Water of Champions

2018 Australian Brewer’s Cup Champion Heath Dalziel shares the secrets to his winning combination of water and coffee

Image: thisisradelaide.com.au

A truly outstanding brew depends on many factors falling into place at once. Carefully chosen and roasted beans need to work harmoniously with matching water and a strict brew method to extract and highlight desired flavours. I’ve asked Heath from Third Time Lucky to share some of the factors that came together to result in a brew that judges loved- with particular focus on his brew water design.

Coffee and brew method

Heath has used a layered natural processed coffee from Finca Deborah in Panama. He picked it as a “powerful coffee, with very distinct notes of ripe banana and tropical fruits with super clean acidity”.

He chose Tetsus' 40-60 brew method, which uses 5 pours in the order of 50/70/60/60/60 (grams) with the intention to promote sweetness and a full body. The grind was quite coarse with a water temperature of 92 °C. A 1:15 ratio with a dose of 20g coffee and 300g water helped promote depth of flavour, but kept a very high quality of acidity as the coffee cooled.


Heath’s main goal was to emphasise fruit and acidity, while keeping the body big and present but well structured. He found that water was very useful for adding high levels to vibrancy to the fruit and acidity, in particular in giving acidity focus and integrity.

Creating the optimum water from a Pureau base was a long process requiring lots of focused attention. Heath has used two sets of minerals, which he tested side by side to see the difference in the mineral qualities.

Both sets contained salts of calcium, magnesium and bicarbonate, however, they had some important differences.

Set 1 consisted of Brewers’ magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts), calcium chloride (liquid solution for yoghurt production), and sodium bicarbonate.

Set 2 was the LabPure series by Coffee Science Lab, consisting of laboratory grade magnesium chloride, calcium chloride and potassium bicarbonate.

“I like to think of flavours/textures as straight or jagged lines.” -explained Heath. “For me, Set 1 was more jagged and rough. Set 2 was much more rounded. The expression of filter coffee I like is very delicate and soft despite being complex with powerful structure, and the more pure minerals give that softness while having the extraction power to bring out the complexity I want.”

Once he has selected the LabPure minerals as his preferred set, he adjusted the amounts by cupping a range of each mineral, then narrowing that down to optimum flavour. The final recipe had a relatively low general hardness of 50 ppm, with a 4:1 Mg:Ca ratio (40ppm MgCl2:10ppm CaCl2) Carbonate hardness was also moderate at 10ppm KHCO3.

For anyone wanting to take their coffee to the next level with a great water match, Heath’s advice is think carefully about your goals and persist through initial difficulties.

“Water optimisation is tedious but gives incredible results, so take the time. Think about quality and not intensity of what you’re looking for, it’s easy to be deceived at first.”


Time to get serious about your water? LabPure minerals and water testing gear are available from the Coffee Science LabShop!

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