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Starbucks water at home
October 9, 2012 9:03 AM   Subscribe

1. How exactly does Starbucks treat their water? I've seen references to "famous triple-filtered" and "reverse osmosis" but nothing definitive or comprehensive. 2. Can this process be duplicated at home? If so, how? 3. Objectively, how is water that has gone through that process different from tap water or bottled water? 4. Subjectively, how would you describe the taste and mouthfeel if you wanted to say that I want water that is.... To me it feels both cleaner and more minerally, somehow fuller, maybe more alkaline?

Water-filter? Filter-filter? Bean-plating water? Anyway...
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
[Folks, we can all guess at what they might be doing this question is looking for someone who knows what they're doing and sideways insults aren't super helpful anyhow. Try again?]
posted by jessamyn at 9:37 AM on October 9, 2012


I worked at a Starbucks. The water filtration system is a HUGE installation in the back. There are three filters that are essentially gigantic Brita-type filters and one other piece that I assume is the reverse osmosis bit.

Depending on how friendly you are with your baristas, if you go in or call at a slow time they might be willing to look at the system for you to give you the name of the filtration system. It might be two different brands/systems. I know I would have done that for a nice regular. It's usually easily visible in the back, generally somewhere high on the wall by the sinks.
posted by SugarAndSass at 9:49 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just realized that maybe you're talking about the Ethos bottled water, in which case I have no idea and I apologize for wasting your time.
posted by SugarAndSass at 9:50 AM on October 9, 2012


Regarding question 2: Water filtration can be either membrane-based filtering, or reverse osmosis. You can certainly install filtration and RO at point of use in your home -- they're small and trivially easy to set up.

Regarding question 3: Both processing mechanisms remove microorganisms, sediment, and byproducts (such as hydrogen sulfide, which gives water a sulfur odor/taste) of contaminants upstream.

Regarding question 4: Neither system will change the "mouth feel" of water in some kind of universal way, as there is nothing to change in water by filtering it. If your starting point is contaminated, however, you might perceive a lack of mineral content or byproduct. Water is just water, so on its own it is essentially flavorless.

Not sure what you mean by "fuller" or "alkaline", as neither are properties of clean water; if Starbucks is filtering and/or using a RO system, they most likely have water that has no taste, as they remove any minerals or microorganisms in the process of cleaning it.
posted by ellF at 9:57 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of reverse osmosis water filtration systems available for home use. They're more expensive than activated charcoal ones but they remove more chemicals and contaminants. The question is whether or not Starbucks then treats the filtered water with anything, the way Dasani does since R-O water will usually lack any "character". This PDF says nothing about re-introducing minerals post-filtration, unfortunately.
posted by tommasz at 10:03 AM on October 9, 2012


The water filtration system used by Starbucks is a reverse osmosis system with particulate filters to pre-filter the water on the intake side and protect the RO membrane. It's pretty much the opposite of "minerally" though because one of the main purposes of the system is to remove all minerals so that they don't end up deposited inside the machines and so that local variations in water minerals and chlorine/chloramine don't affect the taste of their products. You could duplicate it with any RO water filtration system.

I don't know if they use that system to produce drinking water though.
posted by atrazine at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2012


I don't have the details regarding what Starbucks specifically does, but if you have the money, their are home filtration/RO systems that essentially can yield very, very, very close to pure, solute-free water. Basically "real water" as opposed to the water that includes a small content of salts/minerals that comes out of the tap. In terms of mouth feel and taste, I find that the overall hardness/softness, alkalinity, and mineral/salt content do have some noticeable impact and these are things that can be controlled. I know this as an aquarist because for example, discus fish breeders often need to start with RO water and then adjust the acidity/buffering and hardness to yield optimal conditions for breeding. Some hobbyists do this at home. It's not cheap, but if your passion for water borders on the absurd, this level of control of water content is at least theoretically possible. Search for reverse osmosis systems online.
posted by drpynchon at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2012


Yes, Starbucks uses a giant water filtration system that is in the back. I would also have checked the brands for a regular and maybe even taken a picture.
posted by woodvine at 10:20 AM on October 9, 2012


3. Objectively, how is water that has gone through that process different from tap water or bottled water?

Tap water or bottled water will often still have additives and particulates that affect the taste. Sometimes in bad ways, and sometimes in good ways. The minerals that remain (and frequently are re-introduced to) bottled water can make it more appealing. I find this is especially true of carbonated water which can taste/feel somewhat acidic without minerals (and carbonation of unfiltered, summertime San Francisco water tastes really chlorinated to me). Most likely Starbucks removes all the impurities to extend the life of their brewing equipment and minimize maintenance. The average person is not going to be able to taste the difference in a Starbucks product made with or without highly filtered water.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:01 AM on October 9, 2012


Starbucks water filtration systems are big systems in the back, but they are not the same from store to store. The level of system they use depends on how quality the local water is to start with.
posted by jaksemas at 11:23 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would the OP please chime in and let us know if you mean the water supply for Starbucks coffee houses or their bottled Ethos water? It would be helpful. Thanks.
posted by tommasz at 11:44 AM on October 9, 2012


This is an equivalent system (RO, similar filtration performance) that we installed. It's very simple to maintain and their price is great.

As far as taste, you can just go to a Starbucks and order a cup of water.
posted by odinsdream at 2:26 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


3. Objectively, how is water that has gone through that process different from tap water or bottled water?

I used to work for a bottled water company. Their filling warehouse had a gigantic plastic tank in the middle, filled with city water through a giant hose. Tons of hoses ran out of the plastic tank to the line workers who filled the bottles.

Every time they'd refill the giant tank they'd dump in a packet of mineral additives.

This particular company claimed a lot of filtering shit on their product labels. If someone was supposed to be filtering the water they missed that memo.
posted by odinsdream at 2:29 PM on October 9, 2012


Sorry. Should have been specific that I was asking about the water they use to make coffee, and that they give you when you ask for a cup of water. I was not interested in the Ethos bottled water.

Filtration + Reverse Osmosis seems to be the basic answer. Trying to figure out what it tasted like and how to describe it was not because I'm a water snob - I stick to tap water run through a Britta at home, the free water tab on soda machines and whatever generic bottle if I'm buying in a store - this just tasted different and I wanted to know why.

Thank you.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 6:08 PM on October 9, 2012


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