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Thread: Have You Made Your Own Brew Water?

  1. #1
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Have You Made Your Own Brew Water?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    From my previous post about the horrible tap water here in the Perth Hills, and me having an ECM machine with a stainless steel boiler that rendered the Brita C150 Finest filter unusable as it wont filter out the Chlorides generously deposited into our water by the Water Corp.

    An initial attempt using just bottled spring water was a dismal failure as those I tried were pH 6.5, quite acidic and impacted on the flavour of the coffee.

    Home Brew!

    Now I'm brewing my own water using commercial link removed as per Site Posting Policy recipe.

    It is based on a ratio of 70% Sodium BiCarb and 30% Epsom Salts (Magnesium) added to Reverse Osmosis water resulting in 70 ppm sodium bicarbonate and 30 ppm magnesium sulphate.

    Some analysis of the brew indicates:

    • pH 7.4
    • TDS 100 (unsurprisingly)


    A couple of observations.

    • Ph is high, higher than ideal and resultant brew is alkaline (=scale!)
    • TDS is beyond what appears to be the accepted level of 50 - 80 ppm.


    Interestingly, having read quite a bit on some US websites where TDS up to 150ppm is still quite acceptable. Similarly an alkaline brew water does seem to be more favoured, which would suggest to me, again, a higher pH.

    Flavour in the cup.

    Brew Ratio Notes

    With the qualifier that I'm still perfecting my technique, I'm aiming for 21-22 g in the filter with brew ratio of 1.5 : 1 yielding 33 - 34 g of espresso in 30 seconds. Experimentation has shown that anything less than 30 seconds yields unsatisfactory crema and less full bodied espresso.

    I'm using a blend which includes a bean from Papua New Guinea and is quite dark. Roaster extraction notes indicates 28g in the filter with a brew ratio of 1.5 : 1 or a 42 second pour!! Yes he likes it thick and strong!

    Sorry I digressed...

    Using the original tap water - pH 7.2 but god awful otherwise, the brew was quite sweet with lovely dark chocolate after taste.

    Using low pH bottled water, the acid left a more sour after taste.

    Using the 70:30 brew water, the chocolate after taste is back.

    Next Steps

    1. Reducing the sodium bicarb to 50ppm with a view to reducing pH closer to neutral and TDS to +/- 80 ppm
    2. Use a 3 way recipe that includes Calcium Carbonate similar to this - there is some discussion that calcium does that same job as magnesium to increase hardness but also has increased deposits after boiling??

    Would love to hear your thoughts if you have followed a similar process and what the outcome was.
    Last edited by Javaphile; 4 Weeks Ago at 04:11 PM. Reason: Commercial link removed

  2. #2
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flashpixx View Post
    It is based on a ratio of 70% Sodium BiCarb and 30% Epsom Salts (Magnesium) added to Reverse Osmosis water resulting in 70 ppm sodium bicarbonate and 30 ppm magnesium sulphate.

    Some analysis of the brew indicates:

    • pH 7.4
    • TDS 100 (unsurprisingly)

    I am very surprised by that result, to the extent that I suspect a problem with your measurement. You should get a TDS much lower than that adding that combination of salts to pure water and measuring with a standard TDS meter.

    What scale does your meter use? What TDS do you get on the RO water before addition?
    Last edited by Lyrebird; 4 Weeks Ago at 05:51 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Thanks for your reply
    I don’t have a TDS meter so went to a local pool shop. Can’t confirm the accuracy of their equipment?
    Didnt measure the TDS of the RO water.
    I have a TDS meter coming from an instrument supplier. Will test everything again then

  4. #4
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Cheers.

    When the meter arrives, check what conversion it uses. There's a 40% difference between the bottom and top of the common ranges (TDS 500 = NaCl, TDS 700 = "442", so called because the calibration is with a 4:4:2 mix of sodium sulphate, sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride). I have two meters, the hand held one uses the 442 standard, the lab bench one uses whatever I tell it to, or at least it would if I used the TDS function: I prefer to measure EC directly and convert externally.

