Author Topic: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener  (Read 17566 times)

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Offline extiger

  • Posts: 254
Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« on: February 10, 2012, 05:24 PM »
Water in Southern California is very alkaline and tons of calcium. It just chews up plumbing fixtures after 15 years. I'm installing an Espresso machine in the house. The coffee geeks say that using distilled water kills the flavor in an Espresso made with a plumbed in machine. So complete Reverse Osmosis, either under the sink for drinking water, or whole house plumbed into the main is not advised.

The other option is Water Softener. For drinking water, the ice maker and for the Espresso machine. Or, again, for the whole house. It is a near-new kitchen with an large double sink so there's plenty of room for an install. The water main is 1" copper coming in at the front of the house. It would be easy to hide the tanks by running a 10-foot diversion behind a tall fence and gate and then routing a line back to the house feed.

What is your advice? What would be the cost, and the cost of tank replacement every 3 years. By the way, we have 2200 ft/sq with a 500 sq/ft back house. Total of 4 bathrooms, 2 kitchens.

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Offline andvari

  • Posts: 423
Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2012, 05:40 PM »
I don't think drinking softened or demineralized water is particularly good for you due to loss of fluoridation and trace minerals, so you should maintain a tap that can be used for drinking water somewhere in the house, preferably in the kitchen for convenience.

Demineralized or softened water will work much better for washing things - hard water will actually deposit calcium on clothing as well as glassware etc. so it is not just plumbing that needs to be factored in to this.

Ah - I found the WHO report on the topic of nutrients in drinking water.

http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutrconsensusrep.pdf

« Last Edit: February 10, 2012, 05:55 PM by andvari »
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Offline Alan m

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2012, 05:48 PM »
we have (albe it in a different country than yours) a water softener. it works great but i dont like drinking it, all that salt cant be good for you. works great for appliances etc , keeps all the lime etc out
those reverse osmosis machines take everything out good and bad , so your left with H20. in th elong run that will be bad for you drinking it. iv tasted water from one of those machines (during the outbreaks of cariptosparidium these were installed), the glass i tasted was boring , tasteless, and even worse made you thirsty. there was no satisfaction from drinking it. 
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Offline extiger

  • Posts: 254
Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2012, 06:31 PM »
As is typical of residents in Southern California we have bottled water. The city water tastes terrible. Strangely, the City of Beverly Hills 4 miles east of me has water that smells like a sewer when you open a tap. It is notorious. All the rich folks there drink bottled water and have a filtration system on the house.

What I can do is filter water for household use and continue to used bottled water for the Espresso. There are choices in machine features. Only the bigger ones have a direct water feed.

So, now to cost. If we drink and cook from bottled water, what kind of system is better for general household use? Reverse Osmosis or Softened water?

Offline hockey_magnet

  • Posts: 330
Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2012, 06:36 PM »
I have a bit of knowledge in this area - If your water is that hard, you probably need a softener for sure - some people believe that the water will be too salty but a properly functioning softener will not add a noticable salt taste and the actuall added salt is pretty minimal. If you're on a highly salt restricted diet, you can add an RO under the kitchen sink - They can be installed anywhere within 15 feet or so from the tap.

Whole house RO is a non starter - you will need to install a unit to feed just the drinking water taps. RO process takes too long to feed a whole house for washing, etc.

Taste is a matter of taste  [smile]

I have been drinking RO water for years as well as using it for coffee and tea. I much prefer the taste of RO, it has a very pure clean taste. Some people take a while to adjust but once they do, they prefer it. A good RO will leave you TDS of 5 PPM or so whereas distilled is 0 PPM, a very minimal difference. However distilled tastes "worse" in most peoples opinion mainly because it has little or no oxygen. The big advantage with RO is you will have NO scaling in your coffee maker. I've had a Keurig for 3 years and it has never needed de scaling.

With a 4 or 5 stage RO for drinking water you need to change your filters regularly, every 6 months for most users. A nw membrane should only be needed every 5 or 6 years, Remember that the carbon filter in the RO system is what removes chlorine and improves the taste.

Chris
« Last Edit: February 10, 2012, 06:52 PM by hockey_magnet »

Offline Ken Nagrod

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2012, 07:16 PM »
I'D MOVE

Offline pugilato

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2012, 08:14 PM »
I'm with hockey magnet... control the minerals in the whole house (I have seen dishwashers plugged with lime deposits), use RO for source water to the coffee maker, and whatever else. Filter replacement is according to use. Scaling can ruin your coffee machine. When I used to work in a lab, I would fill up gallon containers of deionized water just for my coffee machine.

