Why my Espresso Puck is Wet

Coffee may be a fascinating and complex world, especially for people who are new to it. A dry and consistent puck is one of the most important aspects of a good cup of espresso, which can be challenging to obtain at times. A damp puck can cause a harsh taste, clogging, and uneven shots.

The top reasons why your Espresso puck is wet are using uneven or wrong grind size, not distributing or tamping the coffee grounds properly in the portafilter, using fewer coffee grounds, or using the wrong portafilter basket.

It can be annoying and perplexing to encounter this problem, especially if you don’t know why it’s occurring or how to resolve it. The good news is that you’re not alone, and several possible causes exist for your damp espresso puck.

In this blog post, we will explore the potential causes and provide some solutions to help you achieve a dry and consistent espresso puck. So, grab your favorite mug, and let’s dive in!

Espresso puck

Why is Wet Espresso puck Really a Problem?

In my experience, I’ve pulled plenty of shots using different types of coffee beans and different grind sizes, and I often pay attention to the Espresso puck as it settles after the shot is pulled.

Sometimes it is completely dry, sometimes it is watery and soupy, and sometimes it sticks in the portafilter.

And I can say for sure that a wet puck isn’t necessarily a problem if the outcome is a great shot.

But it is definitely a good practice to examine the puck so you can use it to replicate the brewing parameters if things go well.

Your espresso puck might be watery because of your Espresso machine, may pull more water after the shot is pulled, making your puck watery. In that case, it’s not a problem if the shot of espresso tastes good. Because that’s what really matters.

The main thing is the proper extraction of flavors from the coffee grounds

The quality and flavor of the espresso shot may suffer if the extraction procedure is not done properly, and a watery puck might be a concern in some cases.

Under-extracted coffee: If your espresso shot tastes sour or under extracted that might be a problem because of the watery puck.

Machine gets dirty: In some cases, a watery puck will mess up a machine and get the group head clogged with used coffee grounds, causing inconsistent shots.

For Making a better shot of Espresso read a guide on Dialing in Espresso Machine

5 Reasons Why Your Espresso Puck is Wet and Solutions

You can try experimenting with these factors to get a great shot of espresso if your espresso does not taste great and you are not confident with the results.

Reason 01: Using the Wrong Grind Size

The wrong grind size can contribute to a wet espresso puck. 

  • If the grind size is too fine, the coffee will become over-extracted, and the resulting espresso will be too bitter and concentrated and slow to drip. It can cause the water to remain in contact with the coffee for too long, resulting in a wet and soggy puck.
  • If the grind size is too coarse, the water will flow through too quickly, and the coffee won’t have enough time to extract correctly. It can result in an under-extracted shot and a dry, crumbly puck fast falling apart.

How to find the perfect Grind size?

Experiment with different settings and focus on the resulting shots to determine the perfect grind size for your espresso machine. Here are a few steps you can follow:

  • Start with medium grind size. It is a good baseline, and you can adjust from there.
  • Pull a shot using the medium grind size, and pay attention to how long it takes to extract. A good shot should take between 25-30 seconds to pull.
  • Taste the shot and note the flavor profile. You may need to adjust your grind size if the shot is too bitter or sour.
  • If the shot is too fast (extracting in less than 25 seconds), your grind size may be too coarse. Try adjusting it to a finer setting and pull another shot.
  • If the shot is too slow (extracting in more than 30 seconds), your grind size may be too fine. Try adjusting it to a coarser setting and pull another shot.
  • Repeat this process, adjusting your grind size until you achieve a well-extracted shot with a balanced flavor profile.

The timing of the Espresso shot is the Key here

Coarse and fine grinds

Reason 02: Uneven Grind Size Distribution

When the coffee grounds are not evenly sized, the water will flow through the puck at different rates, causing some areas to be over-extracted while others to be under-extracted. It can result in a wet and soggy puck that falls apart easily.

If you are using a blade grinder do yourself a favor and invest in burr grinder as blade grinder never give consistent results.

How to have an even grind size distribution?

