August 3, 2022

Lesson 3: The Sun Buffer Effect And The Filter Factor


By Vivreau Advanced Water Systems


The Sun Buffer Effect And The Filter Factor

The warmth of the sun feels good, but we all know that too much exposure to the sun causes damage. To safely enjoy the rays, we place buffers between the sun and our eyes or skin. Sunscreen and sunglasses are important sun protection, and they are examples of buffers that work to prevent the effects of damaging rays. In science, buffers work similarly to prevent reactions, but in the case of brewing quality coffee, their effect is deleterious, working against a desired chemical reaction that affects the outcome of flavor.

The Delicate Balance Of Flavor

Flavor is a chemical reaction that depends on the right mix of elements in a beverage, such as coffee. The characteristic and ideal sour flavor of coffee comes from a blend of the roasted beans and water percolated through the grounds. The grounds release an amount of natural acidity called pH that registers as sour, and this acidity accounts for the taste of quality coffee.

Imagine, then, the outcome if the pH levels rise to a neutral point which reduces the sourness flavor. The result is flat coffee, an undesirable flavor that may have nothing to do with the quality of the beans and everything to do with the other side of the coffee equation, the water.

An Unwanted Buffer Effect

Water may seem like a simple element, and this is true when water stays pure. However, water mixes with anything with which it comes into contact, creating a solution that strays far from the purity of two hydrogen and an oxygen molecule, the chemical recipe for water. Therefore, water is seldom pure and contains minerals that may alter pH. These minerals are common, harmless, and recognizable as calcium, sodium, potassium, hydrogen carbonate, and others, but one is a substantial influence when it comes to pH and flavor.

Hydrogen carbonate is a natural buffer that affects the pH scale, the amount of acidity in the water. When it’s around, the chemical formula for water, H2O, has effectively put on sunglasses and sunscreen to protect against the acid; hydrogen carbonate buffers acid and reduces its effects. For coffee to keep its proper flavor profile, the pH should register at about a 5 on the number line, two bumps below the neutral point at 7. In the presence of this mineral, water registers at a higher pH, a neutral state. Coffee tastes flat.

The Umbrella Affect

On a sunny day, you wouldn’t need sunglasses or sunscreen when you’re in the shade, and that’s because the harmful rays of the sun are filtered out by the object overhead ­­– tree, roof, etc. Now, you have the benefits of the sun’s warmth without the damaging effects. Similarly, there are ways to filter out hydrogen carbonate and develop beverage water fit for flavor.

With the right filtration, hydrogen carbonate will not affect the final product. Like an umbrella that makes sunglasses unnecessary wherever you go, a filter keeps the mineral out so that the buffer does not activate. Selecting a good filter, then, is key to producing a flavor profile with fine fruity acid to create the appropriate sourness for tasty coffee.

Camp Wrap-Up And More Learning Ramp-Up

While it’s always sad to say goodbye, we hope you have enjoyed the Water Chemistry Summer Camp series. Camp is over for the summer, but we hope you have leveled up your knowledge on unfiltered water’s effects on brewing quality coffee. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for summer next year to learn more! If you would like to register for our online water technical training, contact Anastasia Chovan for more details. As Fall brings back-to-school, stay tuned as we go back to learning as well with more educational blogs from Vivreau Professional Filter coming soon!