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Thread: Water Testing

  1. #1
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    Water Testing

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi All

    Any suggestions on home water testing, rather than keep sending it away for testing. Living in Brisbane so keeping an eye on various levels, my filters actual making it acidic. So reaching out to see if there are kits to get actual numbers rather than high low type things ?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Yes mate...

    Just do a search for Total Hardness and pH tester and identify which suits you best as high quality instruments obviously a cost lot more than 'run of the mill' varieties...

    Mal.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    I use pool test strips, gives a good indication of total hardness which is what we are concerned with, available from hardware stores.

    http://www.myperfectpool.com.au/pool...trips-use.html

  4. #4
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    I am using the API aquariums PH and GH/KH water test kits, which are pretty cheap. They come with a 5ml volumetric graduated vial and you count the number of drops to get to a colour change - it's a titration. The colour change after a number of drops means that the true value lies within a range; it might be something like a range of 15 ppm CaCo3 equivalent. But if you want to double the resolution (ie. go to 7 ppm CaCO3 eq steps), you can always just buy/find/dig up a 10ml volumetric graduated vial and double the number of drops.

    Also, don't forget that you can probably get a water report for your area from your local water supplier's website.
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  5. #5
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    I use similar equipment to Luca...
    Inexpensive, simple enough to use and only required to carry out as often as makes you happy.

    Mal.

  6. #6
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    While we're at it, I suppose it's worth talking about water treatment briefly ...

    The big issue is of course calcium carbonate scale buildup, so you want to make sure that this isn't going to scale and kill your machine. Yes, you can descale, but there are a number of issues with it; eg. scale builds up all over the place, some scale removers remove it in chunks that can lodge elsewhere and scale removers can remove the otherwise inert oxide layers that might otherwise line your boilers. So best to ensure that the machine is going to form as little scale as possible. This is probably near impossible.

    The next issue is flavour. Online discussions tend to be pretty binary: people comment from their own experience and whether or not they can taste the difference. If they can, then they characterise it as important. If they can't, they dismiss it and make "emperor has no clothes" type comments. In fact, as with most things, the taste impact exists on a continuum. Some tap water in some areas is so bad that just drinking a glass of water out of the tap is unpleasant for many people. Clearly, if you fix this, it is going to make a bigger difference than if you had water that is what you want to end up with anyway. So it depends on your water.

    For me, I have Melbourne water that is low on both carbonates and 2+ cations. I tasted epsom salt solutions and carbonate solutions and concluded that the addition of carbonate to bring it up to about 65ppm CaCO3 equivalent produced a small, but noticeable, improvement. Specifically, this very slightly muted acidity, which, in the best case scenario, can be the difference between taking something that you might think of as sour and moving it closer towards juicy. Since I buy a lot of coffees from roasters whose roast defects are more likely to be underdevelopment than overdevelopment, this is a useful change for me to make. If I were buying my own or roasting my own and either buying a lot of low acid coffee (eg. a lot of brazillian coffee) or getting roasts where the roast defect was more likely to be slight baking or overdevelopment that results in reduced acidity (I've tasted plenty of charred coffee that's simultaneously over and underdeveloped), then I probably wouldn't add carbonate.

    Now, I guess the important thing is how much of a difference the above makes for me. I think people need to have realistic expectations: I don't think that it's a huge difference, but it's noticeable. If you're thinking about it for espresso and you can't make three shots in a row that are within a few seconds for the same weight/volume. Similarly, no amount of perfect water is going to compensate for you dialling in the grind/dose. So if your water isn't going to hurt your machine, focus on those things before customising your water.

    The good news is that if you have really bad water and need to aggressively filter it to strip hardness out of it, if you also have a tank machine, remineralising it isn't a hard exercise. You'll need to spend some time doing some calculations once and from then on it's just a matter of keeping a bottle of solution made up and ready to add the right amount of. Lots of what is written about experimenting with water for espresso is recipes that focus on adding stuff to distilled water. Don't forget that you don't need to start with distilled water; you just need to do some basic maths. As long as your starting water (eg. filtered stuff) has less of whatever you want in it, you can always add the difference to get to where you want it to be.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Excellent post Luca.

    Another tip: if you know any (home) brewers who use the same water, they will know the water profile and probably have software that simplifies calculating any additions you might want to make.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scollops View Post
    Hi All

    Any suggestions on home water testing, rather than keep sending it away for testing. Living in Brisbane so keeping an eye on various levels, my filters actual making it acidic. So reaching out to see if there are kits to get actual numbers rather than high low type things ?

    Thanks
    The point you make about some types of filter making water acidic seems to be of specific relevance to Stainless Steel boiler machines. I hadn't been aware of the issue until I came across a caution in a Filtration article on the Talk Coffee website.

    "I have an espresso machine with stainless steel boilers. Is there a filter for it?

    New to the Brita range is the Brita C150 finest. This filter employs a buffering system to maintain water pH whilst softening water. Conventional filters can lead to acidification of water where TDH is higher. This filter overcomes this problem. We are now recommending that this filter be used wherever possible and always with machines which employ stainless steel boilers."

    An in depth look into Stainless Steel corrosion -
    https://www.espressoplanet.com/Chlor...ess-steel.html
    Last edited by CafeLotta; 6th May 2019 at 10:36 AM. Reason: Link added
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  9. #9
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Good find on the article re: Chloride corrosion of s/s.
    Nicely explained...

