Calcium source water recipes

Water analysis, treatment, and mineral recipes for optimum taste and equipment health.
Acavia

#1: Post by Acavia »

I just started making water. First try was a simple Matt Perger recipe or perhaps it was from the water coffee book. It was just Epsom salt and baking soda in a single concentrate added to distilled water. I will probably get a .01g scale and try the two bottle recipes later but I had a question about calcium first. In researching the recipes, I noticed all the recipes, that I found, only use two sources, Epsom salt for magnesium and baking soda for a buffer - no calcium source.

Are there recipes with a calcium source added? Or perhaps there is no need for calcium?? What would be missing from magnesium only versus a water with both calcium and magnesium for coffee brewing? Is there no reason to include calcium?

(Note in case it maters: I only do pour-over. So if scale prevention, in espresso, is why calcium is not recommended, I would not have that limitation.)

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homeburrero
Team HB

#2: Post by homeburrero »

You can find opinions that magnesium or calcium is preferred for taste. The old 2011 SCAA water handbook preferred calcium, but nowadays you are more likely to find a leaning toward magnesium for taste. It probably doesn't matter at all, and just using magnesium is certainly the most convenient. Using mostly calcium would make your water more like typical natural water, which is what most roasters would be using when cupping and tweaking their roasts, so I suppose that's an argument for going that route. A little more on calcium vs magnesium can be found here: Calcium chloride vs. Magnesium sulfate

For espresso machines, magnesium is less scale prone. When water is heated in a kettle or boiler with bicarbonate ion, either can combine with bicarbonate in the water to form insoluble carbonates or hydroxides. But calcium is far more scale prone (limescale, strictly speaking, is calcium carbonate.) If your water has significant sulfate ion, calcium is much worse because while magnesium sulfate is nicely soluble, calcium sulfate (gypsum) is not. If you get calcium sulfate deposits they don't even dissolve well in descaling solution. Of course scale is not much of an an issue with pourover.

Magnesium in the form of magnesium sulfate is a handy way to add soluble magnesium ion to your brew water, so you see it in most all DIY coffee recipes as a source of hardness. There are fewer options for soluble calcium salts. The usual highly soluble calcium salt would be calcium chloride, and that might be OK for pourover but is to be strictly avoided in an espresso machine because chloride is corrosive to copper, brass, even stainless steel. Beer brewers use calcium chloride, and sometimes the far less soluble calcium sulfate to formulate their brewing water.

Calcium citrate is not nearly as soluble as magnesium sulfate or calcium chloride, but could be used in small amounts as a sparingly soluble source of calcium ion. It's not something you would find in natural water. TWW contains small amounts of calcium citrate.

P.S.
I myself am one water nutjob who goes to the trouble of making espresso machine water that has bicarbonate, calcium, and magnesium, but no sulfate, chloride, citrate, etc. I find it easy to make, and think it perhaps approximates a natural water more than most DIY water recipes, but admit that it's probably no better than the much simpler rpavlis water (100 mg/L potassium bicarbonate).
An all carbonate water recipe (cloudy concentrate, no sodastream)
Pat
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tv79

#3: Post by tv79 »

I recently started making my own water as well. So far I've tried both TWW and the Rao water recipe on BH.

I've been really surprised at how muted my brews have been with TWW. Even after grinding quite a bit finer I've still found my cups to be too delicate. So I'm planning on testing some of the other BH recipes in hopes of finding something that brings a bit more out of the coffees I'm currently brewing.

Out of curiosity, is it possible to just add baking soda and Epsom salts directly to a gallon of distilled water (like TWW) instead of making the buffer/hardness solutions separately?

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homeburrero
Team HB

#4: Post by homeburrero »

tv79 wrote:Out of curiosity, is it possible to just add baking soda and Epsom salts directly to a gallon of distilled water (like TWW) instead of making the buffer/hardness solutions separately?
OK if adding small final amount concentrations in a gallon, but for concentrate bottles you gotta keep em separated.

Epsom (magnesium sulfate hydrate) is very soluble, as is sodium or potassium bicarbonate. But put high concentrations of them both in one bottle and you have magnesium ion and bicarbonate ion together, which can combine to precipitate magnesium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide. At the final concentration that you use for your brew, the concentrations of magnesium and bicarbonate are low enough that you don't need to worry.
Pat
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tv79

#5: Post by tv79 »

homeburrero wrote:OK if adding small final amount concentrations in a gallon, but for concentrate bottles you gotta keep em separated.
Thanks. Yeah, I'm basically looking to cut out the middle man and avoid having to make the concentrate bottles. I'd much prefer to be able to add the raw ingredients directly to a gallon of distilled water.

From what I can tell though, most recipes use the concentrate bottles. Have you seen any that just add the Epsom/bicarbonate directly?

