DIY Water Recipes: The world in two bottles

May 05, 2017

 

Our Barista Hustle water recipe was and is a useful starting point for building water, giving you a good chance of success when brewing up coffee at home. For those willing to dive a little deeper, we can get far more specific.

The math can get rather complicated so we’ll spare the details until another time. The motivating factor here was to get the two variables (buffer and magnesium) into separate concentrates that are easily added to distilled water. This means you can create any brewing water with some combination of the two. Kind of like an etch-a-sketch for brewing water!

Here’s the recipe to get there:

Ingredients:

Baking Soda - NaHCO3, Sodium Bicarbonate, Bicarb (not baking powder)

Epsom Salts - MgSO4, Magnesium Sulfate (don’t worry about “do not eat” labelling. We’re working with miniscule amounts, diluted 1000x, and boiling the water afterwards.)

Deionised/Distilled/Ultra-pure water (don’t worry about “not for drinking" label. This is to prevent people drinking too much ultra pure water. We’re adding minerals though, so it’s ok)

All ingredients are readily available from most supermarkets etc, and are super cheap.

Equipment:

Scales (accurate to 0.01g)

3 x ~1L water containers (preferably glass, and odour/residue free)

Method:

  • Dissolve 1.38g baking soda in 1L of deionised water — this is your “buffer” concentrate, or “alkalinity”. Label and set aside.
  • Dissolve 10.14g Epsom salts in another 1L of deionised water — this is your “Magnesium” concentrate, or “total hardness”. Label and set aside.

It’s important to note here also these recipes use magnesium as the source for total hardness; not calcium. This method only requires ingredients easily obtained from any supermarket. This is entry level stuff. You can mess about with calcium, sulphates, chlorides, and pH control when you graduate from here. Alternatively we’d encourage you to buy the book.

The following are a list of recipes where you will add a small amount of each concentrate to a separate volume of fresh deionised water.

Recipe 1 - Melbourne

  • 14g Buffer
  • 5.7g Mg
  • 980.3g DI water

This is a close approximation to Melbourne water. This is very “soft” water, low in mineral content, and useful for those long filter brews or cuppings drawn out over five to ten minutes. Would also help with those darker espresso roasts that don’t need as much help extracting out flavours.  

Recipe 2 - WOC Budapest

  • 48.8g Buffer
  • 12.3g Mg
  • 938.9g DI water

This is in the target range for the World Brewers Cup in Budapest (51 mg/L total hardness as CaCO3, 40 mg/L alkalinity). In Budapest the total hardness would come from calcium as well as magnesium, leading to a different flavour outcome — competitors beware …

Recipe 3 - SCA

  • 48.8g Buffer
  • 16.5g Mg
  • 934.7g DI water

The is the official SCA specifications from the SCAA 2009 handbook. Similar to Budapest only the total hardness has gone up slightly. The specifications state a range of total hardness as low as 17 mg/L as CaCO3 up to 85 mg/L as CaCO3. So you could keep your buffer here constant at 48.8g and go as low as 4.1g of Mg solution or as high as 20.6g (don’t forget to subtract the total concentrates used from your DI water!).

Recipe 4 - Barista Hustle Water Recipe

  • 48.8g Buffer
  • 19.4g Mg
  • 931.8g DI water

The original Barista Hustle water recipe — where it all began. Add an extra gram of the Mg concentrate and you’re at the top limit of the SCA specifications.

Recipe 5 - Rao Water

  • 61g Buffer
  • 18.2g Mg
  • 920.8g DI water

This is close to Scott Rao’s recommended water chemistry for brewing flavourful, balanced coffee. Slightly higher than the SCA in both total hardness and buffer, with a little more buffer than the BH recipe.

Recipe 6 - Hendon Water

  • 37.5g Buffer
  • 24g Mg
  • 938.5g

This is close to the centre of Christopher Hendon’s and Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood's “Ideal Brew Zone”. If you’re inclined to “dial in” some water for a particular roast, this is a good starting point.

Recipe 7 - Pretty Hard

  • 42.7g Buffer
  • 30.3g Mg
  • 927g DI water

This begins the ascent up in water “hardness”, probably better suited to espresso, or at least short brew times for filter. This is starting to grab a lot out from the coffee so brew recipes would need some adaptation. This rips everything out from the coffee. So either slow down or speed up the brew time via grind adjustments, and shorten or increase your beverage weight. Dependent on the roast somewhere along those two spectrums you’ll find something tasty. Or not.

Recipe 8 - Hard dot AF

  • 55g Buffer
  • 42.5g Mg
  • 902.5g DI water

This is a fairly high point with pushing mineral level where you’re basically cranking the amp up to 11. Your brew parameters from the earlier water recipes would need to change a lot here.

Where to from here?

We’ve designed these concentrates to be super easy to experiment with. You don’t have to stick to our recipes!

To make your own, you only need to know two things.

  1. The concentrates are made so that 1g of concentrate equals 1mg/L of magnesium as the ion, or bicarbonate concentration, after dilution in 1L of water.
  2. Subtract your total concentrate weight (in grams) from 1000 and that’s how much water you need to dilute them with.

If your buffer amount used was 20g, and your Mg amount was 10g (30g total), you would be adding this to 970g of distilled water (1000g minus 30g). You’ll get the hang of it by reading the recipes above.

Let us know how you go in the comments below!

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