Not all waters are the same, nor are the coffees that come from them. In our constant quest to help perfect the science of brewing high-quality coffee, we’ve tested a wide variety of options to see which types of H2O work best.
We’ve highlighted several different types of water here, and included the benefits and negative consequences of each. Read on for a guide that will help you choose the best water for your coffee needs!
It doesn’t get much more basic than tap water when it comes to…well, anything, really. Naturally, the quality of tap water depends on a variety of different factors, including where you live, the local pipes at work in your own home, and whether or not you use a filter.
However, in general, you can assume that this is the brewing style for people in a rush. It’s not a miserable way to make your coffee, but if you’re looking to treat yourself to an artisanal experience, there are better choices available.
Soft or Hard?
It’s kind of strange to think of water as being soft or hard—after all, most of us simply think of it as wet. The difference in terms refers not so much to the physical experience of the water, but to what is found within it upon close examination.
Water becomes hard when it contains an excess of calcium. When water gets too hard, it can be bad for your coffee maker. However, H2O with moderately elevated levels of calcium or magnesium can actually bring out the flavors in your java better.
The good news is that most tap water is actually naturally hard. As a consequence, you may even be using a special water softener to filter out some of the extra minerals. If you want to experiment with this consideration, doing so is simply a matter of deactivating the filter to see if you prefer your water to be soft or hard.
Just remember to reactivate the filter once the coffee has been brewed, as hard water can have a negative effect on your cardiovascular health over time.
It may be tempting to bust out the bottled water to give your coffee a much more artisanal taste. Doing so can actually be very effective. However, you do need to be very careful with how you go about this.
Some bottled water products tend to fall on the more acidic side of the scale. This water will enhance the natural acidity already present in coffee beans, and create a bitter and altogether unpleasant drinking experience.
Alkaline water, on the other hand, tends to create a much more pH-balanced drinking experience. Coffee that has been brewed with mineral water tends to be a little richer in flavor.
When shopping for mineral water, look for products that include magnesium or calcium. In addition to satisfying a small part of your daily dietary needs, these minerals will also create the “hard water” effect we mentioned. The result should be a smoother and more enjoyable brewing experience.
Does Water Temperature Matter?
Now you know about your options, but does the temperature of water make a difference? It depends on who you ask. While it would be difficult to quantify the effect that water temperature can have on the taste of coffee, there are some trends to be aware of.
It seems that most cafes tend to favor room temperature water when they brew their coffee. In fact, if you look at the labels of most major coffee beans, you’re likely to find that they recommend using room temperature water.
The effect of following this recommendation will depend on the taste of the individual. There is not complete agreement on the optimal temperature of the water that you use before beginning the brewing process.
There is one common consensus: hot water is a no-go. This is mostly because hot water will burn off faster in the maker, leaving mineral build-up in the reservoir tank.
If you want to find the perfect style of water for your coffee brewing needs, it is important to experiment. Everyone’s taste is a little bit different, so feel free to play around a bit.