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Brewing the Perfect Cup: How Optimizing Water Quality for Specialty Coffee Operations is Important

By September 29, 2020November 29th, 2020No Comments


Are you a coffee shop owner, aspiring barista, or someone that’s just obsessed with brewing the perfect cup of coffee? Water quality is critical when it comes to brewing delicious coffee and espresso. It’s a crucial ingredient in the finished product and has a major impact on equipment performance, too. We’re here to help you understand why water quality is so important when it comes to the specialty coffee industry and how to select the right water treatment for your operation.

barista at coffee shop steaming milk

Coffee Quality

How a cup of coffee tastes depends as much on the quality of the water as it does on the beans. The right water treatment system can help you keep water chemistry consistent across locations and dial in the ideal mix of minerals for brewing.

Equipment Performance

In addition to reducing energy efficiency, scale buildup from unfiltered water can cause significant damage to coffee and espresso brewing equipment. Because of this, the warranties for this equipment often require a certain water quality standard. The right water treatment system will protect your expensive equipment and by extension, your bottom line.

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Water’s Characteristics and Its Common Contaminants

Coffee may be 98.5% water, but water isn’t just H2O. Water is a natural solvent, carrying away particles of whatever it encounters along its way. It’s these particulates, chemicals, and contaminants that impact coffee quality and equipment performance.

close up of espresso being brewed

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) A combined measure of all organic and inorganic substances dissolved in the water, including minerals, salts, metals, and other particulates.
Particulates Fine sediment, rust and other particles that provide a catalyst for scale buildup and wear on equipment.

Hard Minerals The primary water-related problem for coffee brewers and espresso machines is limescale caused by dissolved calcium and magnesium ions. This rock-like buildup leads to reduced performance and increased downtime for maintenance.

Chlorine While added chlorine makes water safe to drink, it also contributes to corrosion in coffee equipment and can give water a terrible taste and odor.

Alkalinity Water’s capacity to neutralize acid. Some alkalinity is desirable to react with acids during the coffee extraction process, but too much has a negative effect on taste and contributes to scale buildup.

pH Water’s balance of acid and alkaline substances can be an indication of whether it will be scale-forming or corrosive.

The first step in finding the right water treatment solution is to conduct a comprehensive on-site water analysis to determine the specific level of particulates, chemicals, and contaminants in your water. A water analysis is a “snapshot” of water characteristics at the time and place the sample was drawn. Although municipal water reports have value by measuring general safety and potability, they commonly combine samples from multiple sources and may not take seasonal changes into account. Therefore, municipal water reports alone may not provide an accurate picture of the water at a specific location.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • How important is beverage quality and consistency to your business?
  • How frequently does your equipment require service, and at what is the cost?
  • Are water-related problems covered under the equipment warranty?
  • Are you looking for consistent water quality across multiple locations?
  • Do you need specific water mineral content for brewing?
  • Is scale buildup affecting the performance of your water-using equipment?

coffee shop worker wearing a mask, handing bag and cup of coffee to customer



Optimal Water Quality for Coffee and Espresso

Without question, the chemical and physical properties of water have a significant impact on achieving the right body, balance, flavor, and finish of coffee and espresso.

  • Low TDS water causes too many coffee oils to be released, resulting in a bitter, oily flavor.
  • High TDS water causes too few coffee solids and tea flavonoids to be released, resulting in weak flavor.
  • Calcium carbonate and alkalinity play an important role in coffee extraction during the brewing process.
  • High chloride and sulfate levels are detrimental to coffee balance and flavor and can be corrosive, even to stainless steel equipment.

The Statistics & Standards Committee of the Specialty Coffee Association has determined the following standards for the water used to brew specialty coffee. For a superior quality extraction of coffee solids, the brewing water should have these characteristics: †

coffee water standards pentair graphic

† These are only general guidelines. For recommendations and requirements specific to your equipment, reference the equipment manual provided by the manufacturer.

Hipster Barista making hand drip Coffee

Finding the Right Treatment



There are filtration technologies that help trap and hold particulates. Different filtration media excel at removing different contaminants, and the finer the filter, the more particulates are removed.


If you’re concerned about limescale buildup on valuable steam equipment like espresso machines can benefit from a softening system to remove the calcium and magnesium ions that cause scale. Softening does not lower TDS or remove other types of minerals such as chlorides or sulfates, but it is strongly recommended for high-efficiency reverse osmosis (RO) systems in order to keep those systems working better and lasting longer, and as a pre-treatment for filtration and other RO systems.

Reverse Osmosis (RO)

This process forces water through a semipermeable membrane, separating pure water from any substances dissolved within it for full-spectrum protection. RO is ideal for foodservice because it can reduce virtually all impurities and toxins; it is especially good for coffee and espresso because blending valves allow you to manage TDS and mineral content.

Barista Coffee Maker Machine Grinder Portafilter Concept




Understanding Specialty Coffee Operations

Once a water quality analysis has been done and the right water treatment technology has been determined, the next step is to determine what size system will meet your operation’s usage requirements. You’ll need to consider:

  • Type of equipment used
  • Size of connection
  • Operational capacity/flow rate required
  • Mineral balance desired


Drip/Pour-Over Equipment
Pentair Everpure water filtration systems reduce abrasion, clogging and scale buildup in drip and pour-over coffee brewers, and prevent off tastes and odors in the finished product. Pentair’s proprietary Micro-Pure® II filtration media effectively inhibits the growth of bacteria that can decrease filter life. All Pentair Everpure systems filter out particulates as small as 0.5 micron in size – that’s about 180 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. What size filtration system you need should be based on your operation’s flow rate and water use.

filtration system needed for coffee operations graphic

Espresso Equipment
Everpure ESO® and Claris® filtration systems designed for espresso brewing feature saltless ion exchange softening, integrated carbon filtration, and either a fixed or adjustable blending of softened and tap water. With an Everpure Conserv® RO system you can have even more control, dialing in the mineral content needed for the perfect shot while also protecting your expensive espresso machines from limescale buildup. The size of RO system you need depends on an operation’s water hardness and product volume.

ro system needed graphic



Perhaps the most important and most overlooked component when considering a water treatment system is replacing filter cartridges on a routine basis. You want to take your water from ordinary to extraordinary, so having the right filter will help keep it this way. We recommend sticking with Pentair Everpure Replacement Filter Cartridges.


Shop Everpure Filter Cartridges


Women Friends Enjoyment Coffee Times Concept


Pentair has set the standard for foodservice water quality for over 85 years. Today, that standard is the Pentair Everpure line of water filtration and RO systems. Customers across the globe trust Pentair Everpure for:

  • Easy, sanitary quick-change filter replacement.
  • A single-source supplier of specialty coffee and espresso water treatment systems, with the breadth of product to provide right-sized solutions for any size operation.
  • High-efficiency RO systems that provide significant water savings over conventional RO systems.
  • Compact, configurable RO systems with capacities from 50 to 880 gallons per day, featuring controlled remineralization or blending valves to achieve the right mineral balance.
  • Comprehensive water testing services to ensure recommendation of the right system.
  • Total Water Management to help specialty coffee retailers take their water from ordinary to extraordinary and keep it that way.

Visit our Business Services Page or email us at for the support and assistance you need to find the right water treatment system for your operation. Business Services is a replacement water and air filter company located in the United States. The views and opinions contained herein are solely those of the original author and do not represent Eco Blue Life or its affiliates. This article was originally published on  
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