Best Water Filter for Automatic Espresso Machines: Do I Need to Use a One?

Hi! My name is Arne. After a few years as a barista, I've dedicated myself to a mission: To bring more good coffee to the people. To this end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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One huge advantage of using a super-automatic espresso machine to make coffee is that they are very quick and easy to use. Most other coffee-brewing methods won't make your favorite beverage at the touch of a button. The thing is, that's not the whole story.

One huge advantage of using a super-automatic espresso machine to make coffee is that they are very quick and easy to use. Most other coffee-brewing methods won’t make your favorite beverage at the touch of a button. The thing is, that’s not the whole story.

Sure, super-automatic espresso machines are easy to use, but sometimes that convenience makes us complacent. We can forget that we actually need to do some things to maintain and care for our machines. If you use a French press or a stove-top espresso maker, it’s much more obvious that you need to clean them every time that you use them. Super-automatic espresso machines do need less care and cleaning than those other brewing methods, but they still need some attention now and then.

I’m sure there are some people out there thinking, “What’s the point of cleaning my machine? Doesn’t it have an automatic cleaning program that does it for me?” Well, yes, it does, and you should use it. However, it’s also important to manually clean and care for your machine. Many people underestimate how much work that can be when they buy an automatic espresso machine.

Cleaning tablets and descaling solutions can significantly extend the lifespan of your machine. They also help your machine consistently make high-quality drinks. “Quality” is really the key word here when it comes to whether you should use a water filter for your super-automatic espresso machine. Water filters are not 100-percent necessary – what is? – but they can definitely improve the quality of your coffee. This article will look at some of the arguments for and against using filters.

What Is the Point of Using a Water Filter?

Water filters remove particles and other substances that can lower the quality of your water. If you live in the U.S., the U.K. or Germany, then don’t panic. Water standards are usually high enough that, even if you have hard tap water, there are almost never any substances in your water that could potentially be harmful to your health. The biggest drawback to hard water is that you will probably have to do maintenance more frequently on appliances that use warm water, such as electric water kettles, boilers or washing machines. The particles can also alter the taste of your water, which can change the taste of the drinks you make with that water. This includes the coffee you make with your automatic espresso machine.

There are different ways to filter water. Some water filters use activated charcoal. Others, such as Brita water filters, use ion exchange materials within the filter. Finally, there are also reverse osmosis membranes, which are often used together with activated charcoal. There are different products on the market that let you use these three methods at home. If your tap water is simply always too hard, there are other ways to deal with that problem. If that’s the case, you should consult a trusted plumber or water technician – they can guide you better than we can in this coffee blog.

Still, we’ve already touched on the most important point: A water filter will make your tap water softer. It removes taste-altering elements and substances from your water. One advantage of that is that it helps prevent your machine from accumulating calcium deposits as quickly. It also can change the taste of your coffee drinks – ideally, by making them taste better! The second point also explains why frequent descaling isn’t a substitute for using a water filter.

When Does It Make Sense to Use a Filter in a Super-Automatic Espresso Machine?

Naturally, it makes more sense to use a water filter if you live somewhere with hard tap water. Some people also use them as a kind of preventative maintenance or to comply with a manufacturer’s warranty. It’s also pretty standard these days for an automatic espresso machine to come with a sample water filter. Then it’s up to the user to decide whether or not to install and use it.

Do I need a water filter?

When Do I Not Necessarily Need to Use a Water Filter in My Super-Automatic Espresso Machine?

A water filter might be essentially redundant if you live somewhere that already has soft water. If you have a water softening system installed into your house’s plumbing, you can probably do without a water filter. Additionally, if your tap water already passes through a water filtering system of some kind, such as a Brita filter, or if you use bottled water, then you also probably don’t need a filter.

Of course, if you do decide to use a filter in any of these situations, it won’t hurt anything. It’s just not necessary, and doesn’t make much sense.

How Do I Know How Hard My Water Is?

In order to determine which group you belong to – Team Filtered or Team Unfiltered – there are a few ways to test your water.

Many super-automatic espresso machines come with a water testing strip. Simply hold it under a stream of running water in your kitchen or bathroom. Once it changes color, refer to the legend to see how hard or soft your water is.

The other option is to contact your water provider. Finding out your water hardness might be as easy as sending a quick email or making a phone call, depending on where you live.

What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Built-In Water Filter in a Super-Automatic Espresso Machine?

Let’s discuss the big, fat BUT of water filters: They don’t last forever. You will have to replace them every so often, and exactly how often will depend on how hard your water is.

As is generally the case with these kinds of things, there are usually cheaper options out there besides the name-brand filters from the manufacturer. I’m sure they will tell you otherwise because they make money when you buy their filters. However, you’re the one who loses out because it’s your money.

In a perfect world, all brands would use the same kinds of filters, and replacing them would be the same for every machine. Then there would surely be cheaper alternatives. However, it’s not a perfect world. Depending on the kind of system your machine uses, you might have no other choice than to go with a name-brand filter.

One other drawback to filters is related to cleanliness and hygiene. Some filter systems tend to develop bacteria and germs. Obviously, if you have that going on, then it’s pretty pointless to use a water filter. That’s also one reason why it’s important to regularly change the water filter.

Water filter cut open

Fortunately, most automatic espresso machines will have your back when it comes to maintenance. They will start flashing lights or beeping to remind you to change the filter after a specific number of uses. So, please, for your own health’s sake, just change the filter. Otherwise, you could also switch to one of the alternatives mentioned above and change your machine’s reminder settings accordingly.

These days, one concept that you might come across is the idea that you can or should just change the granules or pellets in the filter, instead of replacing the whole filter cartridge. However, it’s rather doubtful that the filters for automatic espresso machines are (or will be) designed for that. Sure, with a bit of effort and skill, you can probably manage to replace just the granules. I would advise you to be cautious here, though. There’s a decent chance that doing so could void the warranty or even damage the machine. For example, the granules could make their way into the water tank, where they could float around or get stuck in the inner workings of the machine.

Does Coffee Made With Filtered Water Taste Better?

Yes and no. My aunt recently told me that she had actually gotten so used to the taste of coffee made with hard water, that now she doesn’t like the taste of coffee made with soft water. That brings me to the point I want to make. Coffee is all about your personal tastes and preferences. That includes whether you prefer the taste of coffee made with hard or soft water.

Objectively speaking, though, it’s been demonstrated that the softer the water, the more aromatic the finished coffee is. In other words, if you use soft water to make your coffee, it should generally have more nuance. At the same time, hard water often already has its own taste, which can potentially overpower weaker tastes and aromas.

In the end, I can’t definitively claim that coffee made with filtered water will taste better. However, I can recommend that you use a filter for your super-automatic espresso machine simply because it will help your machine continue to function well.

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