What is the best water for brewing coffee? We know that for a good cup of Joe, high-quality beans and a good brewing method are necessary. But what about water? How does water quality affect your coffee?
You’ll often hear that coffee beans from all over the world provide different tastes to a cup of coffee as well as how the flavor is affected when it is roasted, grounded, and brewed. One main element that is often overlooked is the quality of water. Many people will say that the more purified the water is, the better the coffee will taste. However, comprehensive studies have shown that hard water containing hard minerals such as calcium and magnesium not only extracts flavors from ground coffee beans but also delivers different tastes in many ways.
Since coffee is basically 98% water, it is best to use water that is not distilled and has some minerals in it. Minerals in water enhance the flavor of the coffee much like salt does to your food. Good quality water and coffee beans along with an accurate roasting, grinding, and brewing process will give you the most delicious coffee, every time. To know more about coffee and how it is extracted and processed visit Sipcoffeehouse.
Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the different types of water and how they can affect the flavor of your coffee.
Unfiltered Tap Water for Coffee
This is the one most commonly used as it is readily accessible, and it often enhances the flavor and quality of your coffee. Reason? The quality of your tap water, including water hardness and chlorine taste, will depend on where you live. For example if the source of the water is a nearby mountain, lake, river, underground, desalinated sea water or some other source. Each of these sources has different types of minerals which affect the water quality and also the taste of your coffee.
Minerals found in water include concentrations of calcium, magnesium. copper, aluminum, and manganese, as well as other substances that are mildly acidic and/or impart a metallic flavor to the water. If you’ve been told that your tap water is completely safe to drink, the taste of it may still be acidic, metallic or desinfection. The latter unpleasant taste comes from chlorine and chloramine that are used in the water purification process for disinfection.
If the tap water tastes bad then it will eventually carry over to your coffee no matter whether you’re using the best quality coffee beans and a perfect brewing method, the taste will be unpleasant. Neutral / no taste tap water generally makes the coffee taste a bit bland as well. This is why areas with very soft water require stronger coffee taste. Good tasting high mineral tap water on the other hand can give you 10 times more flavor. The only side effect is that it may leave a mineral build-up and scales at the bottom of your coffee-maker, if you’re using one.
The good news is that a high quality water filter can make the tap water taste great without removing any of the good minerals.
Water Purification Process
If you live in a big city then your tap water is most likely already purified by a water purification plant. These are the steps it goes through to remove most contaminants such as nitrates, pesticides, heavy metals, etc that can be found in tap water. The steps include coagulation and flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, and finally disinfection.
Coagulation and Flocculation
This procedure entails the addition of positively charged chemicals to the purified water’s negatively charged pollutants. It binds to form a large contaminate particle known as floc.
The contaminated particle then settles down at the bottom of the water which can be removed later.
After the floc is removed, the water then passes through various filters to remove dust, bacteria, and other chemicals that have been left behind.
The final stage uses chlorine and chloramine to disinfect and remove the remaining organic contaminants to give you purified water.
It’s primarily the last stage that negatively impacts the tap water depending on the amount of chlorine added. Water purification generally does not impact the hardness or mineral content.
Distilled Water for Coffee
Distilled water, also known as soft water, has gone through the purification process to take contaminants out via steam, however, some contaminants may still be present. This type of water is stripped off from two of its essential minerals: calcium, and magnesium. That is why the use of distilled water is best if you’re using a coffee maker. There is less build-up of minerals and prevents scaling, which would cause damage to your appliance.
Since distilled water is stripped off from its essential minerals, the taste of the water will result in a very bitter coffee. Therefore, distalled water results in poor quality coffee no matter how good your coffee-maker is, or if your coffee beans are of good caliber. But if you’re a fan of bitter coffee, then you can go ahead and add pure water to the mixture.
Reverse Osmosis filtered tap water for coffee
Reverse Osmosis or RO filters are commonly sold as the best method of water filtration. It’s true that it’s very effective in reducing contaminants in the tap water but they essentially remove everything in the tap water. Many water filter salesmen will tell you that a low TDS score is a sign of good tap water. In reality TDS is mostly a measure of mineral content in your tap water. Therefore RO water like distilled water will result in flat or bitter tasting coffee.
