Do you ever wonder why your local coffee shop’s coffee tastes way better than the coffee you brew at home? Is it the coffee they use that makes it taste so good? Yes partly, but it has more to do with the water. Coffee shops, from mom and pop to international brands, will have some sort of Reverse Osmosis System (RO) behind the counter. They do this for a better coffee experience, but they also do this to help protect their equipment.
If hard water is used for a brewer or an espresso machine, the shop will have to perform maintenance more often. Typically a professional will have to be called in for descaling and to unclog machines. This service can range anywhere from $150-$350 per occurrence. The normal service interval is done at least every 12 months, but hard water will make it so you’d have to get this service as early as every 3 months. Loss of revenue will also need to be considered since those machines will not be producing coffee when being serviced.Other than protecting expensive coffee equipment, RO water is used to enhance the nuances and flavors as well as the overall quality of coffee being served.
With that in mind, we’ve asked the staff of Pro+Aqua if they would like to participate in a coffee taste test. We made sure that we used the same amount of coffee grounds and water for each batch. The only difference between the batches was the type of water used, hard water, and RO water.
We then asked the staff members to fill out a comparison sheet that allowed them to place a score value on the following: Appearance/Color, Aroma, Body, Taste, and Mouthfeel. The testers were not told which water was being used for each coffee sample. Participants noted that Sample B was smoother, less bitter, lighter mouthfeel had a better aroma, and appearance over Sample A.
Participants were asked which sample they thought used hard water and RO water. Many responded with Sample A was hard water and Sample B, RO water, which was correct. Once the test was concluded, the scores were tallied up. Sample B was the clear winner with a total of 75 points over Sample A with only 66 points.
Based on the taste test we performed at the Pro+Aqua office, RO water does make a difference in how coffee smells, tastes, and looks. The RO water is pure, meaning there’s no contaminants and hardness to affect the taste. Coffee drinkers will be able to taste all the nuances and flavor profiles the coffee has to offer. The flavor won’t get manipulated by the calcium, chlorine, iron, and many other things that are normally found in hard water.
By utilizing an RO system in a coffee shop, equipment won’t have to be maintained nearly as often, loss of revenue from descaling downtime can be avoided. But the most important reason would be the quality of each cup of coffee served is going to be better. Customers know what a great cup of coffee tastes like, if a shop isn’t serving it, they’ll go elsewhere to get it. Just imagine if our staff were patrons at a coffee shop, the results from the taste test we conducted should be proof enough that coffee made with RO water is favored more than coffee made with tap water.