What is the Best Water for Brewing Coffee?


What is the Best Water for Brewing Coffee?
  • Water can have a huge impact on the quality of the coffee you brew.
  • Tap water (in Australia) usually isn't (even close to) ideal.
  • Two things to think about: buffering capacity and total dissolved solids.
  • Buffer comes from carbonate and reduces acidity - aim for 40-80 ppm.
  • TDS affects extraction capacity - aim for 80-120 ppm (incl carbonate).
  • Brita filters remove all buffer and leave most of the other minerals.
  • Carbon filters leave most all minerals including buffer.
  • You can mix your own water, buy water with a good minerals breakdown or use distilled water and a mineral additive (such as Third Wave Water).

Transcript (Speaker: Adam Marley)

Hey guys, welcome back to another tips and tricks. I've got my headphones in because it's a little bit loud here in the Roastery, so hopefully the mic helps a little bit. This week's tips and tricks is on water and the water you use for brewing coffee. I wanted to talk about this because it's something that has just been at the forefront of my mind a lot this week and something that I've been personally experiencing the effect of quite a lot this week. And it's saying that I haven't for a while because I've had this kind of dialed in at home, but I'm realizing that not everyone does. So that's why it's this week's tips and tricks. Water. And this is a really big topic and something that we might go into with more cool videos in the future, or like a series or something. If you have any questions, if you want to go a bit deeper into this stuff, then please put them in the comments or DM us if you want to learn more about water, go a bit further into this, then great, because there's a lot we can cover.

This week we're going to keep it a little bit higher level because last week's or last tips and tricks was 16 minutes, so let's keep it a bit shorter this time for you guys. The reason that I want to talk about water this week is because it can have a massive impact on the flavor of your coffee and both positively and negatively, and what that can mean is if you're not aware of the impact that water can have on the flavor of your coffee, you might dial the coffee you're making at home in, so dialing in your coffee at home, you might make changes to that, that you might think it's overall under extracted. You might make changes to your dial in not because the dial in's off, it might be perfect, but because of the water you're using to brew.

My kind of very quick and dirt, if you just want to get in and out and improve the flavor of coffee at home, my very quick and dirty tip for improving your water you're using at home for coffee, if you're currently using just straight tap water, or you are currently using a Brita filter, and this is kind of specifically in Adelaide because I know Adelaide tap water really well and our water's very hard, our tap water's very hard, usually too hard for brewing coffee and getting the best flavor out of it. So the quick and dirty tip is to, instead of just using one of those to instead mix some tap water and some Brita filter water when you're brewing coffee. You can start with a 50/50 ratio. You're going to have to taste it and see, and then maybe make some changes to that ratio. And we'll go into when you would know to make changes to that in this video again very quickly.

But again, that's for Adelaide tap water because it's very hard to have brewing coffee, and Brita filter water is very, very soft, probably too soft for brewing coffee. So either of those ends of the spectrum is probably a bit kind of too far, mixing them starting with say 50/50 is going to be a good place to start. See if it's an improvement in the flavor of your coffee without changing anything else. If you remember our first tips and tricks video, and if you haven't seen the other ones feel free to go back and watch them, our first tips and tricks video we talked about only changing one variable at a time. Well in this situation, in every situation really, but in this situation, water is the variable you're changing. So don't change anything else about your dial in, your extraction, just change the water, taste what difference that has.

In other states, and obviously in other countries, that's going to be very different because it depends on what you're getting out of your tap. Now, if you're wondering if you've got a Pura tap at home, that's basically just a carbon filter, so great, use that as the tap water component. But most of them, I don't know, some of them might have softeners, but a lot of people don't replace the cartridges and stuff. Yeah, kind of interchange tap water and carbon filtered like Pura tap, tap water in this situation. So that's a quick and dirty, but let's get a little bit further into it just a little bit, for those that want to learn a little bit more.

The reason that we need to kind of be cognizant of the water we're using to brew coffee and the effects that it has, we kind of want to focus on... Let's just assume straight away that the water is safe to drink and clean and has no chlorine and all those sort of things. Let's just kind of get that out of the way. Coffee you'd be happy to drink is the coffee you should be using to brew coffee with. So first and foremost. And then getting a little bit further into it, the kind of two main things that we're concerned about that are going to have a very big impact on how the coffee extracts and your flavor experience of that coffee, for both filter and espresso, is carbonate hardness and total hardness in the water.

Carbonate hardness is the thing that causes scale in kettles and hot water systems. It buffers acidity. By buffer, I mean it kind of neutralizes it, so you can very much think of it like bicarbonate of soda. You mix that with an acid, you get a reaction, but also it's going to neutralize that acidity. And so it has that impact on coffee when we're drinking it. It will make a sour coffee less sour, and potentially too much might make that coffee, which would've been really juicy and sweet, a bit chalky and flat and not very interesting. Total hardness is going to improve our extraction efficiency when we're brewing the coffee. Too much and you'll pull kind of too much out of the coffee and potentially some unpleasant flavors out of the coffee, but not enough, using water which is too soft, you might not extract enough out of the coffee and you might end up with a coffee which is a little bit underwhelming.

We're not really talking about extraction yield here, we're just talking about the flavor experience, bit underwhelming, not as complex as it could be. So really we want to find the right level of carbonate hardness and total hardness to extract enough, but not too much out of the coffee and to buffer some of the acidity, but not too much of that acidity. If the water is too hard... If you're drinking a coffee at home and you think how do I know if my water's too hard or not hard enough, if the water's too hard, then you might find the coffee is a little bit chalky. You don't get really kind of any balancing juicy, fresh acidity. It might be a bit flat. And then it might taste kind of like it's over extracted, which is what I mean about how it can kind of mess up in your head if you think the coffee's dialed in well or not. If the water is too soft, then you might find the coffee a little bit sour and thin and just a little bit underwhelming, and it might seem like it's under extracted.

