We use a press pot to make coffee at home, and usually after a 3 minute steep, the grounds are floating at the top, but with this one bag of beans we got, they're all sunk to the bottom.

The coffee basically tastes normal. Maybe a little thin, but that could easily be the roast.

Why would most coffee grounds float, but these sink? Is there something wrong with these beans?

We use a burr grinder and hadn't changed the grind setting. Same water, etc. Only change is the beans. "Medium-Dark" roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from a local roaster, roasted about 2 weeks before brewing...

  • That is unusual ... usually grounds sinking is because they're really, really old. But you'd taste that ... they'd be nasty and bitter.
    – FuzzyChef
    Dec 27, 2011 at 7:19
  • @FuzzyChef: Bag says they were roasted 12.09.11, so was about 2 weeks from roasting to first pot of coffee, which I don't think counts as "really, really old".
    – freiheit
    Dec 27, 2011 at 7:32

2 Answers 2


Coffee beans contain gases, which causes coffee to float.

  1. Fresh coffee contains more gases compared to an older (aged) coffee.

    • coffee tastes best between 4 - 14 days off roast, varies depending on roast profiles
    • Specialty coffee shops usually have a roast date on their retail bags
  2. On a coarse grind setting each particle hold more gases compared to a fine grind setting which hold less gases.

  3. Hot water causes a faster release of gases compared to cold water which causes a slower release of gasses

  4. Darker roasts hold less gases compared to a lighter roast.

  5. A lot of agitation increases the rate in which gasses release compared to no agitation.

All these can be easily tested, and affect how long the coffee stays afloat.

Gasses in the coffee particles must first be displaced in order for the water to enter each particle and extract a delicious cup. All in all, it doesn't matter why, as long as the coffee tastes good.

Late reply but thought I'd clarify.

  • The gasses of which you speak directly impact the BUOYANCY and do NOTHING to affect the flavor of the coffee... This adds nothing new to the conversation after 5 years.
    – Cos Callis
    Jun 8, 2016 at 14:14
  • 2
    @CosCallis The question was about buoyancy, not flavor - sinking is a lack of buoyancy, and this answer explains what would provide buoyancy. The answer even says "doesn't matter why, as long as it tastes good" so it doesn't seem to be trying to be about flavor. As for "adds nothing new"... was everything in this answer really in the existing answers? I'm certainly not seeing it all.
    – Cascabel
    Jun 8, 2016 at 15:19
  • @CosCallis None of the other answers even attempt to answer the question.
    – freiheit
    Jun 17, 2016 at 19:47

The question should really read "What makes coffee sink?" It does not matter if it is in the form of grinds or beans (though it is easier with grinds) nor does the receptacle. The issue is buoyancy.

buoy·an·cy (boin-s, byn-) n. 1. a. The tendency or capacity to remain afloat in a liquid or rise in air or gas. b. The upward force that a fluid exerts on an object less dense than itself.

As the coffee is soaked in the hot water chemicals are extracted from the grind, mostly oils, that have an impact the buoyancy of the coffee. Once, the desirable chemicals are extracted to the surrounding water (again, moistly an oil) the buoyancy of the coffee is altered and the residue sinks to the bottom.

During my time in the U.S. Army field coffee was made quickly by getting a 15 gallon stock pot boiling and just pouring a five pound can of coffee in. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, reduce the heat and hit the side the stock pot with a ladle. Immediately all (ok, most...) of the coffee would sink to the bottom and fresh (if not altogether worthy of Starbucks) coffee could be ladled out. Why whack the pot? This would disrupt boiling of the water and allow the coffee to sink quickly.

Why are your grinds sinking? Well, the best guess is that they came deficient in the compounds that make the coffee normally buoyant. If the brand/roast is not up to your satisfaction you should be able to return it for fresh. If this a brand to which you are accustomed, but this batch isn't 'normal' then it is probably an anomaly, as you said the coffee tastes normal, so I wouldn't not worry to much about it.

  • You made 5 POUNDS of coffee???? for how many people?
    – Midhat
    Dec 28, 2011 at 15:30
  • It wasn't me doing the making, but rather the cooks assigned to my company in the field. That would make coffee for more than 100 soldiers (15 gallon pot, less some water for working room at the top and the sludge at the bottom, call it 10 gallons) x 16 cups per gallon. About a 1 1/2 cups per cold tired G.I.. If you had a hot cocoa pack from your MRE we might mix that in. This is NOT would I would call GOOD coffee, but strong, hot, fast coffee.
    – Cos Callis
    Dec 28, 2011 at 15:49
  • @Midhat - Having tasted US Army coffee, it would be more accurate to say they ruined 5 pounds of coffee :)
    – Chad
    Dec 28, 2011 at 20:39
  • @Chad, wasted, no. Army Coffee is not "to be enjoyed on the veranda with breakfast", it is "to warm and energize troops fast and effectively."
    – Cos Callis
    Dec 28, 2011 at 21:27
  • 1
    This doesn't answer the question at all, it only rephrases the question in different terms and adds an irrelevant story.
    – freiheit
    Jun 18, 2016 at 19:46

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