Coffee lovers all have their favourite coffee beans and their preferred method of making their daily cup. Not many, however, give a lot of thought to the type of water they use to make their drink. For most of us, of course, that`s because we have plenty of choice when it comes to coffee beans: South American, French, Italian, ground, beans. We have many options too regarding the way we make it: cafetiere, filter, single or double boiler espresso machines or even the old fashioned percolators.
When it comes to water though, we may assume we have no choice. We just use tap water, right? When you think though that water accounts for 98.5 % of the volume of a cup of coffee, perhaps we should be considering this vital element rather more than we do.
Tap water is a complex solution of chemicals, organics and minerals, varying from area to area throughout the UK. The alarmist suggestion that in London, because water is so heavily recycled, a glass of tap water has in actual fact been drunk on average seven times before it reaches you is enough to put anyone off tap water for life. Even water collected from a stream or as rain fall may not be entirely chemical free and should always be filtered before use. Remember that most things dissolve in water, not only minerals but also pollution: truck and car exhaust fumes, industrial and ground pollution have all dissolved into the water we drink. Water will also collect small particles of dirt that cannot dissolve, carrying them in suspension.
Our public water authorities work hard to improve the quality of the water we get via our taps. They add chlorine most frequently but this, of course, affects its smell and its taste. Coffee made with tap water can be very bitter. What should the coffee aficionado do? Mineral water reduces the acidity, making your coffee less bitter. It can be an expensive option though, particularly for those who drink a great deal of coffee every day.
Hard water makes the best coffee because the flavour of the ground bean increases if the water contains more calcium and magnesium, having run through calcium and magnesium rich soils. You cannot remove water hardness with a water filter but then you wouldn`t want to because it is not harmful in anyway and many people insist that it tastes far superior to soft water. In fact, many bottled mineral waters are exceptionally hard.
The only problem with hard water is that it produces lime scale which will clog up your coffee making equipment. You can avoid this by using a water softener (which will affect the taste) or you can descale your equipment regularly.
Spring or mineral waters taste great in coffee because they are usually moderately hard which gives the best taste. They are also filtered, of course and free of the taste of chlorine and other chemicals used by the public water authorities to clean up tap water. Home water filter units can improve the taste of your coffee too because they will remove the chlorine from your tap water and get rid of any particles of dirt. You could also use rain water but again it must be filtered in order to remove dirt and dissolved air pollution.
So if you want better tasting coffee, make sure the water you use is filtered such as that from angel springs and remember to descale your machine occasionally.