    I'm pretty sure the 442 measurement is the most common in Australia but if you are reading a Septic site re recommended water they're probably using a different standard (now there's a surprise).

    Ultimately let your taste buds decide. I prefer very clean water (I'm on a rain water tank at the winery, TDS = 6 on the 442 standard) YMMV as the Seppoes say.

  5. #5
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Thanks!
    Do you add anything to your rain water? What’s the pH? I’ve read that rain water can have an acid pH?
    The more I read and experiment the more I enjoy it, problem is I may never find the perfect brew water haha
    TBC...

  6. #6
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flashpixx View Post
    Thanks!
    Do you add anything to your rain water?
    No

    Quote Originally Posted by flashpixx View Post
    What’s the pH?
    Around 7 but see next comment

    Quote Originally Posted by flashpixx View Post
    I’ve read that rain water can have an acid pH?
    pH of the water is unimportant if it has low TDS (like rainwater) as there isn't any buffering power.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by flashpixx View Post
    From my previous post about the horrible tap water here in the Perth Hills, and me having an ECM machine with a stainless steel boiler that rendered the Brita C150 Finest filter unusable as it wont filter out the Chlorides generously deposited into our water by the Water Corp.

    An initial attempt using just bottled spring water was a dismal failure as those I tried were pH 6.5, quite acidic and impacted on the flavour of the coffee.

    Home Brew!

    Now I'm brewing my own water using commercial link removed as per Site Posting Policy recipe.

    It is based on a ratio of 70% Sodium BiCarb and 30% Epsom Salts (Magnesium) added to Reverse Osmosis water resulting in 70 ppm sodium bicarbonate and 30 ppm magnesium sulphate.

    Some analysis of the brew indicates:

    • pH 7.4
    • TDS 100 (unsurprisingly)


    A couple of observations.

    • Ph is high, higher than ideal and resultant brew is alkaline (=scale!)
    • TDS is beyond what appears to be the accepted level of 50 - 80 ppm.


    Interestingly, having read quite a bit on some US websites where TDS up to 150ppm is still quite acceptable. Similarly an alkaline brew water does seem to be more favoured, which would suggest to me, again, a higher pH.

    Flavour in the cup.

    Brew Ratio Notes

    With the qualifier that I'm still perfecting my technique, I'm aiming for 21-22 g in the filter with brew ratio of 1.5 : 1 yielding 33 - 34 g of espresso in 30 seconds. Experimentation has shown that anything less than 30 seconds yields unsatisfactory crema and less full bodied espresso.

    I'm using a blend which includes a bean from Papua New Guinea and is quite dark. Roaster extraction notes indicates 28g in the filter with a brew ratio of 1.5 : 1 or a 42 second pour!! Yes he likes it thick and strong!

    Sorry I digressed...

    Using the original tap water - pH 7.2 but god awful otherwise, the brew was quite sweet with lovely dark chocolate after taste.

    Using low pH bottled water, the acid left a more sour after taste.

    Using the 70:30 brew water, the chocolate after taste is back.

    Next Steps

    1. Reducing the sodium bicarb to 50ppm with a view to reducing pH closer to neutral and TDS to +/- 80 ppm
    2. Use a 3 way recipe that includes Calcium Carbonate similar to this - there is some discussion that calcium does that same job as magnesium to increase hardness but also has increased deposits after boiling??

    Would love to hear your thoughts if you have followed a similar process and what the outcome was.
    Love this chat!!

    In a very backyard, no measurement approach.. simply going off what i taste, I've found the perfect water for me.

    I've played around with several chemicals compositions in water as well. Mind you, this is for filter coffee. Always starting with a 0% TDS water. Closest I've found readily available is the 10ltr and 5ltr boxes of water from Coles or Woolworths. Pureau water. Around $1/litre

    From there I've used Water Kits from both Specialty Water (fixed recipe) and Coffee Science Lab (chemical concentrates you make up)... but

    In small trials we done with tasting many different waters, same coffee - tap water was consistently top 3 preferences. Partly I'm guessing due to familiarity.

