Posted Mon Apr 29, 2013, 6:27pm Subject: The Search for the Perfect Water
An Introduction and Summary
This thread started out as my search for the perfect water filter. It evolved to become my search for the perfect water. Eventually, it linked into other threads started by like-minded individuals. The end result, in my opinion, is the best collection of practical research and consumer advice on water quality for brewing that you will find on this site.
Unfortunately, all that good information is the result of a lengthy and multi-branching journey. So what immediately follows is a subject index, followed by a summary of my journey. It would have helped if this forum numbered every post in sequence, like many other forums. I numbered my own posts in this thread to make the index below a little more user-friendly.
1 INTRODUCTION/WHY BOTHER? ............................................ this post
It must be stated up front that the goal is to optimize the flavor of brewed coffee. Espresso may not require the same solutions (see section 3.3).
2 THE PERFECT WATER FILTER
Here you have two main branches of solution: either use a filter that does not remove all minerals, or use a purifier in combination with a remineralizer (either mineralizing cartridge or concentrated mineralizing solution--the latter are covered in section 3).
2.1 Water purifiers/distillers ................................................... this post 2.1.1 Reverse osmosis (RO) filters .......................................... this post 184.108.40.206 RO water health controversy ....................................... post #3 to post #11 2.1.2 Zero Water pitcher ....................................................... UZRT-1 2.1.3 Linx Evolution (my preferred filter) ................................. this post, post #29 to post #31
2.2 Water filters (not purifiers) 2.2.1 Carbon, KDF, Zeolite ..................................................... post #39 220.127.116.11 The Purest One (carbon capillary filter) ......................... UZRT-4 2.2.2 Ion Exchange ............................... ............................... ILWF 2.2.3 Some popular brands 18.104.22.168 Brita, Pur ................................. ................................ ILWF
2.3 Mineralizers 2.3.1 Remineralizer cartridges ................................................ post #2 to post #13 2.3.2 Kangen and other ionizers ............................................. post #3
3 THE PERFECT WATER
What constitutes the perfect chemical/mineral composition of water, and is it readily available for purchase?
3.1 Optimal pH, alkalinity, TDS, and chemical/mineral composition 3.1.1 Some old school thinking .............................................. alcademics.com (warning: confuses good tasting water with good tasting coffee--see below) 3.1.2 New school: effect of acid buffering ................................ UZRT-2, UZRT-3 3.1.3 SCAA's findings ........................................................... alcademics.com (see excerpt from SCAA Water Quality Handbook)
3.2 Buying the perfect water 3.2.1 Bottled water - which is best? ........................................ ILWF, BTOT-1, BTOT-2 to BTOT-3 22.214.171.124 The problem with natural artesian water ...................... UZRT-2, UZRT-3 3.2.2 Global Customized Water formula .................................. BTOT-3 to BTOT-4, post #17, post #45
3.3 Other concerns 3.3.1 Minimizing corrosion and scaling .................................... ILWF 3.3.2 What about espresso? .................................................. ILWF
In my search for the perfect water, I had already found the best water filter for producing very good tasting water, but with very low mineral content. I researched and tried a variety of mineralizer solutions, from remineralizer cartridges to Kangen water, and found them all to be either ineffective, poor tasting, or cost-prohibitive. So I looked at bottled waters and found research indicating that the highest quality natural artesian waters were actually the worst for brewing. That finally led me to try Global Customized Water's "AB Formula" to create the ideal water, using my mostly purified water as a base. My results have been excellent using this solution.
For those seeking a more permanent and cost-effective home solution, a simple carbon filter or combination of carbon filtering and pure water may perform best without the added effort to remineralize using some sort of concentrated mineral product.
As for which bottled water is best, Crystal Geyser and Volvic get some mention, but the anecdotal evidence should be taken with a grain of salt. The chemical/mineral composition for Crystal Geyser varies greatly around the U.S.; the same may or may not be true for Volvic.
