Why is My Espresso Watery or weak?

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Johny Morrisson


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♡ Written by Humans for Humans

Espresso is supposed to be rich and thick with a wonderful layer of crema over it, not a weak, and dull drink without any complex flavors

There must be something wrong with your brewing technique if you always get weak, or watery espresso with a bitter aftertaste.  

In this post, I will discuss all the reasons in detail, and if you read the whole post, I guarantee that you will never have to drink a watery Espresso shot again in your life.

why your Espresso is coming out too watery and How to fix it

There could be many reasons for a watery shot of Espresso. The quality of beans and roast might not be proper, maybe you are using the wrong grind size, the water temperature might not be correct, perhaps you are not using the right amount of coffee, or maybe you are not tamping coffee grounds correctly.

The perfect shot of Espresso should take 25-30 seconds. If your Espresso machine is taking longer than that, you will get a very bitter-tasting Espresso. And if you are getting a shot of Espresso in less than 25 seconds from your machine, the shot will be very thin or watery.

Why is my Espresso Watery?

So, let’s dive into the details of each reason one by one and how you can quickly fix them to have a stronger and thicker shot of Espresso.

1. Quality of coffee beans

If you want a rich and creamy Espresso, then you must know that the quality of Beans matters a lot.

Some people prefer to have 100% Arabica Beans, while some prefer a blend of Arabica and Robusta. It entirely depends on your taste.

Authentic Italian Espresso is made with a blend of Arabica and Robusta though!

Quality of coffee beans for Espresso

Always buy coffee beans that you can easily finish in two to three weeks. Never store coffee beans for too long as they lose their freshness as they get old.

You can use pre-ground coffee beans to pull a shot of espresso, but they can quickly lose their freshness and produce a shot with little to no crema.

For the best results, buy whole-bean coffee and grind them just before brewing. Once ground, coffee beans begin to oxidize and lose their freshness.

I have tasted different Espresso beans and prepared a list of the best Espresso beans.

There is an ultimate rule for coffee aficionados, grind the beans within fifteen days of roasting and brew within fifteen minutes after grinding.

2. Use the right Grind Size

The best grind size for pulling a perfect shot of Espresso is fine or ultra-fine.

If you use coarse grounds to pull an Espresso shot, the water will pass through the grounds too quickly, and most coffee grounds will remain under-extracted. So, you will end up with a very weak shot of espresso.

espresso grounds

Choosing a perfect grind size for Espresso might not be easy as it involves a lot of practice.

You can play around with the grind settings in the fine or ultra-fine region of your grinder to find a perfect grind size. And select the one that results in the best cup of Espresso.

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

3. The right amount of coffee grounds for Espresso

If Espresso comes out to be too watery or thin, you might not be using the right amount of coffee grounds.

If you use fewer coffee grounds, your Espresso will come out too quickly, and it will be watery.

If you use too many coffee grounds, the shot will take too much time, and your Espresso might become too foamy.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association:

The ideal amount of coffee grounds for a single shot of Espresso is 7-9 grams and 14-18 grams for a double shot of Espresso.

right amount of coffee beans for espresso

In my experience, 16 grams of coffee grounds is perfect for pulling a stronger and thicker double shot of Espresso.

Read a complete review of DeLonghi ECP 3420. It is the Perfect Espresso machine for beginners

4. Your coffee may be under-extracted

Always remember! For pulling a perfect shot of Espresso, the right time is 25-30 seconds.

If you are getting a shot of Espresso in less than 25 seconds, then the coffee grounds will remain under-extracted, and the Espresso you get will be weaker in taste and have a very thin layer of crema

The reason for this under-extraction might be coarser coffee grounds which lets the water pass through them easily in no time, leaving the grounds under-extracted.

The other reason for under-extraction might be that you are using light roast coffee beans.

Lightly roasted coffee beans have less oil on the surface than dark-roasted coffee beans. So it lets the water pass through them easily, and the coffee grounds remain under-extracted.

In the case of light roasts, you have to grind extra fine!

Also Read: Why is Espresso pulling too fast

5. Use the right temperature

Not all Espresso machines will allow you to play with the temperature of the water. Most Espresso machines automatically heat the water in the range of 190 to 210 degrees.

