Friday, 23 December 2016

Festive beverages for winter warming

You all know, that we love our coffee here at Water Cooler Today. But we’ll be honest, we’re getting a creeping festive feeling. We’ve begun to look at our cup of joe, and wonder how to Christmas the situation up. We’ve found our favourite Christmas drink recipes to share with you this holiday season. We may have even found a few cocktails to kick your Christmas parties off in style….

Warm Christmas drinks

Hot toddy

Place a tablespoon of honey, and if desired a shot of whisky, in a mug. Add two cloves and half a cinnamon stick, and add boiled water. Add sliced lemon, and a smidgeon of lemon juice.

Mulled mead

Place cider, brandy, ginger, a cinnamon stick, apple juice, and cloves in a saucepan, simmer and add lemon peel. Sieve the lemon peel when infused.

Gingerbread latte

Brew a nice strong coffee. Pour half a cup into a bowl, add one tablespoon of black treacle, half a teaspoon of ground ginger, a dusting of nutmeg, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, a tablespoon of maple syrup, and a dash of vanilla extract. Give this a whisk, and halve between two cups, top off the concoction with heated milk.

Mulled wine

Heat a few bottles of good quality red wine in a pot, with six tablespoons of honey, an orange studded with cloves, sliced oranges and lemons, a cinnamon stick, and a smattering of ground ginger. Simmer this mixture for around 20 minutes.

Hot buttered rum

Beat a stick of butter in with some grated orange zest, a dash of nutmeg, half a cup of demerara sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of ground ginger. Whisk in three tablespoons of black treacle. Pour this mixture evenly between four cups and top off with boiling water and a dash of orange juice.


Place a cup of double cream, two cinnamon sticks, a dash of vanilla essence, three cups of milk, and a teaspoon of grated nutmeg in a saucepan. Boil and remove from the heat. In a separate bowl, beat five egg yolks and a cup of sugar. Whisk in your heated mixture and pop in the fridge overnight. Beat five egg whites in a separate bowl until peaks form, fold in your refrigerated mixture and serve.

Cool Christmas drinks

Christmas Alexander

Place two measures of cognac, two tablespoons of double cream, five tablespoons of crème de cacao, and two tablespoons of the milk of your choice in a cocktail shaker, add ice cubes and give it a shake. Pour the mixture out into two cocktail glasses.

 Christmas punch

Place two cups of pomegranate juice, one cup of vodka, one cup of orange liqueur, one cup of cranberry juice, one cup of sparkling water, and the juice from five lemons into a large bowl. Mix, and add half a cup of agave syrup, add ice cubes and enjoy.

Gingerbread Bellini

Mix the juice from one lemon, one cup of hazelnut liqueur, a tablespoon of ginger cordial, and a dash of cinnamon in a small bowl. Separate into four champagne glasses and top off with Prosecco or champagne.

Kir Royale

Chill four champagne glasses, place a tablespoon of raspberry liqueur in each glass. Top each glass with champagne, and place two or three frozen raspberries into each glass.

Needless to say, enjoy these Christmas drinks responsibly! All of us at Water Cooler Today wish you a happy, restorative, and peaceful holiday season. We can’t wait to talk water with you in 2017.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The A-Z of Water: D & E

There's no way around it, water can be a complex area to know. There's lots of keywords and terms bandied about by experts, that even we find confusing on occasion! To this end, we will be bringing you the A-Z of water terms, bringing you the secret, technical, and quirky language connected to H20.

We helped you B-lieve in the power of language, by C-ing even more water words last week (we’re sorry, we have a pun problem). This week we’re bringing you our favourite D and E water words.