    So, keeping that in mind, but very aware of the scaling / high TDS issues. - Brisbane area. Not as bad as Perth. About half as bad - I figure -

    Utilise the chemicals in this tap water that correlate to a pleasant flavour full extraction but reduce the high TDS, mainly Carbonate Hardness.. by diluting Tap water with 0%TDS water.

    In Brisbane, average tap water TDS is a range of 220-350. By diluting 50/50, I therefor create a range thats half that at around 110-175.

    Consistently brewing with this now and am quite happy with results. Not sure how this would work in Espresso Machines, but I thought I'd share none the less.

  8. #8
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Have been doing a bit more on the brew water, primarily since @lyrebird questioned the TDS reading.
    I'm getting the water from an RO that is at a location where the water needs to be low TDS, and according to the company contracted to maintain it, TDS is below 10 ppm.
    I tested the water at a pool services outlet, while I have no reason to doubt their equipment, it will be interesting to see what I get.
    Being the pedant that I am I've ordered digital pH and TDS meters. I'll set up a controlled environment for the water collection and testing to ensure as best I can no outside contamination.
    Reminds me of year 10 chemistry classes. All that's missing is bunsen burners

  9. #9
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flashpixx View Post
    All that's missing is bunsen burners
    Coffeeeee.jpg

    Always was a completist.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    Coffeeeee.jpg

    Always was a completist.
    you dont have my old chemistry teacher from 1975 tucked away somewhere too

  11. #11
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    That might be him holding the Mokapot while I take the pic.
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  12. #12
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    I'm in Melbourne, with quite soft water, and I supplement carbonate, but not epsom salts, to get to circa 60-70 ppm carbonate as CaCO3 equivalents. I got there by getting the Colonna-Dashwood and Hendon book and making up some solutions with epsom salt and with bicarb to taste water that hits the middle of their suggested ideal brew water zone. I haven't had a chance to test different concentrations, nor have I had a chance to test different salts. I didn't think that the epsom salt supplementation made much of a difference, but the carbonate supplementation seemed to result in a small, but noticeable, decrease in acidity. This is a good thing for me, since I like lighter (but properly developed) roasts and what goes with them is increased acidity. You can see how you can manipulate carbonate to interact with your roast levels and roast speeds.

    I would give three further tips to people who are experimenting with this:

    First, be very, very, very careful in interpreting what you read, since people use different units and use them interchangeably. I spent like a day working out whether what people have written is in PPM of the compound they are writing about or in PPM as CaCO3 equivalents. Where they are CaCO3 equivalents, I then had to do the stoichiometry and convert it all to grams and then work out the dilutions to get a useful recipe. The Colonna-Dashwood and Hendon book is out of print and the errata to it seems to have disappeared from the face of the planet, so if you have that book, do not rely on it without first googling to find out where the units are wrong and then going back to the book and pencilling in the correct units.

    Second, most of what you read about making water from coffee tells you to start with distilled water and then supplement that. People write this because they know you'll end up with the right result, but it's so wasteful. If you have an RO unit, then maybe that's practical. If you don't, this is insane - you're going to have to buy a tonne of distilled water to use it regularly, lug it all over the place and create all of the associated plastic waste. Instead, it makes much more sense to me to just work out what comes out of your tap and blend it with distilled water. So, say you're in a hard water area where your water has twice as much Calcium/Magnesium as you want and twice as much carbonate as you want. Mix it 50/50 with distilled water. Bingo. Say it has twice as much Calcium/Magnesium and the right amount of carbonate. Mix it 50/50 with distilled water, then supplement the difference in carbonate. Halve your expenditure, fuss and waste on buying distilled water.

    Third, epsom salts absorb water from the atmosphere like crazy, and I'm sure other salts do, too. This will throw your maths off.