Addendum 2/21/2015: Coffee in the office
I use Crystal Geyser water for brewing coffee at work, because it's less than half the cost of Global Customized Water formula, and I'm using coffee that was pre-ground an hour earlier at home. Some day, I hope to buy a really nice hand grinder so I can grind at work and max-out the flavor. And yet, despite all the compromises I make when brewing my small pot of coffee in my cubicle, my coworkers tell me it's the best coffee they've ever tasted.
Today I have begun a new episode in my search of the perfect water filter for brewing coffee. I think I may have finally stumbled onto something good. It seems to hit all my criteria. But I only completed my filter system today, so while I start evaluating it over the next month, I thought I'd share my findings... and name names.
Episode 1: The Perfect Water Filter...
...is different for each person. I had already decided that I would eventually have a water softener in my house. So that meant I would need a water purifier to avoid drinking too much sodium or potassium.
I selected a fairly new product that produced water similar to RO systems. But instead of a membrane, it uses electrically charged surfaces in combination with an ion exchange media. The end result is approx. 25 ppm TDS, a pH of about 6.5, and the system only wastes 1 to 1.5 gals. water for every gal. it purifies. It also produces a small amount of chlorine, which sterilizes the holding tank. The water tastes sweet, and I've been happy with this system for over 2 and 1/2 years. My initial cost was high, approx. $900, but the filter replacement cost is remarkably low. Every 1.5-2 years, I replace the carbon filter. Every 4-5 years, I replace the two ion exchange cartridges at a very low cost. But like I've said, I've been very happy with this high-tech system for a few years now.
If any of you are considering an RO system, I highly recommend this as a superior (in every way) alternative: Linx Evolution. I bought mine from Rayne Water, so they call it the Rayne Evolution. It's worth it just to have no bacteria growing in the holding tank. Not to mention 1/10 to 1/50 of wasted water, compared to an RO system.
Anyway, that was before I found out about needing minerals for coffee.
Posted Mon Apr 29, 2013, 6:29pm Subject: H2O, part 2
After briefly trying to find an alternative to salt-based water softeners, I resigned myself to needing a water purifier to remove the excess sodium or potassium. But now I needed to add minerals back in. Thus began...
Episode 2: The Search for the Perfect Remineralizer
I became aware of mineralizers because my favorite place to go for afternoon tea, Vintage Tea Leaf in Long Beach, boasted about their system, which uses a professional setup with in-line mineral cartridges. About 10 hours of internet research and phone calls later, I knew everything you needed to know about the competing products. I found ones that were mostly calcium, ones that were half calcium and half magnesium, ones that were all kinds of trace minerals in addition to calcium and magnesium, and then there were the freaks who used crystals and new age promises to bring you a better freakin' life through freakin' new age water for 5 times the freakin' price.
I chose the Tap Master Artesian water mineralizer cartridge, because it claimed the longest life between cartridge changes. And it worked almost as well as the sales person on the phone promised, which is to say hardly at all. It bumped my pH to a whopping 6.8 and added 10 ppm for a total of about 30. Whoopty freakin' doo!
It was about this time that I was introduced to Kangen water.
Posted Mon Apr 29, 2013, 6:30pm Subject: H2O, part 3
If you research mineralizing filters, you can't help but discover the whole ionized water conspiracy. See, it's about alkaline water being good for your health, but you have to use an ionizer to produce it.
Episode 3: Kangen vs. RO - Am I Gonna Die?
In my search for mineralized water, I kept bumping into people who told me that drinking acidic water was bad for me and that I should try alkaline water. Some of them were very enthusiastic of the Kangen system that uses an ionizer to concentrate the alkaline minerals. I had coworkers, family members, the internet, and supposedly all of Japan fueling what amounted to a terrific controversy. And the cost could get up into the thousands... but why?
