If you live somewhere with hard water and don’t have a coffee machine that’s given because of scale build-up you’re one of the lucky ones.
And while hard water doesn’t = bad taste they often go hand in hand…
So what are you to do?
Well the truth is, no coffee maker’s designed to work better for hard water than with soft water, that’s not the function of the coffee machine.
The best solution is to get a coffee machine with a built-in water filter and then descale it more regularly. Or get a water filter jug and a regular coffee machine.
With that said let’s look at the top 5 reviews that will cover all of those things.
Top 5 Best Coffee Makers for Hard Water
- Top Choice – Cuisinart CHW-12P1 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker Plus Hot Water System Coffee Maker
- Runner Up – Mr. Coffee BVMC-PSTX95 10-Cup Optimal Brew Thermal Coffee Maker
- Best Budget – Mr. Coffee Easy Measure 12 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker
- Best Descaler For Coffee Machine – Impressa Descaler 2 Pack
- Best Water Filter Jug For Coffee – Brita Water Pitcher with 1 Filter
1. Top Choice – Cuisinart CHW-12P1 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker
Brew Type: Drip Machine
- Built-in water filter
- 2-in-1 dip machine and hot water dispenser
- Built-in self-cleaning function
- Hot plate temperature control
This is everything you could want in a coffee maker for hard water. It ticks our two major boxes, first, it’s got a built-in water filter in both compartments to keep the water clean (yes you can get replacements).
The second tick is that it’s got a cleaning function which is exactly what we want to deal with hard water scale. You’ve got to add the cleaning solution and make sure it’s rinsed out after but this does make cleaning a little easier since you’ll need to do it more often.
But what about the coffee?
Long story short… It is excellent! It’s a drip coffee maker so it’s your standard no-fuss method, coffee grounds in the top, and coffee out the bottom, but it’s also got a hot water dispenser which you can use to make things like tea, soup, morning oatmeal, and I like that. It needs to be filled in the top and then some time to heat up but you can leave water in the water tank for up to a week at a time.
The coffee comes out into the carafe on the hot plate but you’ve got a low medium and high setting to allow you to alter how the coffee gets kept. This just gives you a little more control to make your perfect brew, keep it on low for ready to drink coffee, high for coffee you want to add milk to, and medium for the Goldilocks coffee that is just right.
I also prefer a hot plate to a thermal carafe so this is a win for me, I know some people say the hot plate “cooks” the coffee but I disagree, hot plates simply aren’t hot enough to do that. Yes, it won’t be as fresh the longer you leave it but that happens no matter how you keep your coffee hot.
A 12 cup coffee maker that is perfect for making great coffee even with hard water.
2. Runner Up – Mr. Coffee BVMC-PSTX95 10-Cup Optimal Brew Thermal Coffee Maker
Brew Type: Drip Coffee Maker
- Water Filter
- Cleaning Reminder
- Cleaning cycle
- 2-hour auto-off
- 30 days returns
First off, there are a lot of reports of this machine leaking, there seems to be a defective batch of them going around, but if you get a good one, this is everything you need for hard water.
So the risk is there which is why I made this the runner up because it is good for hard water, but you might end up with water on your countertop if you’re unlucky.
That said, let’s look at why this is a great choice.
It has an easy to use water filter included that filters through as part of the brew cycle which I love. And it’s got a self-cleaning cycle but also has a reminder to tell you when it’s time to give it a clean. If it weren’t for the possibility of leakage this would have put it above the Cuisinart above but alas, solid build out ways easy descaling.
The coffee has a high brewing temperature of 205F which I think could be slightly too hot for some more delicate coffees but I know some people love a hot coffee. The brewed coffee tastes good and is brewed into a stainless steel carafe to keep it warm.
You get 10 cups of coffee ready to go in 7 minutes for optimum extraction and it has a timer of 2 hours to tell you how long the coffee has been there before it auto shuts off.
A slightly riskier but cheaper choice of coffee machine for hard water.
3. Best Budget – Mr. Coffee Easy Measure 12 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker
Brew Type: Drip Coffee
- Water Filter
- Reusable Coffee Filter
- 4-hour freshness indicator
This is another solid Mr. Coffee choice, it again has the water filter we need but no cleaning program or cleaning reminder. But it’s the budget option so you have to give and take.
What I do like is that it comes with a reusable coffee filter and it’s got a timer on it telling you how fresh the coffee is. Although I have to say that 4 hours is a long time for coffee to sit in the pot, much more past the hour mark and it’s going to be a bit average. And after the 4 hours the auto-shutoff kicks in which is a good energy-saving feature.
