Lilla Kafferosteriet, a cafe and roastery in Malmö, hosts occasional cuppings on Sunday afternoons. I’m terrible at keeping up with the Swedish coffee scene (I don’t speak Swedish) and would never have known about these, but luckily Oscar from Portafilth.com keeps me in tune with where the coffee geek action is happening in Malmö.
Last time I went to a Lilla Kafferosteriet cupping, it was a series of coffees from different regions in Harrar, Ethiopia. The other weekend they were doing something even more interesting: cupping the same coffee brewed with four different kinds of water. If you drink your coffee with milk and sugar, this is the time to tune out and go watch Youtube or something. But if your interest is piqued, read on.
Måns, barista of what I gather is the ‘specialty’ focused slow bar at the back of Lilla Kafferosteriet, started off the cupping by explaining how water’s chemistry, acidity, and mineral levels affect the flavor of brewed coffee. This was in Swedish, so I didn’t understand a word of it. But I’ve read a bit in the past, and some information about water content and coffee brewing can be found at David Schomer’s blog or at Cirqua or Everpure’s websites (both major water filtration suppliers). The SCAA also has a 56 page ‘Water Quality Handbook,’ which you can buy for $35 from the SCAA, or you can read about it on Home-Barista.com.
In short, brewed coffee is mostly water, so it’s important to have water with chemistry that plays well with the soluble materials in the ground coffee. To taste the difference, we had before us the same coffee brewed with four different kinds of water: Pur Pur, a specially formulated bottled water for coffee brewing; Lilla Kafferosteriet’s own filtered and conditioned tap water; unfiltered Malmö tap water; and Evian bottled water.
Evian and unfiltered tap water both muted the flavor of the coffee, obscuring the acidity, and for lack of a better word the ‘sparkle’ of fleeting flavors and aromas that fresh roasted coffee should have.
The filtered and conditioned tap water was much better, tasting like what I’d expect a good brew to be with balanced and defined acidity, sweetness, and bitterness. The Pur Pur was marginally better tasting, bringing out a little more nuanced sweetness and acidity, but not with enough difference that you’d notice it if you weren’t looking for it.
All in all this just underscores what I’d mentioned while testing the Coava Disk at Solde, that you need to, at the very least, filter your tap water when brewing coffee at home. I’m not about to advocate buying bottled coffee-brewing water (like Pur Pur) all the time, it’d be excessive and wasteful I think. But it might be a nice exercise to try once, compared with what you’re usually tasting. It could be an eye opener.
(Look out for a proper article about Lilla Kafferosteriet, as well as the rest of the Malmö coffee scene in the future — been busy with my masters program, but I’m working on it!).