How An Espresso Machine Water Filter Will Save You Thousands In The Long-Run
Pulling stunning shots of espresso isn’t just about the beans and your technique—it’s also about your water. Coffee is 99% water, after all, but it’s often a misunderestimated aspect of the brewing process. And when you fail to take care of your water supply, your coffee (and your wallet) suffers.
You’ve already made a substantial investment into your espresso machine, now it’s time to protect that investment. Just like with healthcare, preventative measures are the best way to save money in the long-run—often thousands of dollars.
Let’s take a deep look at how water affects your espresso quality, how it can harm your costly equipment, and a few ways to can build a healthy water system into your cafe’s espresso setup.
The Right Water For Coffee Brewing
Water is never just water. It has varying amounts of minerals, acids, aromas, and these additional compounds can significantly affect your coffee. We like how our friends at La Marzocco put it…
“Water has all sorts of trace amounts of other minerals in it, giving both flavor and extracting ability. When it comes to brewing coffee, it’s important to understand that the more mineral content water has, the less it can take in from coffee, typically.”
A small amount of these minerals actually helps the water pull things out of the coffee grounds, but most water sources don’t fall within this ideal range, which is why most cafes choose to install water filters.
Here’s are the water specs that La Marzocco recommends;
|Total Dissolved Solids||90 ppm||150 pmm|
|Total Hardness||70 ppm||100 ppm|
|Total Iron||0.0 ppm||0.02 ppm|
|Total Chlorine||0.0 ppm||0.1 ppm|
Water that falls within these ranges enables you to make espresso with a high level of flavour clarity, a high degree of balance, and that rich, satisfying sweetness. Water outside of these ranges typically produces less stunning espresso with muddy indistinct flavours, a noticeable imbalance, and a lack of sweetness.
If you really want to be able to stand out in the quality realm (or, at the very least, not be seen as falling behind), you need to take your water seriously. Bad water will kill the rich flavours you know are hidden in your coffee and will dispirit your baristas. Great water will inspire them to pull better and better espresso—and your customers will notice.
But it’s not just about flavour quality. It’s also an issue of machine lifespan.
Destructive Nature Of Calcium Hardness
Hard water (over 150 ppm of calcium hardness) is a major problem that most cafes in the world have to deal with. As it runs through your espresso machine, calcium is slowly deposited on pipes, in boilers, and in your grouphead, where it begins to solidify. We call this calcium scale.
Scale buildup is the #1 reason for commercial espresso machine breakdowns.
Maybe you have a second-hand machine that you bought for $5,000. Maybe you went the brand new route at a price tag closer to $25,000. Either way, espresso machine repairs are expensive. Not only do you have to pay a professional to come clean it out, but you also have to close shop for a day or two.
Scale buildup over time is inevitable. A filter will slow down the buildup dramatically, but it won’t stop it entirely (since a little bit of calcium is still good for flavour development). And this buildup causes some serious issues…
- ● It affects the pressure of your espresso machine pumps
- ● It can create blockages in your grouphead
- ● This damages the flavour of your shots
- ● It also creates an inconsistency with your steam wand
However, the breakdowns and repair fees—those are completely avoidable. We suggest using a descaling liquid 1-2 times per month. We’ll talk more about this step in our blog on espresso machine maintenance. For now, let’s keep our focus on the preventative measures: effective filters.
How To Filter Water For Your Espresso Machine
There are a couple directions you can go when it comes to installing filters, and the right choice depends on whether your machine runs off a water reservoir or is connected directly to plumbing.
You can see our full range of water filters, cartridges, and fittings here.
No matter which type of system you decide to use, it’s important to continually test the calcium hardness of water coming out of the filter. Filters lose efficiency, local water sources change, and pipes get old. Keep an eye on your water using a Hardness Test Kit. Checking once or twice per month should be fine.
You carefully purchased your espresso machine—now protect it, as well as the espresso that comes out of it. Your customers may never know how far you went to make sure their shots taste delicious and balanced, but they will notice if you fail to care for your gear.
Find a filter, install it carefully, then build the testing and replacements into your normal routine. It’s easy, usually simple, and will save you thousands of dollars in the long-run.