The Importance of Water
Understanding Water for the Best Results
Your daily cup of coffee is made up of at least 98% water, making water quality an essential part of successful brewing. To understand what is best for brewing, it’s important to remember that water isn’t simply just water. H2O contains dissolved minerals, chemicals, and gases, many of which affect the brewing process. Too high a mineral content can negatively affect flavor. Too much alkaline can cause a soapy taste. Overly hard water can taste dry or bitter. And lastly, although it may seem contrary to common sense, water with too little mineral content can create inconsistent taste results. It's important to note that water quality varies significantly based on geographic location and the water processing in the area. For more in-depth information on water in your geographic location you can go the the U.S. Geological Survey website at waterdata.usgs.gov.
Your daily cup of coffee is made up of at least 98% water, making water quality an essential part of successful brewing.
What Type of Water Achieves the Best Brewing Results?
Its best to use water with a mid-range of minerals and dissolved solids. A mineral balance of approximately 150 parts per million is preferable. This can be achieved simply by either using a standard water pitcher with filter cartridge or using spring water from a bottle.
Hard water with a high mineral content won't bond well with ground coffee, resulting in an under-extracted, weak coffee. The higher mineral content also leads to coffee maker build-up. Lime deposits are an example of this. Significantly filtered or distilled water can promote over-extraction of your coffee while it aggressively bonds to the coffee during the brew process.
Evaluating Your Water
A general rule of thumb is if the water tastes good enough on its own, it’s likely good enough to use for coffee.
No matter which water option you choose, the Specialty Coffee Association recommends specific criteria for brewing.
- It should be clean and free of odors, colors, and off-flavors.
- It should have a neutral pH (neither acidic nor basic).
- It should have approximately 150 mg/L of dissolved minerals, including 4 grains of hardness, about 10 mg/L of sodium, and 40 mg/L total alkaline content.
While most of us do not own the testing kits needed to see if our preferred water is within these parameters, you can check with your local water treatment facility for local standards. Test strips are fairly inexpensive and available online if you’d like to test your tap water.