Water Research Report

Why does water quality matter?

June 2015

Specialty coffee depends on a combination of factors that influence overall flavour profile. Variables such as processing method, roast degree, grind size, temperature, and extraction time all play a vital role in the sensory result in the cup.

But there is one factor that is becoming an increasingly important consideration for the industry as a whole – and that is water. Or to be more exact, water quality. Given that the main constituent of brewed coffee is somewhere between 98 to 99% water, the rest being the mass of soluble brewed solids extracted, the quality of H2O in the brew can truly mean the difference between a ‘good’ and ‘great’ coffee.

While there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that supports this view, there is little published scientific research in the area so far. So, how do we begin to quantify the impact of water quality from a sensory perspective?

In a bid to address this question, the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCA) brought together a team of experts at the Centre for Analytical and Physical Chemistry in Zurich, Switzerland, to provide some scientific clarity on how differing water compositions had an impact on the coffee’s perceived quality on the cupping table. The experiments were designed, conducted and the results analysed by Dr. Marco Wellinger from Zurich University of Applied Sciences.


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