Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by Flambeur, Dec 2, 2009.
Nope. Have you?
The water I use at work is filtered, then again I love the taste of New York water, it's a non-issue.
I got a bullshit message from Starbucks that their coffee temps range from 180-205 and to ask the barista what the proper temp is on the clover. But that's just the thing I have asked them and none of the numbskulls that work there have any idea. They all just shrug and say its pre-programmed via an internet connection that the headquarters sends out for all of the new reserves and such. I sent them a follow up message. Stay tuned.
Got another response from Starbucks Customer Service:
Thank you for contacting Starbucks.
Unfortunately, we're not able to share this information because it is proprietary. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. If you ever have any questions or concerns in the future, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Ok, so they go from saying to ask the barista, who I kindly told them doesn't know shit when I ask them, to saying the brew temperature is proprietary. What kind of bullshit is this!?! They claim to care about coffee and customers and whatever, but really? They won't tell me what temperature their clover brews coffee at? It isn't like I am asking for the design specs of the machine I'm just trying to make a cup of fucking coffee.
I wrote this back to them:
Patrick, I'll preface this with a big "sorry if you know all this already"
It's not just a taste issue with the water -- it's a parts per million issue. Good tasting water with 100-200 ppm is usually the range that gives you desirable extraction (Fiji is in this range I think). The Counter Culture NYC team once described it to me with the analogy of a school bus (i.e. the water) driving by a bus stop full of kids (i.e. solubles in the coffee grinds). An empty bus (i.e. distilled 0ppm water) will pick up every kid both good and bad (ie over extracted coffee). A bus that drives by with some good kids already on the bus (100-200ppm) will pick up mostly just the good kids.
^Very interesting. It is hard to imagine it makes such a difference though.
Between distilled water and Fiji, it makes a noticeable difference. Water going into a (good) coffee shop is often measured, filtered and augmented to make for better coffee and espresso.
Why do you spend money there?
I think that if the guy behind a coffee counter tried to explain extraction with "picture a school bus," I would burn the place down. Would that make me an Urban Hero?
I am extremely suspicious about the chemistry being described behind how water quality is influencing coffee extraction. It seems unlikely to me that trace amounts of minerals are affecting the extraction of the organics from coffee. The equilibrium chemistry there doesn't make much sense. These ad hoc "scientific" explanations from non-scientists are usually way off.
I could certainly understand water profile influencing perceived taste, but not the actual chemistry behind the coffee extraction. Half a dozen of one, six of the other if your goal is good tasting coffee.
I like their reserve coffees
I've never had a decent cup of coffee there, but I can't get past the culture to try again.
I'll agree with you that scientific explanations from non-scientists deserve skepticism and the bus analogy is full of potential flaws. But it doesn't mean the opposite is true either (ie that the PPM of the water doesn't affect extraction rates of coffee at all). Anyway, a basic and easy test is to taste coffee brewed with distilled and coffee brewed with Fiji (I like doing the test with a Clever since it's not the most sensitive brewing method). Is the difference just because distilled water tastes like crap to begin with or is it because the distilled water leaches more from the coffee grinds leading to overextraction? I'm not sure. But there is a taste difference.
Water can make a difference, but not in the way Knowledge is King describing. De-ionized or overly filtered water (the empty school bus in the analogy) won't actually extract much at all. I don't claim to fully understand the chemistry, but anyone who has ever attempted to take a shower with really soft water should be able to attest to the fact that it's terrible at dissolving solids. If you take a shower with really soft water, you get that feeling like you can't quite get all of the soap to wash off. Trying to make coffee with really soft water is similarly problematic - extraction will be very slow and uneven.
In contrast, the reason that most cafes filter their water coming in is much less about the coffee and much more about the health of their equipment. If you are running hard water through an espresso machine, you get a tremendous amount of mineral buildup inside the machine that can ultimately ruin the machine. So, you filter the water coming in, then you put just enough minerals back into it in order to get extraction to work properly.
So, do an experiment. Brew parallel with distilled water and some hard water (again, use the formula I've provided a few times already). FWIW, I would not use fiji water. It's about 5.4°dH. You might want to go for some hard water so the effect, if present, will be more noticeable. Generally, anything between 4-12°dH should be perfectly fine (for the sake of the experiment, use something as hard as Vittel). Anything above, and you will quickly want to filter the water because your kettle will fill with limescale too quickly (of course, extremely hard water ("Heilwasser" in Germany) will alter the taste). I might actually do it this weekend.
1 ppm = 1 mg/L = 0.056°dH
The inability to extract as much is also the explanation I've heard for not using distilled water. In practice, I don't find that it makes that big a difference (in a Clever) compared to beans and the grind.
Thanks for the clarification!
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