Water Treatment Systems

Types: Water treatment systems for commercial foodservice operations filter and/or soften water and are available in configurations specifically designed for beverage dispensers, ice machines, coffee brewers, warewashing machines, kitchen water sources and espresso machines. They are also available as both standard and optional features on various pieces of steam-using equipment, such as steamers, combi ovens and steam-jacketed kettles.


Centralized filtration systems service multiple equipment units simultaneously, while individual filtration systems work with a single piece of equipment.

Water treatment systems fall into three broad categories. Chemical-reduction filters remove microorganisms and chemicals from water, "softening" it for use in various applications. Since these systems use chemicals to treat water, they are typically rated by the amount of water they can filter. Mechanical filters remove harmful particulates from water, such as dirt and cysts. The type and amount of particulates that are filtered determine the life of mechanical filters. Multipurpose filters remove both chemicals and particulates.

Capacities/Footprints: Water filtering and softening units are available in capacities that range from small, single cartridges used for treating water flowing through an espresso machine, to multi-cartridge systems that filter and/or soften all water entering large foodservice facilities. Though water treatment systems are generally rated based on the amount of water they filter or particulates they remove, they are also classified by how much water they can filter in a given amount of time, typically one minute.

Standard Features: Filter cartridges are housed in plastic, ceramic or aluminum casings and attach either to a piece of equipment or an incoming water line. Though systems vary, they should be NSF-tested and -certified under two "Drinking Water Treatment Systems" standards: Standard 42-Aesthetic Effects, governing taste, odor, chlorine and particulate reduction; and Standard 53-Health Effects, governing turbidity, cyst and asbestos reduction. NSF/ANSI Standards 55 and 58 apply to ultraviolet and reverse-osmosis systems, respectively. NSF also tests and certifies components, like cartridges and parts, for filter systems.

Optional Features: Treatment systems are available with controls including mechanical, electronic, time clock or water flow control options. Pre-filter kits that attach to existing water treatment systems are available for foodservice operations where water contains excessive levels of contaminants.

New Features/Technology/Options: One manufacturer offers a newer four-step filter that includes an ion exchanger, activated carbon and particle filtration. This technology reduces heavy metals, decarbonizes, improves water's odor and taste, reduces chlorine and chlorine compounds, reduces organic impurities, and removes particles and organic particles.

Manufacturers also offer water treatment systems infused with antimicrobial agents, which prevent bacteria from growing in the system itself.

A new binder-free carbon filter features hollow carbon technology, which removes more dirt and offers a longer service life than traditional carbon block filters.

Prime Functions: Water treatment systems utilize filters to break down and remove corrosive chemicals in water lines such as chloramines, chlorine and ammonia that can build up as scale and slime and damage equipment. They also remove health hazards found in water such as particulates, fibers such as asbestos and Cryptosporidium and Giardia cysts.

Key Kitchen Applications: Foodservice operators can use water filter systems with virtually any equipment that utilizes water. Properly filtered water used in foodservice facilities can extend the life and reduce the maintenance costs of expensive equipment by eliminating mineral buildup. Systems that reduce total dissolved solids or hardness are commonly used with ice machines, steamers and coffee/tea machines.

Some operators have created signature bottled water using filtration systems.

Purchasing Guidelines: Before purchasing a water filter, determine the filter flow rate. Equipment that needs water has a minimum flow and pressure requirement that filters need to accommodate. Hot and cold water treatment requires different filter types. For operations with highly contaminated water, a filtration system with a pre-filter is recommended.

Maintenance Requirements: Foodservice operators should thoroughly clean and sanitize equipment such as steamers and ice machines before installing water filtering systems. Change filtration cartridges in ice machines every month, and filters for most other types of equipment every six months. Filter life varies from location to location based on use and an operation's water quality.

Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Installing water filtration systems can eliminate the possibility of serving contaminated water, water-based beverages and foods to customers.