Updated: Jun 5, 2021
A personal article on the use of water filters.
I’ve been using filtered water since I was a late teen. Why? Initially I just couldn’t stand the taste of tap water. It tasted of chlorine, which I found revolting.
More seriously, chemicals such as chlorine have been shown to have a negative effect on yeast-based products, particularly sourdough. Most of our yeast-based baking utilises sourdough and this is particularly important to us with gluten-free baking, where we need all the natural assistance we can get.
In the early days, I used a simple jug and cartridge system that required a monthly filter change. Immediately there was a noticeable difference in the quality of not only the taste of the water, but also the look and flavour of my morning cup of tea. The colour was clearer and there was no scum on the top. Believe me when I say that my morning cup of earl grey tea is a pretty crucial start to the day.
The natural improvement in the quality of any food or drink was sufficient to maintain the changes, but I then started to really investigate why the filtered water was so much better. Well, it soon became obvious why!
Filtered water passes tap water through a filter that is usually made from some form of activated carbon. This removes chemicals that are used in the treatment of tap water, such as chlorine, and removes pesticides, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and other disinfecting products to name but a few. A major concern is the level of PFAs now found globally in tap water. These so-called forever chemicals simply do not disappear and have been linked to a range of frightening health conditions.
Anyone living in an area of hard water will immediately know about it because of the constant staining of any surface that comes into contact with the water. Look inside a kettle that is used in an area high in mineral content will notice the build-up of limescale and the chunks of it that fall into your drinks.
In areas very high in limescale, you can even see pitting in materials that come into regular contact with water.
In a recent Guardian article https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/31/americas-tap-water-samples-forever-chemicals the issue of contaminants in “so called” drinking water is clearly highlighted. Although the situation in Europe is not considered so serious, some of the fundamental issues highlighted by this report exist, as they do in the UK.
Although many of the chemicals found in tap water are harmless in small quantities, some of them can accumulate over time. This can potentially lead to health complications later in life.
All of these factors have driven millions of people to avoid tap water and opt for bottled water instead. However this approach has some really serious issues; namely the massive environmental impact of producing plastic bottles from fossil fuels and the consequent waste; the total lack of quality control and security in the production of bottled water; and finally the cost of buying so much water.
Using cartridge and jug water filters has issues as the refills can be very expensive and each replacement is made from plastic. Although there are filter recycling points in some supermarkets in some countries, in many other countries the cartridges simply end up in landfill.
One of the concerns with the jug and cartridge system, is that people forget to change the cartridge regularly. This can lead to the accumulation of bacteria and chemicals in the cartridge, rendering it useless. For many the cost of the filters is prohibitive, which makes it difficult for those on a low budget to manage.
Long term under-counter solutions are becoming ever more popular and after the initial outlay, become the most cost effective for filtering tap water. When we moved into our current home, the previous owners had installed an under-sink osmosis system, which was really efficient and only required servicing on a two-year basis. The issue for us was that it took up the space of two sewing machines in a kitchen that already lacked cupboard space.
We had our kitchen remodelled and wanted to use some of the under-sink space for our recycling bins, but still wanted a filtration system. We chose not to go for an on-tap solution as we found it both unsightly and difficult to clean. Our research led us to a really tidy solution, provided by Eco-Puro. It consists of a tiny cylinder less than 20cm in length and 10cm in diameter, (see below) that contains a high density activated coconut carbon filter. The product is engineered to a high specification - in fact it looks positively space age - and we were able to install it in a matter of minutes.
Of the various models available we chose the one that takes out the limescale as well, thus prolonging the life of other equipment such as kettles and coffee machines and reducing the risk of ending up with flakes of limescale in your coffee. Yes the filter does reduce the rate of flow somewhat, but it's worth it for the purity and clarity of what comes out of the business end.
Not only that, but using filtered water means that our plant-based foods all taste better as they're not contaminated with chlorine or other chemicals. The final product tends to look more appetising as it retains more of its natural colour as chlorine is part of the bleach family and it can destroy the natural colour of foods.
Better still, studies indicate that water filters preserve the mineral content of water which is an important aspect for any children or adults in the home. If water tastes and smells better, then family members are more likely to drink it, thereby improving their mineral uptake.