grumpybarista Senior Member Joined: 19 Feb 2007 Posts: 220 Location: Detroit Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: LP Pub1 Grinder: Mazzer Mini w/ doser, NS... Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup Drip: French Press, aeropress Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Thu Jun 28, 2012, 8:44am Subject: Water alkalinity: how does it affect the coffee?
One of my colleagues at work insists on using alkaline water for his coffee (I will leave the fact that he seems partial to Nescafe Instant for another discussion). I hadn't heard of this preference before and did a quick search about it and have found that some people swear by it for various reasons (health, taste, "purity", coffee/tea acid offset, etc.). I'm wondering what the opinions in this forum are, though. I'm not necessarily looking to change from my current system (tap water with inline filter and softener from Chris Coffee). I am content with the taste of my coffee, but I'm curious what else is out there...
Posted Thu Jun 28, 2012, 9:20am Subject: Re: Water alkalinity: how does it affect the coffee?
I see a couple of problems here. Low (acid) pH means extra hydrogen ions, and high (alkaline) pH means a low number of H+ ions. First, water by itself doesn't stay alkaline or acid; it naturally balances itself out. In pure water, an excess of H+ ions will grab electrons from somewhere and make H2 gas, or join with a wandering OH and neutralize itself. Pure water has a natural equilibrium of a pH concentration of 7, and tends toward that without any external stress.
There is a machine out there that produces "Kangan water", and it separates water into acidulated and alkalinized (?) components, I believe through electrolysis. The producers of this equipment make all kinds of health claims for the alkaline side, but my understanding of the equalizing tendency of water would cause this alkalinity to quickly dissipate, and thus Kangan water is a hoax or at least a dissemination of chemical ignorance. Perhaps a chemist could speak up here and support or refute me with more authority.
The only other way to make alkaline water is to add a chemical to it (such as lye) that would put extra hydroxyl ions (OH-) in the water. These would tend to grab any remaining free H+ ions, of which there are always some, to make H-O-H or water, thus lowering their concentration and raising the pH. Adding stuff to water is certainly not what he's talking about here; but changing the pH of the brewing water would certainly change the extraction. It would be like brewing your coffee with vinegar (acid), certainly not what you want.
Google searching on the topic "Kangan water hoax":
I've found a commentary about the unscientific promotion of alkalkine water as "healthier" at apswater.com. It doesn't discuss my understanding of water equilibrium, but it does open the curtain behind alkaline Kangan water.
I've also found this comment to support my chemical understanding of water: "Pure water can never be alkaline or acidic, nor can it be made so by electrolysis. Alkaline water must contain metallic ions of some kind — most commonly, sodium, calcium or magnesium. ". This can be found here, about 15% of the way down the page.
Posted Sun Sep 23, 2012, 4:44pm Subject: Re: Water alkalinity: how does it affect the coffee?
However reactionary Donald and others may be against ionized water, the main question here went unanswered.
Does water PH change the taste or chemistry of coffee?
I happened to inherit a water filter/ionizer, which happens to be one of the best water filters on the planet. Since it has an ionizer built in and I have a pretty huge PH range to choose from, I'd like to know the answer as well, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Donald's claim that the alkalinity or acidity imparted by electrolysis only holds for a brief while and eventually pans out to neutral after a little while (I believe it returns to neutral in less than 2 days), this is obvious and known by people who buy these ionizers. It's actually the whole reason people buy them. If water held the altered PH, people would be able to buy bottled ionized water in the store and it would be effective. Instead they ionize the water at home and drink it before it returns to neutral. Though Donald's nearly useless reply would suggest otherwise, ionized water is actually alkaline (or whatever PH you set it to) for a limited time and that does have an effect of the chemistry of the coffee. If anybody doubts that, I invite them to come use PH test strips on my water. I can taste the effect when I use alkaline water. My opinion is that neutral is probably best for optimum flavor unless you have a specific reason to neutralize some of the acid, but that's only my guess, and it would be great if somebody could share specific knowledge on how water PH effects coffee.
wargun02 Senior Member Joined: 28 Apr 2013 Posts: 2 Location: Oklahoma Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Philips Saeco Syntia
Posted Mon May 6, 2013, 7:50am Subject: Re: Water alkalinity: how does it affect the coffee?
