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The Fifth Element of Coffee: Discover what Different Types of Water do to your Cup
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The Fifth Element of Coffee: Discover what Different Types of Water do to your Cup

Baristas across the world will tell you about the importance of the “4 M’s” of espresso: Macinazione (Mill), Miscela (Mix/Blend), Macchina (Machine) and Mano (Maker). Although all of them are essential for great coffee, there is a fifth element quite often overlooked, and which comprises around 98% of what ends up in a cup: water.

We asked water expert Peter Wynne, CEO of IceWater Ireland, on the role of water in coffee. “Both at home and in cafés, the water we choose to brew our coffee with makes a huge difference”, he says as he points out two important factors.

“When it comes to taste, tap water can be a bit unpredictable and specially at home, it can give coffee a slightly acidic or metallic taste”. Secondly, there’s the issue of water hardness. “Hard water, which has a high concentration of minerals can make coffee taste slightly bitter and besides that, it can affect espresso machines in the long term, shortening their lifespan and making it more difficult to clean them”, Peter explains.


Other water related things to have in mind if you want great coffee are ratio and temperature: the first one is the relation between coffee and water, which is often referred to as the “golden ratio” of one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. For a proper espresso, a 25 ml cup should include only 7 grams of coffee brewed for 25 to 30 seconds, so if your machine gives a different volume as a result within that time frame, you might want to have it checked as it might be using too much or not enough water to brew.

Temperature wise, 88° to 90°C is ideal. Boiling hot water will affect the more delicate flavours and aromas of fine coffee. Professional machines control this, but if you are using a French press of any other filter method, you can let water reach boiling point and then wait for a couple of minutes before brewing the coffee.

“Some coffee aficionados go as far as getting bottled water for specialty coffees, but with the right filtration system, you get the perfect taste and mineral concentration in water without incurring in such expense and without being so wasteful”, Peter explains that at IceWater, they offer water filtration systems that adapt to the specific needs to the different customers, “from the home barista to large cafe chains.”

The Fifth Element of Coffee: Discover what Different Types of Water do to your Cup

“Getting a water filtration system for you café no only will help you offer better tasting coffee, it will protect your equipment too. And with IceWater in place, you will also be able to get rid of plastic and glass bottles which take storage page”, specially precious in smaller establishments, where often finding room for stacked soft drinks can be a challenge.

“Baristas and café owners take lots of prides in their beans and roast, but they sometimes forget that nearly 98% of what goes into the cup is water, and sourcing the best is yet another way of differentiating themselves in such a competitive sector.”

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