Am I damaging my espresso machine using my water? - Page 2

Water analysis, treatment, and mineral recipes for optimum taste and equipment health.
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#11: Post by Jake_G »

Get this kit:
HTH Test Kit

Or one of the other Hatch (or similar) kits linked to by homeburrero or luvmy40. It will allow you to test pH, GH (labeled TH in the Kit) and KH (labeled TA in the kit). The other 3 tests are not particularly useful. The only remaining item to worry about is chloride.

You asked me privately if you should just get an RO setup. There is nothing "wrong" with using an RO system with remineralization, aside from never knowing whether or not your remin cartridge is still doing its thing. I have one, and I like it. I use it because I have a well and my groundwater has over 300PPM calcium hardness and tons of iron in it. My whole-house water softener and iron filter eliminate the hardness and iron, but I'm left with zero hardness and somewhere around 340PPM alkalinity. That's just nuts, so I picked up the RO unit and added a remin cartridge from iSpring, which leaves me with something like 60ppm GH and 20ppm KH. I dilute this with my 0ppm GH, 340ppm KH water to get my buffer up to around 60ppm KH, which lowers my calcium hardness a few ppm. I do this be ause I prefer a bit more alkalinity buffer to temper the acidity of light roast espresso that I prefer. If I had a TDS meter, it would probably read in excess of 120ppm, and that would be perfectly fine.

My RO/Remin setup will work fine until it doesn't. So, I test the water every few months to keep an eye on things. I know that eventually I will need to replace the remin cartridge, but I have no idea when.

Either way. You should order a test kit so that you what you are dealing with.


- Jake
LMWDP #704

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#12: Post by homeburrero »

Following up with some short responses to the OP's original questions.
gingi wrote:Surprisingly, the TDS values in PPM are: 156 (tap), 150 (Brita, filtered), 145 (Brita filtered planed in the tank with Oscar).

My questions are:

1. -Is that range sufficient / safe for brewing espresso (a short Google search says that it does, but I decided to ask the experts here)

2. -In not, what should I consider if I want to improve the quality of the water?

3. -If there is not a substantial difference between the tap and the filtered water, what does it mean? does the Brita not filtering anything, or the probe dose not check for filtered materials?

4. -Is there an affordable, cheap solution to achieve the perfect water at home?
1. Nothing wrong with those numbers, but TDS is not sufficient to tell if the water is scale prone, or corrosive, or makes awful tasting coffee.

2. We have to know more to help. However, if we can assume that you are on DC Water ( ... INAL_4.pdf ) then we can say that using a Brita filter along with an Oscar softening pouch is fairly reasonable if not ideal. DC water has a hardness and alkalinity that will cause scale deposits, and the Oscar pouch will reduce the hardness and make it less scale-prone. Replace it every 6 months, and make a habit of filling your machine's reservoir at the end of the day so that it has overnight contact with the water. You can also drop a second pouch into the Brita pitcher. The OSCAR pouch does not reduce your alkalinity or TDS, and it does not acidify the water (which is good if you have some corrosive chloride ion in your water.)

3. You won't see the benefit of these filters using a conductivity TDS meter. The Brita mostly removes traces of chlorine, chloramine, and off-tastes and odors, and the Oscar pouch is a conventional softener that replaces divalent calcium and magnesium ions with two sodium ions, so the conductivity measured by the TDS meter does not decrease. The standard Brita will exchange some ions and may reduce alkalinity and acidify the water slightly. You don't want that with DC water because it has about 40 mg/L of corrosive chloride ion so I would suggest buying the newer Brita 'longlast' or 'Elite' filter, which will not acidify your water.

4. If you are on DC Water, you have a chloride ion concentration of around 40 mg/L according to their latest report, and that number has been rising over the years. Many machine manufacturers recommend using a Reverse Osmosis system with a remineralizer when chloride ion is more than 15 - 30 mg/L. So that's probably your ideal treatment solution in DC. Affordable under-sink home RO + remin units run $200 - $400. Or you can simply avoid that tap water and use bottled water, or use purified water spiked with a little bicarbonate.
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gingi (original poster)

#13: Post by gingi (original poster) »


Thank you so much.

