Beware of filtered water…

As recommended by other users, I use Brita filtered water in my Gaggia Classic espresso machine. Brita sternly warns against using such water for longer than one day. This might be fine when keeping a family supplied with coffee, not so much when it’s just for one. It’s wasteful in terms of water, and also in terms of filter use, as it reaches its throw-way date long before it’s processed the optimum amount of water.

I get through, at most, 3 200ml mugs of café crema a day (think of an Americano, but 100% coffee, no hot water), and often just one cup.

I drink it for one of two reasons. Mainly, to stay awake (I have health problems that force me to sleep at all sorts of odd times whether I want to or not), or for its Theophylline content (helps my breathing, particularly as I’m now so prone to Pulmonary Oedema and other respiratory nasties).

One problem with the Classic is that it’s very hard to see exactly how much water is in the tank (it’s made of transparent plastic, but it’s brown and deep in shadow), so I tend to err on the generous side and keep it full (running out of water can wreck the pump and – probably – the boiler too). This means it has to be emptied and refilled daily. Of late – because this greatly reduces the life of the filter – I’ve been getting a bit lax and using water a couple of days old.

At the weekend I pulled the tank, almost full of 3-day-old water (often sleep overwhelms me before I can get the coffee made), and there, lurking malevolently in the tank, was the swirling white cloud of a flourishing bacterial colony. It might have been harmless, but without the facilities of a microbiology lab at my disposal there was no way of telling, so out it went.

And that’s the problem with filtered water – not only does the filter strip out undesirable compounds, it also strips out the preservative chemicals. Many people feel that these, too, are undesirable compounds, but that’s not a view I share given how many deaths occurred in the past from a contaminated public water supply (see Sir Joseph William Bazalgette for arguably the most well-known examples, resulting in around 25,000 deaths). Hence the one-day rule, because filtered water can “go off” almost as easily as, say, milk.

So I scrubbed the tank, sterilised it with Milton, rinsed it thoroughly then put it back and filled it with unfiltered water. I flushed the system with the fresh water, topped it up again and made some coffee.

As far as I can tell, despite claims to the contrary, coffee made with unfiltered water tastes exactly the same as it does with filtered (though I accept that this can depend upon where one lives, and the degree to which the local water is processed). The main difference is that I’ll have to descale the machine periodically – not exactly a daunting task as long as it’s done regularly and the scale isn’t allowed to build up. Not a problem as I have plenty of citric acid, the descaling chemical of choice. I use it in tiny amounts for pre-treating fruit and veg for hydration, but it’s cheap enough, and sold by the kilo (£8.00/kg), which leave a lot left over for descaling. For a machine the size of the Classic 10g per pint of warm water is recommended (say 2 pints of solution followed by a LOT of plain water).

I’ve just read that a simple citric acid solution isn’t very effective at descaling (but a proprietary and more expensive citric-acid-based product is!). I disagree as, to test it, I descaled a kettle with about 10 year’s worth of scale build-up. I filled it with warm solution (a tablespoon per litre, stronger than I’d get away with in the Classic as the kettle is stainless steel), let it sit until it stopped fizzing – perfectly clean.

However – and this is an important caveat – the Classic has an aluminium boiler (the kettle is stainless steel), so don’t let scale build up for too long, as I said, and don’t let the solution sit in the boiler for more than 15 minutes. For a light user like me, I’d suggest descaling once a month, and backflushing with a suitable compound (I use Urnex Cafiza 2 – very easy and very effective – ideally once a week**).

**For which read “when I remember”!

And on the subject of cleaning, I put a good handful of Basmati rice through my grinder whenever I remember, followed by some cheap beans to remove the rice residue. Buying the “right” product will set you back between about £8 and £20 (or £85 from one of Amazon’s more ambitious Market Place vendors – the same product and same size pack you get for £20!), but Basmati works well for me. The rice has another benefit too. Being a natural product, if any residue should find its way into your coffee, it won’t harm you. Won’t improve your coffee, either but, hey, you can’t have everything…

17 thoughts on “Beware of filtered water…

  1. now you have made me wonder about bottled sparkling water Ron. i open a 500ml bottle, use half during one night ,mainly just to get rid of my dry mouth during the night if i wake up or take my tablets or sprays am/pm. the next night i use more. nearly always there is about 1-2 inches left in the bottom but as its lost its fizz n tastes awful i usually throw that or water the one indoor plant with it when i remember.occasionally its lasted me a further night if Ive been lucky and slept through till 7am one of the nights. as i did last night. could that happen to that too i wonder? and if yours has been filtered, does that mean the bacteria was there to start with . if so the filter didn’t do a good job where THE bacteria was concerned did it?lol.

