It’s no secret locations are money conscious when it comes to vending and office coffee service. However, water service is trending upwards.
According to the Water Quality Association, a non-profit international trade association representing the water treatment industry, more than half of Americans are concerned about the quality of their water and will take action in their homes, revealed by a 2011 independent survey by Applied Research-West, Inc. The study found a majority of consumers are now willing to pay more to eliminate contaminants, especially those respondents who had experienced a “boil water alert,” (about 19 percent). More than half typically purchased a filter pitcher or end of tap device, compared to 38 percent in 2008. Additionally, 54 percent are concerned about health contaminants in tap water, and 42 percent believe the water is not as safe as it should be.
This has implications for refreshment service operators because these people are decision makers when it comes to adding water service. And the good news is there are more options than ever to satisfy their concerns, including better sanitation processes that don’t waste water.
Multiple filter options available
“It’s really just educating the end user what options there are,” said Cliff Rosen, president of KoolTek. He recommends operators open with a “good, better, best” presentation of water filtration. This way, the location can balance cost with their desire for filtered water.
Filters have really come a long way, according to Rosen. For coffee brewers, he recommends a 5 micron carbon filter, which eliminates most contaminants that will affect taste and will take out odors. A micron is a unit of measurement. The smaller the micron number, the better the filtration, because it prevents particles and parasites of smaller sizes from going through the filter with the water.
In the case of the coffee brewer, the water is being boiled, so more intense filtration usually isn’t necessary.
For drinking water, Rosen said the filters can now go down to a half micron to filter out extremely tiny impurities. “To give you a comparison, a human hair is 100 microns,” said Rosen. “The filtration available today is just mind boggling.”
More expensive options include sterilizing the water. Five years ago, everyone wanted reverse osmosis systems, remembers Rosen, but even with the units becoming more efficient, they can waste three to four gallons of water to make one gallon because of the pressure required to force water through the membrane. Instead, the trend is towards ultra violet (UV) treatment, where the UV light passes through the water and breaks down the DNA of hard-shell bacteria. Ozone units also sterilize water, although these are not as popular because the term “ozone” disturbs end users.
Rosen believes selling water service is about sharing information with the end user. Not to scare them with it, but enough for them to make an informed decision.
Roger Egli, sales executive at Hydro Life Inc., hears a lot about how operators want to cut their maintenance costs. He offers a solution to lime scale, which can otherwise build up and damage hot beverage equipment. The Hydro Life media alters the molecular structure of calcite (lime scale) by changing the number of oxygen atoms within the molecule. The calcite becomes a substance called aragonite, which has no clinging capability, allowing the scale to remain harmlessly suspended in the water as it passes through the equipment holding tanks and water lines without adhering to equipment surfaces.
“There are no chemicals of any kind used in our media. It is completely chemical free,” Egli added.
Eliminating lime scale without the use of chemicals is a niche for operators serving the espresso market, according to Sergio Trevino, senior account executive of Omnipure Filter Co. While phosphate can be added to water to prevent scale on drip coffee brewers, there are applications where using special softening filters that include a combination of carbon and resin is preferred to protect equipment and improve taste.