Should I Use Filtered Water to Make my Tea or Coffee?
Should I Use Filtered Water to Make My Tea Or Coffee?
Nowadays, many of us are connoisseurs of tea and coffee and we often make specialty brews in our own homes. Sometimes we simply need that perfect first tea or coffee in the morning to get us started. But could our regular tap water be ruining our carefully crafted creations? And, should we be using filtered water to make sure we get the best brew possible?
Does the water I use really affect my tea and coffee?
In a word, yes.
Tea and coffee is made up of around 98% water so it makes sense that any unwanted flavors and impurities that might be lurking in your tap water will affect the final flavor.
If you’ve ever made your usual brew and wondered why it has a weird taste, it’s probably something to do with the water. Water content can even change with the weather. If there’s been a lot of rain, extra particles can be pushed through the taps with the increased pressure which explains why some days your cup of tea just doesn’t hit the spot.
The next time that you find yourself in a specialty coffee or tea house you might notice that they have a pretty substantial water filtration system in place. That’s there so that they can control what’s ending up in your cup.
Making the perfect brew might seem like one of the dark arts but it’s actually quite scientific. If you know what’s in your water then you should be able to identify what it is that’s changing the flavor.
An easy check is whether you like the taste of the water straight out of the tap. We taste with our noses as well as our tongues. If the water doesn’t smell or taste great to start with, your tea or coffee won’t be able to disguise the taste.
What is in my tap water that could be ruining my tea?
The ancient Chinese tea master, Lu Yu said that the best way to brew your tea was to use the water that was used to water the tea plants, after being taken from a fast running mountain stream. That’s a little bit tricky for most of us but there are some easier steps that we can take to look after the delicate flavor of our teas.
Hard water, in particular, can cause problems with our tea. If you’ve ever noticed a shiny film floating on the top of your tea it’s probably a sign that the water is hard. Hard water usually contains a lot of calcium and magnesium which isn’t necessarily bad for you but can make your tea taste a bit flat and even slightly chalky. If your water is full of these minerals there won’t be enough space for your tea leaves to infuse into the water.
Too much water hardness can also leave your tea looking cloudy. This isn’t so important if you opt for a traditional tea in a mug. If you’re aiming for an elegant glass of sparkling iced tea you won’t want murky water to ruin the end result.
A lot of teas have light and subtle flavors. If your unfiltered tap water contains impurities like chlorine, salt or even dirt particles you could lose the very flavours that make your chosen tea stand out. If there’s a lot of those impurities in your water your tea could taste nothing like it should do.
Is it the same for my coffee?
Pretty much, yes.
If you use very hard water to brew your coffee it is likely to ruin the taste. Excessive hard water can make your coffee taste bitter and sharp and whilst the espresso lovers amongst us like our coffee to have a ‘kick’, there is a limit! This bitterness can often come from excess levels of bicarbonate in the water.
Using hard water also means that you will see a build up of limescale in your kettle of coffee machine. Not only does it look unsightly but it can damage the machinery and stop it working as effectively. A kettle without limescale always boils in far less time than a furred up kettle so by using filtered water you’ll save money on your electricity bills in the long run!
Should I just filter my hard water to turn it into soft water?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Marshall Malone, a winner of The Global Tea Championship recommends that for the best brew your water should be somewhere between hard and soft water. If your water is too soft, the flavor of your tea will not be drawn out. (Lu Yu was clearly onto something with his mountain stream which would have a nice amount of minerals in it).
Similarly, soft water tends to inhibit the flavor of your coffee resulting in a disappointingly tasteless cup of coffee even when made with the strongest of roasts. So, a water filter that removes every trace of minerals from your water will make both your tea and coffee taste pretty uninspiring.
So, should I filter my water or not?
Filtering definitely does have it’s advantages for helping you to make the perfect brew.
Other than hard water, there are other components within your water that can affect your tea and coffee such as fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals and dirt particles.
Most governments use low levels of chlorine to treat and clean our supply of drinking water. All the coffee and tea experts, without exception, agree that chlorine does nothing beneficial for the taste of your tea or coffee. Filtering the chlorine out of your water will always improve the flavor of your brew. One of the easiest ways to remove chlorine from your drinking water is by using a charcoal filter.
Your drinking water can also pick up heavy metals and dirt particles on it’s way through the pipes. Heavy metals such as mercury and lead can give your drinks a metallic taste. A basic membrane water filter can help to remove these from your water or an activated carbon water filter could be more effective if you need a little extra help.
You can find out what’s in your local water supply by looking online on your water provider’s website. If you know what’s in your water it will help you to decide what filter will work best for you.
Right, so I just need to filter all the nasties out of my water to make the perfect cuppa?
Sorry - it’s not that easy! Confusingly some levels of minerals, in particular, calcium and magnesium can actually enhance the flavor and texture of your coffee. Magnesium usually develops the fruitiness of the coffee whilst calcium can give your coffee a lovely creamy consistency.
And remember Lu Yu and his mountain stream? His preferred choice of water would have contained a subtle variety of natural minerals that added to the flavor of his tea rather than overpowered it.
Luckily, there are plenty of water filters that add in a low amount of minerals whilst removing any unwanted pollutants that may lead to different types of cancers. Using a faucet filter like those on offer from Invigorated Water is an easy way to make sure that your water is clean but still has the ‘good’ minerals that you want.
What about using bottled water to make my coffee and tea?
A lot of bottled waters do have a nice composition of minerals without the pollutants that we talked about earlier so it’s not a bad idea at all. Different bottled waters will give your tea or coffee slightly different tastes so if you have a personal preference for a particular water it could be a great option for you.
The main downside to using bottled water to brew your coffee and tea is that it isn’t very environmentally friendly as most bottled waters come in plastic bottles.
Is a faucet filter the only way to filter water at home for my tea and coffee?
No, you have lots of other options. If you don’t want to use a faucet filter then have a look at some countertop water filters or pitcher filters. They are an easy and less permanent solution to filtering water for your coffee and tea. By choosing a water filter for your home you will be improving your water for everyday drinking and not just for your tea and coffee.
If you don’t want to filter your tap water for your tea and coffee but are still looking for a way to improve the taste, try using a local supplier. In particular, coffee roasters will usually test out and create their blends using the local water so you’ll be supporting local businesses as well as getting great coffee.