What's The Best Water for Coffee
Updated: 11 hours ago
Today, we'll discuss the ideal water for brewing the tastiest cup of coffee.
When choosing the best water to make your coffee, I have good and bad news.
The Bad News
Choosing the water to brew with is not simple. Your coffee won't taste great with any water.
Using water with some issues may prevent you from extracting the coffee's flavors, body, and acidity.
These characteristics will be missing when using water that contains few or no minerals, bad tastes like chlorine, or other unpleasant flavors.
The Good News
The good news is that if you finish reading this post, you will have a basic understanding of water, and you are going to know what to do.
What makes water good or bad?
It's good water if it tastes fresh and tasty. It's not good if it tastes chlorinated and nasty. Those are the facts, but it's a bit more complicated.
However, I will not dive into the thicket of the chemistry of water and coffee.
So allow me to give you a brief overview that is so easy you might think I'm pulling your leg.
Calcium and Magnesium AKA Minerals
There are two aspects to water and its contents that are particularly important when brewing coffee.
The first is the mineral ions. Most commonly, calcium and magnesium.
These are beneficial ions. If they're in the water, they help with the coffee extraction of the coffee flavors, helping them go into the solution creating a delicious cup of coffee.
If you have no mineral ions, you'll have minimal extraction of coffee compared to having a lot of ions and then having a lot of extraction.
But that doesn't mean that more is necessarily better.
Now the other thing to worry about is the bicarbonate or alkalinity of the water.
That refers to a water buffering capacity, a measure of its ability to neutralize acids and bases and maintain its pH at around seven.
So the more buffer you have, the less acidity you'll ultimately experience in your cup of coffee.
More does not equal better. Too little bicarbonate is a problem. Those acids in the coffee will run rampant.
They'll be uncontrolled, unbalanced, and unpleasant. Too much buffer, then everything is just dull brown tasting, and we want to avoid it.
With both of these things, there is a middle ground where things tend to taste pretty great.
What is the perfect water?
Sorry, I can't give you a straightforward answer for that.
If you buy from one roaster continuously, if you buy their coffee all the time, find out what their water is like.
Matching your water to theirs as much as possible or practical will get you closer to those notes they're writing on the bag.
If you're brewing with water a long way from theirs, you'll have a different taste experience, which can be frustrating.
What might be a good guideline is tricky because calcium and magnesium, while they're both mineral ions, are slightly different.
They don't do the same job exactly.
And having the same amount of calcium in one water as magnesium in another will produce different cups of tasting coffee when you brew with those two waters.
Generally speaking, a little more calcium is preferable if that's your primary ion. A little bit less is preferable if magnesium is your primary ion. There are ways to tell how much stuff is in your water.
Testing The Water
You can get a TDS (Total Dissolve Solids) kit cheaply, but that's not helpful.
A TDS meter will tell you the total dissolved solids for the water, but it won't tell you what those solids are.
It could be all calcium. It could be all magnesium. It could be all something else that happens to conduct electricity. It's not very insightful.
Aside from TDS meters, there are two ways you can know about the composition of your water.
If it's coming out of your tap in many parts of the world, you can put your postcode or zipcode on your water authority's website, and they will give you an exhaustive breakdown of the minerals inside that water. That is useful. It's usually free in most parts of the world.
Go and check that out. That's essential.
If the water has been softened or treated in some way, the best way to assess it is with a dropper kit.
You take a sample of water. You add drops to it until it changes color. Those droplets indicate total hardness and carbonate hardness, so those can be converted, and you can find out how much mineral hardness there is and how much bicarbonate is in there too.
How to use the Hardness Test Kit
Helpful and not incredibly accurate, but it will undoubtedly get you to a good place.
So let's take an example. Let's take my water. Let's say it's 300 parts calcium. It's got a high level of bicarbonate.
What should it be? What am I aiming for? If I'm going to treat this water, where should I be going? And that's a complicated thing to tell you, right? Let me give you some numbers.
We'll give you a recipe, but there's no one answer. All of this exists in a range, in a spectrum.
And so, if I was talking about calcium, 30 to 50 parts calcium is good. But if it was magnesium, more like 15 to 30 parts per million or milligrams per liter is good.
Similarly, a buffer between 50 and 75 PPM is good. So, while that's my recommendation, know there are other possibilities.
Some specs are used in international coffee competitions that are available online.
The SCA, the Specialty Coffee Association, offers a guideline and a range of various things regarding water quality.
That's free and available online. So check that out too. And if you want to experiment at the end of all this, we'll talk about that too.
Brita Water Filters
We'll discuss making your personalized mineral water and how you might do that, but we'll wait until the end. So let's discuss water treatment at home.
Many individuals purchase products like Brita water filters, and in part for good reasons.
