You know that a shot of espresso is 90% water, and that means the quality of the water you use in your machine has an enormous impact on the way your espresso tastes. This is why many people use filtered water in their coffee machine. But is the filtered water you’re using as good as you think it is?
To get your head around this, you need to understand a bit about Australia’s water supply. Our water is a mixture of dam (rain) water and ground water. The amount of ground water varies depending on where you live, with WA and SA topping the charts at up to 60% ground water. Such a large proportion of ground water in our water supply means that our water contains high levels of minerals, including calcium and magnesium. Furthermore, to make sure our water is biologically safe to drink, the water authorities add chlorine to disinfect the water.
Now the problem for you is that chlorine smells and tastes bad and the problem for your machine is that calcium and magnesium form limescale, which reduces the efficiency of the heating elements, and blocks up valves and pipes.
So what to do? Well, most cafes invest in water systems to reduce chlorine and limescale but at up to $1,000 this may be considered excessive in a domestic setting (not to mention the increased maintenance requirement). There are really only a couple of feasible options for you at home.
Firstly, a jug type system which incorporates a disposable filter may be used. These filters reduce sediment, chlorine and scale, however it is difficult to judge when they are exhausted and their low capacity may be considered inconvenient. The uncertainty surrounding when to replace the filter and the cost, at around $15 – $20 a pop, may lead to frustration.
Secondly, you can install an under bench system consisting of a dual cartridge housing and a sink mounted faucet. Usually the first filter in the system removes sediment and the second removes chlorine, giving that smooth flavour you’re looking for in the cup. It is important to note that limescale is not treated in this system which means you need to de-scale your coffee machine and change out the small water softener that sit’s in your reservior at regular intervals (say about 6 monthly).
Look out for a metallic taste in your next coffees. If you notice it, it might be time to do something about it — your taste buds will thank you.