Offline Don T

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2012, 08:20 PM »
You will not like the softened water.  Reverse osmosis is the way to go, we have horrible water here in Phoenix also and that is what I have.
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Offline extiger

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2012, 08:37 PM »
With all that's been said, I think I'll continue to use bottled water, and get an RO unit under the sink for the ice maker and cooking, and if I can afford it get the cannister type Soft Water system for the whole house.

When I've traveled to cities with soft water, it seemed like a dream to shower. And washing clothes was kind of uplifting.

Thanks to you all.

Offline Jesus Aleman

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2012, 09:50 PM »
I'm an eng consultant so here are my 2 cents:

My recollection is that some jurisdictions in California no longer allow the use of residential softeners.  Check your local by-laws.  There are a couple of issues that you need to consider with RO:

1) RO membranes (filters) are typically not chlorine resistant.  You need to remove the chlorine from the tap water  prior to the RO membranes (typically with a replaceable carbon filter).  Otherwise, you are going to replace the filters very often and/or they will develop rat holes (won't filter at all).  
2) RO has very tight pores and removes almost everything out of the water.  You end up with aggressive water (with no alkalinity) that will corrode metal fixtures and pipes.  If the water has no alkalinity then there is nothing preventing it of becoming acidic and eat up pipes and fixtures.  Distilled water pH is typically less than 5.  If you are using the RO for selected appliances, I would recommend using plastic pipe or tubing.
3) EDIT: Drinking water with no minerals  [without replenishing the minerals through food or drink intake] could lead to electrolytic imbalances.  If this is done too often and for too long it can lead to long term health problems.   There is a reason why dehydration is treated with electrolytic solutions (gatorade, juices, or water with a little salt), especially in warmer climates where perspiration is the main mechanism of fluid and salt loss.  These will typically lead to a faster recovery because is replenishing both fluids and minerals.   However, no one size fits all.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2012, 11:54 PM by Jesus Aleman »

Offline hockey_magnet

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2012, 10:30 PM »
I'm an eng consultant so here are my 2 cents:

My recollection is that some jurisdictions in California no longer allow the use of residential softeners.  Check your local by-laws.  There are a couple of issues that you need to consider with RO:

1) RO membranes (filters) are typically not chlorine resistant.  You need to remove the chlorine from the tap water  prior to the RO membranes (typically with a replaceable carbon filter).  Otherwise, you are going to replace the filters very often and/or they will develop rat holes (won't filter at all).   
2) RO has very tight pores and removes almost everything out of the water.  You end up with aggressive water (with no alkalinity) that will corrode metal fixtures and pipes.  If the water has no alkalinity then there is nothing preventing it of becoming acidic and eat up pipes and fixtures.  Distilled water pH is typically less than 5.  If you are using the RO for selected appliances, I would recommend using plastic pipe or tubing.
3) Drinking water with no minerals is also not healthy on the long run.

Our company sells, installs and maintains softeners, UV's, RO units, sulphur, iron and most other types of filters and systems. I agree and did indicate that you have to have a carbon filter but all RO units, whether they are 3,4 or 5 stage include carbon cannisters. As I said, in the units we sell and service, it is extremely unusual for membranes to last less than 5 years. Typically the membrane is the most expensive component and runs $150 -$200 to replace.

Yes RO water is aggressive which is why the output on a typical RO is always plastic - we recommend John Guest. As far as using RO in "appliances" tubing to the appliance is always plastic. Once again, typically direct feed from an RO is almost always to a separate sink tap, specific to the RO unit, refrigerator drinking water outlet and a POU cooler.

A good, reputable installer will ensure that you don't have problems with your RO unit.

Your comment on drinking water without minerals is, in my opinion, nonsense but at least you didn't get into the whole "RO water is highly acidic so it is bad for you" argument.

Offline andvari

  • Posts: 423
Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2012, 10:49 PM »
The link in my first post is to a World Health Organization study summarizing a series of scientific investigations on health effects of mineral content of drinking water. These studies were done because of increasing use of desalinization plants which provide low mineral content water.

Anyone planning on treating their drinking water should be aware of the adverse effects of low mineral content water.


