Water Is Not Something We Think About


Clean, refreshing water, free of bacteria and viruses.  That’s what we want and we take it for granted that it will always be there.  But restaurant owners have to work to make sure their water is clean, safe and good tasting for customers.

That’s where water filtration systems come in.  They clean the water that comes in through the pipes and then disinfect it to make sure nothing is there that shouldn’t be.  But the chemicals to do that can often leave a very unpleasant aftertaste.

I remember being at a hotel bar with some friends and one commenting, “This place could use your filters.  The drinks really taste like chlorine.”  It wasn’t coming from the water but from the glass, leftover residual on it from a low-temperature machine with a chlorine-based process.

Did you ever go to a diner and see a coffee cup with lipstick on it, or ever get a plate with a piece of dried-up egg yolk on it?  Generally it’s from a low-temperature machine.  They don’t clean as well.  A lot of diners use low temp because their chemical guys give them the machine and sell chemicals into it.  It’s safe, it’s disinfected, but it’s not necessarily something you want to eat or drink out of.

Water filtration systems come in different configurations.  Some products, like our Endurance, do fine filtration followed by finer filtration, and it’s really high-flow, 50 gallons a minute.  Endurance SC, our other model in this product line, has ultra fine filtration and it’s self-cleaning.  It has that ultra fiber membrane that cleans itself.

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But our product that does the most for restaurants, and filtration, is our MRS600, a 600-gallon per day mineral reduction system that allows you to reduce the amount of dissolved solids in your water.  You can reduce none of it or all of it or anything in between and it’s got a blend valve that allows you to go through the reverse osmosis membrane and blends filtered water back with it.

Why should restaurant owners care about this?

I’ll tell you why.  For every gallon saved of water that is made, you send 3 to 4 down the drain as waste.  When you start employing a pressure pump on it and get more efficiency out of it, it’s more one to one. It takes two gallons of water to make one gallon, and one gallon is waste.  With the MRS600, for every gallon you make, you only send one quart down the drain.

But it’s more than energy-efficiency and conservation that foodservice operations worry about.  Safety is paramount.

A lot of establishments, like the diner I mentioned, use low-temperature machines.  They’re fine, they do the job most of the time, but then there’s that instance when dried food turns up on your clean plates.  Not very appetizing, or something that would cause a customer to want to return.

It’s all about disinfecting your water, and how you choose to do it.  With low-temperature machines, you have to use chemicals because the water never gets hot enough to kill the bacteria.  We have a client who’s putting in a glass washer and is worried about having to polish the spots out of his glasses because he’s using a low-temperature machine.  I explained to him what I’d do.  Put a good filter on the front of it, and that will usually do it.  But it’s a cold-water feed, using chemical disinfectant instead of hot water to kill all the germs.  Hot-water machines don’t use the chemicals that can make your drinks taste like chlorine.

With a low-temperature machine, you’re going to see a film at the end.  It’s not because of the water; it’s because of the chemical additives they put in as a disinfectant.  If you’re worried about the spots, aside from that, if you don’t get all the particles out of the water, you’re asking for trouble.

Here’s how it works.  All machines will run at about 140 degrees incoming water to clean dishes and pots and glasses. But to ensure that your dishware is clean, you need 180 degrees and above.  And those are the high-temp machines.

A high-temp machine, on the other hand, has a booster heater that’s underneath the machine, that, at the final rinse, feeds hot water from the boiler wherever it is – in the basement, in the back of the house, wherever – to the dishwasher.  You have to bring the temperature up over 180 degrees for hot-water disinfection to take place.  If you maintain your machine over 180 degrees, there’s nothing that can live through that final process.  It kills all the bacteria and viruses and all that might be in there.

What a low-temp machine will do is run at or below 140-degree water (some even run at 110) but to make sure your dishware is safe and sanitary, instead of using hot water, you have to spray on a chlorine-based chemical and that’s your disinfectant. That disinfectant is going to leave a little film on the dishware.

So, as I said earlier, if you go to a place like the hotel bar, where obviously a low-temp machine was in use, very often your guests will taste the chlorine.  And that’s not good for business!

Sometimes the opposite can happen, however, and our systems take care of that, too.  One client is opening a new coffee bar in Manhattan and New York City water tends to be very clean, very little mineral content.  A lot of people say New York doesn’t have enough mineral in the water for a good cup of coffee, it’s only 55 parts per million (ppm) of dissolved solids.  The client wanted it up above 180, so we used our Endurance system.  We’d already had some experience with that.

Earlier in the year, at a trade show, we filled up 400 five-gallon plastic water jugs that were distributed to every one exhibiting, and we not only filtered the New York City water but blended back in some calcium carbonate, some hardness, to meet their required recipe.  So we brought it up.

The MRS600 system has a blend valve and you test the water coming through. We run it over a cartridge that’s embedded with calcium carbonate and when you run the water over it, it dissolves a little into it.  We showed this to her but she then said she wanted magnesium in there, too.

No worries!  We also happen to have a magnesium feeder, actually a neutralizing cartridge, magnesium oxide, that will dissolve the magnesium oxide into the water. It won’t cause it to scale — magnesium carbonate or bi-carbonate would scale, magnesium oxide won’t – and it will add magnesium to the water and bring the pH up a little bit.  That’s what she’s putting into her coffee shop.

And that’s what I call a satisfied customer.

Endurance systems are filtered but will not change the chemistry of the water. The MRS600 is a combination water filtration and reverse osmosis system, which allows you to blend the chemistry to where you want it.  So, if you have 200 ppm of dissolved solids, and you want 100 ppm, you could run half the water, and through reverse osmosis, that will strip that water bare of any dissolved solids, then run the other filtered water and blend them back together, essentially cutting the dissolved solids down to half. It’s a great system that I love working with.

And the client?  She’s not at all unusual.  People are getting more and more particular these days, profiles have changed, and there’s huge demand.  Starbucks or McDonald’s or convenience stores like Wa Wa, they’re coming in and saying, this is the quality we want, we sell so much coffee we want it of the highest quality. We help them get it there.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact me at brian.madden@pentair.com.