Water it is a natural solvent, so when it percolates down to underground aquifers, it literally dissolves rock. These dissolved minerals, known as Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), are what create scale in foodservice equipment. Total Dissolved Solids can be combinations of “hard” minerals such as calcium and magnesium, or “soft” minerals such as sodium.
When water ends up in lakes and rivers, it can pick up suspended solids such as silt and clay, and organic matter such as bacteria, algae and cysts.
Water from underground or from surface water can both contain chemicals from human contamination such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) and nitrates, and gasses from fermentation of plant matter or by products of bacteria growth.
Municipal water companies can draw water from aquifers or from surface water—sometimes from both. In order to provide your business and home with safe tap water, it is disinfected with either Chlorine or Chloramine.
Finally, as water travels to your faucet or equipment, it can pick up metal particles from corroded pipes.
So by the time it has made its way to your coffee brewer or ice machine, it can contain calcium, magnesium, silica, chlorides, iron, copper, sodium, sulphates, carbonates and bicarbonates, hydrogen sulfide gas, cysts, bacteria, dead plant matter, ferric iron, silt, clay, chlorine or chloramine. Most of this is not visible. The concentrations of these contaminants vary depending on:
- Where you live. Some areas have large limestone deposits that create hard water. Other areas, such as Hawaii, have serious problems with silica. In the colder states salt used on roads for de-icing can leach into water supplies.
- Whether your water comes from underground aquifers or from surface water. Water from aquifers tends to be hard because it dissolves minerals as it travels through the rock. Water from lakes and rivers tends to have more organics, so as algae bloom and die, your water can become discolored (tannins) or develop unpleasant odors.
The disinfecting chemicals your water treatment plant uses. It’s easy to recognize water treated with chlorine and chloramine as it will have a distinctive swimming pool smell and taste. Chloramine is chlorine with a small amount of ammonia added. The ammonia slows the dissipation of the chlorine, so the disinfectant stays in the water longer.
Because water can have so many contaminants, it can create serious issues with not only the taste, odor and appearance of your beverages and ice, but also with the performance of your water-using equipment. Chlorides can cause corrosion to plumbing and equipment parts. Hydrogen sulfide gas can give water a strong rotten egg smell. Sodium can cause fountain beverages to lose their fizz and ice to be soft.
Water with high levels of calcium and magnesium can create scale. This often looks like a hard white chalky material although it can take on many colors and textures. Scale is formed when energy is applied to water. For example, when water is converted to steam, the minerals drop out of solution and cling to nearby surfaces. This can build up over time, and be difficult to remove. Scale that is ¼” thick can reduce energy efficiency by 28.5 percent. Your operating costs go up, and your equipment breaks down more.
This is why it’s important to test your water. By determining your water’s unique characteristics, the right water treatment can be applied. If you have a strong chlorine taste and smell, a good carbon filter should solve the problem. If your hardness is higher than it should, you can apply a water softening system. If your Total Dissolved Solids are excessive, then you will need a reverse osmosis system.
By bringing your water to the standards established for foodservice operations, you are ensuring that your customers’ beverages and food will taste as they should, and your equipment will require fewer maintenance calls and last longer.
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