When it comes to brewing coffee, one might think that the coffee beans and the coffee-making equipment are the most important factors, but usually, we don't pay attention to the water we are using to brew our coffee. Exactly how does water affect the quality of our coffee?
Let's find out.
We all know that using different coffee beans or different brewing methods can change up the flavors of our coffee. Whether it's the roast, the grind, or the notes of the coffee, all of them can make a significant difference in the texture and the taste.
While you may think that purified water is the best choice to make your coffee, studies have shown that hard water with minerals such as calcium and magnesium actually delivers a different taste or can affect the flavors in coffee.
Acidic or Alkaline
Water usually has a neutral pH level of 7, but due to minerals and molecules that are present in it, it can be acidic or alkaline. When it comes to coffee, water on the alkaline side is preferable as it balances out the flavor. On the other hand, some claim that slightly acidic water can give you better flavors.
Although acidic water is suitable for extracting the flavors of the beans, it can still ruin your equipment and cause corrosion and mineral buildup. Alkaline water is good in small amounts. Anything that has more than a pH level of 8 can cause the taste to be dull, flat, or even earthy.
Types of water
Coffee is only as good as the water we put in it as it's 98% liquid. It's considered best to use water without too many minerals and additives in it. One can consider minerals to coffee as salt to food.
Using good quality water and the proper brewing process gives you the best coffee. Let's take a look at different types of water and how they can change up the flavors of your coffee.
Unfiltered tap water
The most commonly used and the most readily accessible, tap water often enhances the flavor and quality of your coffee. However, it can be "hard" or "soft" due to the various additives in it.
The hardness of the water and the chlorine taste will also depend on your location. To illustrate, your water could come from a nearby mountain, lake, or even underground. Each of these will have different types of minerals that affect the water quality.
Minerals in water can consist of calcium, magnesium, copper, aluminum and manganese, and other substances that could be acidic or have a metallic flavor. Even if your tap water is completely safe to drink, its taste might be unpleasant due to the chlorine that is used in the water purification process.
If you have chlorine added or other minerals in your water, they will pass on to your coffee no matter the coffee beans or the brewing method, and the taste will be affected.
One must keep in mind that some minerals are important in your coffee water, like calcium and magnesium, and the rest aren't.
Neutral tap water generally makes the coffee a bit bland as well. This is why areas with soft water need a stronger coffee. On the other hand, high mineral tap water can give you 10 times more flavor but may leave a mineral buildup at the bottom of your coffee maker.
A high-quality water filter can make any tap water taste great without removing the minerals and still make amazing coffee.
Distilled water goes through a purification process and is void of any contaminants, or at least most of them. This type of water does not have two of the essential minerals, which are calcium and magnesium, which is why distilled water is your ideal choice for a coffee maker as there is less buildup and scaling damage to your coffee maker or equipment.
But it can still not result in the best tasting coffee as it doesn't have any minerals. One can try adding minerals to enhance the flavors.
Reverse osmosis filtered tap water
Some of us have ROs or reverse osmosis filters at our house, and they usually produce purified water. This process of filtration usually removes all contaminants. Using this for coffee will not result in a differently flavored or the best-flavored coffee. One can also buy a sachet of minerals to add to the water and then make coffee with it.
These days, many filters are available in the market that can produce a blend of water with your preferred minerals and yet no contaminants. Most specialty coffee roasters actually have such filters as it gives you the best-tasting coffee.
Activated carbon filtered water
Pretty much the best for high-quality coffee, especially if you live in an area with water that could be hard. Tap-mounted filters will give you great-tasting water straight from the tap. Most of the limescale that could grow in your coffee equipment is also removed with such filters.
A pitcher filter also is an excellent method to filter your water as it uses activated carbon filters to remove orders impurities and chlorine. This is a simple and sure-shot way to purify water for your coffee.
Bottled water can be anything from purified and filtered tap water to even real mineral spring water. This basically entails that the water may have low or very high mineral content. Bottled water with low minerals may not offer the best taste for your coffee, but medium or high minerals definitely would.
If you use bottled water, go for one that has a calcium and magnesium content of 50 to 150 mg per liter. Preferably, choose one which has just magnesium as magnesium enhances the flavor compound in your coffee, whereas calcium can sometimes leave a bitter taste.
As it's expensive and uses a lot of plastic packaging, it's best to avoid bottled water for environmental reasons. Still, it will always produce a good-tasting coffee.
I hope this helps in choosing the right water for your coffee. My recommendation would be to install a high-quality water filter that does not filter out every single mineral in your water.