With 81% of people now visiting a coffee shop every week, coffee quality and consistency are increasingly being put under the spotlight. Operators need to be able to know how to stabilise water quality to ensure better tasting beverages and maintain consistency from tap to coffee cup, writes Oliver Rudman at 3M.
The top reasons for visiting a coffee shop haven’t changed much over the years with coffee quality consistently ranking within the top four.
With water being such a key ingredient, an increasing number of foodservice outlets and licensed operators are investing in methods to increase and maintain the quality of this basic element, allowing them to optimise customer experience through controlling coffee taste and smell.
Mains-fed water is used in coffee machines, hot water boilers, steamers and cold water post-mix systems. Within all of these applications, the hardness of water can affect both the quality of hot and cold beverages as well as impacting the longevity of hard-working equipment. Commercial coffee machines, for instance, can consume as much as 30% more energy if scale is allowed to build up in pipes and on heating elements.
This can result in higher running and maintenance costs, potentially slow down service due to machine reliability issues, and ultimately affect operators’ total cost of ownership and revenue.
Businesses located in hard water areas will have more issues with scale build-up than those in soft water areas, due to the water’s high mineral content. When water flows through limestone and chalk deposits — which are principally made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates — the water dissolves some of the mineral content, and these minerals can then be transferred and deposited within kitchen equipment, causing scale.
However, water hardness is not the only issue affecting key potable water equipment and beverage quality within foodservice outlets. In many parts of the UK, water companies add chloramine to improve disinfection in the water supply as opposed to chlorine.
Coffee machines can consume as much as 30% more energy if scale is allowed to build up in pipes and on heating elements”
Approximately 23% of the population in Great Britain is drinking and using water containing chloramines and, unfortunately, this can adversely affect beverage taste and smell while also perishing equipment parts such as o-rings.
Removing unwanted tastes and odours via a water filtration system is a key way to ensure consistently high-quality drinks and scale-free equipment.
There are however a range of water filtration technologies available to prolong the life of appliances and to stabilise water quality for better tasting beverages.
These include ion exchange resin filters, standard carbon filtration systems, polyphosphate-based scale inhibition filters, whole-kitchen reverse osmosis solutions and the latest in carbon technology featuring chloramine reduction.
Choosing the best solution depends on the requirements of the foodservice provider and also the geographical area of the country where the majority of their business is located.
Carbon or ion filtration?
For operators wanting to filter chlorine taste and odour, sediment, cysts, lead and select volatile organic compounds from their water supply, standard carbon filtration systems are ideal. However, for those wanting to protect against the effects of calcium and magnesium salts — which can cause limescale build-up and can drastically affect the efficiency of machines and the taste of hot beverages — ion exchange filtration systems are more suitable. However if needed, both carbon and ion exchange technologies can be incorporated into the same technology.
Chloramine is a mix of chlorine and ammonia and although it does an important job in eliminating unwanted bacteria within the water supply, the disinfectant’s impact on the taste and odour of water can negatively affect both hot and cold drinks.
Coffee and espressos can have a sour taste and post-mix carbonated drinks — especially those with reduced sugar — can have a bitter, flat taste. In addition, chloramine can attack the rubber parts of coffee and vending machines, particularly o-rings and seals, which may lead to leaks.
For those affected by the negative side-effects of chloramines, it is extremely difficult to efficiently remove the chemical mix from the water supply using standard, non-specialised carbon filtration systems. In this instance, specialist chloramine filtration solutions are necessary.
Reverse osmosis water filtration
For foodservice providers looking to deliver consistent water quality across a range of equipment, reverse osmosis filtration is ideal. Reverse osmosis filtration systems can be used to deliver better tasting speciality coffee, reduce scale build-up in steamer ovens, extend cartridge change intervals, and ensure bulk brewers run at optimum efficiency over the long term.
A reverse osmosis system enables the foodservice provider to filter multiple pieces of equipment at once, saving both space and considerable costs in the long term.
Filtration at its best
Now, thanks to 3M’s product development work and the creation of the ScaleGard Blend Series of Products by 3M, there is a water filtration solution that removes the taste and odour of both chlorine and chloramines using the latest in carbon block filtration technology.
The range combines such technology with ion exchange resin, reducing the level of calcium and magnesium in the water to soften hardness and prevent limescale-related issues.
Ideal for use in coffee, espresso, vending, tea brewers and cold water applications, the ScaleGard Blend Series of Products from 3M enables foodservice operators to achieve great tasting beverages every time.
With an adjustable dial, providers can also choose the desired level of water hardness minerals, ensuring recipe quality water for the ultimate in drink consistency.
Oliver Rudman is a technical application specialist at 3M, a leading provider of purification and filtration technology for commercial foodservice operators. www.3m.co.uk