    • The filters don’t remove bacteria, only chemicals, including the chemicals that prevent the bacteria from flourishing, like chlorine. And, of course, bacteria, mould spores, fungal spores, wild yeasts, are everywhere, even in the air. Most are harmless in their natural state, but if allowed to grow in filtered water – which no longer has the ability to kill them off – they can become concentrated enough to become toxic. Only slightly toxic, it’s true, but clearly enough for Brita to warn their customers not to take risks.

      I look at spring water – and in my backpacking days I drank a lot of it, straight out of the ground – with a slightly jaundiced eye. Take Buxton Spring Water – filtered through the hills around Buxton – the same hills on which, for thousands of years, sheep have peed and crapped, given birth and died. So just how pure can the water be?

  2. oh thanks for that Ron. i only ever drink Buxton .. sparkling admitted but doubt much different to still except for the bubbles.putting tap water in a bottle is however not on here. after finding black bits in one sample when i first moved sheep pee or not, it don’t seem to av affected me……………….orrrrrrrrrr has never knows why one person gets a load of ailments while another of same age is fit as a fiddle. or what causes them to do so. maybe that is one. who knows.

    • I think, in terms of bacteriological safety, a Brita filter jug kept in the fridge is the best option – and by far the cheaper compared to bottled water. The fizzy water isn’t natural, by the way – it gets its bubbles the same way as soft drinks do, through carbonation.

      As I said, though, I’ve drunk a lot of spring water – mostly in the Peak District – straight out of the ground and I’ve always assumed it’s done me no harm. It’s indisputable, though, that something has done me a hell of a lot of harm, so who knows?

      • yes and same here.think i told you i added up all my different ailments couple of years ago from minor to major and found i had 26 at that time. 6 major. since then yu can add on the diabetes, the acid reflux and the IBS. plus heart failure if they are right…. (very weird that. breathing was terrible in town yesterday afternoon. not car fumes as was only on a precinct where shops are. lost energy very quickly anf came home before i had got all i needed. my daughter was with me .stayed till taxi came. then continued with her own shopping..felt terrible for the next 2 hours.then all of a sudden breathing calmed down n was right as rain. on getting up this morning, breathing not too good. but by 1pm had calmed down. all ive done is put washing up to soak,.) anyway, yes. maybe it has done harm. ive been drinking it for around 16-17 years. but now its what CAN i drink. even decaf drinks dont seem to help.. decaf tea (breakfast only usually)still doesnt seem to help the IBS. decaf coffee sends me to sleep0. whereas unless my ibs is settled i dare not drink normal coffee and never drink normal tea now at all. i drink soda water or very occasionally diet coke or diet cream soda.cant drink fruit juice.for various reasons. INS/REFLUX

        • Right, having suffered from IBS and GERD for decades, I have some advice.

          First, coffee. This is naturally high in acid and is seriously bad news for GERD (and instant is the worst).

          There’s one type, Old Brown Java, which is weathered for two years, out in the open, and as a result is extremely low in acidity. It’s the only type I can drink. It also depends a lot on the skill of the roaster, and I get mine from the Bean Shop ( I’ve tried other roasters, they haven’t been as good). It has as much flavour as normal coffee, just without the acidity. I buy the beans but you can buy it ready-ground too. Not available as instant.

          On the other side of the coin, drinking stuff like soda water, or taking basic antacids, like Rennies or Settlers for a long time, can cause rebound acidity and actually make matters worse. You need something that both neutralises acidity and stops the production of more. PPI drugs are essential, supplemented with Altacite Plus which looks like any old antacid but isn’t – you don’t get rebound acidity with it.