Dam: (Geography) Artificial barrier or obstruction which impounds or diverts water

Dap: (Language) To dip lightly or quickly into water

Dessication: (Geology) Loss of water from pore spaces of sediments

Dew: (Language) Tiny drops of water that form on cool surfaces overnight

Divining rod: (Geology) Forked branch or stick believed to indicate subterranean water

Doldrums: (Geography) A region of ocean near the equator

Dowser: (Geology) Person using a divining rod

Drawdown: (Hydrology) Lowering of the surface of a body of water by releasing water

Duct: (Geography) A tube or passage in a building or machine for air or liquid

Eagre: (Hydrology) A high, often dangerous, wave

Embankment: (Geography) Material raised above the natural surface of the land used to contain, divert, or store water

Englacial: (Geology) Located or occurring within a glacier

Eupotamic: (Biology) Thriving in both flowing and still fresh waters

Eutrophic: (Hydrology) Water that is rich in nutrients

Evapotranspiration: (Biology) Evaporation of liquid plus transpiration from plants

We hope you've enjoyed this dap into water words, and it hasn't left you in the doldrums. Have we missed your favourite? Let us know what it is!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Why does my coffee taste funny?

Coffee flask
Have you ever brewed a steaming cup of coffee, allowed the gorgeous coffee aroma to waft over you, lifted the cup to your mouth, had a sip and… it’s rank? Your morning is ruined, you’re lacking your caffeine buzz, and you need about ten gallons of water to wash the taste out. Oh, my friend, I know this pain well. But do not fear, I am here to make sure you never experience this trauma again, I am here to improve the taste of your coffee.

The perfect cup of coffee is a subtle balance of a variety of factors, if just one is off kilter, it affects your entire cup. Today, we are going to be talking coffee beans, water quality, and preparation.  

Coffee beans

First thing’s first, the absolute foundation of your brew. The coffee beans. Are you choosing the right beans for you? There are two main types of beans available; Coffea Arabica, and Coffea Robusta. Robusta is the bean with the caffeine punch, it contains 2.7% caffeine content, compared to the Arabica’s measly 1.5%. But this caffeine comes at a cost, namely, the taste. Some people find the Robusta bean a little bitter (some describe it as tasting slightly burnt). Consider whether you prefer something strong and punchy (Robusta) or smooth and sweet (Arabica) when picking out your beans.

The next big ticket item is the grind of your beans. The coffee boffins advise that you buy whole beans, and grind these at home for freshness, as coffee oils (where the flavour lives) evaporate quickly once the coffee is ground. The size of your grind is important (no jokes, please), if your coffee is too fine, you risk a bitter brew, as the coffee oils will be too exposed to the water. If it isn’t fine enough, you’ll lack that lovely coffee flavour. If in doubt, ask the staff at your local coffee supplier what the best grind is for the beans you’re buying and method you use for prep.

Water quality

Water carafe
In the Water Cooler Today meet ups, the right water for your coffee is an area of much contention! A properly extracted cup of coffee is 98.85% water, so the type of water you use is super important. To ensure a flavourful coffee, there must be mineral content in your water, but more importantly, it must be the right combination of minerals. Too low a mineral content (you would find this in distilled water), and you’ll have a bitter cup of coffee. High bicarbonate or sodium levels will also alter the taste of your coffee. Interestingly, many bottled mineral waters are relatively high in sodium, as well as water that has been treated by water softeners, so avoid using these to brew your coffee.

The closest we get to consensus here at Water Cooler Today, is that hard water makes a lovely cup of coffee. It has a lot of the minerals that bring out the flavour in coffee beans, such as magnesium and calcium, and best of all, it’s free from the tap! If you want to delve a little further into coffee and water, check out our previous blog post here.

The prep

Whether you have a big fancy machine, a French press, or you shove instant coffee in a mug and add water (please don’t do this), there are a few ground rules. Always, always, always, use fresh cold water. Do not reheat water, or store water in the fridge. Both these processes deplete the oxygen bubbles in the water that enhance the flavour of your coffee beans. Ensure your water is heated between 194 – 206 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal flavour distribution.

