What Is the Best Water for Coffee at Home?

Posted by
John Woodard on February 09, 2024

Water plays a crucial role in crafting the perfect cup of coffee, constituting about 98% of its composition. As a result, achieving clean, crisp water is essential for optimal brewing. While coffee shops utilize specialized filtration systems for consistency, selecting the right water at home can be challenging. Understanding how water interacts with coffee flavors is key. Certain filtration systems can enhance water quality, optimizing the coffee experience, while others may reduce flavors in your cup of joe. In this guide, we’ll share what make some types of water superior for coffee brewing, various water options for brewing, and how home filtration systems influence coffee flavor.

Key takeaways

  • Reverse osmosis and distilled water provide an excellent base for coffee water with the use of a mineral additive.
  • Bottled water can make a good cup of coffee, but it is wasteful and more expensive over time than home water treatment systems.
  • Unfiltered tap water creates a bitter, unpleasant taste in coffee.
  • Water pitcher filters and activated carbon filters are a great improvement over tap water, but they do not remove water hardness and some other contaminants that affect flavors and coffee equipment.

What makes coffee taste good?

Coffee tastes its best when the minerals and dissolved solids in water extract as many flavors and aromas as possible. The ideal water for coffee is soft and contains no chlorine, about 150 ppm TDS, and a pH of 7.0. These characteristics help water extract the maximum amount of flavor out of coffee beans as it percolates through them. Coffee shops can deliver consistent, high-quality coffee because their equipment allows them to control the amount of TDS and minerals present in their water. At home, you do not have this luxury unless you want to spend a fortune on a commercial coffee or espresso filtration system. As a result, you must find a balance between what is feasible and what provides the highest quality of coffee you can brew at home.

Learn more: A guide to commercial water filtration for coffee

Types of water used for home coffee

While you may not have access to commercial coffee brewing equipment at home, you have many options to enhance your cup of joe. Some of the most common types of water used for home coffee include:

  • Bottled water
  • Tap water
  • Reverse osmosis water
  • Distilled water
  • Pitcher filtered water
  • Carbon filtered water

While each of these types of water provide their own benefits and negatives, we will explore what makes each type good or bad for making coffee at home.

Bottled water

Rank: Good

Pouring bottled water into a home coffeemaker is popular because the water is already treated and contains minerals that provide a crisp, refreshing taste. Bottled water provides a solid base for a cup of coffee, but it does so with a couple major disadvantages. The most significant disadvantage of bottled water is the plastic waste produced with each serving. About 60 million plastic water bottles are disposed of each day in the United States, and most of these bottles are not recycled. The use of plastic water bottles adds to a pile of plastic waste each day, contributing to the growing problem of microplastics in the environment.

Learn more: 6 practical ways to reduce water pollution at home

Not only are plastic water bottles harmful to the environment, but they are also much more expensive over time than a home filtration system. While home water filtration systems require a large initial purchase and routine maintenance costs, they are still much cheaper than bottled water use every day, particularly if there are many members in your family.

Despite its disadvantages, bottled water provides one major advantage over any other type of water: the diversity of taste across several brands. Because all brands of bottled water vary in taste and mineral content, you can choose the one that best makes your favorite cup of coffee. Some bottled water brands may even contain too many minerals to make coffee enjoyable. If you choose to use bottled water for your coffee, ensure you read the label so you know the mineral content of your water.

Advantages of bottled water for coffee

  • Convenient
  • Consistent quality
  • Already treated, most likely by reverse osmosis (depending on brand)
  • Allows you to choose the taste you prefer

Disadvantages of bottled water for coffee

  • More expensive over time
  • Excessive plastic waste

Tap water

Rank: Bad

Tap water is commonly used to make coffee at home, but it does not yield the flavors and aromas that other types of water can. City-treated tap water contains chlorine, chloramines, and fluoride, all of which can create bitter tastes that suppress the flavors of your favorite coffee beans. Some filtration systems remove so many contaminants that the water cannot extract all the flavors from the beans. This creates a flat, underwhelming taste. Unlike these systems, tap water creates an actively bitter taste that overpowers the flavors extracted from the beans.

Learn more: How does city water treatment work?

One of the most important characteristics of water in brewing coffee is water hardness. In most regions in the United States, tap water is naturally hard. This hardness is not treated by municipal water plants because the minerals that cause hard water are not dangerous to consume. However, they do greatly affect the flavors you can expect from your cup of coffee. Water hardness can even change over time, causing the flavor of your water and coffee to differ based on the time of year. Hard water also leaves behind limescale deposits in your coffeemaker. This can damage the machine over time and shorten its lifespan significantly.