It’s got a larger filter basket size than other Mr. Coffee machines so you can easily make 12 cups with no grounds leaking out and it has a bloom feature that allows the coffee to bloom for 30 seconds before the brewing process starts.
This is an important part of pour-over coffee but I have to say I’m not sure that it’s going to be fully effective, the coffee it makes is nice I’m just skeptical what kind of a difference this will make. In theory, it will be great because it allows better extraction but as part of a cheap automatic process I’m not sure.
But, you get a great-tasting cup of coffee from the pot so there’s no need to look too much into it.
A bit more involved but the water filtration allows you to get a nicer tasting coffee from hard water.
4. Best Descaler For Coffee Machine – Impressa Descaler 2 Pack
- Compatible with single-serve and espresso machines
- Made in the USA
- Environmentally safe
Before we get into it I wouldn’t use this with any coffee machine that uses a copper heating element, a machine like the Technivorm Moccamaster could be damaged, and if your machine manufacturer tells you to use a specific descaler than stick to their recommendation.
But for all your standard coffee machines this is perfect, you run through half a bottle topped up with water, wait 30 minutes, then rinse out doing two cycles of just plain water and you’re good to go again.
The ideal companion for coffee lovers because cleaning out your machine will allow you to better enjoy the coffee from your machine because it will still work properly without the temperature or the brew cycle getting interrupted.
It’s environmentally friendly, made in the USA, and two bottles are enough to last you most of the year.
It’s fully compatible with all types of coffee machines, drip makers, espresso machines, K cup, Nespresso, and it’s available on Amazon.
If you’ve got hard water then you need to get some of this in for your cupboard. Or get ready to buy a new coffee machine before you know it!
5. Best Water Filter Jug For Coffee – Brita Water Pitcher with 1 Filter
- Filter lasts 2 months with standard use
- 10 cups capacity
- BPA Free
There’s no point buying a fancy coffee grinder, then buying the best drip coffee maker only to put in foul-tasting water.
This doesn’t turn hard water into soft water but what it does is take any bad tastes out of the water leaving you with a cup of coffee that tastes better. Coffee shops use fresh coffee beans and filtered water so if you want a barista experience at home you’re going to have to start doing the same.
Brita are the gold standard for at-home water filters and the jug linked to above is more than big enough to make a full pot so no matter how many coffee drinkers you have over you can all be satisfied.
An easy way to start enjoying proper coffee flavor at home and a step to turning any hard water household into a fancy cafe.
How To Make Any Coffee Machine Hard Water Compatible
The water you use in your coffee is possibly the most overlooked part of the brewing process when trying to get an Above Average cup of coffee. But at the same time, it’s the most annoying because…
It’s water, who cares?
Well once it starts ruining your coffee I start to care. And water can so easily ruin your coffee, it can be the reason you’re at home coffee tastes different to the cafe, and it can even be the reason why you can’t taste anything listed on the back of the coffee packet. All the tasting notes roasters put on the coffee they tasted while using their water, which is likely filtered to their specifications.
So what can you do? Two things…
1. Filter Bad Tasting Water
If you taste your tap water and you don’t like it, then it will ruin your cup of coffee. Cafes nearby will use a filtration system to get the water the way they want it and you can do something similar. You can do 3 things.
Buy A Water Filter
You can get a big water filter jug to filter through your coffee before you make it. Some coffee machines come with a water filter as I’ve reviewed above but this limits your brewing methods and restricts your options in terms of coffee machines.
A much easier solution is to buy a water jug with a filter like the Brita I reviewed above.
This doesn’t soften the water but what it does is remove a lot of the unpleasant taste, any chlorine taste, or other tastes you get from water in a big city get caught in the filter and the water you’re left with is much crisper.
A lot of the hard water minerals will still be there so you’ll still get a different brew compared to soft water but this goes a long way to improving your cup of coffee.
And it will make your drinking water at home all the tastier.
Ask Your Cafe If They Filter The Water And Ask To Buy Some
Starbucks won’t do this but if you go to an independent cafe who cares about their coffee, or you can speak to a local roaster you often frequent you can strike up a conversation about what water they use.
If they say tap water no luck…
But if they start telling you all about their filtration system and how they make the water completely pure and then add their own minerals you’re on to a winner. Because then you can ask if you can buy some of the filtered water from them to make coffee at home.
They might not say yes, they might even raise an eyebrow, but it’s worth asking because this is an excellent way to get yourself some barista grade water to make some seriously good coffee at home.