Now, we shouldn’t have to tell you this last point, but we will, ensure your equipment is clean! Built up coffee granules in the corners of your equipment will give your brew quite the tang.

Take a pause

Finally, give yourself the time to drink your cup of coffee. We are all guilty of typing with one hand, and knocking back coffee mindlessly with the other. Take five minutes to sit away from your screen and enjoy the lovely beverage you’ve created. You’ll notice the taste so much more, and your brain will thank you for the break!

Friday, 16 December 2016

The A-Z of water: B & C

There's no way around it, water can be a complex area to know. There's lots of keywords and terms bandied about by experts, that even we find confusing on occasion! To this end, we will be bringing you the A-Z of water terms, bringing you the secret, technical, and quirky language connected to H20.

We got off to ‘A’ phenomenal start last week with the ‘A’s of water (see what we did there?!). This week it’s time to switch to plan B, so we can C how to talk water (we have so many alphabet puns to get through here).

Baseflow: (Geology) Streamflow coming from ground water seepage into a stream

Bathe: (Language) Wash with water

Bathometer: (Geology) An instrument used to measure the depth of water

Bathymetry: (Geology) The measurement of large bodies of water

Bedew: (Language) To wet with

Benthic : (Oceanography) The bottom of lakes or oceans

Benthos: (Biology) All plants/animals living on or associated with the bottom of a body of water

Besprinkle: (Language) Sprinkle all over with small drops

Bifurcate: (Geology) Dividing structure which splits the flow of water

Billabong: (Geology) A dead end channel extending from the main stream of a river

Billow: (Language) A large wave or swell of water

Blear: (Language) To dim with water or tears

Brackish: (Food) Having a salty taste

Calf: (Geology) A large floating chunk of ice

Canal: (Geography) Waterway

Conduit: (Geography) A channel for conveying water

Confluence: (Language) The act of flowing together

Contrail: (Language) A visible trail of streaks of condensed water

We hope you've enjoyed your besprinkling of water language this week. Which is your favourite water word? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Birch water: Super drink or super faddy?

In recent months, you may have noticed small clear glass bottles in the supermarket fridge, alongside your standard plastic bottles. I'm talking about birch water, the new, so called, 'super-drink'. It's usually over double the price of your bog standard mineral water, and it tends to be about half the size. So what's the fuss all about? Stick with us, and we'll tell you.

The lowdown

Simply put, birch water is sap directly tapped from birch trees. Birch water is naturally fermented, and can only be collected for one month of the year, this is generally in early spring. Traditionally, birch water has been enjoyed in Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine. In the past year or so, birch water has begun to creep into the UK and US markets, to the point where you can now pick it up alongside your sandwich at Boots.


Birch water has been touted as the cure all for everything from infertility to gout. But what benefits accompany that astronomical price tag?

Birch water, undeniably, packs quite the punch in chemical make up. This beverage contains (deep breath before reading all this); 17 amino acids, minerals, enzymes, proteins, heterosides, antioxidants, and vitamins. Now, that all sounds impressive, but what action do these buzzwords actually add up to?

Birch water is proven to detoxify, cleanse, and purify, it has great natural anti-inflammatory properties that will take care of your joints and bones. The xylitol in birch water will also help you to maintain a neutral pH level in your mouth, and prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth.

Are you fed up with all this health talk already? Just one more I promise, and it's a good one. Birch water is isotonic, which means it is about equal in concentration to your body fluids. The isotonic properties of birch water allows it to provide you with rapid hydration and electrolyte replacement. This makes birch water a great drink for replenishing after a heavy workout... or after drinking a few too many!

Pour it up

Usually, we shy away from the old, 'superfood' label, but we have to admit, there's a lot of good stuff in birch water. If you fancy trying this tipple, you can find it in your local supermarket or chemist, or even on Amazon. Do you already sip this tree juice on the regular? Let us know if you've noticed a difference to your health in the comment section below!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Hard water: Hard to deal with?

