How much Water in your Water?

Ever wondered how much water it takes to make a pot of coffee?
I hadn’t.  At least until I saw today’s blurb on The Economist about new research exploring the true amount of water it takes to produce and transport beverages.

I’ve certainly wasted my share of water homebrewing beer.  No doubt more liquid volume goes down the drain than in my belly… and I’m buying already malted barley, which is apparently the most water-intensive part of the whole process.
I’ll be honest, I don’t totally understand WHY it takes so much more water to make a liter of coffee (1,120 liters of water) compared to a liter of tea (120 liters of water).  Even the rather informative waterfootprint.org product gallery doesn’t go into much detail.

A pretty interesting way of looking at beverages.

4 Responses to “How much Water in your Water?”

  1. Dan Says:

    Maybe it’s counting the water needed to grow the respective plants?

  2. Kevin O'Mara Says:

    I’m assuming, in the coffee vs. tea debates, that they are counting such items as:
    - weight of materials needed to make a liter (tea leaves weighing far less than coffee beans) and how this factors into transport cost
    - production needs (tea leaves can be dried naturally, coffee needs to be dried then roasted)
    - growth needs (as Dan pointed out above)
    - and who knows, maybe even cleanup after drink production?

  3. dranktank Says:

    At the very bottom of that graph, in tiny print it says “*excluding water to grow tree” and the “*” is only referring to sheet paper. I guess that out of that list, it is the only one that depends exclusively on natural rain instead instead of irrigation.

    Re: Coffee /vs/ Tea… here’s one: Maybe coffee is more of a diuretic than tea… therefore people pee more when they drink coffee… and then use more toilet water?

  4. seth Says:

    Easy. Pretty much all of those items require craploads of washing or cooling. Ever seen how coffee beans are processed? They literally float the beans in water. Also- I used to work in a restaurant and manned the giant Hobart meat slicer. The thing had to be cleaned several times a day: Taken apart, scrubbed, run through dishwasher. I imagine a meat packing plant has to use enormous amounts of water to keep the place clean.

    Leather requires several baths in things like lye and chemicals. Watch the Dirty Jobs episode where Mike goes to a tanning factory. In regards to computer chips, that equipment runs at very high temperatures and has to be cooled, hence coolant such as water, etc etc to keep it running smoothly.

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