One solution to this is to add minerals back in to the tap water. The pre-made mineral formulas are added to Reverse Osmosis (RO) water to purify it further but with minerals intact. This mineral mix comes in a satchel and is said to be quite popular and widely available. The water can then be used to brew the best coffee.
Activated Carbon Filtered Water
The most straight forward method to get the best water for coffee is a high quality activated carbon filter. Especially if you live in an area with medium to high water hardness. Tap-mounted filters such as TAPP 2 will give you great tasting water straight from the tap that you can fill up in your coffee maker. It even removes most of the limescale preventing scale to build up in your coffee can or maker.
Another method is a pitcher filter uses activated carbon filters to remove odors, impurities, and chlorine from the water. This is one of the simple and cost-effective ways to use purified water. The only downside is, it can only hold up a gallon (4 liters) of water at a time and the filter needs to be changed frequently.
Bottled water can be anything from purified/filtered tap water to real mineral spring water. This also means that the content varies from very low mineral to very high mineral content. Bottled water with no or low minerals isn’t ideal as it is tasteless or bitter whereas medium to high mineral content brings out the best flavors in a cup of coffee.
Therefore, if you’re using bottled water, choose the one with a minerality level (TDS or Calcium+Magnesium content) of 50 to 157 mg/l for the best-brewed coffee. If it’s distilled water, choose the brand that says added magnesium and NOT added calcium. Magnesium sticks and enhances the flavor compounds in your coffee beans whereas calcium gives a bitter taste to your finished cup of Joe.
If possible avoid bottled water though as it’s expensive, often full of microplastics from the packaging and bad for the planet. A high quality water filter is a much better solution if you don’t like your local tap water.
Is The pH Of The Water Significant?
Water basically has a neutral pH level of 7. However, due to numerous minerals and molecules that are dissolved in water, it can be slightly acidic or alkaline.
As for coffee, water that is a little on the alkaline side is more preferable as it balances out the flavor of the coffee beans and the acid gives the coffee its slightly bitter taste. Too much alkaline and you’ll be left with a coffee that is tasteless and dull.
● Acidic water is good for extracting flavors however, it’ll cause corrosion and mineral build-up in your appliance.
● Alkaline water is also good for coffee in little amounts; too much (pH 8+) will prevent us sensing the pleasant acidity even though it is there in the coffee. The taste is dull, flat and earthy.
Is It All Worth The Trouble?
In today’s coffee-refined world, coffee lovers and baristas like to experiment to bring out the best flavor possible for them to enjoy. Once you balance out the water and get the perfect blend, you’ll never taste coffee anywhere else again. So, yes, it is all worth it!
On a final note, standard tap water is often good to bring out the flavor of your coffee. In fact, it enhances the flavor of your coffee beans in the brewing process, however, it’ll cause damage to your equipment with mineral build-up and corrosion. This is easily solved with a high quality water filter such as TAPP 2 that removes the chlorine and most contaminants while retaining the healthy minerals.
Generally the other alternatives are bad:
- Distilled and purified water will give you a cup of coffee that’s a little bland no matter if the coffee beans are of high quality, or you have pursued an accurate brewing method.
- Reverse Osmosis (RO) filtration system filtered water is also not that good for brewing as all the minerals are removed. Mineral mix packets made for coffee lovers can fix vastly improve soft, disstilled, purified and RO water by adding hard minerals like magnesium and calcium. This way anyone can enjoy the flavor of their coffee whichever water they use.
- Bottled water generally is the same or worse as tap water with the slight difference of no chlorine added. Medium to high mineral content bottled water can provide great tasting coffee. But on the other hand it’s generally money wasting, inconvenient, unhealthy and bad for the planet to buy bottled water.
Conclusion about the best water for coffee
It’s surprising to see that something as basic as water can have such a huge impact on your cup of coffee. It all depends on the type of water you use, either hard or soft water. Many people prefer hard water to get as much flavor as the minerals can provide to their coffee. Others go for soft water, which is distilled and purified, to get a pure taste. If you’re unsure about the type of water to use, you can always start experimenting by mixing different types of water separately to make coffee and see which one tastes better for you.
This is a guest post by Glenn at OLW Agency.
Image source: Freepik
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