Why Your Espresso is Watery – How to Fix it?

Ahh, the sweet smell of espresso in the morning. Nothing beats that first sip of a creamy shot of espresso, right? Not so fast. If you’ve noticed your espresso has been leaving something to be desired lately, you’re not alone.

It’s highly likely your espresso is coming out watery, and if that’s the case, you need to get to the bottom of why.

Here, I’m going to walk through why your espresso might be watery, what you can do about it, and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Let’s dive in!

Why is your espresso watery?

Have you ever ordered a cup of espresso and thought your coffee was a bit watery? Well, I sure have. If this has been happening to you on a regular basis, it could be for one of three main reasons.

Grind Size – Using a coarse grind for espresso results in weak and watery coffee with insufficient crema, as it allows water to pass through the grounds too quickly. It’s crucial to use the correct grind size for your machine to extract all the flavours from the beans properly.

Temping Pressure – Inconsistent tamping pressure leads to weak coffee. Too little pressure creates insufficient resistance and allows more water to flow through, while excessive pressure restricts water flow. Achieving the right balance is crucial.

Stale Beans and Clogs – Stale beans or a clogged filter basket can cause weak espresso. Stale beans lose flavour, and a clogged filter prevents proper extraction due to old grounds. To prevent this, clean the filter and replace old beans before brewing.

1. Grind Size:

If you find your espresso is coming out too watery, there are a few common mistakes to check for.

To avoid watery espresso, ensure you have a fine grind resembling ground black pepper. Coarse grind leads to over-extraction and bitterness, while fine grind causes watery shots.

Also, tamp evenly to prevent water channels that delay extraction, leading to an imbalanced shot with less crema.

Lastly, maintain your machine by checking temperature, flow rate, and pressure levels to ensure proper calibration and prevent an uneven extraction process.

2. Tamping Pressure:

When you pull an espresso shot, the coffee liquid that ends up in your cup should be velvety and smooth – not watery like dishwater.

What can cause watery espresso? Well, here’s a hint – it could have something to do with a four-letter word called tamping.

Tamping is the process of packing down the coffee grounds into the portafilter before a pull. When tamping, you want to press down on the grounds with around 30 pounds of pressure, enough so that the grounds are consistent and even.

For an over-extracted, you’ve to adjust your tamping technique.

Tap the grounds on a level surface before tamping to ensure even exposure to hot water. Apply even pressure for around 10 seconds and ensure the portafilter is clamped evenly into the group head to improve the tamping technique.

It might take some practice but eventually, you’ll get a handle on how hard and long to tamp in order to get perfect espresso that isn’t too light or too dark – just right!

3. Extraction Time:

I’ve already mentioned the importance of factors like espresso roast and grind size, but one that often gets overlooked is extraction time. If your extraction time is too short, it could result in a watery espresso.

Extraction time is crucial to get the right amount of flavour in your espresso shot. A precise and consistent extraction time is necessary for a high-quality shot.

Proper extraction is crucial for high-quality espresso. Espresso machines have adjustable settings like pre-infusion for different types of coffee, but three main rules apply to all:

  1. Use freshly ground beans
  2. Use clean water
  3. Have an appropriate amount of pressure

Optimum flavour and body depend on proper extraction timing, which can be easily monitored using a timer or automated system on most machines. For example, LED screens on some machines show exact extraction times per shot, allowing for necessary adjustments.

4. Steaming Too Much or Too Little Milk:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a watery espresso because of inadequate steaming. When it comes to steaming your milk, there are two main factors that come in:

Too much or too little…

Too Much – To create velvety microfoam when steaming milk:

  • Start with cold milk for smaller bubbles
  • Fill the pitcher no more than halfway to allow steam to work effectively
  • Aim for a temperature of 145°F to 155°F to avoid burning off flavour notes and ending up with watery milk.

Too Little – Insufficient steaming creates a sour, ultra-concentrated drink with a watery texture due to the lack of tiny bubbles from insufficiently incorporated air. To avoid this, steam your milk for a few extra seconds and stir until frothy for the signature smooth texture.