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Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
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Discussions > Espresso > General > Did you measure...  
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Buckley
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Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 423
Location: Internet
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Nov 12, 2013, 12:47pm
Subject: Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
 

Just a cautionary note based on experience.  If you measured your TDS in the summer months, perhaps it soon will be time to reassess.

When I had no choice but to live in Indianapolis for a year, mineral began forming in my hario kettle and flakes began interfering with the flap valve of the Mypressi espresso maker.  Since I was only there for a year, I did not want to invest in buying much paraphenalia for softening water.  Since I already had a Brita, I boiled the water to drive the pH toward neutral and precipitate some of the mineral, then I trace salted it like an ion exchange softener would and then filtered it when cool.  Worked well and it was all that I needed.  This was during the winter months.

Come spring and summer, after several periods of swollen rivers, I noticed that boiling was no longer throwing off mineral and salting was not necessary before filtering, and the filters were lasting a little bit longer before slowing down.  Only slight deposits were beginning to form in the kettle.

I did not follow this up with the local Indy water board, but I suspect that my part of town might be switching from surface reservoirs to underground wells for supply in the winter months.

This made me think, if someone tested their line water when they bought their new boiler machine in the spring or summer and found out that they had to do very little to bring the water into line with manufacturers specifications, the hardness of the water supply may change drastically in the winter months.  More generally, do we pay any attention to whether we are assessing our water supply during a rainy or normal spell as opposed to drought conditions when the supply may be coming from deeper aquifers?

Websites that talk about community/regional water quality give a range of hardness, usually not overly broad, but I have never seen a report that addresses seasonal variations in water hardness, such as I experienced in Indianapolis.

Buckley
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OregonCityMan
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OregonCityMan
Joined: 30 Oct 2013
Posts: 40
Location: Portland, Oregon
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Salvatore SES Semi
Grinder: Ascaso I-2 mini
Roaster: Torrefattore 1KG, DIY 1/2lb
Posted Tue Nov 12, 2013, 5:54pm
Subject: Re: Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
 

I used to think Brita was the way to go, but all it really does is take out heavy metals. I would get these annoying black specs in my water reservoir and a brown film would develop on the Nalgene tank within weeks. What a pain. I did the math and switched to distilled water almost two years ago. It costs me about 20 cents a day and I never worry about my water tank or boiler getting cruddy.
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Buckley
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Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 423
Location: Internet
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013, 6:24am
Subject: Re: Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
 

Dear OCM,
I envy you your Salvatore; I came close to buying one a while ago.  Your autofill sensor requires some mineral content in order to function correctly and turn the pump on.  I am concerned that using straight distilled water will defeat the purpose of this convenience.

Distilled water doped with a small amount of appropriate minerals is discussed in this forum, but not lately.  Most home baristas much prefer their water to have a mild hardness in lieu of straight distilled, for taste.  It is a matter of personal taste and I have not sampled the differences.  I do not know of anyone else who uses straight distilled but I am sure there are some.

Regarding Brita, for others who may read this: the filters remove a significant amount of insoluble (ie, 'hard) cations when they are new, but this does not last throughout the stated life of the filter.  It has been told to me that this is why Brita is not permitted to make claims regarding water softening for their product.  That is why, for purposes of cheap, temporary water softening, I use the three-stage system described above and change the filters more frequently than stipulated.  Most counter-top softener users will prefer ZeroWater filter pitchers for this purpose.

Buckley
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,961
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013, 9:08am
Subject: Re: Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
 

OregonCityMan Said:

I used to think Brita was the way to go, but all it really does is take out heavy metals. I would get these annoying black specs in my water reservoir and a brown film would develop on the Nalgene tank within weeks. What a pain. I did the math and switched to distilled water almost two years ago. It costs me about 20 cents a day and I never worry about my water tank or boiler getting cruddy.

Posted November 12, 2013 link

This is a good way to go, and perhaps the best for having a very consistent TDS in your supply.

