Review: Water for Coffee


Editorial Policy

Published on

Last updated on

A caffeine molecule (image: Christopher Hendon.)

[T]he West Coast boasts an impressive collection of renowned roasters and cafés, and tourists, especially coffee pros, delight in the opportunity to take coffee home. But what if they live somewhere like Texas, where water has a much higher dissolved mineral content than it does along the Pacific? Barista skills aside, it’s exceedingly difficult to replicate the quality and flavor profile of coffee brewed in a Portland café without insight into the mineral makeup of your local water. But why?

After a read through the book Water for Coffee, you’ll be able to answer that question. For science nerds, education advocates, and coffee lovers in pursuit of perfect extraction, Water for Coffee elucidates water’s crucial role in brewing and extraction.

Authored by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood and Christopher Hendon, Water for Coffee combines the expert knowledge of a seasoned, competitive barista and an MIT post-doctoral chemist. Whether your background is founded more strongly in coffee or in chemistry, the collective voice of Colonna-Dashwood and Hendon presents practical education for scientists and coffee enthusiasts alike.

(Image: courtesy of Christopher Hendon and Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood.)

Pointing out challenges of current industry conventions (such as the heavy reliance on IC-TDS meters, which quantify dissolved mineral concentration without insight to mineral identity), Hendon and Colonna-Dashwood offer guidance to overcome debilitating water issues faced in roasting, café settings, and at home. By exploring scientific principles governing chemical interactions in the context of coffee, Water for Coffee fosters a deep appreciation for water’s comprehensive influence on each drop of extraction.

Understanding your water isn’t as simple as getting a TDS reading and filtering out sediment; the particular makeup of those dissolved solids heavily influences the interaction of coffee and water. Beginning with short courses in chemistry and physics, Colonna-Dashwood and Hendon provide foundational knowledge of water’s properties and the behavior of dissolved minerals. The science lessons are supplemented with practical applications in the café: methods for measuring dissolved mineral concentrations, filtration options for manipulating water makeup, specifications for brewing, and case studies from the industry.

Working through the book’s highly technical pages, I found myself grateful (finally) for the hours spent studying physics and chemistry in my college days: this book is certainly not for the faint of scientific heart. But for those who want to delve into coffee’s technical side, each chapter of Water for Coffee holds rewarding nuggets of knowledge and encouraging commentary for those seeking a better product.

Water for Coffee is available through

Ellie Bradley is Fresh Cup‘s associate editor.

Share This Article

Ellie Bradley

Join 7,000+ coffee pros and get top stories, deals, and other industry goodies in your inbox each week.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Other Articles You May Like

Decaf Coffee, But Make It Specialty

Decaf coffee has come a long way over the last one hundred years, but can it join the third wave?
by Fionn Pooler | February 16, 2024

Welcoming Home Baristas Into Coffee: “It’s On Us, The Professionals”

More and more folks are finding a passion for coffee through swipes and likes, but who is the home barista? How can roasters and cafes welcome them into the larger coffee community?
by Miranda Haney | January 12, 2024

The Prototype of All Desire: How Processing Can Increase—and Improve—Sweetness in Robusta

Sweetness in coffee is often a marker of quality, but it’s often ignored when talking about Robusta. But small changes at the farm level can be the key to finding more sweetness in Robusta.
by Mikey Rinaldo | December 15, 2023

Latte Art and Alternative Milks: The Good, The Bad, and the Tasty

Milk steaming is a hard-earned skill; alternative milks don’t make this task easier. But with a few tips, you can easily toggle from oat to soy to almond.
by Zoe Stanley-Foreman | December 13, 2023