  • Invest in a grinder that produces consistent particle sizes. A burr grinder is recommended over a blade grinder as it provides a more consistent grind size.
  • Residual coffee oils and particles can build up in your grinder over time, affecting the grind quality. Clean your grinder regularly to remove any buildup.
  • A distribution tool or Weiss Distribution Technique (WDT) can help to evenly distribute the coffee grounds in the portafilter before tamping, promoting a more even extraction and a dryer puck.
  •  Ensure the coffee grounds are evenly leveled and tamped with consistent pressure to promote an even extraction.

Reason 03: Using the Wrong Portafilter/Basket

A wet espresso puck can also be caused by using the improper portafilter or basket. If the basket is too shallow, the water will flow through too quickly, and the coffee grinds will be soaked and incompletely removed since they will be too close to the shower screen.

Over-extracting the coffee is possible if the basket is too deep since it makes the water work harder to flow through the puck.

How to have the correct portafilter?

  • If you are experiencing a wet puck, you may need to adjust the basket depth or try a different portafilter to find the one that works best with your machine.
  • The correct size and shape of the basket are crucial for achieving a consistent espresso shot. The basket should fit snugly into the portafilter, and you should evenly distribute the coffee grounds within the basket before tamping.
Distribute the coffee grounds

Reason 04: Using Fewer Coffee Grounds

Using fewer coffee grounds than required can also result in a wet espresso puck. When insufficient coffee grounds are in the portafilter basket, the water will pass through too quickly, resulting in a wet, under-extracted puck.

How to have Sufficient Coffee Grounds?

  • Stick to the instructions given by the coffee roaster or the maker of your espresso machine if you want to be sure you’re using the right amount of coffee grounds. 
  • It will typically involve measuring out a specific amount of coffee for each shot based on the size of the portafilter basket and the desired strength of the espresso.
  • Before tamping, ensure the portafilter basket is filled with coffee grinds and dispersed evenly. It will provide equal extraction of the espresso shot and consistent water flow through the coffee grinds.
  • Using too few coffee grounds can be tempting to save money or stretch out a bag of coffee, but it will ultimately result in a poor-quality espresso shot and a wet puck.

For a single shot Espresso use around 7-9 grams of coffee and for a double shot use 14-16 grams of coffee.

Reason 05: Empty Air pockets

Empty air pockets leave gaps between the particles. As a result, water can seep through these gaps, creating channels and bypassing some of the coffee grounds, resulting in an under-extracted, weak espresso shot

Tamp the coffee evenly and with the proper pressure to prevent empty air pockets in the espresso puck.

Before tamping, you should uniformly disperse the coffee grounds inside the portafilter. You can use a distribution tool or a finger. You should produce a dense puck and air-free pockets uniformly and firmly twinning.

Tamping espresso

How Should a Perfect Espresso Puck Look like?

We discussed earlier that it’s not the texture of the puck, but rather the taste and quality of the shot that matter.

A perfect espresso should have the following characteristics:

  • The Crema layer should be perfect. The Crema should be deep, reddish-brown, and have a smooth texture.
  • The espresso should be dark brown, almost black, with a reddish-brown tint to the Crema. It shows properly extracted espresso and roasted coffee. 
  • A perfect espresso should have a rich and complex aroma with notes of chocolate, caramel, and toasted nuts. The smell should be strong.
  • The espresso needs a balance of sweet and bitter flavors. The taste shouldn’t be harsh or burnt.
  • A perfect espresso should leave a pleasant and lingering aftertaste in the mouth, with notes of chocolate, fruit, or spice. The aftertaste should be clean.

If your Espresso shot match these criteria than watery puck is not the problem you can keep brewing shots.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this guide has helped you understand Espresso pucks a little better.

In my experience, I have get some great shots with watery pucks and terrible shots with dry pucks.

At the end of day the taste of your espresso matters more than anything else.

What can be difficult sometimes to decide what matters and what doesn’t.

So try experimenting different grind sizes and have right accessories to tamp and distribute the coffee grounds properly in the portafilter hopefully you will achieve the best results.