How Important Is Water Quality In Coffee?

Written by:
Tyler Laporte
Photography By:
John Forson

Are you still amazed every time you turn water into coffee? I am. And even though water is one of only two ingredients in my morning cup of joe, I didn’t give it much consideration until my buddy introduced me to Third Wave Water treatment packets.

Most of the time, when I consider the factors that make a good cup of coffee, I think about the quality of the beans or what brewing equipment gets the best extraction. Historically, I never paid much attention to the water itself.

But as it turns out, water makes a big difference in the flavor and texture of your brews. And if you use a coffee machine (single cup, drip, or espresso), the mineral content of the water plays a role in the longevity of your equipment. Most likely, the baristas at your favorite cafe already take this into consideration. It’s probably why you can’t replicate their results at home, even with the same beans.

The Importance Of Water Quality In Coffee

Third Wave Coffee Water Quality Tablets

Photo by Tyler Laporte

In coffee, water is a bit like ol’ Goldilocks’ bed — it needs to be just right. And even if the temperature of the water is perfect for drinking, other unpleasant qualities may present themselves. If the water is too hard, the coffee will have a chalky or dusty tasting cup. If it’s too soft, the coffee might taste sour.

And this makes sense — as one of only two ingredients in a cup of coffee (the other being the beans themselves), the quality of your water will definitely have an affect on the final cup. However, with all the focus on growing, sourcing, and preparing, humble water often gets overlooked.

How To Achieve The Perfect Water Quality In Coffee

Third Wave Coffee Water Quality Tablets

Photo by Tyler Laporte

Because I’m no barista or chemist, building the perfect water profile at home was never a priority. Math, measuring, and general inexperience kept me from even attempting what seemed like a scientific feat. According to the Specialty Coffee Association, water for brewing standards are as follows; it should be odor and chlorine free, calcium hardness should be in the range of 50 to 175 ppm, alkalinity targeted at 40 ppm and a pH at 7.0. I didn’t see how I could achieve this at home.

But as I mentioned, a friend recently turned me on to Third Wave Water, a company based in Dayton, Ohio. Founded by Taylor Minor and Charles Nick in 2016, Third Wave Water is named after the eponymous coffee movement that refers to the coffee industry’s focus on craft, sourcing, and independence that took place in the early part of the new millenium.

The fine folks at Third Wave Water make a promise that almost seems too good to be true. They offer a simple, inexpensive way to achieve the perfect water composition for brewing coffee.

Using Third Wave Water For Perfect Water Quality In Coffee

Third Wave Coffee Water Quality Tablets

Photo by Tyler Laporte

In order to accomplish a seemingly difficult task, Third Wave Water makes tiny packets of powder that — when added to distilled water — create an optimal balance of minerals needed to make championship level cups of coffee at home.

Now, it should be said that different brewing methods require different water chemistries. So I took a small survey on Third Wave Water’s website to tell me which profile was right for my process. Since I use a V60 and often drink light roasts, the company recommended their “classic profile.” This is also perfect for folks who use other manual methods like drip or single-serve machines. Third Wave Water also makes a profile for espresso machines as well as one for fans of dark roasts.

Each box from Third Wave costs $15 and comes with enough product to treat twelve gallons of distilled water — you use one packet per gallon. Each packet has a proprietary blend of Magnesium Sulfate, Calcium Citrate and Sodium Chloride that dissolve after a quick shake of your one or five gallon jug.

Does Third Wave Water Work?

Third Wave Coffee Water Quality Tablets

Photo by Tyler Laporte

To be honest, I was skeptical about Third Wave Water. Do a quick search on the product and you’ll see the creators took it on Shark Tank. How could a teaspoon of “as seen on TV” miracle powder really change the flavor of coffee?

So I maintained a healthy curiosity as I brewed a cup of coffee with the treated water. And as I sipped, I noticed the coffee was smoother, less bitter, and less acidic than the batch I made with water from my Brita filter. The texture was also different. The coffee felt fuller, almost round and chubby. Was this actually happening or was it all in my mind?

The true test came when I brewed two cups side by side with the same amount of beans (15g) and water (240g). For this test, I used a super fragrant, carbonically macerated washed Ethiopian bean with a light roast. I went light because I knew the flavors would be very noticeable.

And again, the treated water again produced a rounder, smoother cup with less acid and the perfect amount of bitterness. The other cup was flat, sharply acidic and — compared to the treated cup — noticeably more bitter.

The Bottom Line On Water Quality In Coffee

At $15 for a box of 12 packets, Third Wave Water treatments are made for those who invest in their coffee. You also need to cart gallon jugs of distilled or reverse osmosis water home from the store for mixing. However, those small inconveniences truly lead to better cups of coffee at home. Give them a shot and you won’t have any regrets!

Buy Now: $15

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