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How to Create Quality Water for Cupping Coffee Anywhere in the World

February 19, 2023 4 min read

 The Unified Cupping Standard

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Coffee is cupped, or tasted in many different locations around the world throughout the coffee ecosystem before it reaches your kitchen. Here are a few examples: 

  • Coffee farm
  • Coffee co-op helping with processing
  • Coffee lab with importers or exporters
  • Coffee Roaster
  • Cafe


But what is the first step to grading the quality of coffee at any of these locations? Cupping that coffee with quality water engineered for coffee.

Water makes up over 98% of a cup of coffee so quality water is a critical factor in coffee cupping because it can significantly impact the flavor and aroma of the coffee being tasted. There are several reasons why the quality of water is important for coffee cuppings:

Consistency: To evaluate and compare different coffees accurately, cupping requires a consistent and standardized method. Using the same quality water for all cuppings ensures that the only variable is the coffee itself, allowing for a fair and objective evaluation.

Taste and Aroma: The mineral content, alkalinity, and other properties of water can affect the taste and aroma of coffee. Water that is too hard or too soft can also result in a cup that tastes off or lacks complexity, while water with the wrong minerals or alkalinity can create sour or bitter notes.

Cleanliness: High-quality water is free from impurities, such as chlorine or other chemicals, that can negatively affect the taste of the coffee. Using quality water ensures that the only flavors and aromas present in the cup come from the coffee itself.

What is Quality Water?

We at Third Wave Water have been extremely excited about helping the entire coffee ecosystem benefit with great quality water since the beginning. Our first mission was to help coffee drinkers at home fix their water-for-coffee issue, but today it is the entire coffee ecosystem. The defect should not be the water. Here are some benefits:

  • Better Water creates better coffee
  • Unified Cupping Standard 
  • Meet industry water standards for coffee (SCA)
  • Easy to use 
  • Light weight

Better Water, better coffee. Your coffee will score higher and more accurately to adjust any farming or processing methods for a truly effective measuring system (cupping) to verify if your updates were successful and not masked by bad water.

Unified Cupping Standard. Finally remove any doubts that your importer, exporter, roaster or anyone else in the coffee industry is tasting the notes you tasted. Our manufacturing provides a high quality standard that maintains these unified standards so you can trust that what you tasted is the same thing that they will taste anywhere in the world.

Meet Industry water standards for coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) created the original water standard for coffee and continues to be a leader in the coffee industry helping all of us have a solid, shared foundation of understanding by doing the science for us. The Classic Profile and Espresso Profile both meet the SCA water guidelines. If fact, all of our water profiles begin with this benchmark before deviating for their unique purposes; like the Cold Brew Profile or Dark Roast Profile.

Easy to use. Making our products easy to use was particularly important for us since the more steps you have to perform an important task, the more opportunities for making mistakes occur. So our mineral packets are easy to use and require no additional math or mixing to create a known water industry standard.

Light weight. Shipping can be expensive so we remove the hassle by providing powder sticks that do not have water mixed with them. This provides low weights, easier transportation and lower shipping costs.

“The defect should not be the water.”



We already discussed what quality water for cupping is, so let’s walk through how to create it. Just start at zero with empty water and add what minerals you need.

This is the formula:

(A) Empty Water + (B) The Correct Minerals = (C) Quality Water for Cupping

One example of water with our recommended water profiles is the following:

(A) Reverse Osmosis Water + (B) Espresso Profile = (C) Quality Water for Cupping

(A) Empty Water

Empty water does not have minerals, chemicals or organics. This is the perfect water to add Third Wave Water minerals to. You do not need laboratory grade water (like Type I or Type II), just empty water measurable by a simple TDS meter (0-15 TDS for best results) and it must be healthy for human consumption (potable).

Even in remote areas of the world it is sometimes possible to find a supplier with one of the following solutions to create empty water:

  • Reverse Osmosis (RO)
  • Deionized water
  • Distilled water

Reverse Osmosis (RO) uses water pressure through special filters to strip the water of all minerals and chemicals but sometimes organics still need removed by using a UV-C filter. RO filters eventually need to be replaced as they become saturated with minerals.

Deionization uses a resin material to electrically pull minerals out of the water. Once the resin is saturated with minerals though, the resin needs to be replaced.

Distilled Water does not use a filter, but boiled water to create steam leaving behind the minerals in the boiled water while being captured in another container. 

(B) The Correct Minerals

Third Wave Water creates multiple water profiles for different purposes and one of them is for cupping coffee: the Espresso Profile.

The Espresso Profile is recommended for cupping because it provides a balanced water profile with ~80 kH buffer at 150 TDS. This allows the coffee to avoid being overly acidic, but still allows breathing room for the natural flavors to present themselves. It was created originally for espresso machines and meets the newer ‘legacy’ SCA water standards for coffee, while the Classic profile meets the older SCAA water standards, which is why that profile has 10 mg of sodium chloride. The Espresso Water Profile does not have any chlorides, which are harmful to metal surfaces.

Here is our example again for perfect water for cupping:

(A) Reverse Osmosis Water + (B) Espresso Profile = (C) Quality Water for Cupping

Need Help?

Whether at your cupping lab, coffee cart, coffee farm, or your coffee customers for their water in their homes, we can help. Please let me know how we can help with your water issues and send me an email at charles@thirdwavewater.com or at support@thirdwavewater.com.

Here’s to a better cup of coffee for everyone!

- Charles Nick


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