Enjoying a warm and tasty cup of joe is a ritual that millions of people take part in every morning. The last thing you want at the start of your day is for this ritual to be broken by some coffee maker malfunction, like finding coffee grounds in your cup.
If you've experienced this recently you're probably wondering what caused these coffee grounds to get into your coffee and how you can fix it.
If you use a drip coffee machine, coffee grounds can overflow the filter while brewing and end up in your cup of coffee if: they are too finely ground, there is too much coffee in the brew basket, the filter isn’t big enough, or the hole at the bottom of the filter basket is clogged.
In this article I’ll talk more about how these things can lead to coffee grounds in your coffee, and more importantly how you can fix them so that you can get back to making and drinking your coffee without any coffee grounds in it. Let’s get started!
Why Coffee Grounds Can End Up in Coffee
In order to understand why you’re finding grounds in your coffee, you need to understand a little bit about how a drip coffee machine works. The good news they're actually pretty simple.
When you're making coffee, and after you have poured the water in the water reservoir and placed the coffee in a paper filter in the basket and turn the brewer on, the water is slowly sucked out of the water reservoir in a tube to the bottom of the coffee maker.
Down at the bottom of the coffee machine the water is heated by a coiled wire and sent (now very very hot) in its tube back up to the top of the coffee maker.
Once its reached the top, the heated water falls through a set of holes above the filter basket called the “shower head” and through the coffee grounds, picking up their oils and flavors along the way. It then falls through the paper filter and into your coffee pot.
The paper filter used to make drip coffee is made to hold solids, such as the coffee grounds, while allowing liquids like the hot water now turned into coffee to flow through. What happens when coffee grounds end up in your coffee is that the paper filter either collapses and so the coffee grounds fall freely into the coffee pot, or the water and the coffee grounds flowing through the filter overflow over the top.
But why do these two things happen sometimes and other times don't? And more importantly how do you make sure they don't happen in your coffee maker?
How to Keep Coffee Grounds out of Your Coffee
Coffee grounds ending up in your coffee will be caused by one of two things. Either the coffee or the filter. Let's talk about the coffee first.
Don’t Grind Your Coffee so Fine
If you grind your coffee too fine or buy coffee that has been ground really fine, you have a greater chance of finding grounds in your coffee because fine grounds have an easier time of getting packed down and becoming dense in the brew basket.
Tightly packed grounds make it more difficult for the water to flow through the coffee and filter, and can cause the water and coffee grounds to flow over the top of the basket.
In addition, some nice drip brewers will have a strainer or filter to prevent coffee grounds in the overflowing water of the basket to get into your coffee, but if your coffee is ground finely it will just pass right through this strainer.
Decaf and flavored coffee are usually more finely ground so if you drink these you may have to put a little less grounds in the filter to allow the water to flow through better.
If you grind your coffee yourself just don’t grind it as finely. A general rule is that coffee beans for drip coffee should be ground to a consistency similar to sand, but not as finely as table salt. With a blade grinder ineedcoffee.com says this will take 10-15 seconds.
2. Use Less Coffee
Just like finely ground coffee beans can cause overflow, putting too much coffee in your filter can also block the water from easily flowing through and cause it to overflow the basket.
As a general rule you should use a 2:1 tablespoons of coffee to water ratio. So for every cup of water you put in the machine you shold use 2 tablespoons of ground beans. This means that a full pot of coffee that is 12 cups will require 24 tablespoons of coffee.
If you’re finding grounds in your coffee and typically use more coffee in the filter to get a stronger brew, you may have to adjust by continuing to use the same amount of beans, but using less water to make a smaller batch of coffee.
Using a little less water to make a smaller pot will keep the coffee grounds in the basket from overflowing due to too much coffee in it. It could be annoying if you’re trying to make a lot of coffee, but a little coffee without grounds in it is better than a lot of coffee with.
Adjust the Paper Filter
If you’ve made the adjustments to your coffee grind size and amount above and are still finding grounds in it, the other thing that may be ruining your cup of coffee is a filter malfunction.
If you’re using filters that are too short or don’t flow well, they could be causing the brewing coffee in the basket to overflow. So using a different brand of filter that is taller and flows better could completely fix the problem.
A really great filter fix to get grounds out of your coffee that some people have talked about online is to wet the paper filter prior to pouring in the coffee grounds. This gets the filter to stick to the basket and better hold in the grounds and also primes it so the coffee will be flowing through right when brewing starts.
Another fix some have recommended is to make a “pod” with the filter by placing a filter in the basket, then adding the coffee grounds to another filter, folding the four sides of it in, and placing the folded filter seam side down on the other filter in the basket.
I personally have never tried doing this, but apparently it works by trapping the grounds in so that they pretty much can’t escape into your coffee. It's sort of a homemade K-Cup.
Two final things to check in your filter and brewing basket is to make sure you’re not using two filters when you brew instead of one, since this will slow down the flow of the coffee and could cause overflow. Sometimes they stick together in the packaging so just be sure to check before brewing.
And lastly make sure that the hole at the bottom of the brew basket under where you put the paper filter is clear and not clogged. If it is, the water will stop flowing through into the coffee pot and overflow upwards.
“I have Coffee Grounds in my Coffee but I need Coffee Now!”
If you have guests over or just really want a cup of joe and need coffee without grounds in it immediately, you can just pour the brewed coffee with the grounds in it through another coffee filter and into a different mug or cup.
Excess coffee grounds in your coffee can be a really annoying problem to fix, especially when a lack of caffeine makes you bothered or angry. The good news is that the solutions to this problem are relatively quick and easy to do and should get your coffee maker brewing like normal again in no time.
If you have tried all the adjustments above and are still finding lots of grounds in your coffee, your coffee maker could just be broken and you may need to find a new one.
I hope this article was helpful for you! If you’d like to learn more about coffee makers, espresso, and pretty much anything coffee related be sure to check out the rest of my website!