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Chat Leftovers: Does the Water Matter for Coffee?

Mid City Caffe barista Ken Tu samples a coffee drink at a Counter Culture training session. (Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)

Yesterday's Free Range chat featured much talk about gelato, thanks to Jane Black's profile of Pitango, and coffee, inspired by Amanda Abrams's piece on Counter Culture. As usual, we were outnumbered -- more questions than answers -- so here's one I found interesting but didn't have time for during the chat.

Bowie, Md.: If I'm unhappy with the taste of the tap water in my home, what is the best type of bottled or filtered (Brita?) water to use for making coffee? When I drink my coffee, am I looking for a water that is completely flavorless, so only the coffee flavor comes through, or do I need a water that has a complementary taste to the coffee? Will it depend on the specific type/flavor of coffee being used?

Being a coffee geek myself, I had my own partial answer -- that depending on the quality of the tap water, filtered is probably better for coffeemaking -- but figured that since we had Counter Culture on the brain, I'd put the question to them directly to see what more there might be to it. The company's marketing and communications manager, Mark Overbay, got back to me by e-mail pronto and explained it thusly:

"Great question about water quality. The best rule of thumb is to simply use clean-tasting water. If your tap water doesn’t taste good to drink on its own, it’s not a good choice for brewing coffee and tea, or for making soup. If there is a noticeable chemical flavor in your tap water, for instance, it’s best avoided for food and beverage prep. Brita filters and the like are good options if the resulting water tastes clean and any chemical flavors are no longer present after filtering. In terms of bottled water, the vast majority of flat (non-carbonated) natural spring waters will work wonderfully for brewing all types of coffee. Do not, however, use distilled or softened water, as some mineral content is
necessary for proper extraction."

That last sentence was news to me, so I appreciated Mark's answer, and the chatter's question, all the more.

-- Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  June 18, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
 | Tags: Free Range, Joe Yonan, coffee  
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