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How To Get Perfect Water For Coffee

And Enhance Your Brew's Flavor
How many times have you caught yourself thinking one of these things?
  • “It’s just not as good as it should be with these high-quality beans!”
  • “Why can’t I make coffee as sweet or balanced as the cafe does?”
  • “I’ve tried everything—what am I doing wrong?!”
People everywhere struggle to make coffee that’s just as good as it is in their favorite cafe. They have the right beans, the right equipment—but without the right water, they’ll never quite get there.

Water quality is likely the #1 thing people miss when trying to brew cafe-quality coffee at home

Start with bad water, and your coffee’s flavor will be stunted from the very beginning. You need water that enhances your coffee’s flavor, not holds it back.
Thankfully, getting this good water for coffee brewing isn’t difficult. Not at all, actually.
The Problem: Gross Tasting Chemicals In Your Water
Here’s the thing: water isn’t just H2O. There are vitamins, minerals, and even sanitation chemicals in there—and these things are usually positive for your health and good to consume on a regular basis.

However, they’re usually pretty bad for your coffee’s flavor. They all have their own slight flavors and aromas and can change the way your coffee brews and tastes.

Let’s look at some of the biggest factors here.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
This “catch-all” measurement tracks dissolved minerals in your water. A small amount can help give your coffee flavor, but too much destroys flavor—and almost all tap water in the world has too much for great coffee brewing.
Softness
The more dissolved sodium in your water, the “softer” it is. A small amount helps your tongue taste sweetness in your coffee, but too much will can actually make your brew taste salty… and nobody likes salty coffee
pH
This reading is for how acidic or alkaline your water is. Too acidic and the coffee can start to taste sour or even like vinegar (not so tasty). Too alkaline and the gentle crispness of a good coffee becomes dull and lifeless.
Calcium Hardness
This is a measurement specifically for calcium and magnesium in your water. The more of these minerals, the “harder” your water. Overly hard water can make your coffee flavor taste really dull and boring. This is possibly water quality enemy #1.
Good drinking water doesn’t make for good coffee water. In fact…
Most local tap water isn’t even close to being good for making coffee
Let’s look at the target range of these chemicals as noted by the Specialty Coffee Association after years of flavor research.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
SCA Target: 155ppm
Softness
SCA target: 10 mg/L
pH
SCA target: 7pH
Calcium Hardness
SCA target: 55 mg/L
If you look at your local water report, you’ll almost certainly find that it doesn’t align with these targets - not by a long shot - and this is keeping you from enjoying your coffee to the fullest even before you begin brewing!

How To Fix Your Water For Coffee

Luckily, there are a few ways you can fix all these problems to enhance your coffee’s flavor overnight. Your coffee can finally be cafe-quality tomorrow!

Let’s explore the three methods, along with their pros and cons, to see which one’s the best fit for your budget and lifestyle.
Water Filter Pitchers: Better, But Still Not Great
One of the easiest ways to improve your coffee brewing water is to put it through a charcoal filter like in a Brita Pitcher. These filters remove excess calcium, chlorine, and other minerals to provide you with water that has a lower TDS overall.

However, if your local water is extra-hard (like most tap water is in the USA), this might not be as effective as you want. Chances are, more calcium will remain in the water than is ideal, so your coffee will still be a bit more dull or unbalanced than a fresh brew at your favorite cafe.

PROS

Generally low-effort
Change filter only every 6-9 weeks
Good enough for some water sources

CONS

Not as effective as most people need
You’ll probably forget to change the filter
Likely will want to upgrade later on
Buying Filtered Water: Expensive And Potentially Wasteful
Many bottled waters are actually pretty close to SCA’s targets (spring waters tend to be the closest). They won’t be spot on for every variable, but they’ll likely be closer than your tap water, which makes for a pretty easy solution if you have a big 5-gallon jug and dispenser.

But unfortunately, this can end up being kind of expensive. If you don’t happen to have a big dispenser for 5-gallon jugs, you’ll probably opt for smaller 2-gallon jugs, which will lead to quite a bit of plastic waste over months or years.
PROS
Fairly close to SCA standards
Keep up to 5gal of good water on-hand
Can be found at any store
CONS
More effective, but still not on-target
Requires more trips to the store
Potentially lots of plastic waste
Third Wave Water: Perfectly Aligned With SCA Standards
This is the only way to ensure you’re getting SCA quality water every single time - and it’s so easy. All you have to do is empty a packet of pre-portioned minerals into a gallon jug of distilled water, shake it up, and you have perfect water for coffee.

It does take buying distilled water (which isn’t always as easy to find as regular bottled water), which means more trips to the store, but it’s easily the best and only way to eliminate flavor damage from bad water.

With Third Wave Water in your kitchen, you’ll never again have to worry about bad water hurting your coffee’s flavor.
PROS
Perfect SCA quality water every time
Dump, shake, and use
Cafe-quality coffee is 100% possible
CONS
Must order packets online
Distilled water required
… But so much better coffee

Third Wave Water

As you can tell, we’re huge fans of this product. It’s the best solution for cafe-quality water that leads to cafe-quality coffee and it works for both regular coffee brewing and also espresso!
Shop Third Wave Water
About Author
Garrett Oden is a blogger and copywriter specializing in coffee and food technology. As a former coffee shop manager and avid home coffee brewer, he's very in tune with his caffeinated side and loves to empower others to discover the joys of great coffee.
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