« Last Edit: February 10, 2012, 10:53 PM by andvari »
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Offline richard.selwyn

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2012, 03:37 AM »
I have a water softener and would not be without it for washing and bathing. Drinking water in general is looked down upon here ( I have several friends who only drink cider if they are thirsty  ;) ) but being serious we only drink mineral water as the tap water here is disgusting. We filter the water for the expresso machine with a brita filter which is ok but not ideal. But the point of my post is to let you all know that the late LJK Setright, an english journalist and engineer, maintained that the only way to get a decent expresso was to ship in his water from Italy  [unsure] [scared] [eek]

Offline hockey_magnet

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2012, 07:36 AM »
The link in my first post is to a World Health Organization study summarizing a series of scientific investigations on health effects of mineral content of drinking water. These studies were done because of increasing use of desalinization plants which provide low mineral content water.

Anyone planning on treating their drinking water should be aware of the adverse effects of low mineral content water.




Agreed but keep in mind this is a WHO study for various global conditions, including diet deficiencies, etc. in developing countries,  etc. It does not IMHO have much as much relevance in an industrial society where almost everything we eat has added vitamins and minerals and many people take supplements. I would not rely on any water as an appropriate mineral delivery system.

Offline Roger Savatteri

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2012, 10:11 AM »
A word to the wise,

One thing that has not been mentioned here is the incredible amount of water waste that is incurred with an Reverse Osmosis system.
For every gallon of water produced in that tank under your sink it takes several gallons of water just to produce that gallon.
If you think that the water waste stops after the tank is full, think again. Have an RO system and don't believe me? Wait until the tank feels full and then open up the drain valve under the sink and see for yourself. Yes there are some systems out there that do shut themselves down when the tank is full but they tend to be problematic, because they tend to inject the highly concentrated waste water back into the good water in the shut down and start up process, because of the pressure against the ro membrane. So a whole house RO system would be totally out of the question, for no other reason then that.

Have a soft water system and think you are in the clear? Ha!
Between 30 to a 100 gallons are used every few days during the flushing cycle. If you already have a softener system you might consider extending the time between cycles.

I could go on, but I need to pick my wife up at the airport.
cheers,
Roger

btw, who ever changed the background color from green to light grey when hitting the "Preview" button - good move! Much easier reading.


Los Angeles, California

Offline waho6o9

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2012, 11:04 AM »
Distilled water rocks. Carry on.   [big grin]

Offline andvari

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2012, 11:14 AM »

Agreed but keep in mind this is a WHO study for various global conditions, including diet deficiencies, etc. in developing countries,  etc. It does not IMHO have much as much relevance in an industrial society where almost everything we eat has added vitamins and minerals and many people take supplements. I would not rely on any water as an appropriate mineral delivery system.

The epidemiological studies were conducted in "the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden, Russia, and France". Clearly if this was not an issue in these industrialized countries the studies would have not generated useful data.
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Offline Ken Nagrod

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2012, 11:23 AM »
I can tell you that I've been using reverse-reverse osmosis water for years.  I think it's plenty safe and the water tastes nice 'n crappy, just the way I like it.  Take a look!  I'm fine.

47602-0

Offline andvari

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2012, 11:42 AM »
Distilled water rocks. Carry on.   [big grin]

A little distilled water in cask strength single malts really does rock.  ;D

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Offline hockey_magnet

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2012, 12:11 PM »
You're absolutely correct and it's something anyone considering a system should think about. One of the reasons that we only recommend RO for drinking and cooking on a dedicated tap. The other being the slowness of the system. I should add that much of the bottled water being consumed today is also RO water that has been modified.

A word to the wise,

One thing that has not been mentioned here is the incredible amount of water waste that is incurred with an Reverse Osmosis system.
For every gallon of water produced in that tank under your sink it takes several gallons of water just to produce that gallon.
If you think that the water waste stops after the tank is full, think again. Have an RO system and don't believe me? Wait until the tank feels full and then open up the drain valve under the sink and see for yourself. Yes there are some systems out there that do shut themselves down when the tank is full but they tend to be problematic, because they tend to inject the highly concentrated waste water back into the good water in the shut down and start up process, because of the pressure against the ro membrane. So a whole house RO system would be totally out of the question, for no other reason then that.

Have a soft water system and think you are in the clear? Ha!
Between 30 to a 100 gallons are used every few days during the flushing cycle. If you already have a softener system you might consider extending the time between cycles.

I could go on, but I need to pick my wife up at the airport.
cheers,
Roger

btw, who ever changed the background color from green to light grey when hitting the "Preview" button - good move! Much easier reading.



« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 12:19 PM by hockey_magnet »

Offline hockey_magnet

  • Posts: 330
Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2012, 12:13 PM »
I think you missed my point, but that's ok. People tend to be very opinionated about this topic and we're unlikely to change our point of view - which everyone is entitled to. You might try re reading that article very slowly and carefully - it's easy to just focus on a few statements - to repeat - you should not be relying on your drinking water to provide you with vital minerals.


