What is the Best Water to Use When Brewing Coffee


Filtering your tap water

If you are unhappy with the caliber of your at-home water, the first option that you have is to filter it. The SCAA water brewing guidelines state that water should be clean, odor-free, clear with no chlorine.  Pitcher filters like the Brita use activated carbon to remove some water impurities, odors as well as chlorine or chloramine if they are present.  There are also faucet mounted filters of this type.

Soft or Hard Water?

While there seems to be some debate on the subject, using hard water makes a better cup of coffee than water softened with a home water softener.

Water hardness is a measure of the amount of magnesium and calcium that is dissolved in water. Water rich in these two minerals (magnesium in particular) are great at bringing out the best in coffee flavoring compounds. Replacing these minerals with sodium will produce a coffee that is flat by comparison.

Very hard water can destroy an espresso machine with scaling and thus it is a large concern in the pressurized coffee game. It has minimal impact of the equipment on a manual brewer. Regular kettle descaling and maintenance should make any scaling from hard water negligible.

Using Reverse Osmosis Water

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a process where all the minerals are taken out of the water. What is left is water that has virtually nothing in it. You would think that this would be ideal for brewing coffee, but it is not.  Brewing with straight reverse osmosis water will produce a flat cup of coffee not unlike the coffee made with soft water.

Reverse osmosis water is missing all those magnesium and calcium minerals that enhance coffee flavor. There are, however, blending reverse osmosis systems that will mix back in mineral rich water. Some of these systems have the ability to customize the total dissolved solids level of your water.  A reverse osmosis water blend is a viable option for great brewing water. The SCAA recommends 150 mg/L total dissolved solids.

If you do not have a reverse osmosis system with blending capabilities, you can blend the water yourself. Try different ratios of RO water to tap water and see if it improves your coffee taste (20 – 25% tap water is a good place to start).

Bottled Water

If none of the above options are feasible or appealing to you, you can always brew your coffee with bottled water. Using bottled water is not a cut and dry issue either. Not all bottled waters are created equal, in fact, they can vary wildly in mineral content, pH and suitability for coffee.

“Bottled waters mostly come in two kinds, alkaline ones with massive mineral levels just below brackish, and acidic ones with mineral levels just above RO flatness. Very few have the intermediate hardness levels found in most municipal waters” (Schulman, 11).

Your best options for bottled water are going to be labeled drinking or spring water. Schulman recommends Crystal Geyser or Volvic. If you are buying bulk five gallon water blended RO jugs, try to locate a source that is using magnesium for adding hardness back into the water instead of calcium (this may be rather difficult).

Brewing Coffee 101

The NCA Guide to Brewing Essentials

Coffee is personal - the right way to make it is how you like it best. 

That being said, mastering a few fundamentals will help you perfect your technique. From here, we encourage you to experiment with different roasts, origins, or preparation methods.

Here are our tips to brew a classic cup of coffee.

The Equipment

Make sure that your tools — from bean grinders and filters to coffee makers— are thoroughly cleaned after each use.

Rinse with clear, hot water (or wipe down thoroughly), and dry with an absorbent towel. It’s important to check that no grounds have been left to collect and that there’s no build-up of coffee oil (caffeol), which can make future cups of coffee taste bitter and rancid.

Brewing Time

The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important flavor factor. 

In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If you are making your coffee using a French Press, the contact time should be 2-4 minutes. Espresso has an especially brief brew time — the coffee is in contact with the water for only 20-30 seconds. Cold brew, on the other hand, should steep overnight (about 12 hours).

If you’re not happy with the taste of the final product, you're likely either:

  • Over-extracting - the brew time is too long
  • Under-extracting - the brew time is too short

Experiment with the contact time until you get the right balance for your taste.

Ah Yes the Water

The Water

The water you use is very important to the quality of your coffee. Use filtered or bottled water if your tap water is not good or has a strong odor or taste, such as chlorine. 

If you’re using tap water, let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot, and be sure to use cold water. Avoid distilled or softened water.

Coffee-to-Water Ratio

A general guideline is called the "Golden Ratio" - one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. This can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences.  

Check the cup lines or indicators on your specific brewer to see how they actually measure. And remember that some water is lost to evaporation in certain brewing methods. 

Water Temperature 

Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction. Colder water will result in flat, under-extracted coffee, while water that is too hot will also cause a loss of quality in the taste of the coffee. (However, cold brew does not need any heat.)

If you are brewing the coffee manually, let the water come to a full boil, but do not over boil. Turn off the heat source and allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds.

Always allow your coffee - or any hot beverage - to reach a comfortable temperature before enjoying (specifically below 140 degrees Fahrenheit). 

