Why Is My Espresso Puck Wet? (7 Reasons & How To Fix It)

Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of pulling a shot of espresso only to be met with a soggy, wet puck when you knock it out of the portafilter?

Not to fret because I have too, and I have just the solutions for you right here!

I’ll dive into why this may be happening, why it matters, what coffee pucks should look like, and make wet espresso pucks a thing of the past! Let’s get started!

Coffee is a fantastic source of caffeine, B2, and magnesium, but more importantly, it keeps us sane most days.[1]

A wet coffee puck can be a sign that your espresso shots aren’t as tasty as they could be, so let’s navigate and narrow down the most common reasons why this may be happening to you.

1. Not Enough Coffee Grounds

Wet pucks are often the result of not having enough ground coffee in your portafilter. If there’s not enough, this will cause over-extracted coffee.

The good news is that this is easy to avoid by simply weighing your dose before brewing.

Try weighing your dose and spend a bit of time fine-tuning from there, so you get the perfect shot every time.

2. The Grind Is Too Coarse

Coffee grinds play a big role in proper coffee extraction, so take a look at the grind size if you find your coffee puck wet.

If the grind is too coarse, water can travel through the espresso grounds too quickly.

If the coffee grounds are too fine, it's also not ideal. Improper grind size can result not only in a messy puck but also under or over-extraction.

This can make your espresso have a bitter taste or end up being too weak and watery, which absolutely no one needs in their life!

Of course, you should feel free to experiment with different grind sizes to see what works best for you and your tastebuds.

Aim for grinds that are neither powdery nor too coarse. You want the grind to feel just a bit gritty, but consistent if you rub them between your fingers. Again, experimenting may be key for you.

View Of A Coarse Coffee Grind

3. Wrong Size Portafilter Or Espresso Filter Basket

If your coffee grinds are on point, let’s take a look at the other common culprit of wet pucks: the wrong size portafilter or espresso filter basket.

If there is too big of a gap between your coffee grinds and the shower screen, there’s going to be too much water. This ends up as a wet espresso puck.

If there’s too much coffee, it’ll end up as a dry puck. We don’t want either of these.

Most baskets are 58mm in diameter, though it’s best to check your espresso machine to select the size that it’s compatible with.

If the size is wrong, you could try every other step and still end up with wet espresso pucks, which is frustrating!

4. You Are Not Tamping The Grounds Correctly

Tamping the coffee grounds evenly is essential to avoid uneven extraction. Loosely packed grounds let too much water flow through, resulting in a soupy espresso puck.

Proper tamping pressure should be around 20 to 30 pounds, ensuring the grinds are secured well into the portafilter.

The extraction process is much more efficient with a quality coffee tamper, allowing you to apply enough pressure evenly without the risk of hurting yourself!

Espresso Tamp After Filling The Portafilter

5. Unequal Distribution Of Coffee Grounds

Before we even get to tamping, the proper way to ensure puck consistency is to focus on evenly distributed coffee grounds.

The puck's surface should be smooth, so you can use a WDT (Weiss Distribution Technique) or a paperclip to keep them even, break up any clumps, and reduce air pockets.

Air pockets can also mess with the pulling shots nicely, allowing water to run through. A dosing funnel can be a big help, rather than just dumping them all out into the basket at once.

A puck screen is a fantastic alternative, though.

It fits right on top of the espresso puck, helping compress the grinds together, and also takes up some extra room in the basket, which can help prevent excess water from creating a wet puck.

6. You’re Not Using Fresh Coffee Beans

If I were to give one piece of advice to anyone (and most other baristas will, too) looking to fine-tune the quality of their brewing, it would be to use fresh coffee beans.

The freshness of the beans plays a massive role in the quality of the shot, creating more consistent extractions, better crema, and even makes for drier pucks (but not too dry).

So, what qualifies as fresh beans? Aim for those within 2 to 4 weeks of their roast date.