So, why does temperature matter? The higher the temperature, the more extraction of coffee grounds will occur in less time, and the lower the temperature the less extraction will occur.

Over-extraction will essentially result in a bitter shot; on the other hand, at a lower temperature, the coffee grounds remain under-extracted and result in an Espresso shot that is too weak or watery.

The heavy barista-style Espresso machine has a PID controller and allows you to play with water temperature.

So what’s the best temperature for Espresso?

According to the National Coffee Association: Generally, the temperature of water in the range of 195 to 205 degrees is considered optimal for pulling a shot.

For light or medium roasts aim for a temperature above 200 degrees and for darker roasts temperature around 195 degrees is ideal.

6. Your coffee roast might not be correct

Medium, Medium-dark, or dark roasted coffee beans are generally preferred for Espresso.

If you are using lightly roasted coffee beans for pulling a shot of Espresso, then that might be the reason your coffee comes out to be watery or thin.

Light roasts are less oily and are not ideal for Espresso brewing because they extract flavors slowly and produce weaker espresso with a thin layer of crema.

While dark roasted coffee beans are more oily, extract flavors very quickly and result in a thicker and more intense shot of Espresso.

If you like light-roasted coffee beans grind extra fine and increase the dose of coffee grounds in the portafilter!

I usually prefer medium-roasted coffee beans by Lavazza for Espresso.

Read a Guide on Light vs Dark roast Coffee

7. Tamp the coffee grounds properly

Tamping is a very critical step in pulling a great shot of Espresso. 

If you don’t tamp the coffee grounds properly, the water will make its way through the coffee grounds without extracting them properly, and your Espresso will taste watery.

And If you leave the surface uneven while tamping, the water will channel through the place with fewer coffee grounds, and the taste of Espresso you get will not be consistent.

tamping espresso

Make sure that the tamper is clean and dry before tamping. Apply enough pressure while tamping evenly in all directions, and then pull out the tamper gently.

8) Change your Portafilter Basket

If you are doing all the things right and still ending up with a watery or weak shot then your portafilter basket may not be appropriate.

The screens of your portafilter basket might be clogged with old coffee grounds; In that case, clean the portafilter properly.

The right size portafilter basket

Another possibility is that you’re dosing less coffee into the basket than it’s designed to hold.

For example, If your basket is designed to hold 18 grams of coffee then you must add 18 grams or plus or minus 3 grams at most.

If you are pulling a single shot of Espresso using a double shot basket then you will surely end up with a watery shot as water runs through it quickly without extracting the flavors.

Here’s a detailed guide on Espresso portafilters.

Final Thoughts

A watery or weak-tasting shot of Espresso in the morning is enough to ruin your mood for the whole day.

In this article, I have discussed 8 main reasons that could result in a watery Espresso shot and how you can fix them to get a rich and creamy shot of Espresso.

You should look after these mistakes properly and always remember the main thing while pulling Espresso; It should take 25-30 seconds.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

FAQs

What does it mean if the espresso puck is watery?

A watery puck of coffee grounds after pulling a shot of Espresso can or can not be an indication of uneven extraction of coffee grounds.
It’s not a very serious problem as long as you are satisfied with the taste of the Espresso you get.
If you want to get rid of the watery puck, you must be very careful about these two things.
The size of the coffee grounds must be even and consistent, and you must tamp the coffee properly in the portafilter.
Read a detailed guide on wet Espresso Puck

Why do People drink Water with Espresso?

Many espresso drinkers enjoy pairing their shots with a small glass of water. The water cleanses the palate so you can fully taste and appreciate the espresso’s complex flavors and aromas.
Read a guide on Why is espresso served with water.

Related Espresso guides:

Johny Morrison is a founder and content creator at Coffee About, bringing passion and expertise to the world of coffee.

You can often find him sipping a single-origin pour-over, rich French press, or pulling espresso shots at home. Johny loves full-bodied dark roasts – the bolder, the better!

As a former barista, he takes coffee equipment seriously and enjoys experimenting with the latest gear. When he’s not brewing or blogging, Johny is scouting local cafes for his next coffee fix.

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