To Freeze or Not To Freeze Your Coffee Beans?

Freshness is critical to a quality cup of coffee. Experts agree that coffee should be consumed as quickly as possible after it is roasted, especially once the original packaging seal has been broken.

While there are different views on whether or not coffee should be frozen or refrigerated, the main consideration is that coffee absorbs moisture – and odors, and tastes – from the air around it, since it is hygroscopic (bonus vocabulary word for all the coffee geeks out there).

Most home storage containers still let in small amounts of oxygen, which is why food stored a long time in the freezer can suffer freezer burn. Therefore, if you do refrigerate or freeze your beans, be sure to use a truly airtight container.

If you choose to freeze your coffee, quickly remove as much as you need for no more than a week at a time, and return the rest to the freezer before any condensation forms on the frozen coffee.

Freezing your beans does not not change the basic brewing process

How To Store your Coffee Beans

For the best cup of coffee, start with quality beans and store them properly to maximize freshness and flavor.     

Keep beans airtight and cool

Your beans’ greatest enemies are air, moisture, heat, and light.

To preserve your beans’ fresh roasted flavor as long as possible, store them in an opaque, air-tight container at room temperature. Coffee beans can be beautiful, but avoid clear canisters which will allow light to compromise the taste of your coffee. 

Keep your beans in a dark and cool location. A cabinet near the oven is often too warm, and so is a spot on the kitchen counter that gets strong afternoon sun.

Coffee's retail packaging is generally not ideal for long-term storage. If possible, invest in storage canisters with an airtight seal.

Buy the right amount

Coffee begins to lose freshness almost immediately after roasting. Try to buy smaller batches of freshly roasted coffee more frequently - enough for one or two weeks. 

Exposure to air is bad for your beans. If you prefer to keep your beans in an accessible and/or attractive container, it may be a good good idea to divide your coffee supply into several smaller portions, with the larger, unused portion in an air-tight container.

This is especially important when buying pre-ground coffee, because of the increased exposure to oxygen. If you buy whole beans, grind the amount you need immediately before brewing. 

White Chocolate-Cappuccino Cookies Recipe

These adorable cookies shaped like coffee cups don't last long with my friends and family. For even richer flavor, I use a mocha latte coffee mix.—Nancy Sousley, Lafayette, IN

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 15 min. + chilling Bake: 10 min./batch + cooling

MAKES: 48 servings


  • 2 envelopes mocha cappuccino mix
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces white candy coating, melted
  • Baking cocoa, optional



  1. In a small bowl, dissolve cappuccino mix in hot water. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in cappuccino mixture and egg yolk. In another bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture.
  2. Divide dough in half. Shape each into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm enough to roll.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion of dough to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 2-1/2-in. cup-shaped cookie cutter. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  5. Pipe melted candy coating over cookies as desired, or dip each cookie halfway into melted candy coating; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. If desired, dust with cocoa.
  6. Freeze option: Transfer wrapped disks to a resealable plastic freezer bag; freeze. To use, thaw dough in refrigerator until soft enough to roll. Prepare, bake and decorate as directed. Yield: about 4 dozen.

Originally published as White Chocolate-Cappuccino Cookies in Cookies & Candies Bookazine 2015, p22


Use Promo Code HappyMarch to receive a 15% discount thru March 23rd on a purchase of our fresh roasted coffee!


Coffee lovers love the aroma of coffee especially in the morning because coffee has a way to brighten moods. If you are a serious drinker you would know what it means to live a day without coffee. We’d rather pay our last dollar for a cup of coffee than to eat…ah…a hamburger. Coffee means a lot to us.

Another thing about coffee is the community. Coffee drinkers have something in common when we walk into a coffee shop. We are all anticipating for that ultimate cup as we stay in line for our names to be called. We are also connected by coffee quotes, and most of us have at least one or two quotes we already made up about coffee!



Caffeine Effects

Why does caffeine wake you up?

Caffeine has similar properties to adenosine, a nucleoside that causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. Caffeine can therefore bind to adenosine receptors. When this occurs, the receptors are not available for adenosine molecules to bind to which causes increased neuron firing in the brain.

The pituitary gland sees all of the activity and thinks some sort of emergency must be occurring, so it releases hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline is the "fight or flight" hormone, and it has a number of effects on your body including:

  • Pupil dilation
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Constriction of blood vessels to slow blood flow from cuts and to increase blood flow to muscles
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Decreased blood flow to the stomach, this is no time to spend energy digesting!
  • Release of sugar from the liver into the bloodstream for extra energy
  • Tightening of muscles as they get ready for action

This explains why after consuming a big cup of coffee, your hands get cold, your muscles tense up, you feel excited, and you can feel your heart beat increasing.