And so this is what I mean about how water can have such a big impact because you might have your dial in perfect, but because your water's too hard or too soft, you might think that your coffee is under or over extracted. So have a play around with these things. Again, only changing water as the variable. Do what you've been doing at home and being quite happy with, but play around with your water and see if it makes it better or worse. And you can kind of go in either direction.

We're at six minutes. I want to throw a few more things in here. So we've had our quick and dirty, we've got in a little bit, the quick and dirty tip of just mixing Brita and tap water. So, tick. You can tune out then. Going into why, we've done that a little bit, but it gets so much more complex. We'll do that in other videos. I'm just going to go into there's a few more options for those that want to get a bit geekier about it, but don't want to do a Degree in Chemistry or anything. This is just what I do at home. The different methods that I've experimented with to get the best water for brewing coffee at home. I kind of mentioned the Brita filter and tap water thing. That depends a lot on your tap water, and that's going to vary not just state to state, but also within your state and obviously country, country to country's going to be massive variants.

You might actually have perfect water for brewing coffee out of the tap. Lucky you. Great. Melbourne, I think has some really good water for brewing coffee, just straight out the tap, in which case just carbon filtering it and you're ready to rock and roll. Well, great. Well, we're not in that situation in Adelaide. Tap water is just way too hard, pretty much everywhere in the state, for brewing good coffee. But it will vary and it will even vary kind of seasonally. The tap water solution, mixing that with Brita, isn't really perfect. What's a little bit more consistent, what I've found is getting 10 liter cask waters from the supermarket and then mixing those. Unfortunately, again in South Australia release, there's no cask water brands available which have kind of the perfect brewing water kind of mineral constituents. You kind of have to mix. But it's not too painful.

Most of them actually have very, very few... Again, in South Australia, have very, very few like very low mineral content. They're very soft waters and so they're not great for brewing straight out of the cask. There is one brand that I have found called Marble Hill which I think is one of the cheaper ones as well, has a very high mineral content, particularly in carbonate hardness. Way too high for brewing coffee. Don't just use that straight out of the cask. It'll be too hard. What I've done at home previously is get some Marble Hill and then one of the other brands of cask water... You can have a look on them. They usually have a breakdown of their mineral content. Find one which is very soft so that's going to be like under 20 parts per million, PPM, of particularly bicarbonate. And a lot of them that'll be pretty easy to find. Most of them are like six PPM or something tiny.

And then you want to mix those two together, just straight into your kettle. Doesn't have to be anything fancy and it can be relatively rough, depends how precise you want to be. But even being quite rough with this will still get you a much better experience than if you've just been using straight tap water. And so what I used to do was one fifth Marble Hill to four fifths the rest of the kettle of another cask water which is very soft. And Brita water could kind of replace the cask, the other cast water here as well, but then it depends on how old your filter in the Brita is and that kind of thing. Again, the cask is just a little bit more consistent.

Another option is a relatively new one. It's called the Peak Water; might be called Peak Water something or other, and I probably should look that up before the video. We're currently testing this. Basically, it's kind of like a Brita filter, but you can dial in how much of the hardness you want to remove, and you can then basically compensate for what you're getting out of your tap and what you want in your brew water in terms of your flavor experience. We're testing that at the moment. We may stock them, not sure. There's some other people stocking them, I think. Not sure if they're in the country yet even, but yeah, something to think about. If everyone's curious about our experiences with that, then we'll keep you updated, but so far it seems really positive. Seems like it works really well and it's really quick and easy. Again, it's like a Brita filter. There's a little bit of dialing in, but really simple, quick and easy. Great.

And then the third option is to get some distilled water and then add back in minerals. And this is kind of the geekiest one that you can dial in the most, but it requires... There's two versions of it. One is you make the concentrate yourself, which is actually relatively easy to do with stuff you can buy at the supermarket, but requires some precision and scales and some geekiness. The other version is there's a company called Third Wave Water, I think it is, which makes some little sachets of kind of pre dose minerals. And there's a few people around the country selling those. And that kind of well, you just start with nothing in the water, then you add back in something which is quite ideal for brewing water. We're at 11 minutes, man, these things just fly by. I hope I'm not going to get told off for making this too long. You guys let me know if these are too long or not long enough.

But very, very quickly once you're getting close to something that tastes good, you might want to make some variations on your water depending on what coffee you're brewing, so whether that is filter coffee or espresso coffee, or a light roast, or a darker roast, very short and shiny. If it's a lighter roast, you might want a harder water, particularly one with more buffering capacity, so more carbonate hardness to balance the increase in acidity, particularly if you're using a lighter roast for espresso because it's more concentrated. Lighter roasts and espresso, you would generally want a harder water with more carbonate hardness, and if it's a darker roast or if you're making it for filter, you could probably get away with some softer water because otherwise it might end up being a little bit chalky. And that obviously, if you're using a light roast for espresso, you wouldn't go harder. But if you're using a dark roast for espresso, maybe softer might be better.

You're going to have to do some from trial and error, which should be fun, because it's delicious and see what works for you. Again, we could talk some more about water. I feel like I've crammed it in a little bit here. It's a really big topic. If you have any questions, want to go deeper into anything, please throw them in the comments and I'll see you next time.