The Truth About Water
Once we found the perfect fair trade organic dark roast bean for our cafe, it was time to match it with the perfect water. I cannot tell you how many times I have been on vacation with me family and we see a quaint little coffee shop so we decide to get coffee only to be dissatisfied because the coffee (although the beans may have been great and freshly ground) tasted terrible!
The first culprit of terrible coffee (other than having poor quality beans) is WATER!
One of the worst things a coffee shop can do is make their coffee with city water! Absolutely disgusting! City water is typically river water. While this type of water has a lot of pollutants and contaminants to begin with, it is put through an assortment of cleaning processes and purity tests before entering your home. By law, city water is treated on a daily basis and often has chemicals added to it such as chlorine and fluoride. City water often contains minerals that will give the water an unpleasant look, taste, smell.
I have never heard any customer ask, "Could you please put a little more chlorine in this coffee for me?"
Terrible! And yet, I see it all the time. They sometimes have filtration systems, but unfortunately, most of them don't change the filters often enough, use the incorrect filters or don't even have the proper system for removing chlorine or fluoride from the water!
Another terrible crime against coffee...distilled water. You may ask, but isn't distilled water better than city? Yes and no. First of all, it is better because it has no chemicals, but it's bad because it has nothing else in it...it is empty, void of anything useful.
Distilled water will ruin your machines because when you use it, the distilled (empty on a molecular level) water absorbs minerals like a sponge from anything it is in, whether your machine (it robs your heating elements of their minerals eroding them away) or your body, actually taking things from you that your body needs to be healthy.
Worse yet, distilled water, because it is void of even hardness, has nothing for the oils from the coffee beans to hold on to, therefore when you brew with distilled water, you end up with hot brown water with hardly any flavor because the coffee oils are still in the filter.
Finding the perfect water with the proper hardness and Ph balance is important! If you do not have the proper hardness, the oils cannot go into your pot, if you do not have the proper Ph balance your coffee can be acidic causing stomach problems, acid re-flux, etc.
What is the perfect Ph balance and hardness? That there is one of the trade secrets. Because the perfect hardness determines how much oil goes into the pot, and that changes with the type of bean and how it was roasted. As far as the perfect Ph balance, it depends, because coffee is acidic, too much in the water makes it too acidic, not enough and you lose flavor. So it boils down to a lot of experimenting.
We have found the perfect Ph balance and hardness for our Organic Fair Trade coffee. Although it's a trade secret, even if I told you what the exact numbers were, that doesn't mean it would work with another bean.
Water Ph and hardness is balanced against the bean, the roast, the grind and the machine used to extract the coffee! Different beans have different acidic levels, and the roasting can change this as well. The grind and machine both matter too. So it really is a matter of experimenting and testing your finished product!
If you want to really taste what I'm talking about, stop in at The Blue Heron Cafe in Tawas City Michigan and you can taste the difference yourself.