The big fear that was driving me was a fairly convincing pile of research about RO or distilled water, done in Russia several decades ago, and compiled by the World Health Organization. The research basically supports the claim that drinking a lot of RO water removes minerals from your body and particularly your bones faster than you can compensate by using a reasonable amount of supplements with your food. The often cited counter-argument that we get far more minerals in our food is contradicted by the many studies cited by the WHO. Point is, free molecules inside of cells are much easier to draw back out across cell boundaries than can be replenished by breaking down food solids.
[Addendum 6-18-2013: Or maybe not. Read rebuttal, several posts below.]
But does this mean that a mineralizer will be ineffective, compared to non-purified water? Depends on the mineralizer. The advantage to using an ionizer is that it doesn't add minerals to water, but just concentrates the ones that are already there.
Fortunately, a good friend of mine was willing to bring the entry level Kangen system over to my house. It consisted of a plastic housing with a faucet connector and two tubes for output of acidic water and alkaline water. We hooked it up, ran it a while, and finally I tasted the alkaline water.
It tasted like plastic, and I could still detect more than a little of that chlorinated tap water flavor. I offered my friend some coffee (using bottled water), and thanked him for his trouble. It seems like you need to add a good filter to the Kangen system if you actually want the water to taste good. Maybe that's what the $10,000 system provides: good tasting water.
So now I was back to looking for anything that could replace my system and produce good tasting water. I was even willing to give up on having a water softener. But as I waded through all the bullsh*t on the internet from competing water filter companies, I really started to lose hope.
I don't know what drove me to check out yet another mineralizing filter, but I spoke on the phone with the tech guru of this company, and his claims were much better than the competition. The product has a 30 day guarantee, so I bought one cartridge for $250.
The product arrived today, and after adding it in-line before the drinking faucet, I flushed it a short time and poured myself a glass. Now let me preface this by telling you that when I had tried the Tap Master product with its meager 10 ppm TDS bump, it tasted chalky. Not so the Remin cartridge. The water tasted smooth, softened, and good--no chalkiness. I measured the TDS at over 75 ppm. Just enough to get me into coffee land. The pH was easily 8.5.
If this filter lasts a year, I will consider my quest to be complete.
Posted Tue Apr 30, 2013, 8:15am Subject: H2O, part 5
Well, it's the next day. The Remin filter is performing spectacularly. That 75ppm TDS reading from yesterday was achieved only after flushing the filter continuously. Then I found out that the filter was supposed to be installed backwards, compared to the illustration in the user's guide (long story--don't ask). Immediately after another long flush, the TDS reading was only 48ppm. But if I waited less than a minute and resampled 8 oz., the TDS was over 100ppm.
Outstanding. I no longer need to buy bottled water for my trifecta.
Maceo77 Senior Member Joined: 17 Jun 2013 Posts: 1 Location: Park City, UT Expertise: Just starting
Posted Mon Jun 17, 2013, 4:45pm Subject: RO, the WHO, softened water, and Vitev filters
Hi, I did quite a bit of the same research you mentioned over a few hours today, and ended up here on your post. Man, there is a lot of conflicting information out there about drinking water. The fact that one paper comes from the WHO gives it a lot of credibility it might not otherwise get, and I somehow made it through the whole thing.
I also came across the Vitev site and wondered if you are still enamored with your filter? I have a house water-softener (salt based), then an under-sink RO system that seems to work pretty well (meaning we like the taste of the water it produces). A neighbor has the same system and measured the RO water at <10ppm TDS. It wasn't until recently that I learned that may be less than ideal... learned first for the purposes of coffee, then discovered even for drinking water/health! What a can of worms that opens.
I guess you can't go too wrong with the 30-day return policy, huh? Do you have any opinions on the taste of your coffee with or without the filter? Have you ever tried straight RO water?
Posted Mon Jun 17, 2013, 10:31pm Subject: Re: RO, the WHO, softened water, and Vitev filters
Thanks for responding to this topic. Yes, I'm still happy with my filter, although the numbers have dropped off somewhat. I still get significant ppm TDS, but now the numbers tend to be in the 60-70 range instead of over 100. That's still pretty decent.
