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Ideal water composition for espresso extraction

Learn how not only the pH but also the dH (German hardness) have major impact on the flavors you can taste in your espresso or morning brew. Australia did some pioneering coffee research!

The Coffee Science Education Centre (CSEC) in Australia tested the impact of a range of tap, artificially modified, and purified waters on the flavors of coffee in an espresso. The chemistry of the resulting brews and brew waters was analysed scientifically through gas chromatography with mass spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry, a bank of photometers, and a series of pH/conductivity multi probes.

What a brilliant idea! I have long asserted certain differences in the flavors in a cup of coffee to the water used, but never really thought about it scientifically. Sometimes my favorite coffee tasted completely different when brewed at a friend’s home. Other times I simply couldn’t replicate the same great taste for a coffee I’d had at work in my home. I varied the recipe, tried to compensate for certain differences but never really solved the problem…

The study looked at how three elements of water affected flavours in extraction: hardness (the amount of calcium, magnesium, carbonate, and bicarbonate in water), pH levels, and total dissolved solids (TDS).

The biggest effect on flavour was achieved by modifying the hardness of the water

Dr Adam Carr of Seven Miles Coffee Roasters

They brewed an espresso on an industry standard machine from La Marzocco and then measured the concentration of chemicals in the coffee that are attributed to certain flavour characteristics, such as nutty/roasted (2-methylpyrazine), fruity (furaneol), vanilla/caramel (vanillin), and caffeine/bitterness (caffeine).

They found what I had sort of self-analysed by drinking coffee made with desalinated water, some mineral water and very hard (dH) water in my hometown in Bussum (dH around 9-10).

source: Seven Miles

Lessons learned:

  • Minimum hardness of 50 ppm for “best” flavors
  • Higher than 60 ppm has little effect on flavors
  • pH tends to concentrate flavors, much like salt enhances flavors in food
  • Higher pH tended to concentrate stronger flavours in coffee, though not to the same extent as hardness. However, higher pH levels also led to issues in the extraction process.
source: Reddit

Read the whole article to find out the recommended pH and what the effect on TDS was…

Source: https://www.beanscenemag.com.au/ideal-water-composition-espresso-extraction/

It just so happened that the water quality you want for coffee is what Sydney Water is pumping out of their stations!

Dr Adam Carr of Seven Miles Coffee Roasters

By Christian

Coffee has been my life line for decades, it used to wake me up whenever my parents would make a pot. Having been in IT for 30 years and drifting towards Food&Beverage since 2006, I've slowly but unknowingly narrowed my field of flavors and odors from chef in the kitchen to sommelier at the dining table to barista with coffee since 2016. SCA Certified since 2017. With a background in chemistry, understanding the brew methods was very easy for me. Combined with an insatiable curiosity in knowledge I strive to learn even more about the world of coffee. Currently building up experience to participate in the Dutch Brewers Cup 2020 and if things go the way I hope, perhaps WBC 2023!

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