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How water filtration brings out the best in coffee

Brita is committed to teaching the coffee community about how water filtration will bring the best out of their coffee and protect their machines.

So much work goes into making a good cup of coffee. Producers grow and process the best beans possible, roasters roast and blend them to bring out the right flavours, then baristas grind and brew them to bring the vision to life. But coffee is only a small portion of what actually ends up in the cup.

Water makes up about 98 per cent of an average cup of coffee, and the minerals and alkalinity, or water hardness, found in it impacts what’s extracted from the beans. That’s why Richard Padron, National Technical Sales Manager at Brita, says it’s crucial a café controls the water that goes into their coffee.

“You really need the right water chemistry to give you the desired cup. Especially here in Australia, baristas do a fantastic job understanding what the customer’s drinking taste is and varying the style of water and coffee to marry up with that,” Richard says.

“Calcium and magnesium play the biggest roles in flavour transfer. There’s a delicate balancing act of how much of both we leave in the water solution to carry those taste profiles and aromas we want from the coffee.”

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 filtration coffee
The difference between an espresso with unfiltered (top) and filtered (bottom) water.

“If you were to take standard tap water in Perth and use that in your espresso machine, it will probably break down within a week. Filtration takes the lead in machine protection,” Richard says.

From humble beginnings in Germany more than 50 years ago, when Heinz Hankammer made the first Brita water jug, Brita has taken leaps and bounds in the world of water filtration, now operating in 69 countries across five continents.

Working with the coffee and tea industries for much of that time has given the water filtration company insight into how best to cater to those markets, with information from each country fed through to Brita’s research and development team.

“We hold regular meeting with our German team to give them an understanding of what’s happening in Australia and New Zealand so they can develop a product to suit our changing water conditions,” Richard says.

Water hardness and quality differs across Australia, from state to state and even from town to town, meaning the best water solution in one case could be completely different to another.

“If we take Melbourne for example, where the water is fantastic, you can run a relatively soft filter and exchange that every six to eight months,” Richard says.

“If you compare that to a state like South Australia or Western Australia, where it’s very hard water, we’ve designed stronger filters that can be changed as infrequently but have different components that can deal with that water hardness.”

Brita tests different water supplies on a regular basis to make sure cafés are well equipped as the seasons change.

“That gives us the right information to take back to the marketplace to make recommendations about what filters will work best on a particular machine, or area, to make the right coffee. We keep all that information and share it with our business partners so they can make the right decision,” Richard says.

“Australia has gone through bushfires last Christmas, flooding in some areas, and excessive droughts in others. The water condition has changed so much, especially through Sydney and some places have needed new filter setups every month or so. We share that information with our dealer partners to make sure the café community is balancing their water in the right way.”

Brita offers a range of filters for different environments and effects on water.

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. Brita has also developed a reverse osmosis system, called Proguard, that filters out unwanted minerals and chemicals in the water before infusing the desired minerals for maximum coffee flavour.

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 call.

“Our dealer partners are essentially an extension of Brita. They have often provided the coffee machine – and sometimes the beans and accessories – and play a critical role in understanding where that machine is going to be placed and how it’s going to be used,” Richard says.

“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 they 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 out 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,” Richard says.

“We can provide a tailored multi-filter system to give them the right amount of 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. Richard says many people are trying to replicate the café experience at home and realising the role water quality plays in that.

Scale and gypsum deposits can build in pipes and the boiler if hard water is used.

“You can buy a really 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,” he says.

“Consumers are really smart these days. 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 give them 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 post-COVID,” Richard says.

“We are embarking on a different form of training and education formatting for next year. We’ve got some really good tools our R&D team has produced, and we’ll be expanding our online training area with useful information the general public or our dealer network can log into.

“The coffee community is very tight-knit and becomes very personal. Until we can bring back that learning and communication face to face, we’re looking at online platforms and how to bring that community together in a virtual space.”

For more information, visit www.brita.com.au

This article appears in the December 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.