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The other coffee ingredient

February 09, 2012

The other coffee ingredient


Coffee at its finest has only two ingredients in it. Those, of course, are coffee and water.  I decided to try to figure out exactly what kind of water was the best for pour over of the obvious options I have available in my house.  


Those options include water from the tap, water that is filtered, but has not been heated yet that comes from the fridge, water from the hot water wand on the espresso machine, and finally hot water from the group of the espresso machine.  Note that all the espresso machine water is filtered before entering the machine so only the tap water is unfiltered.


Our water here is very soft and tastes fine, but not great.  Filtered it is pretty good if you use a britta filter or a standard refrigerator filter.  On the other hand, my wife, who grew up with much harder water, but clean from the pacific northwest is not a huge fan of the water because it is a little flat so she prefers the harder water that you, obviously cannot get by removing things with a filter (but prefers filtered water here to tap water).  


Now I confess that I did have a few biases of my own going in.  I expected the fridge water to be the best, then expected the tap water to be next best and the boiler water after that and finally the group water to come in last.  I figured the first three would be very close in taste and the group might be close since I keep it very clean, but might lag.


I did not do a double blind test or even a blind test as it was just too much work.


I did let all the waters come to the same temperature so it would not be the temp that made my choice.


There was not a clear winner.  The boiler water and the fridge water were very close.  I think the fridge water was slightly better, but if so it was subtle.  On the other hand the tap water and the group water lagged dramatically.  The tap water really did have an off taste compared to the others.  It is hidden a bit at cold temps but at room temp it was the worst.  The group head water was visibly different with just a few grinds in it.  It is amazing how those guys will hide even after a wipe down, a flush or two, a backflush….  Anyway it was not as good as the boiler water or the filtered water but much better than the tap water.


Next up I will try and see what carries over in brewed coffee by preparing a few of these as pour over.  It will be interesting to see if the huge flavor of coffee allows the subtle differences of water to pass through or not.






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