What you want from the Brita is not what it is. Brita is not a panacea or quick remedy, but it is not incorrect either.
Some is softening done by Brita, but not much.
If your water contains bad tastes like chlorine or other unpleasant flavors, the Brita will enhance the taste of the water, but they are not very good at softening.
I'm not against Brita; it just doesn't fix the problem.
Remember that hard water has other issues besides merely producing bad-tasting coffee.
Limescale is a problem with hard water when it comes to coffee.
Espresso and filter machines boil water up, resulting in limescale forming, which may quickly cause damage, breakage, clogging, and frustration.
To ensure that there are no floaty pieces in the water as it passes through the primary filtration stage, imagine a tiny sieve that removes specific little particles.
There are numerous of these little beads below that. In total, there are two. The darker ones contain active carbon.
They function as a type of charcoal and clean up bad tastes.
Active carbon will eliminate any chlorine flavors. If you notice something taste-added with charcoal, that is happening.
Ion exchange beads are essentially what the other little beads are.
They attract calcium because they are charged negatively.
And then, a sodium ion is released. That doesn't make the water salty, Necessarily.
You are not disposing of table salt and sodium chloride. Simply put, you're letting sodium ions go free.
That does not form limescale. Additionally, your salt intake poses no health risks. Don't stress over that.
It's a great technique to substitute salt for calcium. It is limited, but it will perform ok.
It will eventually release all the sodium it contains and stops further softening.
Creating Your Custom Mineral Water
Even brand new Brita Filters are ineffective in extremely hard water. So, what else are we to do? At home, we can install a commercial water filter.
In most cases, this simply repeats what the Brita filter does on a larger scale.
It is more effective, but it is also much more expensive. Then there are options like reverse osmosis.
You press your mineralized water against a filter so fine that only water, not minerals, can pass through.
Reverse osmosis systems are highly wasteful. On the other hand, what you get out of it is nearly pure water.
This is not optimal. Distilled water in a coffee machine is not recommended because it can be quite corrosive.
We know we need minerals to make the water a little harder to get the best-tasting coffee.
As a result, pure RO (Reverse Osmosis) is undesirable. Some home units are available, but they produce too soft water.
It may be necessary to devise a plan to remineralize it, which can be difficult.
That is not a good solution. A Brita is adequate but not ideal if your water is only slightly hard, not extremely hard.
Harder water is aggravating. So, what other options do you have?
There is one popular option, but it is one of my least favorites. It's unattractive, frustrating, wasteful, and environmentally unsound. That is, of course, bottled water.
Mineral content must be listed on the label, often on the back, in Europe and many other parts of the world.
They'll tell you how much magnesium, calcium, bicarbonate, and other stuff is in milligrams per liter, which is helpful.
You could also go out and find mineral water that suits you. Remember that you're looking for a balance of minerals and bicarbonate.
There are plenty of waters with the proper mineral content but low bicarbonate, resulting in harsh and acidic results; you're better off avoiding them.
I cannot recommend something wasteful and harmful to the environment.
Mineral water is a solution, but it is not an ideal one. So, what else is there? Water can be obtained from a nearby cafe or roastery that treats its water.
There are costs associated with producing good-tasting coffee water.
Creating Your Mineral Water
I'd like to talk with you about creating your mineral water.
You can make your recipe by purchasing pure demineralized (distilled) water and adding a sachet of minerals.
The most remarkable aspect is that it allows people worldwide to brew with the same water.
You don't need a packet like Third-Wave water, an excellent little readily available solution.
You can push yourself harder than this.
You can get lots of distilled water and then go shopping for your minerals.
Epsom salt can be used for mineral content, which is inexpensive and easy to obtain.
And for the bicarbonate, you can use sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda that is extremely inexpensive and simple to obtain.
And you can quickly dilute a small amount of those into distilled water and then dilute that into a much larger amount of distilled water to very precisely, very carefully compose mineral water.
Check out Barista Hustle, which contains a wealth of information and calculators for taking very soft tap water and mineralizing it a little more to get it into the ideal zone for coffee brewing. There are some exciting things to learn there.
They put in a lot of effort to make your water fit your coffee.
This is an undeniably powerful solution. Purchasing demineralized water is not cheap.
This stuff takes time and effort to finish. It takes precision, patience, and willingness, but the results are fascinating and enjoyable when making delicious coffee in the morning.
It's nice not to worry about the water you're brewing with. It's challenging to imagine living in a hard water area.
Water is the most aggravating element. It can prevent you from determining the value and quality of the beans you purchased.
It's simple, but it can be complicated, and even minor changes can significantly impact it.
Do you think this is all nonsense? Make yourself two cups of coffee. Make two French Press brews, one with hard water and one with soft water.
It's not difficult to do, but it will ruin your day due to the enormous difference.