Do coffee shops in soft water areas still need water filtration?

With water comprising up to 98% of a cup of coffee and 99% of a cup of tea, the importance of filtered water to commercial operators really can’t be overstated.

As explained in one of our other blog posts on water filtration, coffee shop owners and baristas aiming to offer high quality gourmet beverages to increasingly sophisticated consumers can no longer view water filtration as a ‘nice-to-have.’ Ask any barista that’s ever entered a competition and they will tell you that in today’s tough competitive environment clean, filtered water is a basic necessity.

In that blog we discussed how temporary or carbonate hardness (which is caused when water picks up certain salts, minerals, and metals from pipes, the ground and air) is often the cause of serious issues to both the health of equipment such as espresso machines, and the flavour, aroma and appearance of freshly brewed coffee.

However, it’s widely known that water hardness varies area by area across the country, and identifying the type of water through testing and analysis is considered a good starting point towards achieving the correct filtration solution.


What’s the difference between hard and soft water?

Hard water contains a larger volume of minerals such as calcium and magnesium ions in the carbon dioxide in the water, these are collected en-route from the mains supply to the users water tap.

It is these particles that when heated during the process of brewing coffee and tea cause the build up of scale. It follows that the busier the café, coffee or tea shop the more water they use, and also the harder the water the greater the potential damage it can do to espresso machines and other everyday equipment.

By contrast soft water picks up less of these potentially harmful minerals, meaning scale and equipment damage is less likely to be a problem for equipment in the short term.


Does this mean coffee shops in soft water areas do not need water filtration?

This is a common misconception, but unfortunately not the case.

While soft water is less harmful to equipment than hard water, it does still have one major effect on coffee. As explained by Gary Norwood, Business Account Manager at BRITA Professional, “often people think because their water is soft they don’t need a water filter, but soft water still contains minerals which can have a drastic effect on the taste of your hot beverages.”

The “drastic effect” on taste that Gary refers to means untreated soft water can lead to beverages taking on a bitter taste and aroma, while the water can often look murky and unclean.

In an industry where the bar is set high, serving inferior lower quality coffee, tea, and hot chocolate can negatively affect the popularity of cafés, coffee and tea shops. After all, if consumers don’t receive the standard of coffee they have come to expect in one coffee shop, they simply walk, drive or cycle a little way down the road to the next one!


What’s the solution?

To prepare and present drinks that allow the unique flavours to shine, and in the case of coffee achieve the perfect crema on top, the solution is to filter water regardless of whether it’s hard or soft, and in the process remove a long list of taste impairing substances such as chlorine.

Brand leading water filtration manufacturers offer filters designed specifically for soft water areas, and because there are fewer minerals for these filters to remove they tend to last longer than hard water filters, resulting in lower filtration costs for coffee shop owners.

For example, BRITA’s Purity C50 Fresh will filter 12,000 litres of water before replacement is needed, as opposed to a maximum of 960 litres for the hard water Purity C50 filter.

On top of this, soft water filters remove the harmful minerals that can cause scale, meaning the chances of scale developing in equipment is reduced from very unlikely to impossible.


How can I find out the hardness of my water?

The handy water map below provided by BRITA offers an insight of what water hardness you can expect in your area, why not take a look now?

For a more detailed and accurate snapshot of the actual levels of water hardness in your area you need a water testing kit, these are inexpensive and easy to use, with clear instructions included:

How to take a water hardness test

Once you’ve worked out the exact hardness of your water, you can purchase a filter that is right for your water and set it up in a way that will allow you to produce the best quality coffee, safe in the knowledge that it won’t be actively damaging your equipment.

For more information, why not take a look at this table from BRITA which helps correctly set up any BRITA filter depending on application and hardness levels.

UK water map

Key takeaways

  • In the modern coffee industry, water filtration is a necessity, not a nice-to-have
  • Both hard water and soft water cause issues with the taste, aroma and appearance of coffee and tea, so a water filtration system is needed regardless of where you are.
  • Testing water is key to ensure your filter is set up correctly.
  • Have any further questions? Simply get in touch via [email protected] or call us on 01189 959 9204.