For others, like me, who have not gone this route, I think periodic testing is important, to make sure there aren't times when you need to do more for your machine's sake...whether that more is increasing your descaling frequency, or treating your water more or less severely is a personal choice.

I have found that the Pur cartridge my refrigerator uses for it's water and ice dispenser brings down my city water to an acceptable level for my espresso machine.  I found this through testing, using an API GH/KH titration kit. These are available for about $10 or less from aquarium and pet supply stores, and each kit provides enough reagent for about 100 samples, so they're well worth the investment. I picked mine up from an online retailer called Aquacave.  There's really no reason not to use it regularly, perhaps semi-annually or quarterly is sufficient (maybe I'll be able to make a recommendation for my area in a couple of years).

In contrast, I tested the effects of a Brita bottle (the personal size portable sport bottles with the small filter right under the pull out drinking spout) when it was brand new. It had absolutely no effect whatsoever on my titration results, using either the city tap water or the Pur filtered water I took from the refrigerator dispenser.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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OregonCityMan
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OregonCityMan
Joined: 30 Oct 2013
Posts: 40
Location: Portland, Oregon
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Salvatore SES Semi
Grinder: Ascaso I-2 mini
Roaster: Torrefattore 1KG, DIY 1/2lb
Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013, 8:20pm
Subject: Re: Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
 

Thank you Buckley. Your comment about my auto fill sensor is news to me, but it makes sense. I will give Wendy a call at Salvatore's. I have been running distilled for a year now and the machine is performing normally. I do have some mineral deposits in the boiler I'm sure. I pull 1 cup of water from the boiler, using the hot water wand about 22 minutes after shutdown. My boiler pressure is just above zero when I pull the water. The next morning the machine refills properly. This process is recommended by Salvatore to rotate old water out of the boiler, and it works well. Sometimes I get a few specs of whatever in the cup, and most often the water is clear.

As far as mineral content in the water having a beneficial effect on the brew, well I can't tell the difference, but then again my palette is not as educated as most of you Geeks, and I mean that as a compliment.
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Happiest
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Joined: 17 Nov 2012
Posts: 32
Location: South of tundra
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Vario-W
Drip: Pour over/melitta bamboo
Posted Fri Nov 15, 2013, 8:23pm
Subject: Re: Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
 

I'm going through the process of replacing my entire water delivery system, which includes:

pre-filter for partculate removal
UV 55 light
Clack demand softener, with hardness bypass
Mavea ion exchange filter

I can't wait to see/taste the results.
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Mort108
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Mort108
Joined: 11 Jul 2013
Posts: 21
Location: Saint Louis
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Vetrano 2B, ROK
Grinder: Baratza Forte
Roaster: Local
Posted Tue Nov 26, 2013, 8:46am
Subject: Re: Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
 

I did quite a bit of research on my water...a little over the top perhaps.  I finally by-passed my RO - with mineral add ins, and in the end went with the Mavea Purity C filter that has a by-pass control on the filter head.  I really like the Mavea and the control it gives me...highly recommend it.
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jonr
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jun 2013
Posts: 290
Location: Americas
Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Mon Dec 2, 2013, 3:47pm
Subject: Re: Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
 

I use R/O water with a few limestones sitting in the reservoir to add some hardness and control pH.   Sometimes I add 10% hard water but I haven't compared it closely.
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Iluvdabean
Senior Member
Iluvdabean
Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Posts: 1,249
Location: Kentucky
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra/Gaggia...
Grinder: Baratza Preciso/K-A Pro...
Drip: Bonavita BV 1800 TH
Roaster: Nesco 1010/Behmor 1600
Posted Thu Dec 5, 2013, 8:11am
Subject: Re: Did you measure your water hardness? During what month?
 

Why would someone spend a lot of money on a great machine and then not use safe water ? This is a long read but its so informative.
Using just a TDS meter isnt the answer.
http://users.rcn.com/erics/Water%20Quality/Water%20FAQ.pdf
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