Actually, I live in Frederick MD. There DC in my profile was from years ago when I lived in DC.

Is there a way to see the quality of water in Frederick?

Also, can you recommend a good RO kit on Amazon? or any other solution that will not be expansive or time consuming to mess with?

Thank you again, homeburrero

gingi (original poster)

#14: Post by gingi (original poster) »

This is the most update report about the water quality ... ort?bidId=

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#15: Post by homeburrero »

That report does have chloride numbers, which is good because that's tough to test. And fortunately your chloride ion is lower than the Washington DC water I was discussing earlier. It's variable, in the range of 6 - 33 mg/L. That's borderline about whether or not you really need to use RO treatment on your water.

Unfortunately, that report is lacking any hardness and alkalinity numbers, and info about that from older reports is very inconsistent. But I'm pretty sure, based on your TDS measurements that your hardness and alkalinity are up in the 80 - 120 mg/L as CaCO3 range, so you will want to keep using (and periodically replacing) your Oscar pouch for now. You can try calling the customer phone number on that report and ask them for hardness and alkalinity numbers at your tap. Or you could test it yourself with a drop titration test kit (here is an inexpensive and popular one that you can get online or at an aquarium store.) With your own kit you can test the water in your reservoir to verify that your Brita + Oscar pouch treatment is effectively reducing your GH to low numbers.

gingi wrote:Also, can you recommend a good RO kit on Amazon? or any other solution that will not be expansive or time consuming to mess with?
I've not used and compared these, so I can't help with a recommendation. I've seen users on this site that are using APEC, Homemaster artisan full contact, and iSpring with remin cartridges. As Jake said, you don't get much mineral out of any of these - you're doing good if you get 30-60 mg/L hardness and alkalinity as CaCO3. But that should make you perfectly good coffee.

As to other solutions, you may be fine just using a charcoal and conventional (sodium exchange) softener. The Homeland HWCS, the 3M-Cuno ESP 124, and the BWT bestprotect are examples, as well as setups like this one that uses generic 10" housings and filters. Those systems would not reduce your chloride at all, but then your Frederick water is not that high and I think you can live with that chloride level as long as you have reasonable alkalinity. With that you would not need the Oscar pouch.
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gingi (original poster)

#16: Post by gingi (original poster) »

Thank you.
I actually called Profitec and also Whole Latter Love - both were in agreement that the current waters, in the long run, will not to my machine any good.
Both suggested using distilled water and to make my own based on BH recipe. I think that is what I will be doing, at least until I will figure something better out.

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#17: Post by homeburrero »

gingi wrote:Both suggested using distilled water and to make my own based on BH recipe. I think that is what I will be doing, at least until I will figure something better out.
Good advice in my opinion. Certainly the simplest way to get machine-healthy water irrespective of what's in the local tap water.

You can use bottled distilled or de-ionized in your recipe, and if you want to avoid wasting gallon containers you can look around for a local grocery that lets you refill containers. Cheaper, less waste, and fewer trips to the store. My local Whole Foods sells de-ionized water for 39 cents/gallon, which for this purpose the same as distilled. Even simple RO from a dispenser will work fine but you'd need to take care that it doesn't have minerals added and that the RO is functioning. (You can check it with an inexpensive TDS conductivity meter.)

Your simplest recipe, and one that is very popular on this site, will be the R Pavlis recipe, popularized by the late Robert Pavlis, a chemistry professor who posted frequently here on home-barista. Add about 0.3 grams of sodium bicarbonate or 0.4 grams of potassium bicarbonate per gallon of purified water and you're done.

R Pavlis is about as machine healthy as water can get. Some people think that a little hardness mineral may improve taste, and to do that you might want to experiment with the Barista Hustle recipes that use concentrates of sodium bicarbonate for alkalinity, and of magnesium sulfate for magnesium hardness. If you use that approach - ... pes-redux/ - you could add 50 g of buffer and no magnesium to get R Pavlis water, then try the BH "Recipe 2 - WOC Budapest" to see if it's really a taste improvement.
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