Yes, I have tasted the pure water from my own system, which is likely indistinguishable from RO water, and there's no better tasting water, IMO. When I draw a few ounces of water from the tap first thing in the morning, I'll get an extra build-up of minerals that will contribute to a slightly chalky taste. So I use that water for coffee instead, or just let the tap run a few seconds before filling my glass. One of the items on my to-do list is to change the location of the mineralizer cartridge from after the tank to before the tank. That will even-out the bursts of mineralizer output by mixing everything in 2.5 gals. of water, so I'll get a more constant level of minerals. I also may need to add a ball valve to reduce the flow on the tank input side, so that the water moves more slowly through the mineral cartridge.
But one thing is certain, after using the mineralizer for a few months: my incidents of leg cramps have almost been eliminated. And I can also say with high confidence that they were likely due to my daily input of pure water, because the cramps started showing up around the time I first got my filter.
Buckley Senior Member Joined: 25 Jan 2011 Posts: 423 Location: Internet Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Tue Jun 18, 2013, 6:44pm Subject: Re: H2O, part 3
If you research mineralizing filters, you can't help but discover the whole ionized water conspiracy. See, it's about alkaline water being good for your health, but you have to use an ionizer to produce it. Episode 3: Kangen vs. RO - Am I Gonna Die? The big fear that was driving me was a fairly convincing pile of research about RO or distilled water, done in Russia several decades ago, and compiled by the World Health Organization. The research basically supports the claim that drinking a lot of RO water removes minerals from your body and particularly your bones faster than you can compensate by using a reasonable amount of supplements with your food. The often cited counter-argument that we get far more minerals in our food is contradicted by the many studies cited by the WHO.
Dear Burro, You show an ability to research topics thoroughly to accomplish your goals. Unfortunately, discrimination regarding the accuracy of uncovered research is not demonstrated. In evaluating research, quantity is always whittled down to research demonstrating quality. Continuing to promulgate erroneous information about physiologic mineral intake and output, such as the paper by Kozisek and the paper by Rona, not only feeds misconceptions about human dietary needs but may encourage ignorant readers to sicken themselves, their children, or their unborn babies. Please understand the the World Health Organization, an organ of the United Nations, is first a governmental, a political organization and not a medical, physiological, or biological clearing house. There are many reasons why their imprimatur may appear upon a position paper. When their positive sanction is in agreement with reputable public health organizations (especially non-governmental), then attention should be paid to their recommendations. When there is disagreement between the WHO and competent NGOs, as there has been many times in the past, it might be most prudent to pay attention to the wider and deeper expertise of the NGO scientists. There have been respectful and expert rebuttals of Kozisek, such as this one from the Canadian Water quality association: Click Here (www.cwqa.com) You do not believe that we get sufficient minerals from our solid food. It is possible to consistently eat a diet that is poor in calcium. This can result in such symptoms as the leg cramping that you describe. Drinking high levels of calcium in hard water will be a benefit and will not hurt in cases such as this. Calcium supplements may also help. But drinking water that has little or no calcium in it will not lead to bone loss of calcium. Consider this: Recommended dietary allowance of calcium for an adult varies around 1100 milligrams per day. Using a typical value for very hard water TDS = 290 ppm, or about 115 milligram of calcium. To satisfy the RDA for calcium intake by drinking hard water only, one would have to drink ten liters per day. Most people drink from one to two liters per day of water that varies greatly in hardness, depending upon locale. To say that removing this source of 15-20% of dietary intake in the presence of a 'normal' (ie, non-starvation) diet will lead to bone calcium loss is totally without support in the refereed scientific literature. Studies that do talk about damage caused by intake of low mineral water in humans are studies concerning starving or diarrhea-dehydrated infants in impoverished countries. Also to be considered is the irrefutable knowledge that kidneys play a key role in mineral homeostasis. Normally functioning kidneys filter all of the small molecules (read minerals) out of the blood in their regions called glomeruli but actively reabsorb all of the calcium and most other minerals back into the blood in their portions called the tubules under normal (ie, non-diseased) conditions. Drinking RO or distilled water does not render kidney functions abnormal. Finally, half of the calcium in the blood is protein-bound, and large protein molecules never get filtered out under normal conditions. The balance of calcium within the body is way more important than just bone mineralization. Every cell in one's body uses it for signalling or responding to signals (calcium channels). Therefore, the intake and excretion of calcium and other minerals (closely allied with calcium is phosphorus balance) is under constant-feedback neurohormonal transmitter control. Drinking one or two liters of water without minerals may lead to bad tasting coffee, but will not affect the closely regulated neuroendocrine-renal tubule feedback system of physiologic mineral conservation.
