BRITA explains how coffee would taste without water filtration


BRITA’s Head of Organoleptic Department Birgit Kohler explains how coffee would be affected by the absence of water filtration.

Open a textbook and you’ll find a definition of water that goes something like this: a chemical compound with a molecule comprising two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O). However, chemically, pure water doesn’t occur in nature. Water is known as a universal solvent because it can dissolve a wide range of substances. When water from precipitation percolates through the ground, it picks up other atoms and molecules along the way. Therefore, the water we encounter in our everyday lives in oceans, lakes, rivers, groundwater, and tap water, inevitably contains a blend of minerals and chemicals, and its exact composition – and therefore its properties – also varies from place to place.

Other substances dissolved in the water can cause technical problems in coffee machines, for example, by leaving scale deposits and detract from or alter the flavour of coffee brewed with water containing them. To achieve a flawless cup of coffee with an optimal, harmonious flavour, it’s important to avoid certain substances such as chlorine and organic molecules and adjust its mineral content to a ‘good’ level. This improvement can be done with BRITA’s water filters.

The difference

The overall sensory experience of coffee referred to as ‘flavour’ comprises three components: aroma (smell), taste, and body (touch, an aspect of mouthfeel).

If you ask 10 coffee lovers what ‘good’ coffee is, you’ll receive an equal number of different answers. Every coffee drinker has their own definition of ‘good’ coffee, and it can vary greatly depending on family or regional customs. Some people, for example, prefer coffee with a distinctly sour note, while others favour a bitter taste. Nevertheless, we at BRITA and coffee associations such as the Specialty Coffee Association, agree that for the majority of people, a harmonious balance of flavours is important for a ‘good’ coffee. All of the relevant sensory dimensions – like aroma, taste and mouthfeel – should be in an equilibrium relative to one another. No single attribute – such as sourness, bitterness, fruitiness or roasted aromas – should dominate, and the coffee’s body should be neither too thin or watery, nor too thick or heavy.

The substances that occur in tap water can impact the flavour of coffee in equally diverse ways. Although its taste ultimately depends on many factors, there are several verified causal relationships between the chemistry of water and the sensory experience of drinking coffee made with it.

The most important substances that need to be monitored and adjusted are ions (calcium, magnesium, and hydrogen carbonate), while chlorine and organic compounds should always be minimised as much as possible. Depending on their type and concentration, they can alter the overall flavour profile or, worst-case, turn drinking coffee into a disappointment despite use of the best beans and careful preparation.

The issue

A wide range of factors must be skilfully managed down through the value chain to achieve a cup of coffee that genuinely delights the senses. Along the way, filtration of the brewing water protects the coffee machine from deposits or corrosion. But did you know that filtering water also adds value by enhancing the sensory experience of drinking coffee?

If you’ve taken steps to protect your machine by suitably treating the water but still aren’t satisfied with how the coffee tastes, there may be an alternative solution that achieves both goals, namely protection of the machine, and good flavour. For example, central softening units have been installed in many modern, commercially used buildings to prevent unsightly scale spots and deposits in pipes and equipment. It could even be that you’re renting and operating a gastronomic facility in a building where this is the case, but you aren’t aware of it yet. If so, this might be the reason why the coffee you so meticulously prepare has a clearly pronounced roasting aroma and tastes bitter even though your coffee machine is protected from scale. In this case, a BRITA decarbonisation filter could mitigate the pronounced roasting aroma and bitterness to yield coffee with a more harmonious flavour profile.

When chlorine is present in water, even in small amounts, it reacts with substances in the coffee and can alter the resulting beverage’s aroma profile in unpredictable ways. Filtering water with activated carbon is recommended to eliminate this erratically disruptive influence. Organic compounds can also impart an unpleasant odour to water. As soft waters can also consistently or occasionally contain chlorine and/or organic substances, BRITA filtration with activated carbon is also recommended.

Certain substances contained in ‘scale water’ restrict the sensory effect of natural coffee acids by converting them into substances that do not taste sour. This can, in turn, amplify the sensory impact of other flavour-defining factors such as bitterness and roasted aromas. Decarbonisation reduces scale-forming ions while also allowing a higher share of acids to persist, resulting in a balanced coffee flavour.

Although gypsum water and scale water leave different kinds of deposits, their negative sensory effects on the coffee are comparable. The filtration technology of softening, which is the right choice for protecting the coffee machine from gypsum water, can increase bitterness and roasted aromas while keeping sourness low.

In very soft waters, the levels of the substances required for coffee flavour to develop are below the recommend amount. The natural acids contained in coffee are inadequately buffered as a result, causing the flavour balance to tip excessively in the sour direction. To reduce its sourness, it’s necessary to systematically add the needed ions to the water using a BRITA mineralisation filter. This neutralises the acids and restores a harmonious balance of flavours.

Soft waters have the appropriate kind and level of ions. However, you can never be sure that they consistently do not contain any chlorine and/or organic compounds, so it is recommended to filter soft water with a BRITA activated carbon filter.

The solution

BRITA offers flexibility in our water filter range to accommodate for different water supplies and conditions.

After looking at the different water conditions around the country, BRITA determined its PURITY C series could meet the needs of most Australian cafés. PURITY C consists of three primary ranges: the PURITY C Quell, PURITY C Finest, and PURITY C Fresh, available in a range of sizes. Each filter uses a particular filtration method to reduce particles like rust or scale and activated carbon to reduce chlorine compounds and organic impurities.

BRITA has been a trusted brand within Australia for many years. It started with our consumer portfolio, introducing Australians to our world-famous in-home water filter jug systems. Naturally, we progressed to manufacturing our professional range and within Australia, many coffee dealers welcomed us with open arms, understanding we had a solid and recognisable brand presence and reputation.

This has led to BRITA becoming the water sponsor of the inaugural Richest Barista competition, taking place at this year’s Melbourne International Coffee Expo. The competition is a knock-out format, fast-paced competition designed to exhibit incredible barista talent to the global coffee industry.

While we continuously work on new products, our commitment never changes. Working hand in hand with our business partners has only cemented our good name in the industry, leading us to success. Australia is a unique country and one that BRITA intends on supporting with outstanding sustainable water solutions for many years to come.

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This article appears in the August 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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