The average cup of drip coffee is 98% water. It’s no wonder then that water quality has a major impact on the taste of your home brew. In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between using tap water and filtered water to brew coffee at home. We’ll also talk about different filtration methods and recommend the method that is most sustainable and cost-effective. If you’re a coffee aficionado or just someone who enjoys a tasty cup of joe in the morning to wake up, this article is for you.
The Facts About Coffee and Water
Water is an essential ingredient in coffee. Whether you’re using a French press, percolator, or even an automated pod system like a Keurig machine, the process of coffee brewing is pretty much the same. First, you pour boiling hot water over coffee grinds. The water seeps up the flavor from the grounds, then it passes through a filter and finally lands in your cup as a steaming, delicious pick-me-up.
Incidentally, coffee can be a healthy addition to your diet when brewed right. According to a study by the European Society of Cardiology, “ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee were associated with equivalent reductions in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease or any cause.”
But in order for coffee to have a healthy impact, the water you brew it with must be healthy, too.
Why Water Matters So Much When Brewing Coffee
Since water absorbs the taste of your coffee beans, it’s important to make sure your water is pure before you even begin the brewing process.
If you’re using tap water to brew coffee at home, you can be sure that your water is not 100% pure. Here are a list of just a few contaminants that can impact the flavor of your tap water and, subsequently, of your coffee:
- Heavy metals
Let’s briefly discuss why each of these elements can have a negative impact on the flavor of your coffee.
Of all the contaminants on this list, chlorine has the most potential to negatively effect the taste of your coffee. It is also the most common contaminant on this list by far. That’s because municipalities throughout the United States use chlorine to purify public drinking water supplies. When introduced to ground coffee beans, chlorine has an oxidizing effect that changes the sensory structure of your coffee beans. In many cases, this makes the coffee taste more bitter.
Pesticides can seep into the tap water supply via agricultural runoff. This can result in a chemical taste of the water and, by extension, in your coffee. A good water filter pitcher can remove these chemicals and other contaminants as well.
Heavy metals include chemicals like lead, magnesium, copper, potassium, and mercury. Not all heavy metals are bad, as small traces of magnesium and potassium in water can help maintain healthy cellular activity. However, high levels of heavy metals in your tap water can leave your coffee water tasting metallic.
Though scientists have proven that microplastics are present in water in a broad range of concentrations, not much research exists pointing to the impact of microplastics in terms of their impact on the taste of water. That being said, there can be no doubt that water is cleaner and purer without these manmade materials.
Sulfur is a noxious smelling non-metallic chemical that is abundant in areas where there is a lot of decomposition of vegetation. This can leave the water smelling and tasting like rotten eggs.
These are not the only contaminants that can be found in your tap water, but they are among the most prevalent. Contaminants are also not the only factor that may impact the taste of your coffee water.
In addition to the number of contaminants in water, the other factor that may impact taste when brewing coffee is temperature. That’s why cold brew coffee tastes different than coffee brewed with boiling hot water.
Water Quality Impacts Brewing Tea, Too
If you or someone in your household prefers brewing tea instead of coffee, everything we’ve discussed still applies. The quality of the water you’re using and the contaminants in the water will impact the taste.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to remove all of these harmful contaminants from your water, and that’s filtration. When done correctly, filtration will always remove harmful elements from your water and improve the taste. This, in turn, will improve the taste of your coffee.
The SCAA-Recommended Best Water for Coffee
The Specialty Coffee Association of America, a globally recommended trade group and expert in the field of all things coffee, recommends a number of benchmarks for the perfect water to brew coffee. According to the SCAA, the ideal water to brew coffee includes:
- pH: 7.0
- Sodium: 10 mg/L
- Total Chlorine: 0 mg/L
- Calcium Hardness: 68 mg/L
- Total Alkalinity: 40 mg/L
Some kinds of water, such as distilled water, do not contain the mineral profile that the SCAA recommends. That’s why it’s important to use water that is contaminant-free but still contains trace minerals. Other key components, of course, are that your water tastes fresh, is odor free, and has a clear color. It’s highly unlikely that your tap water will meet all of these exacting standards, but you can achieve most of them with the help of a filter for your coffee water. There are many options for how to filter your coffee water, so let’s take a look at the best ways to get the job done.
The Best Ways to Filter Water for Coffee
There are many ways to filter water, but the following are the most practical ways that you’d use at home to filter water used for coffee. We’ll take a minute to describe what these methods entail, then we’ll recommend the best, most cost-effective way for most people to filter their coffee water at home.
Brew Coffee with a Reverse Osmosis Water Filter
In-home water filtration involves installing a reverse osmosis system, ion exchange system, or something similar in your home. With this method of water filtration, you never have to think twice about using the cleanest, purest water for brewing a cup of coffee. Filtration occurs before the tap water even leaves the faucet.
While reverse osmosis systems are convenient, they can leave your water lacking in the mineral elements your body needs to stay healthy and also improve the taste of your coffee.
In-home methods of filtration also require regular maintenance and additional financial investments. For instance, ion exchange requires regularly replenishing the resin supply. Make sure you know the true cost of an investment like this before choosing this option.
Brew Coffee with a Water Filter Pitcher
A home water filter pitcher is a great option if you’re looking to purify a small amount of water to make coffee. Aquagear uses a blend of activated carbon and ion exchange media that is independently tested and proven to remove 20 times more contaminants than traditional pitchers. This includes contaminants like chlorine, lead, heavy metals, PFAS, herbicides, and more. The result is delicious water that still maintains its mineral-rich profile.