I do not for one second take any issue with your assertion that your water re-mineralization has improved your leg cramps. This is consistent with the standard clinical approach to the problem of leg cramps. While I will assert that the physiology of leg cramps is poorly understood by doctors and is treated empirically, the homeostasis of calcium is well understood, currently down to the mitochondrial level.
J It would be an interesting study for the WHO - I grew up with VERY hard well water. I've never broken a bone in my life (not for the lack of trying). Even though my BMI is higher than desired, I'm not buoyant in fresh water, and I've joked that I have dense bones... but I do wonder. During the development stages where we grow our skeletons, could hard water be something good?
The health and strength of bones depends very strongly upon the balance between organic matrix and 'organified' mineral substrate. Bone formation is yet another example of a homeostatic process that is highly regulated and that is independent of intake, except in extreme cases of deprivation or in the presence of disease. Over mineralization would result in brittle bones and increased risk of fracture. This is similar to the requirement that swords and bows be balanced with respect to hardness, stiffness and flexibility to achieve optimum usefulness.
Posted Wed Jun 19, 2013, 1:32am Subject: Re: H2O, part 3
Buckley, thanks for the copious information you added to this topic. I never meant to imply that I had accomplished a comprehensive survey of research literature, but you appear to have found some good counter-studies that I was unable to find among all the internet obfuscation. So I added a cautionary note in my earlier post, and pointed to yours and Netphilosopher's rebuttals. I don't have as much time to read the source articles as you do, but I greatly appreciate your input and agree that the earlier WHO survey by Kozisek is rife with gross departures from logical argument. But, as you said, it is important to assess research quality. For example, I looked past the more obvious departures from scientific method in the animal experiments, and focused on the more straightforward studies that involve changes in health for human populations consuming purified water. It's easy to dismiss all of Kozisek, but not very wise to do so, IMO.
In any case, even the WHO backed off from their earlier recommendations, as Netphilosopher pointed out. I am referring to your snipe at the WHO just because they are a government organization. Apparently, even they can come to the same conclusion about Kozisek as yourself. I have a similar prejudice, but directed against support organizations like the Canadian Water Quality Association, whose charter is to support the home, business, and industry water quality professionals, and whose membership likely includes the sort of people filling up the internet with so much untruth about water filters it makes my head spin. That doesn't negate their rebuttal to Kozisek, of course, any more than the WHO's publications are negated because they are an organ of the UN.
More relevant to my case, however, is the following from Kozisek:
"Illustrative of such short-term exposures are cases in the Czech and Slovak populations who began using reverse osmosis-based systems for final treatment of drinking water at their home taps in 2000-2002. Within several weeks or months various health complaints suggestive of acute magnesium (and possibly calcium) deficiency were reported (NIPH 2003). Among these complaints were cardiovascular disorders, tiredness, weakness or muscular cramps. These are essentially the same symptoms listed in the warning of the German Society for Nutrition."
While minerals in water may not be critical for most people, I believe that those who share my symptoms of morning cramps may benefit. As for any other claims concerning health detriments of purified water, my mind is back on the fence concerning that topic; but I think your response has helped me to clarify my concerns. Pun intended.
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