The 99%: Water

So much thought, energy, and money are invested in the growing and cultivation of coffee and then the processing and transport, roasting, and blending until we get to brewing. By this time coffee has been fawned over by a hundred hands, shipped hundreds of miles, and cost hundreds of dollars. Now that we are ready to brew more often than not, we simply heat up whatever water happens to be in front of us.

Sometimes it’s a filtered line that sifts out a fair amount of waste, chlorine, and rust but sometimes it’s tank water on an airplane or radioactive well water, or stagnant city pipe water. Even most cafes are quite complacent to accept whatever water is attached to the building. This way of thinking seems out of order when you consider that 99% of the beverage of coffee is water. 

True, water is easier to come by than coffee. There are taps, wells, lakes, or bottles of it everywhere you look. That being said, there are less and less opportunities for great water. More of our water is getting purified or enriched in some way that can alter how it brews coffee and how it affects all the things we eat or drink. 

In the beer brewing tradition, water has always played a key role. Many beers were named for the rivers their waters came from and the natural yeasts that would form in these waters. The water is considered so important that European beer companies trying to recreate their recipes in the US have to treat their water to recreate their signature flavor. 

Coffee has always had a challenging relationship with consistency as it is a fresh product for the most part so we are not able to bottle and preserve it on the same level as Champaign or beer. Cold brew coffee has the first real opportunity to achieve this level of consistency and detail to quality in regards to brewing and preservation of flavor. Baristas are the final author of the coffee and oversee its last transformation into liquid before serving. Unfortunately, baristas often don’t control the purse strings to put a quality water program into action. 

Water has a chance to become a key differentiator in the café environment. Building a custom water program with a designed water recipe of minerals that matches the coffees being brewed is the next evolution. 

A large-scale café brand will spend millions on training baristas and calibrating equipment to create consistency of flavor in all locations across multiple countries. With all this effort and money they often continue to neglect to invest in a unified brew water which could make the ultimate difference in a truly consistent taste experience. 

To create a truly high-end custom coffee experience, a water recipe tailored to each coffee would be the next level. This is part of the special sauce that all brands hope to hold secret from the consumer as it is much harder to recreate at home. Unique water with a unique coffee brewed on a commercial machine by a trained professional is an experience that is worth leaving the house for and spending a few extra dollars a day.

by Jake Leonti

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