Brew Coffee with Bottled Water
Buying bottled water may seem like an excellent option for brewing coffee at home. After all, bottled water brands tout their purity, and buying bottles water requires no additional effort from you. But before you make that purchase, think about the environment – and your wallet.
Most bottled water comes in plastic bottles, so using many of these a week can add to the strain on the environment, as plastic is not always recycled. If you’re brewing coffee every day, those costs can go up a lot too.
Water Recipes for Coffee Water
Some coffee fanatics and professional baristas have begun to publish their own recipes for making the ideal water for brewing coffee. These recipes typically begin with a highly distilled water as a “blank slate”, before adding a signature mix of vitamins and minerals. These components can play with the acidity or alkalinity of the water, the carbonate hardness, and other qualities.
While this is all commendable, this process takes a lot of time and a lot of tweaking depending on factors like temperature and the types of coffee beans you’re using. If you have the time and the passion to explore being a “coffee water scientist,” by all means go for it. But most average drinkers will be looking for an easier way to get the best water for coffee.
Other Methods to Brew Coffee with Filtered Water
Cafes and coffee shops use an industrial filtration system. Often these systems cost thousands of dollars and take up a lot of space. Of the methods on this list, this method is probably the most efficient and effective. Unfortunately, this method of water filtration is also not really an option for most home coffee drinkers due to cost constraints.
Choosing a Water Filter Pitcher for Your Coffee
While most of the aforementioned methods work for filtering your coffee water, we’re going to focus on water filter pitchers, since they are the most cost effective and are widely used for filtering coffee water. How do you choose the right water filter pitcher for your coffee water?
What a Water Filter Pitcher Does
Most water filter pitchers work on the same principle, but not all water filter pitchers are the same. Your water flows out of the tap and through a filter, which uses a chemical reaction to remove unwanted contaminants. Once the water has been effectively purified, you can boil it and combine it with your coffee beans for a perfect cup of Joe.
The right water filter pitcher for your needs will use activated carbon in its filters, since this removes a large swath of contaminants without robbing water of its naturally good taste.
Replace Your Water Filter Regularly
No matter which water filter pitcher you use, make sure that you properly maintain it. That’s because bacteria can build up in the filter and the technology used to purify the water loses efficacy after repeated uses.
Because of this, you need to be replacing your water filter regularly to ensure that it’s doing its job properly. Without regular cleaning of the pitcher and regular replacement of the components, your coffee probably will go back to tasting strange.
Hard Water vs Soft Water: What’s the Best Water For Coffee?
If you have to choose between hard water and soft water for brewing your coffee, experts recommend choosing hard water. That’s because hard water still has necessary minerals and additives. Soft water has been treated to remove these minerals. You should know that both hard water and soft water pose no threat to your health if brewed with coffee.
Evaluate your local water source
If your water tastes funny or is making your coffee taste strange, you might want to evaluate the quality of your local water source. There are many reasons your water may taste strange, and not all of them pose an imminent threat to your health.
Some reasons your water may taste or smell strange include:
- Hard water
- Sulfur buildup
- Industrial runoff
- Natural disaster runoff
All of these factors can impact the way your water tastes, so make sure to avoid brewing your coffee with tap water if any of these situations are in play.
Should I use filtered water to make coffee?
You should use filtered water to make coffee because filtration removes contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, and chlorine from tap water. Since water makes up the vast majority of the coffee in your cup, these contaminants can make the flavor worse.
Is it OK to use distilled water for coffee?
It is not a good idea to brew your coffee with distilled water. The distillation process involves removing all the minerals, salts, and organic compounds in water, as well as the contaminants. By wiping everything clean, you will find that this water has a flat, flavorless taste.
This flat flavor can translate directly to your coffee, as there are fewer natural compounds to interact with the coffee grounds. The same goes for water that has been purified in a reverse osmosis system. It’s best to avoid using these types of waters when brewing your coffee at home.
Is it OK to make coffee with tap water?
It is not ok to brew coffee with tap water if you want to avoid contaminants. You will also not get the most flavor from your beans. While brewing coffee with conventional tap water is not harmful to your health, filtered water is better.
Do coffee shops use filtered water?
Yes, most coffee shops use industrial equipment to provide filtered water for coffee. It is too expensive to buy this type of equipment for your home coffee setup, so consider another option, like a home water filter pitcher or bottled water instead.
Should I use bottled water for coffee?
You can use bottled water to make coffee at home, but this is very expensive to do over time.
Many people enjoy making coffee every day, so depending on how much coffee you make, you may need a lot of bottled water every week. If the bottled water is in plastic bottles, that is bad for the environment as plastic is not always easy to recycle. Furthermore, not all bottled water is the same, and it’s hard to know which brands will brew the best cup of coffee consistently.
Does water quality affect coffee taste?
Water quality absolutely affects coffee taste, since each cup of coffee consists of roughly 98% water. That’s why it’s important to use clean, filtered water when making coffee, to ensure you’re getting the best cup of coffee possible.
The Best Filtered Water For Your Coffee
Built by a team of engineers, Aquagear is a home water filter pitcher that removes that can leave a bad taste in your coffee water. The Aquagear filter has been tested to meet and exceed NSF standards by an independent ANAB accredited lab using EPA-approved methods. The filter removes many contaminants, including chlorine, heavy metals, pesticides, and microplastics. You can even sign up for a cost-effective replacement filter subscription to ensure your pitcher provides the best water for brewing coffee at all times. Try Aquagear today!