What is the right water to use when brewing coffee?
What is the water you are brewing with?
I’ve been facing many coffee superstitions lately, or some sort of beliefs, and the water-related topics are in the lead.
They are winning over
- the battle of “right” coffee recipes for different methods (coffee recipe is not something set in stone – it is good to change it and experiment, not simply repeat after somebody. They have a different coffee, different water, different grinder – why to repeat?)
- the idea that espresso should be roasted darker (only if you want it darker, or got used to it, but it is definitely not obligatory),
- and the question “Why the coffee tastes salty?” (because it is underextracted).
And still, amongst all these, water question is still creating lots of confusion.
To name a few – some people protect their position that the softer the water, the less minerals it has, the better it is for coffee making (my logic here is in rebellion and asks “Why not to brew with distilled water then? It has nothing at all, so supposedely the coffee will taste the best?”).
Some people opt for alcaline water, having an idea that higher pH positively contributes to the taste of coffee brewed with that water.
When water question in coffee has been already approached by Maxwell Colonna–Dashwood and Christopher H. Hendon in Water for Coffee – a must read for those who interested in the topic, talking about the way water works, and which elements contribute to the taste of coffee in which way. Check this book if you want to understand why soft water is not the best option for making coffee, and why the water for coffee shouldn’t have the pH around 9 or 5.
The truth is, coffee lovers around the world are still looking for the best water for coffee.
So… What is the right water to use when brewing coffee?
I’ll answer this question from the point of view both of a roaster and a coffee drinker – setting aside “the coffee geek” (coffee geek does no good).
The right water to brew a particular coffee from a particular roaster is the water this roaster is using to cup and taste his coffee with. Period.
You’ll ask me why.
Why I cannot use Water “X”, because I consider it the best water for brewing coffee?
Or water “Y” that is very soft?
Or water “Z” that is…
The truth is, you can.
And if you came to understand enough about water, and which elements contribute to what in extracting the coffee, you will be even able to construct your own water using the ingredients you can buy in the drugstore. Everything is good, actually, as long as you are not proclaiming that only this particular water is appropriate.
But there is one important detail, no matter which water you chose to brew.
There is already one water involved. Before you even brewed the coffee that you got, that coffee has been tasted already. With a particular water. The roaster was cupping it with a certain water, and was led by the results of that cuppung, looking for the certain roast profile. He, on purpose or subconsciously, tuned the coffee to the particular water.
And, it will be the best water to drink the coffee with, does not matter if you want it or no.
Roasted coffee is always roasted to a specific water, and it would make life much easier, and coffee drinkers more satisfied, if that idea had been transmitted wider. Every single bag that you ever bought was roasted to the water roaster has in his cupping room. If the coffee is from Sweden, or Norway, or Denmark, or United States, or Germany – every single of them is roasting to the water in their cupping rooms.
Probably it happened to you already. You bought a coffee from a prized roaster, opened the bag, made it at home…. And were not impressed, or, better to say, were dissappointed?
Most likely it is because the water you used and the water that coffee had been roasted to were dramatically different.
The message that I want to transmit with this post is simple. Buying locally roasted coffee, except for the benefit of it being freshly roasted, has one more perk, hidden from peoples eyes, but after everything ending up being even more important. Local roasters most probably roast for local water. They roast for the water you have at home.
What does it mean on practice? That you can literally brew your coffee with the tap water and get wonderful results.
So… What is the water you are brewing with?