Finding the right water filter for your café

Cameron McDonald of Bombora Coffee + Water Supplies discusses the practical considerations and cost benefits of supplying a café with the right water filter.

It may seem like a small detail, but a lot of thought and science goes into equipping a café with the right water filtration solution. 

We work closely with our customers to ascertain the café’s critical details, such as the water quality, equipment style, and volume usage. The value of a quick and simple action of water testing is often overlooked, though it is absolutely critical to understand the sites water quality, thus enabling a café to extract the best flavour characteristics from their coffee. 

Cameron McDonald
Cameron McDonald is the Business Development Manager – Water Filtration Specialist for Bombora Coffee + Water Supplies

The team at Bombora Coffee + Water Supplies is committed to providing quality water filtration, water testing, and education solutions to the greater coffee community. It is for this reason that we offer our valued customers unlimited and obligation-free water testing.

We simply need a 300-millilitre water sample to be provided in a clean sample bottle. It is best to use a new water bottle, as any residue from previous liquids like juice or soft drink can throw off results. A barista or café owner can mail this sample directly to our office, including their contact details, address, phone number, email, and a brief on the water source’s site location and how the water is intended to be used.

Is it just for a coffee machine? What material is its boiler made of? Will the water be served to drink or used for an ice machine? These are important questions to ask, because it determines just what kind of filtration you’re going to need.

We then test the water following quality parameters of total dissolved solids, chloride, total hardness, calcium, magnesium, pH, and total alkalinity. 

Once we understand the water quality, we can build a clear understanding of the level of protection required. This means looking closer at the machine’s boiler material type and possible flow restriction issues, for example – how a filter will impact its functionality.

Not only is a good water filter important in terms of coffee flavour, it will also ensure that cafés are adequately protecting their coffee machine from potentially damaging elements, such as chloride and scale. 

The last component we think about when determining the right filter is usage. There is no point installing a filter if it will be left in past its capacity. It’s crucial that a café monitors its filter and replaces it regularly. All the filter’s positive work while actively filtering out unwanted ions is undone the moment it’s left pass its usage. It will then allow all those unwanted materials through, causing untold amounts of damage, especially if a café owner of barista isn’t aware there’s even an issue.

Bombora strives to provide the best quality, bang-for-buck solutions we can to our customer base, which is why we choose to work with BRITA for our water softening filter cartridges. 

BRITA continues to be a leading manufacturer of softening-based water filtration solutions, at a cost that doesn’t have to blow the budget of roasters or café owners. We have had an ongoing partnership with them for six to seven years now, which has grown over time as BRITA rose in popularity within the coffee community.

café right water filter
Filtered water is crucial for both coffee flavour and the health of any coffee machine.

A lot of its success comes down to the relationships between the people who work at BRITA and their suppliers. The support they offer to distributors through training, education, and technical resources has been critical to their growth and our ability to service our customers.

In every water source, there are charged atoms or molecules called ions. In a water supply, there are many different types of elements and, therefore, many different ions, such as magnesium and calcium. When there are above-average levels of magnesium and calcium ions in your water supply, the water is referred to as being ‘hard’. 

This hardness in the water can drastically reduce the overall life expectancy and efficiency of equipment, and also hamper the taste, odour, and overall aesthetics of your water and coffee. A water softening filter cartridge is one of the most common and economical ways of minimising the effects of hard water.

While water that is too hard can be damaging to your coffee machine and flavour profile, you want a certain amount of hardness in your water to maximise your espresso extraction.

So, how do you walk that fine line between water that will produce the best coffee possible with it not being hard enough to damage your machine over time? The answer is a bypass head.

Using Sydney as an example, where water hardness levels range from low to medium. These manageable levels typically do not require complete interaction with the filter’s ion exchange media. The reduction of hardness would be far too severe, which is particularly true in coffee.

So, after the water has run through filters that catch organic compounds and things like chlorine, a bypass head will only direct some of the water through the ion exchange, stripping it of its hardness, before mixing with the unexchanged water for the perfect hardness level.

A café can test for their own desired water hardness level or speak to their coffee roaster about what will work best. Once the desired hardness has been determined, they can reference the hardness figures in the product manufacturer’s setting booklet, which will assist them in picking the best bypass setting to suit their application.

In addition to customising your water, there are significant cost benefits with this technology. 

Using a water hardness level of 70 parts per million as an example – which is typical of Sydney – a BRITA Purity C150 Quell water filter with the bypass set at zero can provide 2500 litres of filtering capacity. 

By simply adjusting the bypass setting to 30 per cent, as recommended, the filtering capacity increases to 3476 litres. In dollar terms, the average cost per litre based on a retail price of $136 works out to $0.054 at 2500-litre capacity, and $0.039 at 3476-litre capacity. 

To put this into perspective, this presents a cost saving of up to $38.18, or around 30 per cent of the total cost of the filter, just by correcting and maintaining the right settings. 

If you apply this method across multiple sites, it presents obvious and significant savings for any business. 

What separates Bombora from other businesses is that we are not just a ‘water filter company’. We are an overall coffee equipment distributor, with other arms of our business including coffee machine cleaning, barista tools, brewing gear, and coffee machine spare parts.

This provides us with a unique understanding of the coffee industry and its requirements, which allows us to always put forward the best possible solution for each customer’s individual application. With a combined 80 years of experience in coffee and water, we are well poised to pair you with the right solution. 

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This article appears in the August 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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