do not brew your coffee correctly, it can result in a substandard cup, devoid of any taste. After all, there are only two ingredients and the flavor depends largely on how well and how long they interact with each other.

Therefore, if your coffee is watery, it might be because you are not allowing the coffee grounds to steep in the water for an adequate amount of time. This is referred to as “under-extraction”, where the water is not able to fully extract the flavors from the coffee grounds.   

During the brewing process, the water extracts sugars and acids first, followed by solids and oils. The bitter compounds come last to round off and balance the flavors. If you stop the brewing process prematurely, you end up with watery, sour-tasting coffee that is just not appealing to the senses.

Wrong Grind Size

Ranging from very fine to very coarse, the grind size plays an important role in the flavor of your coffee. Every brewing method uses a specific grind size to produce a well-balanced, tasteful coffee. Moreover, the grind size also affects the brewing duration.

Ground coffee mixed with coffee beans

Thus, if you are using a very coarse grind coffee and not allowing for ample brewing time, the water might be unable to extract the optimum flavors from the beans. This is another example of under-extraction where the coffee is watery and weak.

Fast brewing methods such as Espresso often use a fine grind size. On the contrary, methods that allow the coffee to steep for a while, such as the French Press, use the coarse ground. Therefore, consider switching to a different grind size to avoid a watery coffee.        

Insufficient Water Temperature

Water temperature is another vital, yet often overlooked, parameter when brewing your coffee. It is another factor that affects the extraction rate and eventually determines the flavor of your coffee. Therefore, pay attention to your water temperature.

When hot water comes in contact with the coffee grounds, it draws out the oils, acids, and caffeine from the coffee. If your water is not heated enough, it can cause under-extraction. It will only extract the acids and leave behind the oils and caffeine that provide body to your coffee. Consequently, you will end up with a disappointing cup of joe.

Note: Cold brew is an exception since it is steeped for a very long time, which compensates for the relatively colder water temperature.

Problematic Beans

Buying beans and freshly grounding them makes the best cup of joe. However, any issues with the beans directly affect the flavors in your cup. If you have a batch that is not too fresh or of poor quality, none of the measures mentioned above will work. Therefore, begin by checking the roast date of your coffee beans.

When the coffee beans are roasted, they release carbon dioxide. The gas continues to leak, and the phenomenon is called degassing. Degassing causes the coffee to also lose its flavor gradually over time. Hence, coffee beans have a limited shelf-life, and you cannot use very old coffee even if the packet is still sealed. 

Next, make sure to buy your beans from trusted sellers that prioritize transparency regarding the roast date. Once you know the exact roast date of your beans, you can determine if the reason for your lackluster, watery coffee is stale beans or something else. 

How Can I Fix a Watery Coffee?

Once you know the potential causes of your watery coffee, you can move on to rectifying the issue. You can approach the problem from three different directions. If your coffee tastes like water, here is what you may need to fix:

  • Beans
  • Water
  • Equipment  

Ensure the Freshness of Beans

To make sure that your coffee is always fresh and tastes great, avoid hoarding or shopping for coffee in bulk. Try to replenish your coffee supplies every week and check the roast date before purchasing the bag. Ideally, you should consume your coffee within a week or ten days after the roast date. 

Even during the “freshness” period, ensure to store the coffee correctly. Store the beans or coffee grounds in an air-tight, opaque container at room temperature, or your fridge. Both air and sunlight can quickly deteriorate the quality of your coffee. Keep the container away from any heat sources such as the stove in a cool, dry space.

Finally, invest in a quality grinder because freshly ground coffee always tastes better than the pre-ground one. As we discussed above, grind size has a notable impact on the flavor of your coffee. A burr grinder in particular, provides better results as it provides a consistent grind with minimum loss in flavor. 

Person pouring water from a kettle into a cup of ground coffee

Use Water at Correct Temperature

According to the National Coffee Association, the perfect water temperature for brewing coffee is between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature is just below the boiling point, and it is ideal for extracting the optimum flavor from the coffee grounds. Moreover, the temperature range works for almost all brewing methods.

The type of roast you prefer can further help you determine the water temperature more precisely. For example, you can brew lighter roasts at a slightly higher temperature to draw out the most flavor and speed up the extraction process. For a dark roast, go for a lower temperature to avoid making your coffee too bitter.

You can buy a simple thermometer that can help you monitor the temperature, or you can invest in one of the electric gooseneck kettles. These often come with an adjustable temperature feature. All you have to do is input the temperature you want and the kettle will heat the water accordingly.

Check the Coffee Machine for Malfunctioning

Once you have made sure that your beans are fresh and you are well-equipped to measure the water temperature, check your coffee machine. There could be a problem with the coffee machine, which is making your coffee watery and tasteless. 

For example, it may not be utilizing all the coffee grounds you scooped into the machine or allowing the beans to brew for an adequate length of time. Moreover, it could simply be an old machine that needs updating. 

Take your coffee machine to a service center, so a professional can look into it and advise you accordingly. You can either get your equipment repaired or replace it with a better, newer model. 

Related Questions

How Do I Make Coffee Thicker?

You can achieve a thicker consistency in a number of ways. You can use brewing methods that extract the maximum amount of soluble content from the coffee, such as espresso or Vietnamese Phin. Avoid using paper filters that trap the oils responsible for giving your coffee a substantial mouthfeel. Lastly, add heavy cream, whipped cream, or condensed milk for a thicker coffee.

Why Is My French Press Coffee Watery?

If your French Press coffee is watery, it can be due to the insufficient steeping duration. To make French Press coffee, you need to allow the coffee to bloom for 30 seconds with a small amount of water. Then, add the remaining water and allow the coffee to steep for around 4 minutes. 

Why Does My Coffee From My Keurig Taste Watery?

Keurig machines have a needle that punctures the K-cups and adds water to the pods to make coffee. Sometimes, the needle can become clogged, so not all the water passes through pods. Instead, it leaks from the sides. As a result, you get tasteless, watery coffee.

Conclusion 

Watery coffee can result from various reasons. These include improper coffee to water ratio, not enough brewing time, wrong grind size, cooler water temperature, or old, expired beans. You can fix your cup of joe using fresher beans, brewing with quality water at the right temperature, and making sure the equipment works perfectly.

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