The Importance of Using Filtered Water for Exceptional Espresso

The Importance of Using Filtered Water for Exceptional Espresso

Great espresso starts with great water. While the quality of the coffee beans and the barista's expertise are crucial, the water used to brew espresso plays a vital role that is often overlooked. 

At First Batch Coffee Roasters, we are not just passionate about coffee, we are experts. We are dedicated to educating and helping our customers elevate an excellent shot of espresso to an exceptional one. That's why we emphasise using filtered water in our espresso preparation.

Coffee comprises 1,000s chemical compounds, many contributing to its rich and complex flavour profile. However, the minerals and impurities in unfiltered water can significantly alter the taste of your espresso, often in a negative way.

Here's why using filtered water makes a difference:

  1. Balanced Flavour: Unfiltered water can contain chlorine, iron, and other minerals that can impart unpleasant tastes and aromas to your espresso. Filtered water removes these impurities, allowing the natural flavours of the coffee to shine through.
  1. Proper Extraction: The mineral content of water affects the extraction process, which is the heart of espresso brewing. Extraction refers to the process of dissolving the soluble compounds in the coffee grounds to create the final cup of espresso. Filtered water with the proper mineral composition ensures that the coffee grounds are appropriately extracted, resulting in a well-balanced shot with optimal flavour and aroma.
  1. Equipment Protection: Minerals and impurities in unfiltered water can gradually degrade your espresso machine, leading to performance issues and a shorter lifespan. However, using filtered water can help maintain your equipment and extend its longevity, ensuring your investment is protected.

Here at First Batch Coffee Roasters, we start by testing what is actually dissolved in the water by measuring the TDS (total dissolved solids). TDS is a measure of the total amount of minerals, salts, metals, and other dissolved substances in the water. The dissolved solids are minerals like magnesium, fluoride, and chloride.

We aim for a sweet spot of 100 to 150 parts per million for the TDS reading. This range ensures that the water has enough minerals to enhance the body and mouthfeel of the espresso, without overpowering the coffee's natural flavours. We have found that if the TDS is past 150 or 200 parts per million, not only is the espresso taste and body compromised, but the equipment we use will require servicing more often.

Too high a level of TDS will increase scale buildup on internal parts, and we have all tasted water with a strong chlorine smell. Too much in your espresso machine will mix with your coffee and compromise the flavour. 

To test, we use a TDS test pen. These pens work by measuring the electrical conductivity of the water, which is directly related to the concentration of dissolved solids. Simply dip the pen into a cup of water, and it will display the TDS reading. 

These test pens range from $100 to upwards of $400, depending on their features. If you're interested in one, Google TDS Test Pen to find one to buy.

A basic test pen should do the trick for a home barista. Once you have the results and want to improve your water quality, talk with a water filtration expert to find the filter or even reverse osmosis system you need.

And we want to share a bit about how you, an at-home barista, can filter water cost-effectively and be kind to the environment. For instance, pitcher filters with replaceable cartridges are not only inexpensive but also reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles. Reverse osmosis systems, while more expensive, can provide a long-term solution to water filtration, reducing the overall water waste in the process.

Pitcher Filters: Water pitcher filters with replaceable cartridges are inexpensive and convenient. Brita and PUR are popular brands that can effectively remove chlorine, sediments, and impurities from tap water. Their limitation is that they focus on removing the chlorin element from your water and have a wide range of 20-40% effectiveness in reducing TDS. Depending on your starting point, this could be enough.

Reverse osmosis: Systems can be set up on a benchtop or under the sink. They use multistage filtration and can help reduce TDS consistently and at a higher rate than a pitcher filter.

While we live in a country with excellent water quality, we need to factor in the natural components of our water when brewing our coffee and understand how the dissolved solids can impact the flavour of our fantastic finished coffee.

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