We all know the type of water that runs through our pipes, hard, soft, or somewhere in between. The real question is: what does it mean, and more importantly, does it matter? Drinking water in the UK is generally classified as 'very hard' (with a few exceptions in places such as Cornwall, Devon, and Wales), so in this blog, we'll be focusing on hard water.

Surprisingly, hard water is water with high mineral content. Hard water is produced when the natural path of water is through limestone and chalk deposits. This gives us water than contains dissolved compounds, these tend to be calcium or magnesium compounds. That, in a nutshell, is what makes our water 'hard'.

What does hard water do?

So, now we know what hard water is, but what does it do? The easiest way to spot hard water, is to try and lather soap in it. The dissolved calcium and magnesium ions in hard water make it more difficult to create a lather, instead forming soap scum. This means you'll need more soap when doing the washing up or washing your hair, and it may leave that slimy soap layer around your plug holes. You know the one.

Another sure-fire sign of hard water is the limescale it creates. For those amongst us lucky enough to have never dealt with limescale, limescale is a chalky white substance that forms in your kettle, boiler, and pipes. It is left there when hard water evaporates, leaving behind calcium carbonate (a.k.a. limescale) deposits. This can clog up your plumbing and restrict the flow of water. Limescale costs millions by clogging up industrial machines every year.

Hard water and our bodies

Less studied is the effect that hard water has on our bodies. Now, it has been linked to all sorts of phenomena, with some camps swearing it causes eczema and acne (these links have not been proven). Here's what we do know, hard water can make shampoo tougher to lather and rinse, meaning your hair can be a little duller than you might like. Studies have also linked hard water to the irritation of psoriasis in infants.

Give us the good news

We've given hard water some hard flak here (do excuse the pun), but what's the good news? Well, most people prefer the taste of hard water, agreeing that soft water can taste a little salty due to the increased sodium levels in soft water.

Calcium and magnesium are part of our dietary requirements, and hard water can be a great source of both, saving you mega bucks on supplements and health drinks. Some studies have even correlated hard water and lower cardiovascular disease mortality. Pour us a glass already!

To conclude

Your hard water lesson for today is complete! What do you think, is hard water a benefit or an issue? Let us know in the comment section below!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

The A-Z of water: A

There's no way around it, water can be a complex area to know. There's lots of keywords and terms bandied about by experts, that even we find confusing on occasion! To this end, we will be bringing you the A-Z of water terms, bringing you the secret, technical, and quirky language connected to H20.

In the words of the great Julie Andrews, 'Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start', today, we'll be covering the A words!

Accretion  (Hydrology) The process of accumulation by flowing water

Adfluvial: (Natural science) Migrating between lakes and rivers or streams

Aedile: (History) Elected official of Ancient Rome who supervised the water supply

Aerate: (Chemical) To supply or charge a liquid or body of water with gas

Alluvial: (Hydrology) Process/materials association with transportation or deposition by running water

Alluvion: (Hydrology) The flow of water against a shore or bank

Altum Mare: (History) A term used in old English law referring to the high or deep sea

Anabranch: (Geology) A diverging branch of a river, which then re-enters the main stream

Aneroid: (Chemical) Not using liquid

Anhydrous: (Chemical) Without water

Aquaduct: (Construction) Pipe/channel that transports water from a remote source

Aquanaut: (Hydrology) A person trained to live in underwater installations

Aquifier: (Geology) Soil or rock that stores/ transmits water

Aquifuse: (Geology) Formation that can't store/transmit water

Arroyo: (Geology) A water carved channel or gully in a dry country

Asperse: (Language) To sprinkle

Attenuation: (Hydrology) The diversion or slowing of the flow of water

There you have it, our A's of water. Which is your favourite water A word? We're loving 'alluvion'!

The history of sparkling water: What’s behind the bubbles?

