What Is the Best Water for Coffee?

By Mark •  Updated: 07/16/22 •  10 min read

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Around the world, billions of people rely on coffee to help get them through the day. To create the perfect brew, you’ll need to think carefully about your coffee beans. But an essential element that often gets overlooked is the type of water you have. So, what water will deliver the best tasting coffee? 

What Is the Best Water for Coffee
What Is the Best Water for Coffee?

What Is the Best Water for Coffee?

Ideally, the water used for making coffee should be free from color, odor, and chlorine. It should have a pH level (a measure of how acidic water is) of around 7 and a hardness level (a measure of mineral concentration) of approximately 68 mg/L. Both filtered and bottled spring water meet these requirements. 

Having a particular type of water reserved only for making coffee might seem silly. But there is plenty of evidence that it can significantly improve the flavor of your brew. Keep reading to discover more about the link between how your cup of joe tastes and the type of water you use. 

What Is the Ideal Type of Water for Coffee? 

When you think about it, water is the most critical ingredient in coffee. It makes up 98 percent of what is in the cup. So, it makes sense that the water you are using will impact how your drink tastes. 

What Is the Ideal Type of Water for Coffee 
What Is the Ideal Type of Water for Coffee?

Usually, the water quality will come down to the type of minerals in the water supply. The council generally adds these. For example, they might put fluoride into the water supply to aid dental health. 

These variables will determine how easy it will be for you to extract flavor from the coffee beans. They will also impact the type of aromas that your coffee is producing. Plus, it determines how often you’ll need to clean your coffee machine. 

According to research performed by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, these are the ideal levels of each water element: 

VariableWhat it MeasuresIdeal Levels for Coffee
ColorThis refers to how the water looks when it comes out of the tapClear
OdorHow the tap water smellsHigh-quality water shouldn’t have any smell
Chlorine LevelsSometimes, a small amount of chlorine might be used to kill bacteria.0mg  
pH LevelThis is a measure of how acidic or alkaline the water is. 7 is neutral, high levels are alkaline and lower levels are acidic.Between 7-7.5
SalinityMeasures the amount of salt present.10 mg/L
HardnessThis is the number of minerals in the water. Specifically, the level of calcium and magnesium.68 mg/L

Why Are These Variables Important?

Now that we know the ideal water composition when making coffee let’s take a closer look at how they impact your coffee flavor profile. 

The coffee’s color and odor will affect the brew’s aesthetic appeal. Color and odor are also likely to indicate a more serious underlying issue with the water quality, which shouldn’t be ignored. 

The chlorine and salinity levels might have a direct impact on the way the water tastes. No one wants to have a salty cup of coffee to start their morning. High chlorine levels might cause your water to develop a metallic taste. 

The pH levels impact how the flavor will be extracted from the coffee beans. As a general rule:

  • If the water is too acidic, you might notice that the coffee will taste sour and develop an unpleasant vinegar sensation. 
  • The flavor won’t be adequately extracted if the water is too alkaline, causing dull flavors.

The hardness levels will also determine how much flavor can be extracted from the coffee. In this case: 

  • Low hardness levels will prevent extraction. This will stop you from getting a full-flavored cup of coffee. 
  • Too high, and the minerals will build up within the machine. Mineral build-up can make it harder for water to get through, so you must spend more time cleaning your device. This is why many machines set an upper limit for water hardness, usually 60 ppm

Is Tap Water Good for Coffee? 

Tap water can be used for coffee, though there is a chance that it won’t produce the optimal flavor. This is because it doesn’t have the proper chemical composition; this is usually because of additives like fluoride and chlorine, which can impact the taste. 

In the U.S., the EPA ensures that tap water is safe. But the agency doesn’t check the water variables to ensure they are optimal for coffee making. 

Each of these variables will vary substantially from one council area to another. The good news is that keeping track of these variables doesn’t have to be complicated.

Is Tap Water Good for Coffee 
Is Tap Water Good for Coffee?

You should be able to find information on the water levels in your local area through your city website. Like most reports, it will be stuffed with useless information, so it’s best to use CTRL+F to get the stuff you are interested in. 

If you have your own well, you will need to get a test to see how the water stacks up. You can easily find a test kit in most hardware stores. 

There are a few other signs that your water won’t be suitable for making coffee, this includes: 

  • Odd smells 
  • An unpleasant metallic taste, which indicates high levels of chloride 
  • Mineral build-ups plaguing your coffee maker

However, in most cases, it’s unlikely that your water will meet the requirements for making great coffee. Because of this, you might need to take some time to prepare your tap water before you make coffee. We’ll discuss how you can do this a little later. 

Is Bottled Water Good for Coffee? 

Some types of bottled water are suitable for coffee; spring water is the best example. Other varieties, like reverse osmosis or distilled water, won’t be appropriate. They lack the minerals needed to extract flavor from the coffee beans, resulting in a dull brew. 

