Using house water with whole house softener?

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

Hi,

I figured I would be ok to use house water directly as we have salt softener on it so we would avoid scale etc..

But I read a post that suggested I shouldn't use it?

Is this because of taste or will it cause an issue? Profitec 600 with flow control.

Thanks!

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homeburrero
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#2: Post by homeburrero »

I'd say you can ignore most of the advice to avoid conventionally softened (sodium or potassium exchange) water like you get from whole house softeners. There are many cases where it's your best treatment option. In some extreme cases you may need conventional softening in front of a reverse osmosis treatment system. It really depends on what's in your water. Start with your water utility to get numbers for hardness, alkalinity, and chloride ion, then you can start thinking about treatment options, or perhaps using bottled or purified water that you add minerals to.
Pat
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redcoat (original poster)
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#3: Post by redcoat (original poster) »

Hi @homeburrero,

Not sure if my question was clear - We already have a whole house softener.

I'm trying to understand if it's ok to use it in my Profitec 600?

I dug out the well water analysis from 18 months ago that is BEFORE the water softener:



The TDS meter reads 174 after water softener. I do have RO drinking faucet, too, that reads 4.

Hardness kit reads almost zero.



cheers

David

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homeburrero
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#4: Post by homeburrero »

redcoat wrote:I'm trying to understand if it's ok to use it in my Profitec 600?
Given what we see here, it is probably good enough (but see caveat below about chloride) and you certainly would not want to use that water unsoftened.

What you expect after conventional softening would be water with a low hardness, less than 20 mg/L as CaCO3, and a high alkalinity, 199 mg/L same as your unsoftened water. If you are using sodium salt in your water the sodium ion content would increase by about 100 mg/L.

From a taste perspective the high alkalinity and sodium are perhaps not ideal. The alkalinity might dull the coffee brightness in pourover brews but not so much in espresso, which tolerates much higher alkalinity. The sodium may help bring out flavors or may impart a briny taste.

If you brew pourover cups with your softened water and compare that to cups brewed with a softer bottled water like Poland Spring then you can decide for yourself about taste. If the taste difference is OK in pourovers then you neednt worry about it in espresso,

But as to whether this water is OK in the Profitec, you are missing a key parameter - the level of chloride ion. If your water has high chloride then it may be corrosive to your machine, and if so your only practical recourse would be to filter your softened water through an RO and remin system, or switch to a bottled or recipe water. You can get test kits for chloride, but it may be easier to ask water experts in your area if the groundwater there has high chloride. Machine manufacturers often recommend RO when the chloride ion level is above around 15 mg/L (Synesso) or above 30 mg/L (La Marzocco). (I suspect, based on your sodium number, that your water has nice low chloride.)

More chloride info:
Chloride in Water - Recommended Acceptable Ranges
The skinny on chloride water testing?
Pat
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redcoat (original poster)
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#5: Post by redcoat (original poster) »

Hi again,

Thanks for all the info! Very helpful.

I pinged the person that did the original testing and received this:

"Hi David,

Chloride is not included in our inorganic panel. It is present in nearly all groundwater, is frequently associated with other salt forming elements like sodium (sodium + chloride = table salt), and causes a salty taste at high concentrations. The sodium content in your well is low, so that leads me to believe the chloride likely is as well. The corrosivity of chloride also increases with decreasing pH. Your well water measured a pH of 7.3 when we tested it, which is very close to neutral and would not be associated with high corrosivity.

You can test your water using test strips or home tests, but if your water doesn't taste salty its likely not high enough to cause corrosion. FYI, the North Carolina standard for chloride is 250 mg/L, but it is a secondary contaminant, meaning the negative impacts are not associated with health but rather aesthetic impacts like taste, smell, or damage to plumbing.

I hope this helps! "

Is it worth testing for it?

Would i be safer just to use RO with mineral additive?

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homeburrero
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#6: Post by homeburrero »

I agree with their assessment that it's probably low. Chloride in well water is usually due to seawater incursion and if you had that you would have high sodium along with it. Road salt contamination is sometimes from calcium chloride, and that would not spike the sodium but that's not at all likely in your well water.

I disagree that lack of salty taste is good enough to evaluate chloride corrosion risk in espresso equipment. The whole issue came up years ago when La Marzocco was having more corrosion related boiler failures in Cambridge MA than the rest of the country combined. Risk is lower when you have high alkalinity and an above neutral pH.

I think you're OK and would not bother testing. If you want to test anyway don't bother with strips - use a titration kit like discussed in that earlier link.

RO with minerals added is one way to get complete control over your water, and in a reservoir machine can be fairly easy. (See Easiest way to make rpavlis water?)
Pat
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redcoat (original poster)
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#7: Post by redcoat (original poster) »

Hi Pat,

Thanks for the details.

I might just go with RO (which I have in a separate faucet in the kitchen).

Is potassium bicarbonate just like using Third Wave Water?

cheers

David

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homeburrero
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#8: Post by homeburrero »

redcoat wrote:Is potassium bicarbonate just like using Third Wave Water?
Not really. Potassium bicarbonate alone adds no hardness minerals, but provides alkalinity that helps maintain an above neutral pH and protection of oxide layers that help prevent metal leaching and corrosion. Having no calcium, magnesium, nor sulfate assures that nothing will precipitate as scale. The most popular DIY water recipe used by HB members appears to be the RPavlis recipe, which was recommended by the late Robert Pavlis - chemistry professor who posted frequently on HB. His recipe used potassium bicarbonate or sodium bicarbonate and nothing else.


Third Wave Water additives contain a mix of minerals, including magnesium sulfate as a key ingredient. Other additives are calcium citrate, potassium bicarbonate, and in the classic (non-espresso) formulas, a little sodium chloride. They are formulated to read appx 150 ppm on an inexpensive TDS conductivity meter. The TDS and hardness levels are close to what many people believe to be ideal for coffee brewing.
Pat
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redcoat (original poster)
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#9: Post by redcoat (original poster) »

Ah gotcha.

One last question, the Profitec 600 user manual says " Ideally, we want a hardness of between 35-85 ppm". Is that any concern with the 150 ppm you mention?

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homeburrero
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#10: Post by homeburrero »

redcoat wrote:One last question, the Profitec 600 user manual says " Ideally, we want a hardness of between 35-85 ppm". Is that any concern with the 150 ppm you mention?
No the 150 ppm is a TDS recommendation, which is all the stuff in the water which includes hardness minerals (calcium and magnesium) plus other things. Water can be excellent with much lower TDS, and can be horrible at 150 ppm - - It just depends on what makes up the TDS. So using TDS as a guideline for judging coffee brewing water is a really terrible idea, but many people do that, so it's important to hit that target if you are selling something like TWW.


I would not pay too much attention to that Profitec manual's ideal. They are saying that you should have a total hardness of 35 - 85 ppm as CaCO3. You would compare that to a total hardness in a water report, or a perhaps a measurement you do yourself with a GH kit. It has never been conclusively shown that you need much, if any hardness in your coffee brewing water. To see some ranges of hardness and alkalinity recommendations you can check out the graph and discussions here: Good references on water treatment for coffee/espresso
Pat
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