You also don't want your beans to be straight off the line. If they're "too new," they could create a "puffy" puck due to the higher levels of residual gas still inside.

Under-roasted beans can also create a higher moisture level, leading to uneven extraction or a wet puck.

7. Water Pressure & Temperature

Your machine may already have the water temperature and pressure preset, so you may not even need to mess with anything.

However, it’s best to check the settings to make sure the pressure gauge and heat are set correctly and aren’t responsible for a lame espresso game.

This is usually only a scenario when you’re trying to get creative with your brewing and manually adjust the settings. If all else fails, check your user manual on how to perform a hard reset.

Person Inspecting Coffee Puck After Extraction

Why Is A Watery Puck A Problem?

I can’t say that for 100% of people or situations, an espresso wet puck is a problem. Ultimately, if you’re pleased with the espresso shot, then that’s the technique that’s right for you.

However, a wet puck no doubt makes a bit of a mess and isn’t what “experts” would consider “optimal” espresso pucks.

The perfect cup doesn’t typically come from an excessively wet puck, which is likely the result of channeling, wrong grind size, or an uneven tamp.

All of these impede upon uniform extraction, making it tougher to achieve the perfect espresso shot.

Consistently wet espresso pucks could also be a sign that something is failing in most espresso machines. Of course, it is usually an issue with the brewing process. 

Drinking coffee can really put an extra pep in your step, but it also has tons of other benefits.[2]

A watery puck isn’t going to negate any of them, but it could affect the taste.


What Should An Espresso Puck Look Like?

In order to avoid affecting the espresso process negatively, it’s important to know what the ideal espresso puck should look like.

These are the compacted coffee grounds that remain in the filter basket after pulling a shot of espresso.

There are really three main characteristics you want to look out for:

  1. 1
    Uniformity:
    Make sure to adjust the coffee grounds so that they’re distributed evenly.
  2. 2
    Level:
    The coffee bed should be level and smooth. Keep vigilant for any bumps or indents.
  3. 3
    Firmness:
    The puck should always be firm and compact, which are both signs that the grounds have been tamped properly.

If all is well with the brewing process, a puck should have a nice amount of moisture but not be wet, necessarily. You want the puck to have a dark brown color with a hint of red.

Person Holding An Espresso Puck

Related Wet Espresso Puck Questions

Why do Breville espresso machines commonly have soupy puck issues?

Breville machines often have wet pucks because of the size of the filter basket and not having enough coffee. This leaves extra room for hot water to collect, leaving users with a soggy puck.

Is it bad to leave the puck in the espresso machine?

It’s not bad to leave the puck in the espresso machine, but it's better not to for the overall efficiency of your equipment. Leaving it in the machine can clog the shower screen, which can collect rancid coffee oils and end up literally leaving a bitter taste in your mouth.

Can you use a coffee puck twice without drying?

You don't want to use a coffee puck twice, as it dilutes the flavor and can lead to a very bitter cup of coffee. Even if the puck is wet, trust me - you're going to get bad results. This is an example of a practice you don't want to make a habit out of. Unless you’re using spent pucks for something like gardening, just toss them.[3]


Say Goodbye To Soggy Espresso Pucks!

If you want a delicious cup of coffee every time you start brewing (and who doesn't?), the best way to avoid wet pucks is to follow the diagnostic steps from above.

You're closer than you think to a perfect puck just by tweaking a few things! Enjoy the journey!

References:

1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coffee/
2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408390903586412
3. https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/used-appropriately-coffee-grounds-improve-soil-and-kill-slugs

Kayla Stavridis

Head of Marketing

Kayla Stavridis
Kayla Stavridis is a coffee enthusiast and Head of Marketing for Barista HQ. She blends her professional insights and experience with a deep passion for all things coffee. Kayla offers a unique, hands-on perspective on coffee culture and trends. You can find her sipping a cold brew with just a touch of milk on the beach in the afternoon and a Corona with lime in the evening.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... Cold Brew

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