          There’s something else which is good for hyperacidity – orange juice. Yep, I know it’s counter-intuitive, and I dismissed it as rubbish for years, before I actually tried it, and it does work. A small glass 3 or 4 times a day is enough, but before the acidity kicks in.

          Coke in any form is a disaster. It’s loaded with caffeine and that makes acidity worse. Artificial sweeteners can worsen IBS symptoms too.

          And I cured my IBS with industrial quantities of live yoghurt, a couple of kilos a day to start, tapering off as things improve. It’s just a magnified version of the tiny probiotic drinks, which are just too small to reach the gut in anything like a useful amount – they just get digested, whereas with 2 kilos of yoghurt enough survives digestion to be of benefit.

          The attack you had sounds like asthma (no chest pain seems to rule out a heart problem (though it’s not a guarantee and if it was me I’d be asking for an ECG), except for the possibility of Pulmonary Oedema – and you wouldn’t have been walking very far with that.

          And, of course, being in a traffic-free zone means nothing in terms of pollution, which travels on the wind and can affect people who are a couple of miles away from the actual traffic. Improving when you got home seems to bear that out.

          That’s one reason I keep my windows mostly closed – there’s a lot of traffic past here, including a bus route, and pollution can be a major problem – something the nurses seem unable to understand.

          One last thought – anything fizzy is naturally acidic, from the carbonisation process. Best avoided.

  3. hmmm OK lets take this one thing at a time……….. 1. coffee. i assume it means if i were to buy the one you recommend that i would need a coffee machine. i don’t have one, nor do i have the space for one and i have never liked filter if that’s the case , then i cant use that. I only drink normal Nescafe if I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open and its too close to bedtime for me to take a nap.i am actually giving up on the decaf altogether.and only drinking decaf tea once or twice a day. or if out and need a hot drink i will have a latte but rarely drink more than half the mug.but i have to drink something and refuse to drink the crap they call water here. so 2. antacids etc. i don’t take any antacids at all. i am on lansoprazole and gaviscon advance at night as this is the silent acid reflux i get. and to be honest that seems to stop most of it. but i dare not drink acid drinks like orange juice. haven’t drunk that since i was quite young as it used to cause indigestion.long before i ever got told i had acid reflux,never really liked acid fruits anyway. but have been told to avoid them anyway. i love grapefruit for instance but dare not have it.(I know..that’s a contradiction in a way. why did orange/s cause indigestion but grapefruit didn’t in the does now by the way. i tried it to find out.)soda water i sip and a glass can last me over an hour so by the time ive got 1 third down the small (150 ml size) glass its lost its bubbles. but it does stop my mouth getting dry and horrible.i drink about 2-3 of those a day. again coke…i only ever drink that if im overheated, or a hot day. or if theres nothing else in a cafe i can drink. lemonade is again too acidic now. as i say i get stuck for what to drink that i like and can have. 3 artificial sweeteners……….. o0k i have been hearing a lot about these but what the heck do i put in my hot drinks?i only have a couple a day normally. but cant drink any of em unsweetened.but being diabetic i cant have sugar.ive tried the one they call natural Stevia n it tastes horrible.only use one n thats splenda………… yoghurt…….. surely milk has a lot to do with having ibs? i know when i first started with it i cut down on my milk n dairy intake and it calmed down.i was a big milk user.i do eat the odd flavoured yoghurt but i cannot stomach the plain greek stuff. if i were to try to eat that at all i would be physically sick never mind in that amount.
    soooooooooo.. nothing fizzy no coffee, im left with decaf tea and nothing cold to drink. this rate i might as well give up. cos seems to me just about everythings bad for me in one way or another.even the damned water tablet appears to be putting my fasting bloods up.though im not 100% sure of that yet.could also have worsened the ibs thats kicking off again more.and i cant see what im doing different apart from that in the last 2 weeks.i missed wednesdays because i was going out. that morning was 13. thursday morning was back to 7.(usually its between 6-7)took one thursday morning. friday was at 7.7. took another friday morning.. this morning was 7.3 so had gone down slightly.possibility just needs my body to adapt to them (bumetamide 1mg) theres only one that doesnt put blood sugars up so im going to ask about having that instead indapamidein fact it says this one significantly reduces blood sugar.could do with but bumetamide causes disturbances of the gut such as diarrhoea, and the rest.muscle cramps is another side effect and although i do suffer from them and have done to some degree all my life (earliest recollect from being 11 yrs old).btw breathing does increase a little on doing anything more than a bit of washing up or making a simple meal.but while resting its fine. so much so today i forgot to take my 6pm sprays.till 10pm. so just took my ventolyn (was feeling bit breathless sitting right then… and realised i hadn’t taken them.)
    yes Ive been feeling a tad sorry for myself and being told by a certain someone close to me that its just weather changes causing it with me, and a woman collapsed in
    co-op when she went in yesterday.paramedics seeing to her said the woman had copd/asthma (“just like you”..i was told.”similar age as well”) and that the paras had attended to 15 similar cases that day.she must have been eavesdropping though the tale was told as if the paras had told her this personally… it was wet n cold throwing it down,in the morning. then came out sunny and very warm.sweating cobs we were, then about 4pm ish about the time i arrived at the wall i sat on having given up trying to go further, it came in quite cold again. was after that the co-op incidence apparently took place….after i had gone home in a taxi….believe or not to believe,that is the what a world. what a life eh?

