“Water is sometimes sharp and sometimes strong, sometimes acid and sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and sometimes thick or thin, sometimes it is seen bringing hurt or pestilence, sometimes health giving, sometimes poisonous.
It suffers change into as many natures as are the different places through which it passes.”
– Leonardo Da Vinci
It seems that Leonardo Da Vinci never really cared to be an inventor or an artist. His childhood dream was to be a Water Sommelier. Who can blame him?
Now, if you think that a water sommelier is some sort of a Brita / Barista joke, I can assure you it is not!
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million people, employs 25 taste testers to make sure the water coming out of the taps tastes as it should. Every year various organizations hold contests in dozens of states and even on a national scale, to determine the town with the best-tasting water (Bloomington, Minnesota was the winner of the national competition in 2016).
Water is essential to life but is not water just ... plain water?
Well, not all waters are the same. Just like wine, coffee, tea or date seed coffee waters sourced from various regions of the world are affected by its Terroir.
So what makes water so different?
In the end, it comes down to this: "TDS", which stands for Total Dissolved Solids. It measures the mineral composition of any given water, which results in creating its own specific flavor profile and character. TDS levels determine how much sodium, magnesium, calcium and other minerals are present, therefore informing how your water of choice will pair with your food of choice if you like to eat with your water ... or how good your coffee, tea or date seed coffee will taste.
As it flows through the ground, through rivers and pipes and so forth, water naturally picks up a variety of soluble ingredients that subtly contribute to its flavor.
If you have ever tried drinking your Iron's water - distilled water - during a really steamy session you might have noticed that the water is "dry" if not almost completely stale. That is because it has been treated to remove all its TDS (Total Dissolved Solids).
Scientists (with some serious coffee addictions) found out that Calcium makes water taste milky and smooth, while magnesium can be bitter, and sodium makes it taste salty. These three minerals are not the only ones present in the water but they sure make a huge difference to its taste and how it will affect your cup of coffee or in our case date seed coffee.
A highly metallic taste to the water can mean that there are high levels of iron in the water, often leached from old pipes. While that isn’t harmful itself, lots of iron can sometimes indicate the presence of another toxic metal: lead.
If your water is rich in calcium and magnesium it is what is called hard water.
Hard water is determined by the concentration of multivalent cations in the water. Common cations found in hard water include Ca2+ and Mg2+. These ions enter a water supply by leaching from minerals within an aquifer. Common calcium-containing minerals are calcite and gypsum. A common magnesium mineral is dolomite which also contains calcium. Rainwater and distilled water are soft because they contain few ions.
Soft water is surface water that contains low concentrations of ions and in particular is low in ions of calcium and magnesium. Soft water naturally occurs where rainfall and the drainage basin of rivers are formed of hard, impervious and calcium poor rocks.
Areas with complex geology can produce varying degrees of hardness of water over short distances.
This is no small matter, water's chemistry presents some unique problems for cooks. When it’s used for cooking vegetables or fruits, the minerals can tighten up the plants’ natural pectin, giving rise to phenomena like beans failing to soften no matter how long they’re soaked and boiled. Adding table salt to the water can minimize that toughening. On the other hand, water that is too soft can be a headache for bakers, since a certain amount of calcium is needed to help gluten molecules in dough link up.
Maxwell Colonna Dashwood and Christopher H Hendon, who recently co-wrote a book, “Water for Coffee” (2015) have scientifically found out why tap water can absolutely ruin even the best coffee.
Hendon discovered that the compounds in hard water tend to attach to the flavorful elements in roasted coffee beans during brewing. Water with higher levels of magnesium will likely extract more flavor from a coffee bean. Soft or distilled water, conversely, does the opposite and has a harder time pulling the flavor.
Talking about water and Leonardo Da Vinci, did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli once came up with a plan to use water to win a war, by diverting the river Arno. Da Vinci was obsessed with water; he drew its vortices endlessly. He also worked out a lot of the science of how it flows, well before the field of fluid dynamics was established.
I told you, all he wanted to be was a water sommelier.