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jpender
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jpender
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Posted Fri Mar 8, 2013, 3:34pm
Subject: Re: Who understands water?
 

Netphilosopher Said:

Have you tried brewing coffee with distilled water as a baseline?  I'm certain you could taste the difference.

Posted March 1, 2013 link

It occurred to me that I believe I have tried brewing with very nearly distilled water, quite recently in fact.

I went snow camping with my Aeropress / Porlex mini setup. I used clean-looking snow as a source for brew water. I melted it and poured it rapidly boiling (~92C at 7500 feet) into the Aeropress. Now shouldn't the coffee have been harsh for lack of TDS and hardness? It tasted wonderful. Now I know that "clean" snow isn't 100% pure, but what do you suppose a water report for it would look like?
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Netphilosopher
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Posted Mon Mar 11, 2013, 9:26am
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jpender
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Posted Mon Mar 11, 2013, 11:20am
Subject: Re: Who understands water?
 

The coffee was as hot as I usually drink it so I don't think it was temperature in this case.

We've had a dry Jan/Feb and the snow wasn't exactly fresh from the sky. The occasional pine needle aside, there is always some amount of dirt and other crud in clean-looking snow. So you're right, it probably doesn't make sense to assume the melted snow had a very low TDS.

Thinking about this I recently bought a bottle of distilled water and brewed a cup with that. The resultant coffee seemed just vaguely astringent but the effect was subtle. So then I brewed side-by-side cups, one with distilled and one with tap water, and I did a blind tasting. Once again the difference was subtle. And when I looked to see which cup I preferred it turned out that I had picked the distilled water coffee over the one brewed with tap water.

Now it's possible that I am just really insensitive to bitter flavors. But it's also possible that my tap water is softer than the water utility statement is leading me to believe. Which brings me back to my original question.

Maybe if I rephrase it?

Starting with distilled water, what would you add to make ideal coffee brewing water? Describe a recipe that a dummy like me can follow.
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Lee_M
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Posted Mon Mar 11, 2013, 3:19pm
Subject: Re: Who understands water?
 

I just got my water report back, so if I get a chance I'm going to do some experiments this week, but here's a preliminary recommendation.

Starting with distilled water:

Add 0.1 grams of calcium chloride (available at homebrew and cheesemaking stores) and 0.1 grams of sodium chloride (table salt) per liter of water.

That will give you:

27 mg/l Calcium
39 mg/l Sodium
109 mg/l Chloride

Incidentally, this is very close to the water profile of Cambridge, MA. The Cambridge Reservoir is virtually mineral free, but gets a fair amount of road salt from nearby highways.

Question for Netphilosopher:

Is there any significant difference between the solvation power of distilled water and hard water?
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Netphilosopher
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Posted Mon Mar 11, 2013, 5:25pm
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Netphilosopher
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Posted Mon Mar 11, 2013, 5:46pm
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Lee_M
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Posted Tue Mar 12, 2013, 12:45pm
Subject: Re: Who understands water?
 

Thanks for that.

I rented the article I mentioned before (Navarini & Rivetti 2010). Some key points:

-Sodium softening (which replaces calcium and magnesium with sodium) has been found to increase brewing time in percolation methods, both drip (Gardner 1958) and espresso (Fond 1995).
-Adding carbonates and bicarbonates (alkalinity) also increased brewing time (Rivetti et al. 2001)
-Since both of these processes result in an increased pH in the coffee bed (sodium softening increases pH by removing calcium ions, which would otherwise react with coffee solids to lower pH), it seems likely that a higher pH increases brew time. Navarini & Rivetti propose that this is due to increased swelling of polysaccharides in the coffee.
-Bicarbonate content has a major impact on crema, increasing its volume, but reducing its density and persistence.
-No discussion of the flavor impact of various ions :-(

However, I also found this: Click Here (bludtype.files.wordpress.com)

Lockhart et al. suggest that ion levels in most tap water are well under the flavor threshold for coffee. Of course, you might be more sensitive than his tasting panel.
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Netphilosopher
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Posted Tue Mar 12, 2013, 5:08pm
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Lee_M
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Lee_M
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Posted Tue Mar 12, 2013, 6:46pm
Subject: Re: Who understands water?
 

I'm not sure I have much faith in Lockhart's tasting panel, considering their threshold for sodium bicarbonate in water was over 1000ppm!

But assuming that water with moderate mineral levels is distinguishable from distilled, what is responsible for the difference? You've mentioned that distilled water makes the coffee more acidic. A moderate level of alkalinity would neutralize some of the acids in coffee. Sodium and chloride might reduce bitterness, as we've discussed in another thread.

I'm thinking of comparing:

Distilled water
Distilled water with added sodium chloride (150ppm), but no alkalinity.
Distilled water with added alkalinity (100ppm CaCO3 equivalent) in the form of lime (calcium hydroxide). I could use calcium carbonate for this test, but it's not very water soluble without also adding acid.
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jpender
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jpender
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Posted Tue Mar 12, 2013, 6:53pm
Subject: Re: Who understands water?
 

The water report for my area actually gives a range with a minimum of 83ppm TDS. And that was the report for 2011. I looked at the ZeroWater website and the two reporting locations nearest me (within a mile or two) are 84 and 86ppm. I wonder, Netphilosopher, could your wife detect the difference between my water and distilled?

Lee, thanks for summarizing the Navarini paper. While looking for it I found that he also did work on the moka pot a couple of years ago, pretty much what I've been doing in my spare time. It was very interesting to see that he came to the same basic conclusions. That paper, in a pre-published form, can be found on the web.

I've got a little packet of calcium chloride now. It will be at least a couple of days before I'll have the chance to do a tasting with it. Do I need to adjust for presumed moisture content in the two salts? Or is it good enough to toss 0.10g of each into a cold liter of distilled water, stir, and let it sit for a while?
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