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Testing the Waters: How Water Quality is Important

An often overlooked factor when it comes to brewing coffee is arguably the most important.  WATER.

A lot of us seem to think that we have a good idea about why water is important, but today I’m going to answer a more important question: how is it important?  First, let’s consider what everyone already knows.

The Obvious

The ingredient responsible for turning tiny particles of whole roasted seeds of a coffee plant into a beverage is water.  Since most of what you’re consuming in that mug is the solution that the coffee is dissolved into, it stands to reason that this ingredient should taste good on its own.  After all, a recipe is only as good as its weakest ingredient.

Does this mean that I should use bottled water?

Maybe.  If the water out of your tap is delicious as is, it may not make sense to use bottled water.  If you have a water filtration system in place that transforms your barely-passable tap water into something that you would consider delicious, then there is also no need to bring plastic into this equation.

If you’re on the road, and you intelligently brought coffee, a grinder, and brewing equipment along for the journey, I would strongly suggest buying bottled water for use in your brewing.

The bottom line is this: if you would happily drink the water and consider it to be tasty, it’s safe to say that it won’t adversely affect the taste of your brewed coffee.

 The Less Obvious

 Distilled water is bad. 

What?  I said, distilled water is bad.  If you really like the taste of distilled water (and several people do), I highly recommend doing something different for your coffee.  The reason is that water is a solvent, and solvents tend to dissolve every soluble compound.  Now, there is a lot to love in coffee solubles, however, there are some solubles that you just don’t want in your cup.  Using distilled water is an excellent way to make sure that your cup tastes sharply bitter.

Mineral content is GOOD.

Some mineral content is good, as it can buffer the extraction rate of the solvent so that your coffee ends up tasting delicious.  Too much mineral content, and your water just can’t seem to pull enough out of the beautiful coffee that we roasted for you.  ~200TDS(total dissolved solids) is best, though ph has something to say about that as well.

Ph level matters.

Not that you have a whole lot of control over it, but if you’re savvy to these things, note that a slightly alkaline water is far better than a slightly acidic water.  Your coffee will thank you, and your health will thank you, too.

Oxygen is tasty.

Use freshly drawn water, not previously boiled (see.. I told you distilled was bad).  It turns out that water with some oxygen content tastes brilliant, and water with no dissolved gas tastes.. well.. flat.  This has an enormous impact on the taste of the finished product.

The Takeaway

Remember, a dish is only as good as its weakest ingredient.  If your water isn’t tasty, your coffee doesn’t stand a chance.  Don’t overlook this important component.  It makes up ~98.5% of your elixir of joy.  It’s worth the extra expense, especially if it’s something you drink every day. (doesn’t everyone?)

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