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Lately, coffee from my very basic Mr. Coffee 5-cup drip brewer has been watery tasting, and I am hoping for some troubleshooting help.

I recently purchased of a Cuisinart DBM-8 (a basic automatic grinder) to replace an even more basic blade grinder. This grinder has allows for a grind amounts in increments of "2 coffee cups" starting from 4 cups.

My coffee did not become watery upon first use of the DBM-8. I usually brew using 16 to 20 fluid oz of water, and I have switched between the 4-cup and the 6-cup setting on the grinder. I found that the 6-cup setting tasted pretty good, but seemed to use up a lot of beans.

With all that said, what has happened for the past week is that coffee made using my brewer has been tasting watery, no matter if I use the 4-cup or the 6-cup grind setting, and whether I try more or less water. I have set the coarseness of the grind to medium, which I believe is appropriate. All I am getting is colored hot water.

When I inspect the coffee filter and the grounds after brewing with the 6-cup grind, I observe a portion of the coffee grounds appear dry on top, although beneath that, the coffee grounds appear wet. It's as if the hot water is going directly through the filter without soaking enough in the grounds.

Is my coffee maker broken? I tried cleaning with diluted vinegar, but this did not change things.

Is it the beans? I do switch around, but the beans I buy are in the 10-20$ range per pound. I keep the beans in the closed hopper of the grinder.

  • The grounds float instead of being soaked... Thinking about a solution... – MTSan Oct 14 '16 at 11:21
  • Hmm, a hypothesis worth checking by lifting the lid of the maker while it's in operation. It's only a very small patch of the grounds that look dry (lighter color), and it's immediately wet underneath. Additionally, the center of the grounds in the filter forms a small depressed area, making me think that water is some how passing through too quickly. – bernie Oct 14 '16 at 15:37
  • Agree with the above - try lifting the lid - maybe the water is somehow "bypassing" a majority of the coffee grounds. – brendo234 Oct 14 '16 at 16:47
  • This may sound stupid but you may give it a try. Carefully considering the story I realize that heterogenous particles help water to wet the grounds easily in your case. First, in blade-grinder you got uneven grounds. Second, in the first days of your burr-grinder you may have some uneven grounds. Then, small particles fill in the spaces in the burrs and you start to have even grounds. So, my proposal: try to add just a bit of heterogeneity. Use a mortar? Put a bit of cinnamon if you're into aroma. Just try to overcome adhesive force of water. Please report back the results. – MTSan Oct 14 '16 at 21:25
  • You truly are a detective! Today, I slightly lifted the lid on my coffee maker, and I got stronger results in the coffee. But I think this is because by observing the process, I change the outcome! The lid of the coffee maker pushes down on the basket, allowing water to flow through. Finally, I also have some data. I weighed that the DBM-8 produces 19 g of ground coffee on the 4-cup setting. For 16 oz of water, I should really be using closer to 30 g of coffee. So in tomorrow's experiment, I will weigh how much coffee the next higher setting (6 cups) generates. – bernie Oct 15 '16 at 16:22
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Well this is a strange problem but it seems to have to do with the new grinder you are using or the way you use it since the grind is the only variable that has changed (according to your story).

Watery coffee most often means that you don't use enough ground coffee. Try using 6g of coffee per 100ml of water for a medium roast. If the roast is very light you may use a slightly higher coffee to water ratio. If it is not the quantity of coffee it is probably the grinder setting. Try a finer grind, something between table salt and sand (probably just the medium-fine setting on your grinder, however do check with your fingers). The problem may be what was suggested in the comments. If the grind is too coarse, the water is just running through the coffee and doesn't leave the time to spread and steep. This is in line with the hole in the center of the coffee bed you are describing. Maybe try to measure the time the coffee needs to run through and see if it changes if you grind finer.

If this doesn't help then I'd suggest you properly clean the spout and make sure the water is dripping out the way it is supposed to. Maybe scale has built up which is channeling the water, forcing it through the spout in a stream that hits the coffee grounds with too much pressure.