Learn more: How to remove limescale buildup in your home

Advantages of tap water for coffee

  • Convenient
  • No outside expenses

Disadvantages of tap water for coffee

  • Bitter taste
  • Unwanted aromas
  • Varies greatly by location
  • Inconsistent quality

Reverse osmosis water

Rank: Great (with remineralization)

Reverse osmosis (RO) is one of the most popular consumer water treatment methods on the market today. This is largely due to RO’s effectiveness at removing so many contaminants from water. When it comes to brewing a cup of coffee, reverse osmosis water is an excellent choice if a remineralization cartridge is attached to the system. Coffee requires the presence of minerals in the water to extract maximum taste from the beans, so a complete lack of minerals in water provides a disappointing cup of joe and can damage your coffeemaker. Consequently, an RO system with a remineralization cartridge is essential if you plan on using RO water for coffee.

Learn more: What is a reverse osmosis system and how does it work?

If your RO system does not include a remineralization cartridge, you should not use it to make coffee. If you wish to use RO water in your coffee machine, ensure you incorporate a remineralization cartridge into your RO system. Because RO treatment is so effective, it removes practically all water hardness, TDS, and other minerals from water. This causes the water to leach minerals from your coffeemaker as it flows through, damaging it over time. Remineralization cartridges resupply your RO water with the necessary elements to extract delicious flavors and aromas from your coffee while not damaging your equipment. These cartridges are installed inline to add minerals after the water is treated.

Advantages of reverse osmosis for coffee

  • Resupplies minerals to water (if equipped with a remineralization cartridge)
  • Creates a clean base for your coffee
  • Excellent for other daily uses

Disadvantages of reverse osmosis for coffee

  • Sends water to drain during treatment process
  • Require mineral additives (if not equipped with a remineralization cartridge)

Distilled water

Rank: Great (with mineral additive)

Distilled water is the purest form of water that can be achieved with a home water treatment system. It uses heat to evaporate water, leaving all contaminants behind. While this makes the water extremely clean, it does not make water that is good for brewing coffee. Distilled water is known for its flat, dull taste, and this characteristic becomes even more pronounced when the water percolates through coffee beans. One particularly ugly downside of distilled water is the amount of time it takes to treat water. For most countertop water distillers, it takes around 4 to 6 hours to produce one gallon of distilled water.

By itself, distilled water is not a good type of water to use for coffee. In fact, because distilled water does not contain any minerals, it can leach minerals from the metal components of brewing equipment. As a result, we do not recommend using pure distilled water with your coffeemaker or other brewing machines. However, if supplemented with a mineral additive, distilled water can make an excellent cup of joe. Just like RO systems, water distillers are so effective that they strip water of the characteristics that make a flavorful cup of coffee. A mineral additive provides all the necessary elements that will deliver the optimal results for your coffee at home without damaging your equipment.

Learn more: What is distilled water and is it safe to drink?

Advantages of distilled water for coffee

  • Consistent quality
  • Provides a clean base for mineral additives

Disadvantages of distilled water for coffee

  • Long distillation time
  • Requires mineral additives

Pitcher filtered water

Rank: Good

Pitcher water filters are one of the most common types of water filtration used in homes because of their convenience, ease of use, and simplicity. While they are not as effective as reverse osmosis or water distillers, water pitcher filters can provide water for a solid cup of coffee. The quality of filtration varies greatly in the world of water pitcher filters, but all are designed to remove chlorine at a minimum. Chlorine is one of the most detrimental contaminants to the flavors of coffee, so, if you do not wish to incorporate a heftier filtration system in your home, a water pitcher filter will provide a better tasting experience than tap water alone.

Some water pitcher filters can remove an impressive number of contaminants from water, but they will never be able to replicate what is possible with a reverse osmosis system or water distiller.

Learn more: Do water pitcher filters really work?

Advantages of water pitcher filters for coffee

  • Convenient
  • Easy to use
  • Improved taste over tap water

Disadvantages of water pitcher filters for coffee

  • Not as effective filtration as RO or distillation
  • Does not remove water hardness

Carbon filtered water

Rank: Good

Activated carbon is used in a variety of water filtration systems. This is due to its effectiveness at removing chlorine, foul tastes and odors, mercury, and, in some cases, iron and lead. If you have a water pitcher filter or a refrigerator water filter, you already benefit from the technology of carbon filtration. While carbon filters do not remove TDS, water hardness, or fluoride from water, they do provide a much better tasting cup of coffee than tap water alone. In fact, the purpose of carbon filtration is to improve the taste of tap water. This is why carbon filtration is used in drinking water applications like refrigerator filters.

While carbon filters are used inside many water treatment systems, they are also available in standalone units as well. A carbon under-sink water filter provides clean-tasting water at a high flow rate.

Learn more: Activated carbon filters 101

Advantages of carbon filtration for coffee

  • Improved taste over tap water
  • Provide high flow rate

Disadvantages of carbon filtration for coffee

  • Not as effective filtration as RO or distillation
  • Does not remove water hardness


If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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