    I'll keep plugging away on the water, since it's a cheap and easy way to create a noticeable improvement. I've got a bunch of different salts and I'm switching from sodium bicarbonate to potassium, since coffee has lots of potassium in it anyway, so it should make some difference. Hendon published a 2014 paper where he basically said that, based on some calculations, we expect that calcium and magnesium ions will result in higher extraction of five compounds that he selected. That probably isn't all that useful in an absolute sense, since (a) those compounds didn't actually seem to be that delicious, nor did their associated flavours seem to be hard to extract and (b) in any event, people will adjust all the rest of their extraction to compensate - eg. by grinding finer. However, the important point to me in that paper was not the absolute extraction numbers, but, rather, that one of magnesium or calcium (can't remember which) resulted in a comparatively lower level of extraction of chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid tastes horrible; I gather that it is basically one of the key culprits in the underdeveloped grassy taste that we all hate. Now there's a lot of ifs and buts (eg. what are the relevant detection threshholds), but what this could mean is that we can formulate water that results in a reduction of that grassy taste relative to the other flavours in a coffee (for equal extraction levels). I can't see that anyone else has picked up on this point and it is one of the things that I've got in my wishlist of coffee experiments to run.

    Hope some of that is useful.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting Luca, great info!

    I will need to read through it a few times for it all to assimilate my grey matter.

    There are some more recipes out there if one uses a search engine. Predominantly they are from the US and I did get caught out with the varying measurement systems.

    I had discounted distilled water as I could access RO water quite simply. One can purchase a quite efficient (for an RO unit) with a 1.25 : 1 waste that can produce 300 litres per day for less than $250.

    The use of Ca as well as Sodium Bicarbonate and Magnesium Sulphate is another option worthy of experimentation.

    The water from our taps being what it is, we have no choice but to use another source.

  14. #14
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Further update on the brew water

    Ive discounted the RO water as a reliable source

    Now using Pureau water

    TDS: 12
    pH 6.7
    Chlorine: Nil

    Also discovered my ultra expensive $10 Coles scales were not so accurate. Got a set of Brewista Smart Scale MkII.

    Using the 70/30 Five Senses recipe we now have

    TDS 58
    Ph 7.0
    Chlorine Nil

    I've not noticed any change in flavour in the cup between brew water 1 and 2, but between tap water and brew water there is a sort of increase in clarity in flavour I guess you would describe it as. Anyway I do like it and that's the main thing.

    Brew Water out of the Boiler

    The original goal was to improve the water quality in the boiler so it didn't self destruct. In an input sense at least I would say we've achieved that.

    For shits and giggles I thought I'd test the water in the boiler, both from the brew head and from the hot water spout.

    TDS 250
    pH 8.2
    Chlorine Nil

    Wow, it's a bit acidic.... no Alkaline!!!!!

    A bit of research on the ideal pH for a boiler indicates slightly Acidic.... no Alkaline is best - between 8.6 and 9.5. Now I'm assuming this is for a copper lined boiler, the ECM is of course SS.

    Any chemists out there please chime in. I've not read any analysis of brew water coming OUT of an espresso machine.

    Gordon
    Last edited by flashpixx; 2 Weeks Ago at 05:36 PM. Reason: It’s Alkaline not Acidic
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    You have the pH scale the wrong way about: the acid side is below 7, so your boiler water is slightly alkaline.

    This is entirely to be expected if there is carbonate in your water supply:

    CO32- + H2O + heat -> CO2 + 2 OH-.

    The CO2 blows off leaving the hydroxyls.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    You have the pH scale the wrong way about: the acid side is below 7, so your boiler water is slightly alkaline.
    Haha, you’re right of course

    Beer + Me > Idiot

    seriously though, Ill need to make sure I’m on top of my descaling routine??

  17. #17
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    The high TDS in the boiler is probably just due to concentration of feedwater: since the minerals can't pass into the steam they stay in the liquid fraction, over time becoming more concentrated.

    If I were you I'd just drain the boiler and start again with the new water. If you use a lot of steam you might need to repeat the exercise every so often.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post

    If I were you I'd just drain the boiler and start again with the new water. If you use a lot of steam you might need to repeat the exercise every so often.
    Thanks, I’ve replaced the water with the new brew



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