Use Bottled Water
This is my least favorite way to get better water for your coffee. Yes, it works but it’s so wasteful having to throw out all the plastic bottles day in and day out as you drink your coffee.
But, it does make good coffee, and there is a huge variety of bottled water and the mineral content thereof so you can customize down and find the water you like to use. But at the cost to the environment, I don’t think it’s worth it.
Although it is an easier solution than…
Set Up A Reverse Osmosis Filtration System
For the bargain price of $200, you can set up a reverse osmosis filtration system that will fully remove pretty much everything from the water and leave it needing to be alkalized by the introduction of minerals.
Is it over the top? Ab-so-fucking-lutely. Is it worth it? No.
At least not to me at this stage in my coffee journey, if I lived somewhere with foul-tasting hard water I might be singing a different tune, but to set this up and put your water through it before using it to make coffee is just a huge waste of time in my eyes.
But to each their own, and if you feel like trying it out then please feel free to come back and slag me off for missing out on such an awesome coffee experience coupled with some cool science.
And if you are interested in giving this a go then have a look at this Reddit thread for some Advice
2. Descale your Coffee Machine
If you live somewhere with hard water, you simply have to do this, there is no other way around it, if you don’t you could finding yourself needing to replace your coffee machine annually.
But easier said than done, how often and how thorough do you need to be?
How Often Should You Descale Your Coffee Machine
It varies by device and how hard your water is. You should be able to look at a map of some kind showing how hard your water is. But usually, you know if you live somewhere with hard water because people talk about it.
None the less, assuming you live somewhere with hard water it’s recommended that you should descale your coffee machine about once a month.
You’re probably not going to do that…
And that’s OK, every 2-3 months is probably going to be fine and you’ll know if it needs to be done because you will make your coffee the same way you always have been and it will taste worse.
And I’ll go into the reasons behind why that happens further down.
How To Descale Your Coffee Machine
The easiest way? Buy some coffee machine descaler and follow the instructions on the bottle…
But for a rundown here, you go, and this works for any coffee machine be it a Keurig, a Bunn, a Ninja, anything:
- Empty all the water, remove any water filter – You’ve got to have it empty before you can clean it!
- Fill the water reservoir with 1/2 a bottle of descaler and top up with water
- Run through a coffee making cycle without coffee until the reservoir is empty.
- Leave it to sit for 30 minutes
- Run it through several times with plain water and follow any other cleaning instructions to ensure all descaler is removed before you brew your next cup of coffee.
You also have the option of descaling with white vinegar but I’ve found this leaves a worse taste behind that’s harder to get rid of than a regular descaler.
What Hard Water Does To Coffee & Coffee Machines
You can really take a deep dive on the science behind this, James Hoffman does a great video that’s accessible where he talks about it that I can link to below
But the long and short of it is that hard water has more bicarbonate in it will cause the coffee to over-extract and taste bitter. Meanwhile, some of the minerals inside it can block the coffee from extracting properly leaving you with a dull cup that tastes fine but not incredible.
Hard water stops your coffee from brewing properly, and it messes up your machine. Which is why some people opt for bottled water if they live somewhere with very hard water, I can’t even blame them!
As for your coffee machine, scale build-up will cause it to not work as well over time. The main problem being that it can stop the water heating up properly leaving you with weaker tasting coffee. It also looks gross to have the inside of your machine encrusted with limescale!
Can I use soft water in my coffee maker?
Of course! I live in a soft water area and have never had any problems using it to get a great cup of coffee. In fact, I think it’s a whole lot easier to get good coffee with soft water. But the same problems can start to appear if you’ve got water that’s too soft, you just need to tweak it to your own taste as you make.
Can I use bottled water in my coffee machine?
Yup! Bottled water is a great way to get awesome tasting coffee, it’s not the most eco-friendly but from a pure coffee point of view, it’s an excellent choice.
Is spring water good for coffee?
It can be, all water is surprisingly different when it comes to extracting coffee, your best bet is just to try out different waters using the same brew method and decide which you like best.
Does coffee taste better with filtered water?
It really does, especially if you live in a big city where the water can have a very strong chlorine taste to it, the filter just takes out any of the strange foreign tastes and leaves you with clean, crisp water and much more coffee-like coffee.
Dishwasher safe won’t save you, a glass carafe won’t save you, Even a french press won’t save you, you’ve just got to start descaling on a semi-regular bases.
But if you’re willing to put in that little it of effort to descale and prep your water then you can start having delicious coffee at home even living somewhere with really hard water.
It will just take a little experimentation to adjust how much coffee you use and your brew time to get a nice cup of coffee into your travel mug in the morning.