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homeburrero
Team HB

#6: Post by homeburrero »

tv79 wrote:From what I can tell though, most recipes use the concentrate bottles. Have you seen any that just add the Epsom/bicarbonate directly?
Yes, especially for larger containers . Concentrates are just a convenience. You don't have to get out the salts and scales very often and you don't have to measure such teensy amounts of the salts.

Alkalinity:
For a 1 US gallon container, to hit the oft-recommended target of 40 mg/L alkalinity you would add
0.30 gram potassium bicarbonate
or
0.25 gram sodium bicarbonate

For 5 gallons it would be a little easier to hit the mark (1.5 grams of potassium bicarb or 1.25 grams of sodium bicarb)

Hardness:
For a 1 US gallon container, to hit the oft-recommended target of 70 mg/L hardness (as CaCO3) you would add
0.65 grams of Epsom salt

multiply by 5 to see that 5 gallons would require about 3.25 grams of Epsom salt.

P.S.
And you don't need high accuracy here. Twice as much bicarb would be fine, as would half as much Epsom. Or zero Epsom. 0.4 gram of potassium bicarb and zero Epsom in a gallon would give you the very popular RPavlis water.
Pat
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tv79

#7: Post by tv79 »

Much appreciated, this was very helpful.

I've tried a few recipes so far (TWW, "Rao" and "Pretty Hard" recipes on BH). Yet none of them have been able to pull much flavor out of the Intelligentsia Frequency blend I'm currently brewing. Cups are weak and lifeless even at 500/32.5g. My filtered tap water does a bit better in this respect, but seems to more easily overextract (I have noticed zero astringency using any of the water recipes).

In fairness, this is the first bag of Frequency I've tried. But I've also found Intelligentsia's El Gallo blend to also be rather muted even with filtered tap water, though not nearly to the extent of the water recipes above. I've tried brewing with both larger and smaller pours, as well as varied temps/agitation/ratios. And I'm currently using the Gevi 4-in-1, so pours are about as consistent as they get.

Just got an Onyx order in this week, so I'm curious to see if those cups are more flavorful.

Acavia (original poster)

#8: Post by Acavia (original poster) »

tv79 wrote: I've been really surprised at how muted my brews have been with TWW. Even after grinding quite a bit finer I've still found my cups to be too delicate.
I tend to dilute my Third Wave Water. To dilute: I make it as instructed by pour a TWW satchel into a gallon of distilled water. Then I mix that TWW with non-doctored distilled water, often in a 1:1 ratio, in a kettle for brew water. 1:1 would be 50% TWW. Sometimes I do 1:3 parts for 25%. The lower percentage TWW makes coffee more bright. It is another tool for brewing coffee. 100% for more smooth traditional coffee, lower for brighter coffee.

Acavia (original poster)

#9: Post by Acavia (original poster) »

homeburrero wrote:
Epsom (magnesium sulfate hydrate) is very soluble, as is sodium or potassium bicarbonate. But put high concentrations of them both in one bottle and you have magnesium ion and bicarbonate ion together, which can combine to precipitate magnesium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide.
Is magnesium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide dangerous? I did the combined concentrate method mixing baking soda and Epsom salt together in a concentrate. I immediately used enough to make 1 gallon of finished product but have much of the concentrate left. A few weeks later, the concentrate is still clear with no crystals. Should I not use that Baking soda-Epsom salt-combined concentrate any longer?

Acavia (original poster)

#10: Post by Acavia (original poster) »

homeburrero wrote:Yes, especially for larger containers . Concentrates are just a convenience. You don't have to get out the salts and scales very often and you don't have to measure such teensy amounts of the salts.

Alkalinity:
For a 1 US gallon container, to hit the oft-recommended target of 40 mg/L alkalinity you would add
0.30 gram potassium bicarbonate
or
0.25 gram sodium bicarbonate

For 5 gallons it would be a little easier to hit the mark (1.5 grams of potassium bicarb or 1.25 grams of sodium bicarb)

Hardness:
For a 1 US gallon container, to hit the oft-recommended target of 70 mg/L hardness (as CaCO3) you would add
0.65 grams of Epsom salt

multiply by 5 to see that 5 gallons would require about 3.25 grams of Epsom salt.

P.S.
And you don't need high accuracy here. Twice as much bicarb would be fine, as would half as much Epsom. Or zero Epsom. 0.4 gram of potassium bicarb and zero Epsom in a gallon would give you the very popular RPavlis water.
This seems easier than making concentrate. Is there any water quality advantage to making concentrate? If no water quality advantage, I would rather get a 0.001g scale and add dry minerals to finished water just as I do with TWW as that is easier to me than dealing with concentrate.