Quality in the Cup: Water Filtration and Coffee

Water filtration has a critical impact on the quality of all types of beverages, but this is true for coffee in particular.

Why is that?

To start, coffee is more than 98 percent water, so it is important to have proper water filtration to guarantee consistent, great tasting coffee. With a water filtration system, particulates and sediment that affect water quality are captured and filtered out of the water.

Along with improved taste, which helps to build a loyal customer base, water filtration also protects the equipment to reduce equipment failure and maintenance costs.

Water filtration can positively impact both the taste of the coffee and equipment performance by addressing three water issues:

Chlorine or Chloramine

Chlorine, a disinfectant in water, affects the taste and aroma of the coffee. A water filtration system utilizing a carbon filter will remove the taste and odor problems from chlorine.

Alternatively, chloramine may also be used as disinfectant. A combination of chlorine and ammonia, chloramine provides longer-lasting disinfection than chlorine. A water filtration system utilizing granular activated carbon will remove taste and odor from chloramine.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

The level of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) can affect the strength of the coffee — leaving it tasting weak, or in some instances, strong and bitter. A fine balance is required, and one method of reducing the TDS is by using a reverse osmosis system.

Water Hardness and Scale

A component of TDS is hardness that forms scale buildup when water changes phases (is heated or freezes). In the instance of coffee, the water is heated, and the hardness minerals become concentrated on the heating elements of the equipment. This buildup creates maintenance issues and equipment downtime and increases the energy consumption of the equipment. To reduce the costly effects of scale buildup, a reverse osmosis system, or alternatively, a hardness reduction system or scale inhibitor, should be installed with the water filtration system.

When it comes to specialty coffee — defined by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) as a coffee which scores 80 points or above on a 100-point scale — the specifications become even more stringent.

The SCA’s Statistics & Standards Committee has determined standards for the water used to brew specialty coffee. According to the SCA website, the brewing water should have specific characteristics for a superior quality extraction of coffee solids. These characteristics are shown in the chart below, with the target being the most desirable point in the acceptable range, but falling within the range is considered meeting the standard.

1. Odor is based on sensory olfactory determination. 2. Color is based on sensory visual determination. 3. TDS measured based on 4-4-2 conversion.

For many specialty coffees, a water filtration system with reverse osmosis is used because it allows the proper amount of TDS to be added back into the water for optimized water quality that results in the perfect cup of coffee.

When correctly built and configured for an operation’s unique needs, a water filtration system will both reduce the downtime for coffee equipment and improve the water quality for coffee-based beverages.

Learn more about determining water quality in this article.