If the test results confirm that the tap water in your local area isn’t suitable for making coffee, you might want to consider turning to pure water, often known as bottled water.

Is Bottled Water Good for Coffee 
Is Bottled Water Good for Coffee?

However, this approach will be costly. 

The other reason it’s not very smart is that bottled water is often too soft to make coffee. This means you won’t have the minerals needed to extract flavor from the beans, leading to a bland brew. A few other types of water will result in a dull taste. These are: 

  • Reverse osmosis water
  • Distilled water

Though it should be noted that bottled water quality will depend on where you are sourcing it from. For example, spring water tends to be close to the ideal water requirements. This makes it a good choice for coffee. 

Instead, it’s recommended that you stick to using tap water to make your coffee, though you’ll need to ensure that you prepare the tap water properly first. 

How Can You Optimize Your Water for Making Coffee? 

The easiest way to prepare water when making coffee is by filtering it. This will remove any impurities impacting taste and cause liming in the coffee machine. Maintaining the coffee maker is also essential so it isn’t affected by a mineral build-up. 

It’s a good idea to add a filter to ensure that tap water is suitable for making coffee. A filter allows you to remove any impurities, primarily if you reside in an area where the water is too hard: 

  • Commercial-grade filtration. This is the secret behind the delicious coffee you can get in your local Starbucks. It’s how they make sure that all their drinks taste the same, regardless of the composition of the local tap water. But these systems will come with a hefty price tag, so unless you’re Jeff Bezos, it’s best to opt for another purification option. 
  • Purifier on the tap. This will be screwed onto the end of the fixture, filtering the water to remove heavy metals. 
  • Water filter in the fridge. Some modern fridges come with an in-built water purifier. These do an excellent job removing minerals, but the cold water will take longer to boil. 
  • Purification jugs. This is the more affordable option. You just use purified water for coffee and regular tap water for everything else, so the filter lasts longer. Though they are going to be inefficient if you want to make a larger batch of coffee and need to purify a lot of water at once. 

There are a few types of purification systems that you can use, depending on what you want them for. For example, charcoal filtration systems will be best if the mineral level is within the correct bounds, but the water smells unpleasant. If the water is too hard, it might be best to use a fine particle filter, which removes unnecessary minerals. 

How Can You Optimize Your Water for Making Coffee 
How Can You Optimize Your Water for Making Coffee?

Next, it’s crucial to consider your coffee machine’s quality. As we mentioned, hard water can cause the device to become clogged up with minerals. If this happens, it can start to negatively affect the quality of your coffee. There are a few signs that you need to do this, including: 

  • Water is no longer flowing freely because the machine has become gummed up
  • Sediment in your coffee
  • Your coffee will start to taste bitter
  • A build-up in the coffee machine might lead to a bitter smell

Maintaining your coffee machine is relatively easy. Here is an excellent guide to walk you through the process. 

How often you’ll need to descale your machine will vary. If you are filtering the water, you can remove a lot of the minerals that can end up clogging your coffee maker. But you’ll still need to descale once a month. If you don’t filter your water and live in a place with hard tap water, you might need to descale once a week. 

Finally, it’s essential to consider how you store the water. Ideally, it should be going from the tap directly into the machine. If you leave it sitting uncovered on the bench for too long, it will absorb the carbon dioxide from the air. 

How Hot Should Water Be When Making Coffee? 

The ideal water temperature when making coffee is between 195- and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (90 to 95 degrees Celsius). If the water is too hot, there is a chance that the coffee will be bitter. Too cool, and the flavors won’t be adequately extracted, resulting in a weaker brew. 

While the quality of the water is essential, it’s also important to consider how hot it should be. Contrary to popular opinion, you shouldn’t use boiling water when making coffee. You’ll end up burning the beans, creating a bitter taste. 

How Hot Should Water Be When Making Coffee 
How Hot Should Water Be When Making Coffee?

On the other hand, if it isn’t hot enough, it won’t be able to extract enough flavor from the beans, creating a weaker brew. 

You must wait until the water is between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit (90 to 95 degrees Celsius), then pour it over the coffee. The best way to do this is by letting the water boil, then giving it a short period to cool down. 

Final Thoughts

Coffee comprises 98 percent water, so you should ensure you use the good stuff. Thankfully, a simple water filter is all it takes to enhance the flavor of your morning cup of joe. If you want to choose a fancier option, you can use bottled spring water. 

Sources

  1. SCCA
  2. Livescience
  3. Mashed
  4. Ncausa
  5. Javapresse

Mark

G'day from Australia! I'm Mark, the Chief Editor of Portafilter. I'm super passionate about everything coffee-related and love to spend endless hours mastering pulling the perfect shot on my Breville Barista Express. Follow on: Linkedin and Facebook.

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