Water quality is a huge factor in today’s coffee and espresso business, particularly here in San Diego. The long-standing drought has all but drained the water supply so we are getting water from different sources and multiple reservoirs. This means lots of changes in our local waters composition, which shows in San Diego’s most recent water report. These changes can mean big problems in not only the coffees flavor, but trouble with coffee brewer and espresso machine performance. Proper water treatment is crucial to protecting the integrity of the coffee product as well as protecting your long-term investment in coffee equipment.
Scale build-up inside of espresso machine group head.
When it comes to machine performance and longevity a key factor is the water hardness. San Diego’s hardness varies from 7-24 Grains Per Gallon (gpg) depending on location within the county, however, 3 gpg is what we would ideally zero in on for coffee and espresso equipment longevity. The hardness of the water lets us know how likely it is to create scale in our equipment. The boilers, tubing and jets in an espresso machine are extremely susceptible to developing scale build up over time. The bigger the opening the longer it takes, and vice versa. A boiler may take quite a while to develop enough scale to create a problem, but once a nearly microscopic piece of scale makes its way to the 0.7mm jets, it can bring the entire operation to a standstill. As you already know, that’s not good for business.
Scale build-up inside an espresso machine boiler.
The other key consideration for water is how it affects the coffee flavor profile. When we talk about the flavor effects we generally speak in terms of a waters level of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). TDS refers to any minerals, metals or salts in the water. They are comprised mainly of inorganic minerals like sulfates, bicarbonates, chlorides, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. The TDS level in water effects how much coffee it can dissolve or extract in the brewing process. The Specialty Coffee Association of America has done volumes of research on how TDS effects coffee flavor and has settled at an ideal water TDS of 150 ppm. In San Diego our water ranges from 350 ppm to 750ppm. Treatment of the water with reverse osmosis is the simplest way to lower its TDS.
Additional contaminants that lead to both flavor and equipment performance issues are chlorine, chloride, and chloramines. These substances along with salts that cause hardness can all be removed with assorted filters, softening systems, and reverse osmosis. No single filter will get ride of all contaminants, except for a reverse osmosis membrane.
Although reverse osmosis (RO) water is ideal for an espresso machine’s smooth, scale-free operation RO systems produce water at 5-10 ppm. Pure RO water can leach copper and other metals and it can negatively affect the taste of your coffee or espresso as it lacks enough minerals. A blending valve that lets some of the minerals back into the water is essential. It’s not only a way to get the ideal TDS for your coffee’s taste, but simultaneously protects your equipment’s longevity and trouble free operation.
In an effort to make RO systems more affordable to our clients, we at Solutions Espresso Services have developed a leasing program for the Nimbus NSC-250 and H-1500 systems. Both are manufactured locally in Riverside County, California. These systems have proven highly effective for our customers low and high-traffic cafes and restaurants. We can evaluate your water needs and have a program tailored directly around your business. We can even test your water remotely if you send samples of tap and filtered water. Call us today at (858) 505-0669 for details!