The importance of water in coffee


Did you know that an espresso is made up of 90% water and only 10% coffee?

On the other hand, a filter coffee is composed of even 95% water.

Water therefore has a dual role in coffee: solvent and main ingredient.

From these data you can immediately understand how choosing the right water to use is essential for the success of a good coffee.

Polluted or distilled, light or heavy, hard as ice or as impalpable as steam?

And no, that's not true, the water is not odorless and tasteless!

Based on the mineral salts, sodium, chlorine and limestone dissolved in it or on the basis of purification methods, the water changes its flavor and aroma a lot and this is immediately reflected in the cup.

Chlorine, thanks to its oxidizing effect, is one of the worst enemies of coffee, as it makes it more bitter and makes our beloved espresso cream clearer. The most suitable system for eliminating chlorine is certainly the installation of activated carbon filters.

Furthermore, we have often heard of water hardness, but what exactly does that mean?

Hardness is determined by the main mineral salts dissolved in it, namely magnesium and calcium. The more these two mineral salts are present, the harder the water will be.

They have a positive charge and are thus able to attract different aromatic compounds to themselves.

Some of these salts are therefore essential to be able to best extract the aromas from ground coffee, but too strong an attraction will not allow the extraction of other substances, which are also essential for the success of a good espresso.

It is therefore necessary to find the hardness suitable to extract the aromas of our ground coffee to the maximum, without however affecting the other components.

The water used for the espresso inside the premises comes directly from the water supply. Therefore, to know its values, the simplest and fastest method is to light your bill or get a kit for water analysis.

This control is essential in order to offer your customers consistency in the taste of the product and in the quality of the coffee offered.

While for bottled water it is sufficient to read the label. The values to which we must be more careful are: the fixed residue and conductivity. In fact, these are the ones that indicate the amount of dissolved salts in a liter and therefore tell us when a water is heavier and when it is lighter.

Now that we have understood how to determine harder and lighter water, what is the ideal value for extracting a good coffee?

The SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) has defined an ideal range between 50 and 175 mg / l, with hardness between 40 and 75 mg / l.

But be careful! These data are valid for espresso, but not necessarily for all extraction methods.

For example, for a filter coffee you should opt for water with a lower concentration of mineral salts.

This is because the espresso has an average extraction time of 25 seconds. In that very short period of time we must be able to extract as many aromas as possible and therefore we will need harder water.

On the contrary, a filter coffee has much longer extraction times, several minutes and therefore requires lighter water.

Now I want to reveal a little curiosity.

Every year there are dozens of competitions in different areas of the coffee world, from tastings, to roasting competitions, up to coffee competitions.

The participants of the last category not only select the coffee to bring to the competition and propose to the judges, but also choose the most suitable water to use and personally bring the bottles.

This shows how much the level for the success of a good espresso can rise, paying attention to every single step performed and to every component of the drink.

Martina Mazzoleni 

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