North Texas Water and Possible Solutions (RO + Remineralizer)

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

Hi All,
I recently upgraded my old E61 machine to a one-group Slayer. I want to protect my investment but also improve on the taste of my espresso. For over a decade, my old Quickmill Vetrano has worked well with what was recommended by Chris' Coffee to me (two 10 in cartridges, one a carbon filter, the other a water softener).

However, looking at my water report recently shocked me a bit and makes me want to install a nicer system, one that removes excess alkalinity and that lets me control TDS. Maybe you all here have some insight into this. At this point, I pretend to only know the basics about what constitutes good water for my purposes (representing a compromise between machine protection and taste).

Here is what my water report says (all values are averages):
chloride: 38-42 mg/L
calcium: 2.5 mg/L
alkalinity: 408 mg/L
hardness (total as CaCo3): 9-26 mg/L
TDS: 650-653 mg/L
magnesium: 0.7-2.3 mg/L

The ranges result from samples taken at the entry point to the distribution system and from within the distribution system, so there is some variability. Oddly, I couldn't find the pH value on the report, but I remember that when I called water production last time, they told me that my pH value was about 7.5-8 (which would make sense, given the alkalinity).

Seems to me I really, really want to bring down that alkalinity and TDS number.

For my envisioned system, I only need an average daily supply of 3 gal. of treated water (or 1000ish gal. per annum). This is about 1 gal. for the machine and 2 gal. for consumption (pour-overs, tea, drinking water).

There are so many systems out there, so making a decision is difficult. I don't mind paying a bit extra upfront to get a system that locks me into more affordable filter/ RO membrane cartridges) in the long run. However, when looking at professional systems like Pentair that run in the 1000s of dollars, they are almost always for larger-scale treatment in a commercial setting.

I would really appreciate some pointers. Am I correct in thinking that multi-stage RO plus remineralizer is the way to go for my situation?

pumpkinscastle (original poster)
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#2: Post by pumpkinscastle (original poster) »


Here is a snapshot of my E61 mushroom on the traditional softener/carbon filter setup. I rebuilt the machine approx. 4 years ago and haven't removed the mushroom since. Altogether, the machine has been fed with this water and treatment combo for the past 12 years. There is some mineral buildup at the bottom of the mushroom, but really not too much, so it does seem that the old setup helped prevent substantial damage to the machine.

Pressino
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#3: Post by Pressino »

The major problem, with regard to the machine, is your water's high chloride levels. If you want to feed it via your house plumbing, you will need an RO filtration system with post filtration remineralization. If all you're concerned about is your espresso machine and water that you consume (rather than use for other purposes), the most economical option is an RO system to supply your kitchen sink and machine.

That mushroom looks pretty funky, with some rust and possibly other surface corrosion, but hard to tell without a closeup photo.

pumpkinscastle (original poster)
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#4: Post by pumpkinscastle (original poster) »

Thanks for your reply, Nick.
So, I assume something like this could work:
https://www.theperfectwater.com/home-ma ... ystem.html

It claims to remineralize twice but seems to have no adjustment for TDS nor does it say how much calcium/magnesium it puts back in the water.

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#5: Post by Pressino »

Something in that size, filtration rate, and price range looks good, but I would defer to Pat (homeburrero), who knows much more than I do about RO filtration systems and just how they should be set up, for specific recommendations.

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homeburrero
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#6: Post by homeburrero »

pumpkinscastle wrote:So, I assume something like this could work:
https://www.theperfectwater.com/home-ma ... ystem.html
Yes, that should work, and you can find some HB discussion of it here: Homemaster RO water + remineralization

Other comparable systems would be the APEC, iSpring, and Express Water units that you can find in the big box stores. One advantage of Homemaster over those others appears to be the online documentation and support by the manufacturer. Your tap water is well above 10 gpg hardness, so you may need to keep your softener to soften the feed water to the RO unit or may just get away with using their optional hard water membrane. Their remin cartridge is simple crushed marble calcite, which is good in my opinion. It may not add much mineral but will be very predictable. The product lit says that it adds 30-60 ppm, but I think you'd be lucky to get 30 ppm, which is enough.
Pat
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pumpkinscastle (original poster)
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#7: Post by pumpkinscastle (original poster) »

