I’m sure you’ve seen it at the bottom of some packages of coffee or on directions of coffeemakers: Use cold water when brewing your coffee. But why would the temperature of the water matter when brewing if the water will just get hot anyway during the brewing process? Shouldn’t we just start with hot water?
Hot water tanks and limescale
When you see the disclaimer advising you to use cold water, it’s under the assumption that you are using tap water from the sink. If you use tap water, then you should use the cold water side of the tap. The reason is, cold water from the tap is fresh. Water from the hot side of the tap has likely been sitting around in your home’s water heater for hours (or even days!) and is probably not fresh. Hot water heaters can have minerals and scale at the bottom of the tank that negatively impact the final taste of your coffee. Also, scale from the tank can greatly accelerate the buildup of limescale, a hard, chalky deposit found in drip brew coffeemakers. Do you enjoy drinking the water that comes out of the tap? If the answer is no, because your tap water tastes like sulfur or just gross in general, imagine how the resulting cup of coffee from brewing with this water must taste. Probably not very good! To make great tasting coffee, use fresh cold water from the tap. Even better, use bottled or filtered water.
Bottled and filtered water
Most households have either a water filtration system or buy bottled water. If you wouldn’t drink the water you’re using by itself, you shouldn’t use that water for making coffee. Always use filtered or bottled water for brewing. If you use water from your refrigerator, make sure to change the filter every 6 to 9 months. You’ll know it needs changing when the water pressure slows down (and the water starts tasting nasty).
What about filtered water from a pitcher or bottled water? This water does not need to be cold to brew with. There’s no real need to use cold bottles of water or keep a filtered water pitcher in the refrigerator. This water is perfectly fine to use at room temperature for brewing coffee in a drip brew coffeemaker.
I have noticed an improvement in taste when using very cold water while brewing in a drip brew coffeemaker. Although I’m more of a French press or pour over dripper kind of guy, occasionally I will break out our drip brew coffeemaker to brew large amounts of coffee for family and friends. When using very cold water, the time required to boil water and drip through the coffee grounds in the filter basket is extended by an extra minute or so more than when using water at room temperature. This extended brew time allows more of the coffee to be extracted and makes a big difference, as one drawback with drip brew is that the length of time the coffee grinds steep with hot water is cut short. Try this at home. Time how long it takes for your coffeemaker to brew coffee using room temperature water. Then the next time you brew, use very cold water, time it again and note the difference in taste. You should notice a big difference.
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