Water Quality: How It Affects Both Your Coffee and Your Brewer

When I came to work for S&D a little over three years ago, I stopped at the local convenience store on the way in that first morning and grabbed my morning coffee. I did this without having any idea what had gone in to making it or any of the many factors affecting the quality of the end product that I had long enjoyed — water being one of them.

One of the most commonly overlooked components when it comes to producing quality brewed coffee is the water. Being that coffee is roughly 99% H2O, it’s hard to imagine that it’s not given more consideration. There are a number of variables that affect water quality, the brew in your cup and the longevity of your coffee brewing equipment.

  • Water Hardness: this is the measure of how much magnesium and calcium is in the water. Too little of these minerals (soft water) and the result is poor extraction during the brewing process and a flavorless cup of coffee. Too much (hard water) and it will take away from the flavor of your coffee by attracting flavor compounds and forming solids. Also, when hard water is heated it will cause lime scale build up within the tank of your brewer, as well as on the heating elements and spray head. This build up creates flow and efficiency issues by blocking valves and tubing that deliver the vital liquid through your brewer.

  • Chlorine: Chlorine is added to municipal water supplies as a disinfectant. More than likely you can smell it in the water itself, and it definitely has an effect on the flavor profile of your coffee.
  • Chloramine: Ammonia is an additional chemical now being added to already chlorinated water, and these two chemicals bond to form chloramine. This is done to increase the stability of the chlorination and extend the effects.

The key to providing great water for your brewing process is filtration. There are filters to help with taste, odor, scale, chlorine and chloramine and others for softening water as well. To determine the correct filter to use or if you need one at all, you must first know what is in your water. If you’re brewing at home, you can find a water test kit at your local hardware store. If you are a store owner or operator, contact your service provider and enquire about water testing.