I suggest you try all of the above which will most likely solve your problem. Additionally however you could cut up some standard paper filters and place them on the ground coffee so that it is completely covered. In theory the water should then distribute much more evenly through the grounds. I'd suggest you do this only after you have solved the general problem as a means to improve the flavor. It'd definitely be a quite "hacky" solution and I think first of all your machine should work the way it is supposed to.

  • thanks @avocado1. I should have made an update yesterday, but after reverting to using the blade grinder, I found that the coffee taste was still watery. My suspicion is the heating element of the coffee maker is weakening, and it happened to coincide with around the same time I bought the new grinder. Also, I can confirm that I am using ~30 g of coffee for 16 oz of water, which is exactly your ratio of 6g per 100 mL. – bernie Oct 20 '16 at 17:41
  • Water temperature is definitely a possibility, it should be around 94°C, which is something like 200 Fahrenheit I think. If your temperature is only slightly too low so you don't realize there's a difference, the coffee should taste quite sour. Only if it's a lot underneath that ideal temperature which I think you'd notice the brew would be watery. To be sure just measure the temperature right after brewing with a kitchen thermometer. – avocado1 Oct 20 '16 at 17:57
  • Fine grounds on a drip machine -> bitter taste. Yesterday, I used more beans at a normal grind setting and got a good coffee at the expense of using 40+ g of beans for 16 oz of coffee. Today, I put a small piece of paper towel on top of the middle of the grounds (back to 30 g), and the coffee tasted much better. The water was percolating too fast for some reason – bernie Oct 27 '16 at 17:04
  • Too fast percolation... This seems like your device overheats the water way too early. Then, it evaporates quickly and drips quickly. Is this a possibility? I remember we have discussed a similar idea in such a thread. You may want to see that. coffee.stackexchange.com/questions/2405/… – MTSan Oct 27 '16 at 17:28
  • @MTSan, I'm not sure. I always use cold tap water. I didn't mention this, but I switched coffee makers as well over the weekend. It's still a drip machine. I am happy with putting a small piece of paper towel over the grounds. The paper towel did not take on much color, and it seemed to have led to more even soaking of the coffee grounds. – bernie Oct 27 '16 at 18:29
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I had the same problem. watered down, dry coffee grounds in the center of the coffee filter full of grounds. Wet around the edge. So, I took the "water filter" out, and it seems the water filter is a sandwich of some kind of hydrophobic material that doesn't pass the water through, What. Took it over to the sink, turn the water on to slow drip, and sure enough, pools on top of the filter and runs over the edges. Flipped it over, same thing. Kind of like a wet tshirt full of air in the swimming pool effect. yanked the filter. ordered replacements (not made by mr. coffee!), and hope that solves this silliness. The filter had been used about 15 days, so maybe they just don't last long. If that's the case, I'll just use water from the refrigerator, filtered, and forget about these little disks.

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(a few years later): I no longer have the Mr. Coffee, but instead use a Hamilton Beach two-way brewer, which supports K-cups (i.e. still not a high end machine). Here's what I've found works best for me. My grinder (DBM-8) dispenses around 22 grams of coffee on the 4-cup setting and around 40 grams on the 6-cup setting. I use 350 mL of water for the former and 640 mL of water for the latter. When I am brewing an amount like 22 grams, I find I get the best tasting coffee if I keep the coffee maker on its bold setting and use a cone-shaped paper filter (though the machine is meant to use basket-shaped filters). Otherwise, the coffee may be watery. When I am brewing a larger amount, like 40 grams, it doesn't matter, the coffee will taste fine either way.

There was a lot of detective work done earlier on, as covered in various comment threads. But I think the simple conclusion is that the pathway for the water to percolate through the grounds is too short when brewing a small amount of coffee with a basket-shaped filter.

I typically now use a medium grind, but I don't experiment with this that much.

As a general practice, one should try to measure coffee by weight so that the water-coffee ratio remains consistent. Note that the ratio I use is between 16:1 water:coffee to 17:1, similar to the 16.667 ratio recommended by avocado1.

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