Help Assessing City Water Report/Choosing Treatment Options

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

I guess everyone gets to this point after making espresso at home awhile, I'm now wanting to look more seriously at my brew water.

Up to this point I've spoken with quite a few people locally (Halifax, Nova Scotia) who brew and have been told we're fairly lucky in terms of city water supply and most people here just say to use a pitcher filter and be done with it. Which is what I've been doing with a BWT pitcher up until now.

My questions is, is this really close enough to be ideal both for taste and scale build up?

I don't know how to properly assess the city's test report:

This is the water I run through a BWT pitcher and then straight into my Profitec 600 tank fed dual boiler. I was thinking about making rpavlis water and went as far as ordering some Potassium Bicarbonate but then I started to think about how to minimize waste and if that was really the best course of action.

Can someone try to explain to me if the above water chemistry is both safe for espresso machines and in a decent range for taste. I do notice that the BWT filtered tap water TASTES much better as straight drinking water and I've been fairly diligent about changing the filters on time.

Here are the results of the simple water test kit I tried:

And here is the tap vs the filtered. Black mark on the end of the tap water. Not any difference I can see. But I guess that is expected with what those pitchers do.

Is there some combination of additives I could use on this water?
Should I pay for a complete water test of MY tap water?
Should I switch to a Zerowater pitcher and add the Potassium Bicarbonate and potentially some Magnesium (Epsom Salts)?
Will this likely net me improved taste result in-the-cup? Safer for the machine?

I'm not concerned about the cost of running something like a Zerowater and making my own concentrate solution to amend it with. I just want to be sure I'm not missing the opportunity to work with the existing water in a way that would get me to the same place.

Thanks for any input provided.

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#2: Post by homeburrero »

That's a nice complete report. It indicates soft, low-mineral mineral water with reasonably low chloride and sulfate. I don't think you need any further testing. It would benefit by being filtered through charcoal, primarily to remove chlorine. Since the alkalinity is on the low side I might recommend using the new Brita longlast filters. Unlike most charcoal jug filters (including BWT) it has no resins that tend to reduce alkalinity and acidify the water.

In theory it might be better with a slight increase in bicarbonate. You could add maybe 0.2 gram of that potassium bicarbonate per gallon of tap water and that would increase your alkalinity to about 48 mg/L. (Typical advice from the SCA and others is to use water with an alkalinity of 40 mg/L or more.)

I would not worry about the low hardness of this water. It should not scale even if concentrated a little in a hot steam boiler. With your DB, if you use the steam wand you will want to routinely flush the steam boiler to compensate for the concentration effect of that steaming. (More info related to that can be found here: Using hot water tap to manage steam boiler water concentration )
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#3: Post by PIXIllate (original poster) » replying to homeburrero »


Thank you for the detailed and fast reply. I guess it looks like people were right and we live in an area with decent city water. If you don't mind I have a few follow-up questions just so I can get everything straight in my head before I act.

- I have no problem switching filter jugs from BWT to Brita Longlast if you think it would be better. What is the best way to know when to change the filter? I doubt it's the digital counter.

- I do make one cappuccino every day or two for my neighbor. I usually draw about 200g of water out of the hot water wand everyday. Is this enough?

- Since I'm Canadian I think in liters. I live in a scale rich environment so I have a 0.001g scale. Is there a 100ml sized dilution that you could
recommend that I can make and add x amount to every 1000ml?

- What if I wanted to make one dilution with potassium bicarbonate and another with magnesium sulfate? Is that a good or bad idea? It would seem most of the recommend water recipes based on taste use some of it.

- Is this product okay? ... PB6YT&th=1

I'm sorry if these questions are obvious or overly simple. I just don't have any background in chemistry so all of it is new to me.

Many thanks for your time and experience.

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#4: Post by baldheadracing »

Depending on where you live in Halifax, I'd be more worried about a lead pipe feeding your house. ... es-371774/

According to the article, there are so many lead pipes servicing homes in Halifax that the city hasn't been able to switch to Chloramine over Chlorine for water treatment.

As an aside, Rainfresh systems are readily available in Canada at great prices due to volume discounters (Canadian Tire, Home Depot, etc.), and one of Rainfresh's carbon filter cartridges is rated for lead removal. You won't see much online about Rainfresh as they only sell in Canada.
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

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#5: Post by PIXIllate (original poster) » replying to baldheadracing »

Thanks for the heads up. This is good information. We did a reno on the house a few years ago so I know there's no lead but it's always good to make sure.

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#6: Post by Jeff »

The lead problem is often not in the house, but in the utility mains.

I'm not Pat, but it looks like your utility has a pretty soft supply to start with and may actually add minerals. Things that I, in my inexpert vision, see include:

Chloride: < 10 ppm
Alkalinity: 21.5 ppm
Hardness: 11.3 ppm

If those numbers are true, you're down in the bottom, left of the water chart I bookmarked Good references on water treatment for coffee/espresso

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#7: Post by PIXIllate (original poster) »


Thanks for that. I was looking for something exactly like it.

It would seem you're correct, I'm almost off the lower left of the chart. So the question is how do I amend to move up and to the right without getting into scale trouble?

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#8: Post by baldheadracing »

Jeff wrote:The lead problem is often not in the house, but in the utility mains. ...
In this and other Canadian cities, it isn't the mains, but the lead feed pipe from the mains to the outside water cut-off (the one that destroys lawn mower blades :oops: ). From the outside cut-off to inside the house is usually copper.

The hard part is that the feed pipe can only be inspected when water mains are replaced or the yard is excavated. Otherwise, only a lead test of the house's standing water may reveal a lead feed pipe, and those tests can be inconclusive.

(I've gone through this ... I live in an area with some lead feed pipes. When the water mains were replaced on my street a few years ago, quite a few houses had lead feeds, and the replacement cost was $4k for each affected homeowner. My test results were inconclusive, but the excavation confirmed that I wasn't affected.)
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

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#9: Post by homeburrero »

PIXIllate wrote:It would seem you're correct, I'm almost off the lower left of the chart. So the question is how do I amend to move up and to the right without getting into scale trouble?
I would say that you don't need to. On that chart, notice that the 'rpavlis' water is at the bottom of the chart. That's a very popular water among HB'ers that has zero hardness minerals.

You could do an experiment with adding small amounts of Epsom salt to increase your magnesium hardness at the expense of adding a little undesirable sulfate ion. If you were to add 0.5 grams of epsom salt (magnesium sulfate heptahydrate) to a gallon of that tap water it would bump up your hardness by 54 mg/L CaCO3 equivalent giving you a total hardness of around 65 mg/L - - in line with some recommended targets for tasty extractions, and would still not be scale prone. Try it with a few different coffees and if it doesn't improve the taste then don't add it. At that level it would increase your sulfate ion by about 50 mg/L* which isn't alarmingly high but may be a corrosion concern worth avoiding if you don't think it provides a taste advantage.

* For comparison, the Third Wave Water espresso capsule formula has a sulfate ion level of just over 100 mg/L.
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#10: Post by PIXIllate (original poster) » replying to homeburrero »

I really can't thank you enough for taking the time to figure out the right amounts to amend my water with. Personally one of the most helpful replies I've ever received. I bought some 4l jugs and will start amending with your recommended 0.2g potassium bicarbonate and give that a shot for a week of so before I try adding in the 0.5g of magnesium sulfate and see if things get better or not.

Many thanks.