Agreed but keep in mind this is a WHO study for various global conditions, including diet deficiencies, etc. in developing countries,  etc. It does not IMHO have much as much relevance in an industrial society where almost everything we eat has added vitamins and minerals and many people take supplements. I would not rely on any water as an appropriate mineral delivery system.

The epidemiological studies were conducted in "the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden, Russia, and France". Clearly if this was not an issue in these industrialized countries the studies would have not generated useful data.

« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 12:24 PM by hockey_magnet »

Offline Sometimewoodworker

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2012, 06:18 PM »
A point that has not yet been made is that unless you are drinking large quantities of water between meals ( I do for a few months of the year) you will get enough minerals and more importantly salt in your food.

Hyperbaric requirements and high temperature non air conditioned usage is quite different. In both of these the water requirement between meals is much higher. If you are drinking H2O then your blood salt level drops this causes the kidneys to raise the blood salt levels by filling your bladder with fluid, this has some salt in it. Thus pure water does not hydrate you it in fact dehydrates you.

Having said that Hyperbaric chambers may be humidifying the gases you breath. I haven't studied that part of  Hyperbaric medicine.

The reason why Hyperbaric requirements are so different are partly that the gas you breathe in (usually air, but not always) has a humidity of zero. So when you breathe out you loose water. With sea water diving I also think that you loose some water due to osmotic pressure as the body salt is about 1/4% and sea water is about 4%

So if you have to drink a lot between meals (I'll be up to 5 litres per day in 2 weeks time) then pure water is not good for your health.

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« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 06:25 PM by Jerome »
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Offline extiger

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2012, 09:02 PM »
I'm the original OP on this thread. I went today to a nearby dealer in all things water. Water coolers, purifiers, and water itself. He gave me a few fact sheets and said they do home installations. Matching the objective to the equipment.

Like many guys of my Gender, I experienced a little "mission creep" here. I started out thinking of having plumbed-in water for an espresso machine. Then, like some mad dictator, that grew to the imaginary grandeur of the whole house being bathed in purified water. Today Espresso. Tomorrow the world. We've seen this before, and after all, isn't that impulse a lubricant behind some of our Festool purchases?

Espresso experts inform me that the best coffee is made from water with a small mineral content and is devoid of chlorine odor. Low calcium helps by minimizing deposits on small valves and the boiler. They advise to steer away from distilled water. So, whether I choose to have a water inlet direct to the machine, or fill a tank by hand, a small under-sink contraption is the scale of  my project. Thanks to you all.

Some of you mentioned water loss by breathing at altitude or in scuba diving. I was in Flight Operations at a major airline. On International flights, pilots swig 2 liters to a gallon of bottled water to offset the dehydration caused by the 3% humidity on planes at altitude over long durations. Studies by NASA on pilot fatigue say that ample hydration while flying is the best remedy for jet-lag symptoms. And that means no caffeinated or highly sugared beverages. And above all, no alcohol.



Offline andvari

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #23 on: February 11, 2012, 09:45 PM »
I think you missed my point, but that's ok. People tend to be very opinionated about this topic and we're unlikely to change our point of view - which everyone is entitled to. You might try re reading that article very slowly and carefully - it's easy to just focus on a few statements - to repeat - you should not be relying on your drinking water to provide you with vital minerals.

That's a very different statement than saying drinking demineralized water has no potential effect on your health. There are numerous studies showing that it does.

http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutrientschap10.pdf
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Offline atomicmike

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #24 on: February 11, 2012, 11:43 PM »
With plumbed-in espresso machines, one other problem with straight RO water (or distilled) is that it is relatively mineral-hungry. Over time, it will leach minerals out of the piping and boiler, which isn't a good thing. Though it may never be a problem with the quantities of water in home use.

The best RO-based solution I've seen for coffee use is the "Easy" from a company called Cirqua (http://cirqua.com/). They work by taking RO water and adding a controlled amount of minerals back into it to get it to the ideal level of dissolved solids for coffee. It's not exactly a practical solution for home use, though.

A simpler, lower-cost option is the Claris line from Everpure (http://www.everpure.com/newspress/pages/claris.aspx). It's a similar concept, but instead of RO water with minerals, it blends softened and filtered water together to get closer to the right concentration. While softened water is not ideal for many things, it can really improve the flavor of coffee. I have a plumbed-in espresso machine, which is supplied by a small softener-only cartridge (had I known about the Claris when I set things up, I would have gone that route). My city water is not overly hard, but it's not soft either. The flavor difference between espresso shots made before and after I installed the softener was really amazing, even though the water is actually softer than the ideal. Once the current softener cartridge is past its prime, I plan on replacing it with one of the Claris units, unless something better has come along by then.

