Updated: Jan 25, 2020
Water is obviously the lifeblood of the earth. Our bodies alone are comprised of approximately 60% water, and the old adage that we should drink 8 cups or 1 gallon of water daily still holds true. While water comes in many shapes and forms (tap water, bottled water, reverse osmosis, sparkling water, etc), you may be surprised to know that the water you use to brew your coffee makes a huge difference in the quality of your morning brew.
Aside from the quality of coffee you’re using making, water is the #1 factor to making better coffee. Whether you’re a tap waterer or a strictly bottled water person, we’ve got all the reasons why your coffee water should be carefully selected.
What Defines Good Water for Brewing?
If it tastes good, brew with it!
At least that’s what the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) says. Their handy Water for Brewing Standards guide tells you about what you need to know for picking your brewing water. The SCAA’s guide breaks water into several characteristic categories: odor, color, total chlorine, TDS (total dissolved solids), calcium hardness, total alkalinity, pH, and sodium.
The SCAA’s Water Standards chart shows displays odor, color, total chlorine, TDS (total dissolved solids), calcium hardness, total alkalinity, pH, and sodium as the primary characteristics to watch for in brewing water.
While odor and taste are the primary factors to think about when choosing your coffee brewing water, chlorine is a close runner-up. This may very well eliminate your tap water a a choice for brewing water. Chlorine has been used in public water systems for over a century as a way to kill most, if not all, bacteria and microbes to make it “safe” for drinking. (Safety of chlorinated drinking water is up for arbitration, obviously.)
Of course, the SCAA cites several other far more minor factors that affect brewing water, and unless you have some sort of way to regularly test the water you use, these factors are probably non-issues to most of us.
What Are My Options for Brewing Water?
Options for coffee brewing water are widespread, and you’re sure to find a solution that fits your lifestyle, budget, and personal taste preferences. Going to the store and loading up on gallons upon gallons of water at a time may not be your best solution, and installing a home reverse osmosis system may or may not appeal to you and your family. Nevertheless, there are options.
There are lots of options for finding the right coffee brewing water. The key is to finding a solution that works best for you and your family.
Bottled water is an easy solution to improve the water you use to brew coffee. Virtually any water from your grocery store will have a nice mix of filtration as well as minerals added back to optimize pH and total dissolved solids. (TDS is a helpful factor for brewing a cup of coffee that doesn’t feel “thin”.)
Of course, bottled water can get a little pricey, so it’s worth doing some research on refillable options from your grocery store or find a local shop to refill containers for you. We use The Water Shop in Stephenville for our drinking and brewing water.
Filtered Tap Water
A more feasible and considerably cheaper option for improving your coffee brewing water is to filter your tap water. Pitcher or faucet filters are inexpensive and use active carbon to remove some of the sediment and chemicals from your tap water. While you won’t have pure, unadulterated water, you’ll definitely have something you can make a great cuppa joe with!
Tap filters are preferred in our opinion as they don’t require you to fill a pitcher, wait for the water to filter, then pour that water into a kettle or glass. Of course, this is a personal preference and the cost of the filters will be similar in either scenario.
Reverse Osmosis Water
Aha! The holy grail of water! Pure, delicious water. Might as well be straight from a glacier.
Of course, reverse osmosis (RO) is considered one of the most effective way to filter water and make it as pure as possible, it isn’t necessarily the best for coffee brewing. Since RO removes virtually all sediment and contaminants, you’re left with pure water. Great for drinking, but not the best for brewing. As you’ve seen above, the SCAA suggests having some dissolved solids and a neutral(ish) pH. Reverse osmosis removes all of those factors and leaves us with pure water.
We recently put an APEC ROES-50 system in our house which has served us a great deal of excellent water. We still use it to brew coffee at home without any terribly adverse effects; however, we may consider adding a re-mineralization filter in the future to add back some calcium carbonate.
Plain Ole’ Tap Water
Hey, if you drink it, use it!
Not all tap waters are treated with chlorine and other chemicals, and some tap water in certain areas of the country may actually be excellent for brewing coffee. If you drink it out of the tap, give it a try. It certainly won’t hurt to try; however, you may find more sediment in your kettle than using more refined water sources.
One trick I learned years ago when I was a home beer brewer was pre-boiling water. If you have a large stock pot, you can boil water for 10 or 15 minutes and allow it to cool overnight at room temperature. What you’ll find is that a lot of the sediment in your water will actually fall out of the solution and a thin white layer of sediment will settle at the bottom of your pot. Simply pour the water off the top of your pot without disturbing the sediment layer and you’ve got some significantly more de-mineralized and de-chlorinated water. (The boiling process actually helps to remove the chlorine as well!)
The biggest consideration here is making sure the water you either purchase or filter is drinkable too. After all, you’ve still got to drink your 8 cups of water per day. (As much as we’d all like to drink nothing but coffee all day, we just can’t!)
Choosing your water should be more about you and your family’s health than it is about brewing good coffee. There’s never anything wrong with drinking more water to help improve your overall health, and we highly encourage any well-thought-out purchases that enhance that habit.
Finally, don’t worry! Brewing great coffee is just as much about experimentation as it is experience. If you’re coffee doesn’t taste great, make some minor adjustments to improve the final product. Add a little tap water to your RO water. Blend some mineral water and filtered tap water. Do some different things to make better coffee. But, remember, you can’t make a good cuppa joe without starting with fresh coffee!
Leave us your thoughts in the comments below! What things do you do to improve the quality of your coffee? What works best for you?
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