Two Factors You Should Consider When Optimizing Your Craft Coffee Water Source
Most coffee consumers only think about the quality of their coffee beans without ever contemplating the quality of their water source. If you think about it, a cup of coffee only has two variables present: coffee & water. Therefore, the water variable should be taken as seriously as the quality of the coffee beans.
In this article, we’ll quickly explain do’s and don’ts for ensuring you have a quality water source being poured over your delicious craft coffee beans each morning.
Two Factors You Should Consider When Brewing Craft Coffee
- Water Quality
- Water Temperature
It should be no surprise to you that your tap water most likely contains chemicals that are not healthy to consume. I don’t want to bore you with a long scientific paper but I’ll give you an overview of the chemicals that are known to be present in tap water systems throughout the US. I’ll also give some brief potential side effects on the chemicals.
Here’s a quick overview of the 5 chemicals that could be present in your water source. If you’d rather take my word for it and skip over this section, just scroll down to “How To Avoid These 5 Chemicals.”
5 Harmful Chemicals Present In Tap Water
This chemical is present in many older plumbing systems. As aging and corrosion happens, the chemical leaches into the water supply. Exposure to minimal amounts of lead can lead to things like reproductive issues, liver function, and seizures in adults.
Copper isn’t terrible for you in small doses, but high levels of exposure can wreak havoc on your liver and kidneys. If your liver and kidneys don’t function well, your body isn’t able to properly detoxify. Copper is one of the most common materials used for modern day household water pipes in the US. As the pipes age, they release copper in larger amounts directly into the water source.
As you probably know from swimming in the local neighborhood pool from your childhood, chlorine is purposely used in water sources to kill bacteria and germs. Consumption of doses higher than the CDC recommendation of 4 milligrams of chlorine per liter of water could be wreaking havoc on your bladder and kidneys.
Fluoride is a known EPA regulated chemical present in the US water systems. Fluoride is known to be a neurotoxin in high doses, which impedes the ability of your brain to function at optimal levels. If you’re drinking coffee for a cognitive boost from the caffeine, you might as well consider not drinking coffee at all if you’re going to be pouring water with fluoride over your beans.
Household products such as paint contain Mercury. Think about how many construction sites in the US dump extra paint (or water with paint chemicals present) into the ground. Where do you think these chemicals go? You guessed it, the water supply. This is only a small portion of Mercury disposal. Think about all of the industrial waste sites that dispose of chemical infested products. This chemical can cause kidney damage and have adverse effects on your nervous system.
How To Avoid These 5 Chemicals
It’s simple, purchase an at-home water filter. You should consider buying one of these whether or not you’re planning to brew craft coffee or not. Our bodies are made up of almost 60% water, therefore we should be consuming only the cleanest, chemical free water in order to optimize overall health. Trust us, your body will love you!
Here’s some recommendations on where to start:
Our recommendation: If you’re just getting started, the PUR filtration pitcher is sufficient enough to remove most harmful chemicals. And at a price point of $35, it won’t break the bank.
The next factor that you’ll want to consider when setting up your water source is the temperature of the water. If you’re brewing with an automatic drip brewer, like a Bunn, you can skip this section as the water will automatically be heated to 200 degrees. This section is specifically for you if you’re using the french press and/or the pour over method to brew your craft coffee at home. The temperature of the water being poured onto the coffee grounds has a HUGE impact on the flavor being extracted. The recommended temperature for brewing coffee is 195-205 degrees.
- Water heated above 205 degrees Fahrenheit tends to over extract chemical compounds from the coffee beans when contact is made. Over extracted beans will oftentimes produce a more bitter flavored coffee.
- Water below 195 degrees simply isn’t hot enough to extract the chemical compounds from the coffee beans. Under extracted coffee will oftentimes produce a sour flavor.
Our recommendation: Heat your water to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. We like serving our coffee on the lower end in our shop based on customer feedback for temperature. (There’s nothing worse than a scolding hot McDonald’s cup of coffee that you have to wait 15 minutes before letting your lips even come close.) We actually serve our coffee in the shop at 190 degrees due to consistent experimentation. But our shop sits at 9,000 ft. of elevation in the mountains of Colorado, and this is what works for us. Unless you live at a similar elevation, we’d recommend sticking to 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now that you know what temperature to heat your water for a french press and/or pour over, you’re probably wondering the best way to gauge the exact temperature of your water. There’s a couple ways you can do this at home.