Carbonated water

Sparkling, carbonated, fizzy, soda. Whatever you want to call it, we all know the fizzy sensation that comes with drinking a glass of the stuff, or as my friend calls it, ‘the fizzy burn’. What you might not know, is how we worked out how to make this refreshment.
Other drinks have been fizzy for far longer than water, many alcoholic beverages, such as beer and hampagne, have been carbonated through the fermentation process for centuries. Records show a chap called Christopher Merret created sparkling wine for the first time in 1662 (We are all very grateful to Christopher for this, I’m sure!).

When it comes to fizzy water, we have to send our gratitude to Joseph Priestly. In 1767, Priestly suspended a bowl of water over a beer vat in a brewery in Leeds, and dripped sulphuric acid onto chalk over the top, he discovered that this infused the water with carbon dioxide. In 1772, he released a paper describing this process as, ‘Impregnating water with fixed air’, and sparkling water was born.

Carbonated water
Super fizzy sparkling water
In the late eighteenth century, Johann Jacob Schweppe (recognise the name?) developed the first practical process to mass manufacture carbonated mineral water in Geneva based on Joseph Priestly’s research, finding the Schweppes Company in 1783. It eventually became popular in the UK, with King William IV even favouring the fizzy refreshment.
The introduction of carbonated water into mainstream society fundamentally changed the way that people drank. Previously, alcohol had been drunk straight, with no mixers or dilution. Post introduction, people began mixing their spirits with this carbonated water, and thus making it more socially acceptable to drink alcohol.

The sparkling water drank in those days probably tasted a little different than we are used to today. Many chemicals were added to the drinks to act as preservatives. In fact, up until World War 2, carbonated water was known as, ‘Soda water’, in the USA, due to the sodium salts it tended to contained. This is why Americans still refer to fizzy drinks as ‘soda’ today.

What's in your coffee?

What's in your coffee?

Admit it, you’re a coffee snob. Like me, you know exactly what beans are going in your cup of joe. You know where they’ve been grown, and that the people growing them have been paid fairly. But here’s a question, do you know what water is making your coffee? Your average cup of black coffee is made up of 98.75% water (you can definitely count this towards your eight glasses of water a day!). So, the quality of the water you use can make or break your beverage.

Now, the water best suited to your coffee is very much dependent on how you take it, the optimal water is different for brewed coffee and espresso. Whilst the water you use in your espresso will not affect your drink too much, the water you use in your brewed coffee matters. The flavour of coffee is contained within the oils of the beans themselves, this is bought out in the preparation. When you mix your coffee grounds with hot water, the heat and minerals in the water work together to extract the coffee flavour you know and love.

To ensure a flavourful coffee, there must be mineral content in your water, but more importantly, it must be the right combination of minerals. Too low a mineral content (you would find this in distilled water), and you’ll have a rather bitter cup of coffee. High bicarbonate or sodium levels in your coffee will also skew the taste of your coffee negatively. Interestingly, many bottled mineral waters are relatively high in sodium, as well as water that has been treated by water softeners, so avoid using these to make your morning coffee (or your elevenses coffee, or lunchtime coffee, mid-afternoon coffee, I could go on…).

So, what is the optimal water for your cup of coffee? The answer may surprise you. The best water for your coffee is hard water. This is water that is rich in magnesium and calcium, which helps to bring out the best in coffee flavouring compounds. It may surprise you to hear, that many of your favourite coffee shop prepare your drink with the stuff that comes straight out of the tap. Unfortunately, the quality of tap water varies regionally, and across time depending on rain fall. Your best bet would be to choose the right water filter, this would be one that limits flavour damaging minerals such as sodium and bicarbonate, whilst allowing magnesium and calcium through.

If all of this chemical talk is a bit much for you, just follow this simple rule. Fresh coffee needs fresh water! If water is left out too long, or is heated and cooled, it will lack the dissolved air that is important to the taste of coffee. Your flavour needs room to develop.

So there you have it, may your cup of coffee be every flavourful!