Birgit Kohler, Head of Organoleptic Department at BRITA, explains how minerals influence the taste of coffee and why water filtration can bring out the best of coffee.
With more than 50 years of experience in water filtration, BRITA believes the perfect coffee starts with the perfect water. The taste of water – and therefore coffee – is significantly influenced by the volume and types of dissolved minerals.
It also depends, to a certain extent, on the overall mineralisation (sum of all the minerals) and alkalinity (carbonate hardness) of the water.
Water is an excellent solvent that consists of more than just the pure chemical compound of hydrogen and oxygen, or H2O. Substances from the environment and minerals are also dissolved in drinking water. These influence the taste of coffee because they determine the chemical properties and solvent behaviour of the water.
The most important minerals occurring naturally in drinking water are calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulphate, and hydrogen carbonate. The latter is responsible for alkalinity, and together with calcium and magnesium, it represents the carbonate hardness of the water. This has a strong influence on the development of the coffee’s flavour.
My team in the BRITA Organoleptic Department and I know that the dissolved minerals mentioned above influence the way water extracts from coffee grounds, which affects the flavour profile. Some minerals like hydrogen carbonate also interact with components in coffee.
When there is a lot of hydrogen carbonate or the water contains too much carbonate hardness, it reacts with the fine caffeic acids. The coffee then may taste unbalanced, bitter, and flat. In general, most people prefer coffee made with soft water.
It has the perfect balance of acidity and bitterness so that delicate coffee aromas can develop. Substances from water treatment can cause unwanted chlorine, corky or musty aromas. Some can even alter the flavour profile. Organic substances in water can also often lend an off flavour. In particular, water with these types of solutes can produce coffee with a distinctive unpleasant aroma.
Water is the main ingredient in coffee. It’s a pretty big deal. To achieve the ‘perfect water’, we have developed the Purity C500 MinUp.
The professional filter solution is specifically designed to deliver the ideal degree of mineralisation, allowing coffee to develop its full aroma and flavour. Combining the cartridge with the Purity
C Quell ST prefilter ensures the Purity C MinUp releases its minerals reliably and consistently. Built-in activated carbon technology also filters substances that could have a negative impact on taste.
We believe professional, targeted filtration is key to consistent coffee excellence and achieving the perfect brew.
But coffee quality is only one reason to embrace water filtration. Using a good filter will reduce mineral build-up in the boiler – limescale – leading to the longer life of the espresso machine.
Water hardness and quality differs across Australia, from state to state, even town to town, meaning the best water solution in one case could be completely different to another. If you were to take standard tap water in Perth and use that in your espresso machine, it will probably break down very fast. The mineral content in Western Australian water is relatively high, resulting in a level of hardness which can cause a build-up of limescale within a coffee machine over time. Filtration is key to machine protection.
BRITA offers three main types of filters for professional use – the activated carbon Fresh filters, hydrogen exchange Quell, and sodium exchange Finest – each tailored to different levels of water hardness and types of machinery.
A big part of finding the best solution is BRITA training its partners and distributors, so they have the knowledge and resources to make the right decision.
Our distributor partners are essentially an extension of BRITA. They often provide the coffee machine and sometimes beans and accessories to café operators – and play a critical role in understanding where the machine is going to be placed and how it’s going to be used.
We do a lot of training with our dealers so they can go directly to site, test the water, know which filter they’re going to need, and marry that up with the machine. They’re usually trained baristas themselves, so can even drop by a café, get behind the bar, brew and taste the coffee, and make adjustments to the filter or machinery for an even better cup.
This relationship and share of education and information goes both ways. BRITA works with its roasting partners, locally and globally, to find their intentions and how to help bring those to fruition. We learn where they’re getting their beans from, how they’re roasting the coffee, and how they’re going to take it to market, so we have a better understanding of what flavour profile they want to produce and what water condition they’ll need.
We can provide a tailored multi-filter system to give them the right amount of hydrogen carbonate, calcium, and magnesium in that water solution for a more robust flavour.
Education has also been an important element to how BRITA approaches the retail and at-home market, with additional information on water hardness and filtration also available online. Many people are trying to replicate the café experience at home and realising the key role water quality plays.
You can buy a good coffee machine for your own home, but if you don’t have the right information, you won’t get the best out of your coffee, or the machine could break down from limescale build-up without regular cleaning and maintenance.
Consumers nowadays are quite knowledgeable. Everyone is online and knowledge is power. If we can give our consumers the right information from the start, they’re able to make a very simple decision on what’s the best value for them, how they can look after their machinery, and deliver the cup they deserve.
This focus on education and sharing of information will continue to be a key pillar in BRITA’S service to the coffee industry and consumers going forward. Globally, we have educational days where we do coffee and water tasting, and it’s something we want to bring to Australia.
The ideal water composition for coffee should not contain organic compounds or substances from water treatment. When it comes to minerals, instead of lacking these ingredients, it just needs to be the right amount. It might sound simple, but a good quality filter is all you need to achieve a consistent water quality.
For more information, visit www.brita.com.au
This article appears in the June 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.