Mocha Cupcakes With Kahlua Buttercream

Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp Kahlua
2-3 tbsp instant coffee powder
3/4 cup water
garnish - cocoa powder, sprinkles, cookie crumbles, etc

6 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
2 tbsp milk, room temperature
2 tbsp Kahlua liquor
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

MOCHA CUPCAKE: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin cups with paper liners (makes 9).
In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, Kahlua and instant coffee power until combined. Whisk in half the flour mixture, followed by half of the water. Stir in all of the remaining flour and the water, mixing until batter is just uniform (do not overmix).

Divide evenly into prepared muffin pan. Bake for 18 minutes until done (knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Allow cupcakes to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

KAHLUA BUTTERCREAM: In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee powder in milk and Kahlua. In a large bowl, beat together butter, instant coffee mixture and confectioners’ sugar until frosting is smooth, thick and fluffy. Add additional confectioner's sugar to thicken if necessary. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes on the day of serving and dust with desired topping.

What To Do with Your Coffee Grounds

Used coffee grounds can be used as fertilizer in your garden. They can be added to new or existing plant beds. The grounds can also be helpful for eradicating certain pests from your garden, such as slugs, snails and ants. You can use the grounds from your own kitchen. If you don’t drink coffee or need a lot of grounds, let us know we have plenty ofused grounds to customers for use in home gardens.

Benefits of Coffee Grounds on Soil

Coffee grounds are a source of nitrogen, calcium and magnesium. These nutrients are beneficial to the plants in your garden. Using the grounds is an environmentally friendly and cost effective way to nourish your plants. You are saving space in our landfills by recycling this household waste. The grounds are also beneficial to your compost pile. They help maintain the nitrogen balance which is important for decomposition of the organic materials in your compost.

The grounds increase the acidity of the soil. This is beneficial to acid loving plants in your garden. Some of the plants that love acid soil include azaleas, blueberries and rhododendrons. However, it can harm some of your plants. It’s important to use the grounds only on plants that will benefit from increased acidity in the soil and avoid using it on plants that are not acid loving.

Coffee grounds improve the soil in your garden. The grounds make it easier to till the soil, which is beneficial for vegetable gardens. The coffee grounds are attractive to the worms in your garden. Adding them to the soil will provide an additional food source for the worms. As the worms ingest the grounds and move through the dirt, they help spread the nutrients throughout your soil, while aerating it to bring much needed oxygen to the roots of your plants.

Some studies have suggested that coffee grounds are beneficial for repelling slugs, snails and ants. One study by the USDA showed that they are effective against slugs. Other studies have shown no big difference with the use of grounds. The caffeine in the grounds and acidity are thought to be responsible for repelling the slugs. There is a lot of debate among gardeners on this benefit. Some believe it works, while others think does not make a difference.

What Type of Bean Is Used in Espresso?

A common misconception exists that one type of bean only is used to make espresso. At Top Dog we use 3 different beans roasted at 3 different temps. Espresso is not any certain bean or type of roast; an espresso can be made from the same coffee beans that go into a regular drip machine. The difference is in the grind of the bean as well as the preparation. Companies in the United States such as Starbucks use darker roast beans in espresso drinks, but a medium roast is commonly used in northern Italy and Top Dog!

Packed with flavor and caffeine, espresso lends very well to mixing, and is the base of a variety of coffee drinks. More popular espresso blends are the latte and the cappuccino, but coffeehouses seem to love creating new drinks. Some lesser known drinks are the affogatto, which is espresso served over ice cream which is served at our Cayucos location using McConnells ice cream; the Americano, espresso and water in equal parts, sometimes with more water; the , Top Dog traditional Shot In The Dark which is a cup of American coffee with two shots of espresso; and the breve, which is espresso in steamed milk and half & half.

The Art of Espresso

Today, espresso is brewed by forcing hot, not boiling, water under high pressure through powdery fine coffee. The process is called “pulling” a shot, which has to do with early machines that had a pull lever to begin the brewing process; today, most machines have a simple button. The ground coffee is packed into a metal filter basket with 7-10 grams of grounds for a single shot, and 12-18 grams for double. The grounds are pressed down to form a firm puck of coffee. Pressurized water is then forced through the coffee in the portafilter which deposits the resulting espresso into a shot glass or demitasse (white porcelain espresso cup). Brewing takes under thirty seconds. The espresso, which is a chemically complex drink and will degrade quickly with heat loss, is to be served immediately at a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