Hi Pat,
Thanks so much for your reply. I've been reading through some threads in this subforum, and it seems you are the resident expert on water here. :D Are you the HB member with a Speedster? I think I saw a thread somewhere. If so, that machine puts a smile on your face each time you use it, doesn't it? I was very tempted myself before I decided on the Slayer (which has anecdotally given me the tastiest shots at various shops on a recent European coffee journey).

Wouldn't my hardness as expressed through CaCO3 suggest that my water is not very hard, despite the presence of high amounts of TDS? I am confused what constitutes hardness then. I might keep that softener in line as a prefilter of sorts.

I will certainly get the higher rated RO membrane to handle harder water. It's a nominal surcharge. In another recent thread someone asked whether one could add another remineralization cartridge in line right after the stock one to further push up TDS. This might be mostly for taste, it seems. I think the APEC PH Plus was mentioned which seems the same crushed calcite matter as the Homemaster. That way one would increase contact area with the remineralizer, perhaps pushing into the 50-60 ppm realm (which often is recommended by manufacturers, including Slayer). I could also tie it in with a bypass configuration, activating it as needed. Those John Guest fittings seem to make it so easy to do that. Regardless, I think I am also going to invest in a two or three point TDS monitor that I tie into my system. That gives me the opportunity to periodically check the performance of my system.

If I decided to keep the softener and add another remineralizer, then I am a bit afraid of pressure drop. However, I have a consistent 4 bars of municipal pressure to work with, so might be ok.

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homeburrero
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#8: Post by homeburrero »

pumpkinscastle wrote:Are you the HB member with a Speedster?
No,that's not me. I still use an old school Rocket HX, sometimes my tin man (Gaggia G106) lever.

pumpkinscastle wrote:Wouldn't my hardness as expressed through CaCO3 suggest that my water is not very hard, despite the presence of high amounts of TDS? I am confused what constitutes hardness then. I might keep that softener in line as a prefilter of sorts.
The numbers you reported (hardness 9-26 mg/L and alkalinity 408 mg/L) look exactly like values you might get after conventional softening of a very hard water. If that's the case it's a safe assumption that your water before softening has a hardness higher than the alkalinity, maybe in the 500 mg/L as CaCO3 (30 grains per gallon) ballpark. That much hardness can foul and shorten the life of an RO membrane. The Homemaster specs recommend that the feed water have less than 10 grains per gallon. It's very common to put a conventional softener in front of an RO when you have hard water.

Hardness is just a measure of the calcium and magnesium in your water, expressed in some unit of chemical equivalence (mg /L as CaCO3, grains per gallon, German degrees, French degrees, etc.) When you soften your water, replacing calcium and magnesium with sodium, your hardness goes way down.


pumpkinscastle wrote:In another recent thread someone asked whether one could add another remineralization cartridge in line right after the stock one to further push up TDS. This might be mostly for taste, it seems. I think the APEC PH Plus was mentioned which seems the same crushed calcite matter as the Homemaster. That way one would increase contact area with the remineralizer, perhaps pushing into the 50-60 ppm realm (which often is recommended by manufacturers, including Slayer).
Adding a second remin cartridge would not do much to increase the hardness. Once the first calcite cartridge does the job of getting the pH up around neutral not much if any mineral will dissolve out of a second calcite cartridge. To get more mineral, and a higher pH you could look into a calcite + corosex remin cartridge which will raise the pH and add more magnesium hardness. These can have a tendency to overcorrect and add high hardness and pH especially when water comes out of an idle filter. (See Greg Scace's nice post about that: Dealing with Excessive Water Hardness Produced During Remineralization Under Intermittent Use