    • OK – easy ones first – milk has nothing at all to do with IBS unless you are proven to be lactose intolerant. There’s an awful lot of garbage being spouted about dairy and gluten right now and – if you dig deeply enough – pretty much everything else, too. But, unless you – or anyone else – have medically proven conditions it all comes down to faddiness. Milk, and dairy in general, is alleged to increase sputum/mucus production but I’ve never found it to be a problem.

      Coffee. No, you don’t need a machine. A simple cafetiere (French Press), is all you need. You can buy the beans already ground, so you don’t need a grinder either. I buy whole beans and grind them because I drink espresso – I can’t stand French Press or filter coffee both, like instant, are acidic.

      Diuretics can exacerbate diabetes. If there’s steroids anywhere in the mix (steroid inhaler maybe?) they, plus diuretics, can actually cause diabetes (which is why I have to monitor myself). I’ve been told all my adult life I must never mix steroids with diuretics, yet now I have to take steroids for both COPD and Addison’s, plus Furosemide for heart failure and lymphoedema). Sooner or later I’m almost certain to develop diabetes as a result.

      If you forget your inhalers, take a full dose of everything when you remember, even if it’s getting close to the next dose (but be sensible – by close I mean maybe an hour, not a few minutes). It’ll benefit you and you can’t overdose on inhalers – the dose is tiny.

      And sadly, yes, you could easily find that everything you like is prohibited because it’s bad for you. I have! I’m pretty much restricted to water milk and coffee when it comes to drinks.

      Salbutamol (Ventolin), is a “reliever”. I hate these simplistic terms because they obscure the fact that some drugs have multiple functions. Salbutamol, for example, is also used for its prophylactic effect which gives it a double function as a “preventer” as well so, if you’re about to do something which you know will cause you to be short of breath, take a dose before you start – don’t wait for a crisis to develop. And bear in mind that Salbutamol takes 20 minutes before it’s fully effective. When I used to go out on Sundays with the Ramblers, I’d take mine half an hour before the coach reached our destination.