Greetings and I'm new to this forum. I was actually looking for more information on brewing coffee with alkaline water. I too so happened to have a home Panasonic alkaline water dispenser, and to my personal opinion, my coffee just taste flat after brewing with it. It just lost that sourly taste that coffee is suppose taste.
I have the same thought too about neutralizing the acidity of the coffee with alkaline water. But, something in me that just doesn't feel right about this whole idea of brewing coffee with alkaline water. Has anyone felt more comfortable with the tummy with alkaline water on coffee or does it makes the tummy inflate and gassy?
By the way, thanks svyerkgeniiy for the wonderful information.
Posted Sat May 11, 2013, 7:46pm Subject: Re: Water alkalinity: how does it affect the coffee?
I have to jump on this one. I've recently been investigating mineralizing filters, which all make health claims owing to more minerals and more alkalinity. Here is my coffeegeek thread on finding the perfect water filter.
I have yet to find any studies giving credence to health claims for alkaline water. But the benefits of mineralized water over distilled or RO water are documented. One reference I really like is the World Health Organization's survey of studies done in the USSR. But I digress--we're talking about alkaline water, not mineralized water.
If you want a good starting point on overall health claims for alkaline water, Dr. Mercola's page does a pretty good job of presenting claims and discussing them with some integrity.
I've had people tell me that drinking alkaline water will add antioxidants and fight cancer, reduce polyps, add vitality, etc. Some of these people work in the health profession. But I also think most people, including doctors and nurses, make lousy researchers, and I've often found critical studies that disproved or challenged their assumptions. In my searches, I did in fact find one study that documented people feeling better after injesting alkaline water for several days or weeks, but now I can't recall the reference to save my life. If I could, I would apply better criteria to see if the study still seems credible.
For example, when you search for definitive studies about alkaline water, there are three factors that need to be evaluated separately:
1) Health benefit of drinking more water 2) Health benefit of drinking alkaline water 3) Health benefit of drinking mineralized water
Most anecdotal accounts don't even factor out the first of these. And most "scientific" studies do not separate out the last two, so benefits between the two are typically muddled. For example, here's a study that suggests alkaline water improved the test subjects' pH balance. Unfortunately, the key results used to suggest this claim were the blood and urine pH levels, which were found to be closer to neutral. And then comes the whopper, when the conclusions of the paper reveal an assumption that neutral pH is desirable in the blood and waste product of kidneys without regard to hydration level, when in fact neutral pH is also a result of adequate hydration. If the water the test subjects were drinking contained more minerals, as in electrolytes, which the test water did, then the subjects would have increased hydration levels, which, gosh, they did.
Finally, if you are interested specifically in alkaline water, you must be wary of only looking at pH of the water without considering its alkaline content. A high pH can be due to relatively few particles, compared to a lower pH with far more particles. In the former case, a minimal amount of acid can be neutralized, while in the latter case, perhaps a much greater amount of acid can be neutralized. So the true alkalinity is determined by other measures than just pH.
Posted Sat May 11, 2013, 8:16pm Subject: Re: Water alkalinity: how does it affect the coffee?
By the way, the apswater.com reference from Donald includes many unscientific assertions, such as:
" If you were able to change your blood pH you would rapidly develop Metabolic alkalosis."
There are studies, including the last one I cited, which show blood pH changing in the test subjects.
I had to wade through similar pseudo-logic in debunking myths about RO water.
A word of advice: ignore logical arguments, common sense, etc., and give credence to actual studies. The results of such studies often defy common sense, because the human body defies common sense in many cases. Use logic to debunk conclusions, but not the test results.
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