    Mal.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CafeLotta View Post
    The point you make about some types of filter making water acidic seems to be of specific relevance to Stainless Steel boiler machines. I hadn't been aware of the issue until I came across a caution in a Filtration article on the Talk Coffee website.........
    Might also explain the move towards Stainless Steel mushrooms in some machines. Much like standard mushrooms in Copper boiler machines are the canary in the coal mine for scale build up, Stainless Steel mushrooms could be an early indicator of corrosion due to some filtered water having acidification issues in a Stainless boiler machine.

  11. #11
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Hmmm...

    Given the very random nature of Chlorine related corrosion where it can't be seen, I think it would tend to give owners a false sense of security that all was well. In fact, there may be multiple sites of corrosion taking place inside the boiler waiting to spring leaks even though the s/s mushroom may appear to be untouched...

    Mal.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by CafeLotta View Post
    The point you make about some types of filter making water acidic seems to be of specific relevance to Stainless Steel boiler machines. I hadn't been aware of the issue until I came across a caution in a Filtration article on the Talk Coffee website.

    "I have an espresso machine with stainless steel boilers. Is there a filter for it?

    New to the Brita range is the Brita C150 finest. This filter employs a buffering system to maintain water pH whilst softening water. Conventional filters can lead to acidification of water where TDH is higher. This filter overcomes this problem. We are now recommending that this filter be used wherever possible and always with machines which employ stainless steel boilers."

    An in depth look into Stainless Steel corrosion -
    https://www.espressoplanet.com/Chlor...ess-steel.html
    G'day CafeLotta

    I would only add that there are many, many different grades of so called "stainless steel" - unfortunately. I have been exposed to the different types for decades and I still find it confusing. To make things worse, there are a few different grading systems nowadays. FWIW, I either look up one of the many stainless steel charts I have or consult an expert mate (medical stainless steel workshop owner) before I would consider making a choice.

    Some of them (usually the higher grades - you get what you pay for) are almost totally resistant to almost any chemical (which is why they are used in chemical labs), others virtually fall apart if exposed to chlorine or, even more corrosive, flourine (a common additive in tap water to prevent tooth decay).

    Esxample: I was told I was mad when I bought a (specific) marine grade stainless steel hot water tank for my 1983 gas assisted hot water system in Bentley. It is still in perfect nick, despite Bentley tap water bearing a strong resemblance to battery acid... The guy next door put in a "standard" Solahart tank* - he is on his fifth replacement under the extended warranty I suggested he get. BTW, that "warranty" includes extra charges for servicing every three years - no real bargain in my view.

    *His Solahart tank is the "sacrificial anode" type - which should be banned in my view as even getting it "serviced" every three years (i.e. replacing the sacrificial anode to pollute the next lot of hot water) hasn't stopped the Bentley tap water eating the tank out every few years.

    It is hard for us amateurs to be able to pick the correct grades of stainless for the job, however even some pro companies have been burnt. Example - about 5 years ago - 28 $20K+ machines "not covered by warranty" died in 3 months because the purchasers did not read the fine print about filtering tap water. It didn't help that most Perth suburbs have a really corrosive brew - I expect the same machines in Melbourne would still be going strong.

    Enjoy your cuppa. I will stay with my double filtered rainwater and good roasts. IMO using water filtering to tinker a shot would be my last, last resort - after I had returned the substandard roast or simply binned it.


    TampIt
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  13. #13
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    Would ion exchange+AC cartridge (say a Brita Maxtra) create the acidification on the resulting water?

    Was considering using them...

  14. #14
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Deionised water acidification is only a problem if an unbalanced system is used, eg a system with a single resin bed using a protonated cation resin. This resin will exchange the metallic cations for protons (H+) but leave the anions in solution, making the water acidic.

    The Brita type filters normally use a soft cation resin which is preloaded with sodium so it exchanges the more active cations (Mg2+, Ca2+) for Na+. No acidification will occur as the ion balance is maintained.

    Higher spec deionising system are double bed, usually protonated cation and hydroxylated anion resins. Again no acidification will occur because the active anions are removed by the appropriate column.

    One caveat on the above is that the water on standing will pick up CO2 and the pH will consequently drop. This isn't much of a problem for anything that heats the water because that drives the CO2 back out of solution*. BTW contrary to popular opinion, purified water doesn't dissolve CO2 (or anything else) any faster than ordinary water, it's just that it has no buffering power so the effect is more apparent.


    *Outgassing can be a problem for industrial steam boilers but won't be a problem in a coffee machine.


    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post

    It didn't help that most Perth suburbs have a really corrosive brew - I expect the same machines in Melbourne would still be going strong.
    FWIW I spent several years making Melbourne water out of Perth water so we could make Melbourne beer. Even though we got the water analysis dead right I could still taste the difference between what we made and real Melbourne beer.
    Last edited by Lyrebird; 8th May 2019 at 08:16 PM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Jackster's Avatar
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    We have that too at work. Test point for potable water- the sign says... But have you tasted it, it tastes like black poly pipe! Bleagh

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    Is it worth buying demineralised water to put in my bes920?
    That stuff is pretty cheap I think.
    Either that or I have a rain water tank out the back?

  17. #17
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    No it you do that you'll need to add a little bit of mineralisation back in. High mineralisation is bad, but so is zero. CSer pcrussell50 suggests "adding 100mg/L of potassium bicarb or sodium bicarb" to "distilled water"
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by level3ninja View Post
    No it you do that you'll need to add a little bit of mineralisation back in. High mineralisation is bad, but so is zero. CSer pcrussell50 suggests "adding 100mg/L of potassium bicarb or sodium bicarb" to "distilled water"
    Rain water too then?

    Edit, yeah that was a bit of a dumb question
    Last edited by warthog; 11th May 2019 at 06:07 PM.

  19. #19
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Just a pinch of salt is fine too, per refill...

    Mal.
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