      • ah, it isn’t the docs that have told me to limit my milk and dairy foods.its from my own observations when i first started with IBS. i have always loved milk and milky foods.all my life. so its not something i would give up lightly,so not a fad, hence why i now limit myself but i still have some. i discovered that if i didn’t use dairy products at all, my IBS wasn’t too bad. now i use only semi skimmed for one portion of cereal.per day.once or twice a week.skimmed for hot drinks.don’t drink any though. i watched what fruit i ate etc too. (at a different time) as that can upset it as well with me. and although most of my life Ive not been interested in fruit at all, i had started to enjoy some like grapes, banana, strawberries, melon, blueberries(the latter i love the taste of but cant stand all those seeds.get in your teeth.) however i find i go through stages where one time i can eat a small amount, (a portion as defined for diabetes), then all of a sudden IBS flares up and i have to stop eating it for a while. no one has actually told me what i should/shouldn’t eat for IBS. its all through my own observations of what seems to set it off.
        have been on inhalers for 24 years now. at the moment on 4.taken 3 times a day including Ventolyn,(just been to an appointment with a clinical pharmacist at my Dr’s today with a view to go on a new one(Easyhaler Formoterol) but after talking to her and going through everything especially the fact that lately when anythings been changed i get side effects, she decided to leave things as they are for now.)
        Ferusamide and the new one im on now ,Bumetanide are loop diuretics. and i am aware they can upset both IBS and diabetes. there is another one, Indapamide that apparently does fact according to the net doctor site it can apparently lower your blood sugar and i am going to ask about that and see if they will change from the Bumetanide to Indapamide (can also lower blood pressure but as high blood pressure is NOT a problem, they might need to watch that one. don’t want it going too low do i?)
        i was not on diuretics as far as i remember when i was diagnosed with borderline diabetes.(had been 5 years before while in hospital with suspected heart attack and for a few months after coming home.) and wasn’t put on diabetic tablets for at least another 18months after that due to Prednisole pushing my blood sugar up. (still don’t understand why they had to put me on them just because of that and not until the fasting bloods had come down.however, they are below 7 again finally. so maybe can come off the one daily I am on. they prescribed 2 but it set my IBS off so i reduced it to 1 ,told them and was told .OK that’s fine. (do i or do i not need the damned things at all? i ask myself )still cant come to terms with that doc telling me, you need to go on them because we don’t know what your blood sugar is doing rest of the day.(i take my own fasting bloods each morning but cannot afford test strips for 3 times a day.and they refuse to give us type 2 them saying we don’t need to test. one statement kind of goes against the other really. we don’t need to test yet they don’t know what our bloods are doing rest of day??? yet we are supposed to manage our own conditions???then give us test strips and you will know what they are doing ya daft sods.) they want their cake n to eat it.(perhaps getting a handout from big Pharma to prescribe Metformin as much as they can.
        i never forget a dose of my inhalers unless its the teatime one(i keep a reminder on my mobile phone so usually its because although my mobile phone reminder has gone off, Ive been doing something at the time that i could not leave and then promptly forgot. but as i am only supposed to take them officially twice a day that’s not a problem.except ill be more breathless when i go to take the bedtime ones. that does not happen very often because usually my breathing tells me to take them anyway.Some of those 4 sprays only last 8 hours. one lasts 12.I’m told.hence the need for a top up after 8 hrs.. i do take ventolyn often before i go out. lol. took it today b4 going to see this woman about the new spray. whenm i did my peak flow there it was 250..(my old top level of last year) this year im lucky to reach 230 normally, more often its 200.
        so there we go. IBS been good today. hopefully settling down again.and bloods this morning 6.6(ate 2 squares of whole-nut choc last night after my supper. previous 2 mornings was 6.2 ..had had my cereal at 8pm and 2 cream cheese sarnies the night before (yes i know..dairy but now and again?? and it did bring it down next morning (yep i know, cant win can we?)
        nearly bought a cafetiere from a charity shop last week as well. wish i had now. it was in perfect nick and only couple o quid.

        • My advice, especially if you’re stable, is to do what I did recently and refuse all changes to your meds (you have that right under the Informed Consent rules – nothing can be done to you without your permission), something most doctors would prefer you didn’t know. And most changes are motivated by money and are not for your benefit.

          Cardiologist tried to reduce my beta blocker and diuretic by 50%. I refused to accept that on the grounds that I had been stable on the beta blocker for a couple of years, and wanted to stay that way, and I was retaining fluid like a human sponge so I needed more Furosemide, not less.
          (I published the letter to my GP here).

          I got the beta blocker reinstated – still working on the Furosemide but at least it hasn’t been cut, it’s still at the same level. Score 2 to me, nil to idiot cardio.

