In most cases, distilled water should not be used regularly in an espresso machine. On top of being chemically neutral (read: dead, zero taste), the lack of minerals and solids in the water will cause many "auto fill" systems to stop functioning. They rely partially on the mineral content in normal water to function.
Distilled water has, well, nothing. It's just the basic water chemical. No minerals, no solids. These things contribute greatly to the taste of espresso - both good and bad.
How do you test water? Your taste buds. If it tastes clean, fresh, pleasing, it's good for espresso.
If it tastes chemically, stinky, whatever, it's not.
If it tastes like.... well, nothing. then your espresso is going to suffer.
Well... Is there, as for beer brewing, a way to control water profiles a bit more? Isn't there more to the influence of water than whether or not the water is appropriate for espresso making? With beer, we mostly control hardness (permanent hardness especially) and pH in order to achieve specific results. The effect of pH is on the actual mash, as the extraction of sugars depends on an appropriate pH. As for hardness, it varies with beer styles. To simplify, soft water produces smooth bitterness (Plzen water for Pilsner beer) while hard water will produce harsh bitterness (Burton-on-Trent water for Bass). There could be the same issue with espresso making, although the chemical processes are so much faster than in beer brewing. Anyone experimented with water profiles?
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"I never discovered anything with my rational mind." - Albert Einstein
Enkerli Senior Member Joined: 1 Aug 2004 Posts: 724 Location: Montreal, Qc Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: (At cafés, not at home) Grinder: Hario hand grinders Vac Pot: (Moka Pot) Bialetti Brikka Drip: Steep and release pour-over Roaster: iRoast-2
Posted Wed Feb 22, 2006, 3:39pm Subject: Time to Brew?
Erm... This is perhaps a silly question but how do we time espresso making? Meaning, is it supposed to be 20 to 25 seconds from the time the brew button is turned on to the time it's turned off? Is it from the time the first drops of espresso nectar hit the bottom of the cup until the last drop of espresso goodness reaches the top of the crema? And is there a rundown of the values we're talking about, here? There's apparently been some discussion of dosing, with some people advocating for doses of upwards to 21g and others advocating for as low as 14g. Obviously, this is supposed to depend on a lot of factors, including the blend used. Erm... We're talking doubles, right? And what are the other parameters we're talking about? My entry level Via Veneto has been producing consistently decent shots with a maximum of 18g of grounds in the basket. Getting around 65g of espresso (don't have a reliable measure for volume, but that should be about 2 fl. oz.) in 25 to 30 seconds, including 6 or 7 seconds between the time the brew button is pressed until the first drop of dark espresso comes out of the brewgroup. The resulting espresso usually has a thick, rich, dark, and complex crema, especially if the blend used includes a good diversity of beans (for some reasons, it seems like beans homeroasted in the brown range produce more crema, but that's probably just perception). Does this sound about right? What should be values for a single? Saw some info about this somewhere but can't recall the exact numbers. What about a ristretto? Should be the exact same amount of grounds as a double? How long should it take to brew? It's difficult to experiment much with an entry-level machine. The resulting espresso is really quite pleasing, though.
Reighlok Senior Member Joined: 2 Sep 2005 Posts: 675 Location: North Dallas, Texas Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Wed Feb 22, 2006, 3:43pm Subject: Re: Time to Brew?
Erm... This is perhaps a silly question but how do we time espresso making? Meaning, is it supposed to be 20 to 25 seconds from the time the brew button is turned on to the time it's turned off? Is it from the time the first drops of espresso nectar hit the bottom of the cup until the last drop of espresso goodness reaches the top of the crema? ...
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