We pride ourselves on our espresso blends, because making good espresso, even from a programmable machine, can be a challenge due to espresso’s volatile and complex nature. Properly brewed espresso has three parts, the heart, body, and crema (crema is the lighter reddish foam that floats on the surface); when a glass is brewed, all three parts should be seen as three different layers. When consumed, the espresso should have a fine aroma, rich body, and a balanced bitter-sweet taste with a hint of acidity. The espresso flavor and consistency are easily affected by minor problems such as the over or under grinding of beans, over pressing of grounds into the metal filter, and by fluctuation in water temperature. Over and under grinding affect the appearance of crema, as does the firmness of the ground coffee puck in the portafilter. Too much pressure in packing the coffee grounds plus a too-fine grind will cause the pressurized water to stay in the filter too long, resulting in very little crema. If the crema is tan instead of reddish, it may indicate that the grounds are packed too lightly, and the water has run through too quickly. Water that is too cold during brewing can cause sourness, while too hot water can cause bitterness.

Get Grounded! Know What You Are Grinding For!

Grinding the Beans

The taste of your coffee is determined by the coarseness of the grind. Some home grinding machines have coarseness settings while many inexpensive ones do not. With those grinders, the coarseness of your coffee will be determined by the length of time spent grinding; i.e. the longer you grind, the finer the end result.

Here are a few basic guidelines to follow that will help you determine the correct coarseness for your desired cup of java

  • Coarse – Requires little grinding time and end result will leave chunky coffee particles about the size of heavy salt. Coarse coffee works best in percolators and French press devices.
  • Medium – The texture of medium ground coffee tends to resemble a coarse sand. Most automatic drip coffee makers call for medium ground beans.
  • Fine – Fine ground coffee resembles granulated sugar. It is recommended for use in auto drip pots with cone shape filters as well as espresso moka pots (stovetop espresso pots).
  • Extra Fine – Nearly powdery in texture, extra fine grounds are preferred for professional-grade espresso machines.

These are a Few of our Favorite Regions

Mexican Coffee Producer

Mexican Coffee Producer


Mexico began major exportation of coffee beans in the 1870s, and is now the leading source of US coffee imports. Most of Mexico’’s coffee beans are grown in the southern part of the country by small-scale farming operations that number in the hundred thousands. Exporting around 5 million bags per year, Mexico produces some very fine bean varieties such as the Altura and Pluma Coixtepec.


Ethiopians lead the continent in coffee consumption, which is fitting since Ethiopia is the natural home for the Arabica tree, and the setting for most coffee origin tales. Approximately twelve million Ethiopians make a living from coffee, producing 3.8 million bags each year. Ethiopia is the top exporter of Arabica beans on the African continent.


India produces nearly 3.8 million bags of coffee beans per year, and coffee production is strictly controlled by the Indian Coffee Board, which some believe reduces quality of beans and dampens economic benefits to growers. One special type of Indian coffee is the Monsooned Malabar, which is made from green beans that have been exposed to monsoon winds blowing through open warehouses.


Coffee cultivation in Guatemala was introduced by German immigrants in the 19th century, and coffee has since become a major industry with nearly one quarter of the population involved in coffee production. Guatemala’’s high-grown beans (above 4500 feet) are among the world’’s best coffee, especially those beans grown on southern volcanic slopes. This country produces 3.5 million bags per year. Coveted blends are the Atitlan and the Huehuetenango.

Other Fun Coffee Growing Regions


Part of Colombia’’s success can be attributed to having ports in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as it is the only South American country that does. Most Colombian coffee is grown in the foothills of the Andes Mountains where the high altitude and moist climate make for a mild coffee bean; nearly 10.5 million bags are produced each year. Because coffee is such important revenue for this country, all cars entering Colombia are sprayed for harmful bacteria that could potentially destroy coffee trees.


Coffee Plantation in Bali

Coffee Plantation in Bali

The first thriving coffee plantation in Indonesia in the late 1800s was on the island colony of Java (hence, coffee’’s nickname of Java). A one-time top producer of Arabica beans, many of Indonesia’’s Arabica coffee plantations were destroyed, yielding an increase in the production of hardier Robusta beans. Still, some very high-quality Arabica beans are grown there, such as the Sumatra, Flores, and Sulawesi. Indonesia produces nearly 6.7 million bags yearly.


A late-comer to coffee production, Vietnam became a top producer in the 1990s. The industry has grown very quickly, and Vietnamese traders worry that processing has not caught up to growth, so the quality of Vietnamese beans is far behind many other countries. Daklak is Vietnam’’s main growing region, and yields around 5.8 million bags of Robusta beans each year.