          • thanks Ron. i did know that . as an ex nurse it is something we were told in training. though that could change with this lot in charge in London.
            I did speak to the clinical pharmacist on Monday after being called in re the new spray they were talking of changing me onto.(Easyhaler Formoterol). Apart from some contra-indications i found when i looked it up i’m never happy changing to new sprays that can only be taken twice a day and no more.last time it was replacing all 3 of my preventer’s. no back up if i had a chest infection.. no instructions on how to carry on, after years of knowing exactly what i had to do in any given circumstance. after a few days, where breathing was not very good at all anyway, i rang them up and told them i was stopping the new one.i didn’t feel safe using it. had no back up meds etc etc .other than steroids and Ampicillin. but you don’t want to be going on them if doubling your inhalers will do the trick. i certainly don’t now, seeing as steroids pushes my blood sugars up. anyway they were fine about it (well they would be)…so Monday i told this clinical pharmacist how i felt. this was replacing only (i think was one but might have been 2), but in view of my other conditions plus my feelings she said be better not to at the moment.if i felt differently later to contact asthma nurse.. fair enough. so £7 out of pocket on taxi fares for her to tell me whast i already knew. next time ill ask for them to phone me first. cant afford to throw away 7 quid for nothing.I don’t ever gamble for that reason
            Hows all your problems coming along? i see you have been doing a bit of mechanical engineering (the words used loosely of course). hope your feeli8ng much better on yourself though i know those days aren’t very often now.

            • Ah – don’t forget, these replies aren’t just for the designated person, you in this case, they’re also for anyone who comes across them – and you’d be staggered just how many patients don’t have the faintest idea about their rights. I do what I can to change that.

              I was feeling better – the prospect of surgery becoming a reality made a huge difference to how I felt. Since then, the pain has got totally out of control – it’s just a blaze of agony from toes to hip – I think the circulation is shutting down, nothing else I know of can generate such extreme pain (it’s been less than 3 weeks since I saw the surgeon – subjectively it feels like years). If I took enough morphine to shut it down, it would probably kill me – and right now that’s a very attractive prospect. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel suicidal – with every fresh bottle of Oramorph its a major battle not to simply chug the whole god-damned bottle.

              And that’s partly why I got the FreeWheel gadget, and put my old powerchair back in service. Between them I should be able to get out of here, which might help (they’ll also be essential post-surgery, if I make it that far).

              • yes i know these blogs are for others too. all i can say to you is hang on in there you got a light at the end of the tunnel now. may have better days ahead if you can keep on keeping on till you get the op done.

              • I find, when nurses get argumentative about one’s rights as a patient (and as with patients themselves, many nurses haven’t a clue about rights or possibly don’t care, I’m not sure which), that saying “My body, my rules,” effectively shuts down any argument. Even consultants can grasp that, I’ve found (though they’re rarely happy about it!).

                On the day I saw the surgeon the nurses wanted to check the circulation in my leg – something I’d been refusing to let the district nurses do for months as it’s simply too painful (they insist that the only place they can put the BP cuff is directly on the ulcer, and that’s not going to happen). I explained that, they argued. So I said, “Look, it’s very simple – my body, my rules,” and they flounced off and never came back.

                As it turned out the test would have been totally unnecessary as I was only there to talk about the possibility of surgery, and I would have been subjected to an excruciating procedure for no reason at all.

                And that’s why I tell people not just to know their rights, but to know as much as is humanly possibly about their condition, because the only reason the nurses wanted to do that test was because they always do it, whether or not it’s essential. And that’s rarely a good enough reason.

                Hell, the surgeon even admitted that they’re fixated on compression because it’s what they’ve always done, so they always do it. When I said that “one size fits all” medicine was a seriously bad idea, that compression didn’t suit everybody, and people should think outside the box (hence my request for surgery), he agreed, but gave no indication that it might actually happen! Yet he was in total agreement with me on the need for amputation. I went in expecting an argument – and didn’t get one.

                • yes its a reply i have used before. thing is your torn at times as to whether you are de[riving yourself of the means to get at least a bit better. but like you say i feel; that we have to deal with our conditions and researching etc can only help you to understand better whats happening and whats being said.. plus whether or not certain treatments or procedures are going to benefit you. i have to ask this….apart from relief, ..did you feel ever so slightly deflated when you got no argument? having been hyped up to expect one. like a blown up balloon expecting that pin to be stuck into it only to find someone let the air out of it

Comments are closed.