A Clear Problem
Filtration to maintain water quality is generally seen as a nuisance. The Brita filter company recently said in its report Serving Coffee Sustainably, that while 97% of beverage operators believe that sustainability is important to their business, only 46% use any kind of water filtration system to protect their brewing machines from the build-up of scale (deposits of dissolved calcium and magnesium salts).
A new system now suggests that the attitude to water filters has been all wrong. One old assumption is that filters must be changed every year (not that every user actually does so). But the Hydracs brand says that a calendar-based approach to filter replacement is mistaken, and that filters need to be changed when you know for sure they are becoming exhausted and can no longer prevent scale building up. Hydracs’ equipment sits between the filter and the brewing machine and measures the flow of water and the “total dissolved solids” (that is, the amount of minerals in the water), and warning when the quality falls.
The figures claimed are astonishing. The distributor, Espresso Service, says that a major client with 750 coffee machines across its estate has credited the Hydracs system with saving £100,000 in descaling costs alone.
Hydracs’ approach has been endorsed by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, a former British barista champion, who wrote the book Water for Coffee, the definitive word on how water quality affects the beverage. He says: “The trade has had a rudimentary approach. Based on the amount of water we think we’re going to use, in the number of coffees we think we’ll make, we set a date to change the filter. Problem is, that won’t warn you when the filter stops working: you find out too late, because your coffee has already begun to taste flat.
“The industry needs a day-to-day heads-up of any change in the water quality, so we can change our filtration before the drinks go down in quality, and before hard water affects our equipment. This is an overdue innovation.”