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Update: September 2013 – A Mystery Solved!
Why was our TDS typically only about 26 PPM when we have an RO system with a re-mineralization filter? Especially, when our water & tea taste so good!
Recently, I was reflecting on the following:
“Water with 50 – 150 ppm total dissolved solids (TDS) or 1 to 3 grains hardness provides the best results, according to the Tea Association of the USA.” http://www.teaandcoffee.net/0609/tea.htm
A water softener is required for our very hard, 450’-deep, well water. In addition, we need an RO system due to the very high level of TDS and to remove the sodium added by the water softener.
An RO system removes all the impurities and excessive dissolved solids and with it all the beneficial minerals that enhance the flavor of water. This is why we made sure to purchase an RO system that has a re-mineralization filter, a filter that adds back the beneficial minerals.
So why, why was our TDS typically only about 26 PPM when we have an RO system with a re-mineralization filter? This situation did not make sense! Both our water and tea taste great! So why wasn’t our TDS higher? I had to investigate!
When we purchased our RO system, we also ordered a TDS meter to monitor the performance of it. (http://steepster.com/teas/teaware/39474-hm-digital-dm-1-in-line-dual-tds-monitor) This meter displays the TDS both before and after the RO system. The kind folks at Abundant Flow Water installed the TDS meter for us so there was no “assembly required” (unlike children’s Christmas presents) before I installed it. Since I had not personally installed the TDS monitor, I naturally wasn’t specifically aware of where the “TDS out” sensor had been installed.
Fortunately, I installed the RO system in the basement rather than in the under-sink kitchen cabinet where it’s cramped and dark. I turned on the twin-40W florescent tube shop light in the basement, which is directly above the laundry tub & RO system and then began following water flow path through the RO.
The “TDS In” sensor was after all the pre-filters and just before the RO membrane – right where it should be located. The “TDS Out” sensor was just after the RO membrane. From an RO maintenance perspective, that made sense. TDS measurements immediately before and after the membrane are what’s used to calculate “% rejection” – the parameter that determines when to replace the RO membrane (about every 3 years).
So what about the TDS of the water we actually drink? Since the “TDS Out” sensor is immediately after the RO membrane, it is before the re-mineralization filter! In other words, the “TDS Out” reading does not include the contribution of the re-mineralization filter.
Mystery solved! We have great tasting water & tea even though the TDS meter displays 26 PPM because the “TDS Out” doesn’t include the beneficial minerals added by the Aptera filter.
Thus, all my tasting notes to date, have under reported the actual TDS value of the water used for brewing tea. The water we enjoy every day has a higher TDS value.
Based on this discovery, I’ve now added an additional fitting to our RO System so the output sensor can be located either after the RO membrane for maintenance purposes, or after the Aptera filter to monitor the TDS of water we consume.
High quality water is essential for excellent tasting tea.
The Importance of TDS in Water for Tea
“All tea, both hot and iced, is affected by water quality. Because of tea’s light flavor, the quality of input water is crucial to the beverage.
The clarity of tea is particularly affected by mineral content in water. Water hardness, caused by calcium and magnesium content in excess of 200 ppm, can cause clouding in iced tea. Water with 50 – 150 ppm total dissolved solids (TDS) or 1 to 3 grains hardness provides the best results, according to the Tea Association of the USA." http://www.teaandcoffee.net/0609/tea.htm
“Water hardness is caused by a high mineral content. Tests show any hardness in excess of 200 ppm can cause clouding in iced tea. Chemical taste and/or odor caused by chlorination of municipal water and the presence of hydrogen sulfide in the water can also detract from tea flavor. In addition, the presence of particulate matter in water can cause scale and lime accumulation, detracting from the operational efficiency of automatic tea steeping equipment.”
Choose the best water.
“Ninety nine percent of tea is water, so it’s important to give some thought to the water you use for brewing. Tap water should be avoided since its chemical treatment imparts undesirable flavors and odors which interfere with the delicate aromatics of tea. Home filters and other water purification systems can minimize and, in some cases, eliminate these problems. The best water for tea brewing is spring water with a natural mineral content that’s neither too hard nor too soft. Since T.D.S. “total dissolved solids”, or mineral content measured in parts per million varies greatly from water to water, you may want to do your own taste-test of waters available in your area to determine which one has the best flavor, body and compatibility with the tea you drink.”
Our 450’ well provides very hard water 309 mg/L or PPM with a high iron content (0.317 PPM) for a total hardness of 20 grains so we had to install a whole-house water softener and use Iron-out salt blocks.
Results: Hardness: Not detected. Iron: Not detected.
1. Softeners add sodium to your water, which is not recommended for tea or your health especially if one has a personal or family history of hypertension, heart disease, heart attack, TIA, &/or stroke.
2. Softeners do not remove dissolved solids from water. Our TDS was 438 mg/L or PPM.
Bottled water was expensive. Lugging home 12 gallons (100 lbs.) of water about once a week and recycling numerous empty gallon water jugs was inconvenient. Refilling them was less expensive but more time consuming. Running out of bottled water especially if there was none for morning tea was a royal pain.
Thus, we needed a Reverse Osmosis (RO) system to remove the sodium from our drinking water and to significantly reduce the TDS in our well water. But which brand & model? There is mind-numbing selection from which to choose. Consumer Reports (CR) top-rated the Kinetico K5 system, which is very expensive and uses only proprietary replacement filters. The less expensive models recommended by CR could be found at Lowes & Home Depot. However, the reviews for these models on the Lowes & Home Depot websites reported many issues by mostly dissatisfied customers.
Finally, after much time consuming research, I ran into Allan from Puregen on the Terry Love Plumbing & Remodel DIY Forum. He said:
“Abundant flow is great, Mark is a good guy and very interested in customer service.”
“I would recommend calling Abundant, tell them Allan from Puregen sent you and recommended their generic RO with the Aptera filter and a ERP500 permeate pump. See what they can do for you. They have made consistently high quality ROs for a long time.”
“I would also highly recommend the Aptera filter from them. It is an excellent way to make the water taste better, raise the pH, remineralize, etc. This has been one of the best filters we have seen in a long time, especially for the price.”
Thus, Allan and Mark Bunner at AFW helped me find a cost-effective high quality RO system that I was able to install myself. We’ve owned the system for 8 months and there has not been a single issue. We now have all the high quality drinking water we need, whenever we need it without having to run to the store. One less hassle in life – Solved!
Abundant Flow Water (AFW)
Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water System
Model: Zeta RO:
Update 7/2/17: At the next filter change, I’ll upgrade from the Puregen Aptera Alkaline Filter to the Everest Alkaline Water Filter:
The major difference is the Everest brand is NSA-certified, the Puregen is not.
Options:Aquatec ERP-500 & ASV 2000 3/8" Output HM Digital DM-1: http://www.tdsmeter.com/products/dm1.html
Mark Bunner at AFW provided exceptional customer service. He was very patient in answering all my questions. He assisted me in selecting the right system for our needs and provided the necessary technical support so that I was able to install this system myself.
Our TDS used to be 438 PPM. Now it averages 54 PPM and our tea never tasted so good!
Mark and AFW RO systems are Highly Recommended!!