And if you haven't already, I highly recommend reading, or at least skimming, Jim Schulman's "Insanely Long Water FAQ" (http://www.big-rick.com/coffee/waterfaq.html). There's a lot of great information in there about the mineral content of water, how to treat it, and particularly how it all pertains to espresso.

- Mike

Offline extiger

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #25 on: February 15, 2012, 03:56 PM »
After a bit of reading the links suggested here, I am inclined to get under-sink water softening with a drinking water tap plumbed above the counter, and  T-connector to supply soft water to the dishwater and the icemaker in the refrig.  It really gets tiresome to see crusty scum left on clean dishes after the dry cycle.

What gallon capacity would i need from a softener to supply drinking/cooking water, ice and 1 cycle of dishwashing per day? (3 people in the household)
« Last Edit: February 15, 2012, 04:14 PM by extiger »

Offline atomicmike

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #26 on: February 15, 2012, 10:17 PM »
After a bit of reading the links suggested here, I am inclined to get under-sink water softening with a drinking water tap plumbed above the counter, and  T-connector to supply soft water to the dishwater and the icemaker in the refrig.  It really gets tiresome to see crusty scum left on clean dishes after the dry cycle.

What gallon capacity would i need from a softener to supply drinking/cooking water, ice and 1 cycle of dishwashing per day? (3 people in the household)

If your dishwasher is Energy Star-qualified, it should be using under 6.5 gallons per cycle. The water needs of an ice maker can vary greatly, but the worst case scenario is around 0.5 gallons per pound, with most household refrigerators able to make about 4 pounds a day, that works out to 2 gallons of water per day, max. I can't find any good info on average use for cooking water as such, and drinking water is at most 1 gallon per person per day. So without cooking water, that's around 11 gallons per day. I would think that an all-in total of 20 gallons per day would cover all but the worst-case scenario.

Of course, if the dishwasher is older, or you use a lot of water for cooking, those numbers would go up.

- Mike

Offline extiger

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #27 on: February 16, 2012, 02:33 PM »
There certainly is an abundance of data provided in the links here. Thanks. I went this morning to the espresso house in Venice, California. It is the place were I took two classes on the subject. They told me an interesting finding about water quality and espresso. The cafe has a large Reverse Osmosis system, complete with a charcoal filter and a tank that re-introduces minerals back into the purified water. The minerals contribute to flavor and are needed to trigger the auto refill sensors in the boilers of the espresso machines.

This morning, the gal who taught my class said their entire staff of espresso brewers took a blind taste test of various bottled waters. In our area the leading brands are Sparkletts, Arrowhead and Evian. The Sparkletts won, hands down. The servers favored it over their own expensive RO filtered water. What a surprise. Sparkletts is the brand I have delivered to my house weekly. 18 gallons. So it looks like my only need for a plumbed in system will be for a softener for the dishwasher. By the way, Sparkletts is a nationally-sold brand, headquartered in Georgia.

Offline atomicmike

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #28 on: February 17, 2012, 02:12 AM »
It sounds like they need to readjust the mineral mix on their water. It is surprising how much of a difference a slight change in mineral level can make on the finished drink. I took some classes at a couple of the Specialty Coffee Association's conferences where we did a similar taste test of the same coffee brewed with different mineral content in the water. That was quite an eye-opener for me, and not just from the caffeine.  [eek]

Using tap water, I would notice a lot of seasonal variation in the taste of the coffee I was making. It turns out that when I measured the mineral content (total dissolved solids), it was varying from around 125 ppm to well over 200 ppm (ideal is around 100), depending on time of year. From my recollection, coffee is around 1200 ppm total dissolved solids, so that change in water hardness works out to roughly 10% more or less coffee being extracted.

It's lucky that you already have nice coffee-quality water being delivered right to your door. That takes a lot of the guesswork out of things!

- Mike

Offline waterguy22

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Re: Reverse Osmosis or Water Softener
« Reply #29 on: February 01, 2017, 02:23 PM »
I think, you're absolutely correct and it's something anyone considering a system should think about. One of the reasons that we only recommend RO for drinking and cooking on a dedicated tap. The other being the slowness of the system. I should add that much of the bottled water being consumed today is also RO water that has been modified. What say?