Quality Water, The Secret Ingredient For Better Speciality Coffee | By Chris Harvey
When brewing coffee at home, water can be a variable that’s difficult to control. Not all water is made equal and it can have a huge affect on the taste of your coffee.
If you’re used to drinking instant coffee or tea, then you’re probably used to filling your kettle with water from your tap and you aren’t likely to give it a second thought. However, as you start to invest more time and money in better quality equipment and better quality coffee beans, don’t underestimate the role water plays - after all, water is what makes up 99% of your cup. Following on from previously discussing the methods to grind your coffee, here are some things we need to consider with regards to water.
1/ Quality of the water
The water we use to brew our coffee should be fresh, look clean, smell clean and most importantly taste clean. The cold water from your tap is usually fresher than the hot water and therefore will taste fresher.
Local water varies widely from place to place, but if you frequently drink your tap water and you think it’s pleasant tasting then you’re off to a good start.
Chlorine content is something you need to avoid in the coffee brewing process. Chlorine, even in small amounts, can affect the flavour profile of your beverage. It will reduce the pH balance of your coffee, making it more acidic and harsh.
2/ Water hardness
This is determined by the density of calcium and magnesium present in your water. Not only does a high amount of these mineral ions in the water affect the overall flavour of the water, but when heating hard water limescale will be produced at a much faster rate than soft water, which will damage your coffee machine over time.
Hard water characteristically leaves coffee tasting bitter, and so that’s something to try and be mindful of when troubleshooting your brew.
Water Solutions For Better Coffee
1/ Filtered water
A good solution for hard water, or for water with a high chlorine density, is to use a filter jug. The filter works by using carbon in the filter to remove any unpleasant flavours, such as chlorine. The filter also replaces some of those mineral ions with sodium, which balances the density of the calcium and magnesium mineral ions.
2/ Bottled mineral water
We can’t really recommend this with a clear conscience due to the environmental impact of bottled water but is a solution none the less. Bottled water is treated and the labels will give you an indication of the mineral density and Ph (when looking at the Ph scale, 7 is the magic number).
3/ Ask your local coffee house
Cafes and coffee house will treat their water by effectively removing all the mineral ions from the water and then re-introducing them in their own desired ratio for the coffee they make. It’s not a hard and fast rule that all cafes do this, but if any of your locals do then it might be worth popping in and asking if they’d be happy to share their water with you. Obviously, you’ll likely be expected to pay for the water they produce but it is much more environmentally friendly than buying bottled mineral water.
4/ Ask your favourite coffee roasters
If you have a favourite coffee roaster that you always use, reach out and ask them what water they use to taste the coffees they produce. This can help you highlight what you should be tasting in your brews and is a good way to troubleshoot.
About Chris Harvey
Chris Harvey is a professional photographer and content creator with a huge passion for coffee and travel, as well as one with a keen interest in fashion and design. As a digital creator, Harvey has worked on product photography campaigns for Ted Baker, Dior, Son of a Tailor, Lyle & Scott, ASKET and Le Labo Fragrances, as well as having worked with the likes of Tessuti, Essential Journal and Liquid. See for yourself here, on Harvey's Instagram.
GUSTATORY (adjective): curating excellence in taste.