I would not worry about trying to get your hardness up in the 50-60 ppm. If it's remineralized RO water, that much hardness is not needed for machine health and it's debateable as to whether it improves taste.
pumpkinscastle wrote:I could also tie it in with a bypass configuration, activating it as needed. Those John Guest fittings seem to make it so easy to do that. Regardless, I think I am also going to invest in a two or three point TDS monitor that I tie into my system. That gives me the opportunity to periodically check the performance of my system.
Water like yours with a high alkalinity relative to chloride is a good candidate for blending. The high end commercial system support that with precision blending valves and inline conductivity TDS meters. I'm not sure how easy that would be to DIY. Having a sample valve before the remin and another after it would be a good idea. The first one will tell you if the RO is performing correctly. If you are careful to measure both samples at 25C, you can use an inexpensive (NaCl calibrated) TDS meter and the ppm difference between the two would tell you the hardness and alkalinity (as CACO3) that was added by your calcite cartridge. (i.e., if it reads 15 ppm before and 45 ppm after, you know that it added 30 ppm of hardness and 30 ppm of alkalinity as CaCO3 to your water.)
Pat
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pumpkinscastle (original poster)
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#9: Post by pumpkinscastle (original poster) »

Thanks, Pat. Sorry about wrongly ascribing a Speedster to you. As the owner of an old Vetrano, those E61 HX machines have a special place in my heart. I will refurbish my Vetrano over the summer and keep it as a backup unit. I also do some occasional teaching of a coffee appreciation class for which I could use it. Mine's made 10s of thousands of great shots over the years. It's been a workhorse with the old clickety-clack Sirai pressurestat still doing its thing after 16 years.

I went on an Amazon spree and got myself that 7-stage Homemaster system. I also got a bunch of John Guest fittings and valves, extra tubing, a three-point inline TDS meter and an Omnipure Calcite Corosex cartridge. At $20, the latter will be fun to experiment with in a bypass configuration. I will be able to add it to my system or cut it out completely or anywhere in between and will watch the TDS meter react to it as well as try to get an idea whether it will make better tasting filter coffee or not.

I wished they made a home system with automatic blending valve like they do for commercial settings. I looked at the entry level Pentair systems and couldn't bring myself to spending $2500 on one.
I will try to experiment with DIY blending by playing with the JG valve positions to integrate my Corosex cartridge. Chances are it might not work well at all, but not much money is lost in trying and toying with it.

As regards that alkalinity reading, what you said would make sense as the water treatment plant has already traditionally softened the water for me (I presume). Just to clarify, what I posted is my tap water prior to using my own softener. Doesn't that mean that it would be ok to use with my RO system without additional point-of-use softening. Ca and Mg have already been lowered by the treatment plant, and thus it wouldn't be a problem for the RO membrane, right? Or does the high alkalinity mess with the RO membrane still?

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homeburrero
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#10: Post by homeburrero »

pumpkinscastle wrote:As regards that alkalinity reading, what you said would make sense as the water treatment plant has already traditionally softened the water for me (I presume). Just to clarify, what I posted is my tap water prior to using my own softener. Doesn't that mean that it would be ok to use with my RO system without additional point-of-use softening. Ca and Mg have already been lowered by the treatment plant, and thus it wouldn't be a problem for the RO membrane, right? Or does the high alkalinity mess with the RO membrane still?
Yes, it looks like your utility is doing cation exchange softening - rarely done but I've seen a couple places that do that. If it's coming out of the tap with that low (below 30 mg/L) hardness then you don't need to soften it, nor would a softener be effective in reducing the high alkalinity. The high alkalinity is no problem for the RO, the membrane will take care of removing the sodium and the bicarbonate nicely.

P.S.
pumpkinscastle wrote:I wished they made a home system with automatic blending valve like they do for commercial settings.
Too late now, but I've seen a couple, but don't know enough to recommend them. One is a ~$600 system from livingwatersocal, and the other is a ~$700 system from craftbrewwater .
Pat
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