Finally Identified the Source of Musty Flavors!

posted in: education, musings | 0

So, over the past handful of months I’ve been noticing a lot of “coffees” (you’ll see the reason for the quotation marks soon) that have had a lot of musty flavors. I’d never experienced this in the past and so in my reviews I was commenting a lot on whether my palate had just gotten to the point where I was sensing this grossness, whether it was the beans, why all of a sudden this was happening, why it was happening on some coffees and not others… it was confusing. I use the same cup, same Hario server, same pourover, same filters and one of two kettles every day. I keep everything clean, dry, etc. I took everything apart, got pipe cleaners into the stems of the kettles, just in case, etc etc.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve had a few glasses of water out of my kitchen tap that have tasted SUPER musty. At first I thought maybe the glass sitting by the sink had had a gross sponge in it or something, who knows, but finally I’ve figured out that the water itself is musty. If I run it for a handful of seconds it seems fine, but I never considered my tap water as the problem, but it was all along!

So, first and foremost, my apologies to any coffee roaster who has gotten the, “Gee, I don’t understand where this musty flavor is coming from…” treatment in reviews. I will do my best to comb through them all and correct that, but I can’t make any promises!

Our water in Kansas City is pretty good and I’ve done some TDS testing with basic equipment and it has a good PPM for making coffee. What I didn’t know is that the water supply, especially in warmer months (and, I’ve been wearing short-sleeves without a coat even in the mornings still as of today, Nov 17!), can develop algae and it doesn’t take much for it to taint the water. It’s safe to drink, but just a small PPM and it’s EXTREMELY noticeable. What’s funny is that I notice it BIG TIME, but my wife, drinking the same water, doesn’t notice it at all. I’m guessing is that when the line hasn’t been running for a while the musty flavor gets even more concentrated, which is why it improves when I clear out the line and run the water for 5-10 seconds.

Seems so obvious now, but I had no idea that was even a possibility, so I never considered that the municipal water supply was the culprit!

So, I’m on the hunt for filtration or bulk bottled water (I don’t want to use a bunch of little plastic bottles every day… I’m very against bottled water for environmental reasons) to conquer this problem since I can’t trust my tap anymore!