Hi all,

Coffee is about 98% water. I am curious if anyone has any best practice water filtration suggestions for the home.

I am used to working in Cafés equipped with huge reverse osmosis systems, but now I am doing my cuppings at home and I want to afford myself the same quality. I would love to install a reverse osmosis in my home, but from what I understand there is a huge amount of waste water created in the process, and I don't believe my house mates would appreciate the added utility and subsequent waste. Is there any way to filter water yet allow it to retain mineral content other than reverse osmosis? Any one favor a specific brand or model purification system?

Cheers.

Tags: brewing, cupping, equipment, water

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"Any one favor a specific brand or model purification system?"

No.


There are lots of good options, depending on how deep you want to dive and where you are starting. Anything from a simple water pitcher with charcoal filter to small softeners, depending on what your water needs. If you are on municipal water, you can look up your water analysis report to see where you are. Do a quick google search for the SCAA's water quality recommendation, this will give you a sense of what may be required. Since you're just feeding a kettle and not an espresso machine, the stakes are not quite as high so you have some flexibility.


If your water is pretty hard, you may want to mix softened or RO filtered water with carbon filtered water to get to your target mix of softness and mineral content. This would mimic the bypass function on an RO system.

For now, I'd just start with a charcoal filter and see what that does for you.

Ditto everything Brady said.

For what it's worth, after getting frustrated with Detroit water that tastes a little funky even after running through a Britta, I've started buying jugs of water at the store.  Two parts distilled to one part "spring" water has worked quite well for my home espresso needs.

FWIW, since my municipal water is pretty soft (2-3 grains), all I do is run it through my refrigerator's PUR inline filter. This removes the chlorine and clears up the flavor. My electric kettle has seen daily use for 2+ years now with no evidence of scaling. I'd run the same water in a pourover espresso brewer without any reservation - and my standard commercial espresso install is a carbon odor-chlorine-sediment cartridge.

I'd recommend picking up some test strips from your local aquarium supply store. They do make some that will capture hardness, pH, alkalinity, and chlorine on the same strip. Test your water untreated, and after filtration. These strips, and your tastebuds (both on the water and the resulting coffee) will help guide you in the right direction.

Thanks for the advice. Currently using a charcoal filter, going to pick up some test strips and take it from there. Hopefully I won't have to resort to exclusively using bottled water!

Cheers.

I ended up bringing a sample of my tap water and a sample of my tap water filtered through a Brita filter into my local Petsmart where they do free water testing, basically just running test strips. While my tap was off the charts the Brita sample brought every parameter into the SCAA acceptable range. Thanks everyone for the suggestions!

The only thing left to evaluate is the TDS, but that's going to be bit more difficult...

I'm going to backtrack on an earlier suggestion.

Had a lengthy discussion on the subject this past weekend with some folks at the SCAA show. You should filter, but do not soften, water that will be used for brewing coffee. Softening reduces the scaling potential of the water but since it is just exchanging one ion for another it does not bring down the TDS. Too many dissolved solids are the main problem for drip brewing, not calcium hardness.

I apologize for sharing inaccurate information earlier.



Brady said:

"Any one favor a specific brand or model purification system?"

No.


There are lots of good options, depending on how deep you want to dive and where you are starting. Anything from a simple water pitcher with charcoal filter to small softeners, depending on what your water needs. If you are on municipal water, you can look up your water analysis report to see where you are. Do a quick google search for the SCAA's water quality recommendation, this will give you a sense of what may be required. Since you're just feeding a kettle and not an espresso machine, the stakes are not quite as high so you have some flexibility.


If your water is pretty hard, you may want to mix softened or RO filtered water with carbon filtered water to get to your target mix of softness and mineral content. This would mimic the bypass function on an RO system.

For now, I'd just start with a charcoal filter and see what that does for you.

Let me start by saying I am not an expert on this topic, but have been around enough to have learned a thing or two.  If you are needing good water for home cupping, the cheapest might be to grab some bottled water (not de-ionized) from the store, depending on your home's tap water. 

Water quality and filtration needs are certainly hard to talk about on a nationwide...err..international forum like this.  You need to know two important pieces of information before any further action is taken, or you are just throwing your money out the window.  You need to know the breakdown of your current water quality, and what you want it to be. 

The SCAA has poured lots of time & $ to research this over the years and released the findings for all to see.  Current edition is HERE

If you own a shop, or brew coffee regularly, I suggest the SCAA Water Quality Handbook available on www.SCAA.org, click on "Store".

Sensory Test


Odor: Clean / Fresh, Odor free
Color: Clear color

Lab Test: (Ideal | Acceptable Range)


Total Chlorine: O mg/L | O mg/L
TDS: 150 mg/L | 75 - 250 mg/L
Calcium Hardness: 4 grains or 68 mg/L  |  1 - 5 grains or 17 mg/L - 85 mg/L
Total Alkalinity: 40 mg/L  | At or near 40 mg/L
pH: 7.0  | 6.5 to 7.5
Sodium: 10 mg/L  | At or near 10 mg/L

ONLY when you know where your water is do you know what filters or methods you need to pay for to fix it.  Especially in older cities, water can change dramatically even street to street, so any salesman who tells you off the top of his head what you need without testing is lying to you (and water systems can get pricy, so don't spend lots of money fixing something that doesn't need fixing, or not fixing what needs to be fixed).

The SCAA store sells testing supplies, but any small local water quality company will have this too. 

A few words of caution/thoughts.

1-Water Softeners: Most softeners simply exchange ions, and Brady was correct that in the long run, this does not help reduce your TDS to the desired 150mg/L range.

2-Ion-free water is death to espresso machines will lead to major corrosion problems and dramatically shorten the life of your machine.  If you install a reverse osmosis system, make sure to bypass a small amount of water past the RO to get your TDS up to 150.  Then send through a Activated Charcoal filter to remove the sensory tastes.

3-On the other end of the spectrum, too high TDS (Calcium and other minerals) will lead to scale build up which has all sorts of bad affects heating elements, valves, lines...you understand.  However, a little scale is a good thing and can prevent corrosion.  When metal rusts (oxidizes) the union of the metal and oxygen isn't direct, but a series of reactions in which an electric current plays the leading role.  Espresso machines are comprised varying types of metals, water, and an electric current...every machine will corrode over time... but a small layer of scale actually helps protects the metal in your boilers and pipes from this. 

This is probably more than you were looking for in your question, but good info for anyone reading this post. 

Keith | www.VeniaCoffee.com

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