Best Method For Measuring The Temperature Of Your Water
There are three ways you can boil your water at home:
- Pot on a stovetop
- Electric water boiler
- Craft coffee kettle
Pot On A Stovetop
The most obvious (and least expensive) way to heat your water at home is by boiling water in a pot on the stovetop. The downside to this method is that there’s no way to know the exact temperature unless you have a kitchen thermometer - and it’s unsafe!
This method works fine for a french press because you’re only heating and transferring water one time. If you plan to use this method, let your water cool after it reaches a boil for at least 2 minutes before pouring over your french press. Ideally, letting your water sit for a couple of minutes will allow the temperature to decrease from 212 degrees into the ideal range of 195-205. Purchasing a simple kitchen thermometer on Amazon will allow you to gauge the temperature of your water.
Even though this method works, we don’t recommend using this method as it presents safety concerns when pouring hot water out of a pot into a french press or pour over. Instead, consider one of the two electric options for a safer way to heat your water.
Electric Water Boiler
This method is essentially doing the exact same thing as the first method - only in a safer way. There are two added benefits to using an electric water boiler if you’re using a french press. (This method is not ideal when using the pour over method. If you’re using a pour over station, skip ahead to the next step.)
The first added benefit to heating your water in an electric water boiler rather than on a stovetop is the speed in which the water heats. In our experience, this electric water boiler brings water to a rapid boil in a matter of minutes.
The second added benefit to heating your water in an electric water boiler is that this method provides a much safer option for pouring your hot water into your french press. Pouring boiling water into a french press from a boiling pot off the stove can lead to a disaster if one isn’t careful. Hence the reason we don’t recommend the stovetop option above. This method works fine for a french press but we highly recommend considering the next option on the list for the optimal way to heat your water.
Craft Coffee Kettle
The craft coffee kettle is the ultimate method for heating your water if you’re looking to dial in your at home craft coffee experience. Whether using a french press or pour over, this will provide you with the fastest, safest, most efficient, and consistent way of heating your water source.
Craft coffee kettles offer the same rapid heating element as the electric water boiler, but also boast two extra features that are absolutely crucial for optimizing the pour over method.
The first benefit to using a craft coffee kettle is the temperature holding feature. You can set your temperature to the desired temperature (195 degrees fahrenheit) and press the “hold” button to keep the temperature at the desired heat.
This is especially important when brewing a pour over because of the multiple amount of pours needed in the pour over method. After making your first “bloom” pour in a pour over, you can place your craft coffee kettle immediately back on the heating element to hold it at the desired temperature.
When a pour over is prepared correctly, the process goes like this:
- Remove the kettle from the heating element to pour water over the coffee grounds
- Place the kettle back on the heating element immediately after the pour
- Press “hold” on the kettle
You’ll repeat this process of transferring your kettle between the heating element and the pour over station another two times if you’re preparing a pour over correctly.
The “temperature holding” feature on the kettle ensures that the temperature of the water remains 195 degrees throughout the whole pour over process. By maintaining the same temperature, you’re creating the most consistent extraction of flavor from the coffee beans. This allows you to brew the absolute best tasting pour over you can make. So which kettle should you use?
We use this exact model of Bonvita kettles in our retail coffee shop to make pour overs, french presses, and tea. There’s other prettier looking options out there like the Fellow Stagg kettle, but we’ve had great luck using the Bonvita if you’re looking for an affordable option to get started.
After reading this article you should have all the information you’ll need to ensure the highest quality water is being poured over your coffee at the correct temperature. Here’s a quick recap our recommendations:
To get the most bang for your buck, pair the PUR Ultimate 11 Cup Water Filter with the Bonvita kettle and you’ll have a perfectly functional water source for your at home brewing setup. This is a fantastic place to start, and will last you for a good while. You can always make the larger investment in an under-the-sink water filter at a later date. Cheers to making coffee with good, clean water!