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    “Water is vital for our future”: Water sommeliers like Dirk Scheu know everything about this precious liquid
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    25. August 2021
    7:55 min.
    Dirk Scheu, a long-standing Krones employee, is a freshly minted water sommelier. In this interview, he tells us more about this out-of-the-ordinary training course.
    • With 34 years of experience in the field, Dirk Scheu is a genuine water expert. From 2008 to 2021, he has worked in specialised sales and marketing for water treatment technology at Krones. Although he has meanwhile taken early retirement, the certified water sommelier continues to advise Krones on all things water.

    Sommelier is the French word for a wine steward, who is not only responsible for serving wine but is also a knowledgeable expert. Though originally meant for wine, there are now sommeliers for many foods and beverages, including water.

    Dirk Scheu is a freshly minted water sommelier and a definite expert in this field, something vividly demonstrated by his CV. After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Reutlingen, he has for 34 years (from 1987 up till now) worked for various companies – and his remit was invariably centred on water treatment. 

    He joined Krones AG in 2008, and most recently worked in specialised sales and marketing for the Hydronomic water treatment system. In mid-2021, Dirk Scheu took early retirement but he continues to advise Krones on anything to do with water.

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    In our interview, he shared some interesting details about this out-of-the-ordinary job or – as in his case – this unusual hobby.

    Mr Scheu, what can possibly make water so exciting that you want to become a sommelier for it?
    When you have dealt with a vast array of technologies for water treatment for over 30 years both in theory and in practice – from engineering and installation right through to commissioning and later on in sales as well – then it is only natural that you develop a deeper interest in the subject of water and get involved in complementary topics as well. That is precisely what being a sommelier means. It does not mean that you have to have special skills or talents in the field.

    I was lucky enough to get to know Dr. Peter Schropp of the Doemens Academy, who would later be my instructor, at a table-water tasting. Thanks to my time at Krones AG, I did actually know how to produce fine-tasting table water. But I hadn’t fully realised the vital role played in this context by the water’s various ions. And that is in fact important knowledge, especially for the experts at Krones, because our customers are increasingly approaching us with questions relating to the formulation and taste of water. As I see it, water is a very exciting topic.

    And how do you become a water sommelier?
    In my case, I attended an eight-day course at the Doemens Academy in Gräfelfing during my spare time in 2020. Demand for this course is huge, and it was pure coincidence that I managed to get hold of a free spot. The course addressed a wide range of aspects in regard to water, starting with the worldwide water situation, then the importance of drinking enough right through to basic sensory prerequisites, to name just a few of the far more than 20 subjects covered.

    The great number of different mineral waters, their categorisation and the laws that apply for their labelling then constitute important sections of the written examination at the end of the course. The final exam also includes a practical part, which covers subjects like water and wine or mineral water in the hospitality industry.

    What does a water sommelier do?
    As a water sommelier or sommelière, you are an ambassador for or advisor on anything to do with water in various fields: In the hospitality industry, a water sommelier can recommend to guests a water that pairs perfectly with their meal or wine. A water sommelier might also advise customers at cash-and-carry stores, who without the opportunity to sample the waters likely wouldn’t know that different waters actually taste different.

    Moreover, the water bottle’s label tells the sommelier whether the water in question is suitable for people who do a lot of sports, for example, or for women to counter osteoporosis, for an upcoming party, and so on. Quite apart from all this, a water sommelier training course is in my view a highly sensible complement for anyone whose job involves water in any way.


    What water constituents can you identify by taste?
    By definition, pure water – H2O – is neutral, that is, its pH value is 7. But if you were to taste such pure water, you would certainly say it has a sour or even bitter taste. In actual fact, though, water is only “sour” (acidic) when its pH value is below 7. When its pH value is above 7, it is referred to as “alkaline”.

    So why does neutral water taste sour or bitter? Because the “water” it is compared to is your own saliva. This is the neutral medium: You don’t yourself taste it, but it does contain a great number of different ions (“salts”) that are now absorbed by the pure water. And your taste buds react to the change in the saliva’s composition.

    From a certain concentration upwards (that must be above the detection threshold), you can, of course, sensorially identify various salts. The best-known among them is table salt, or in chemical terms sodium chloride (NaCl = one sodium ion and one chloride ion). If the water contains more than 200 milligrams per litre of this, it can already be identified as slightly salty. If we replace sodium with magnesium, the water’s taste tends to be bitter, for some also sweet. As you can see, water can taste quite different depending on its constituents.

    Does that take you to the point where you are able to identify different water brands in a blind tasting?
    If the water brands exhibit significant differences and can be tasted beforehand, that is conceivable. However, I don’t think it’s possible to distinguish between them in a genuine blind tasting, given the sheer diversity of brands on the market: There are more than 500 different mineral waters in Germany alone.

    What other constituents – apart from the ions – have an effect on a water’s aroma? 
    Carbonic acid (which yields carbon dioxide and water) influences the haptic experience when you’re drinking the water and, as indicated by the term “carbonic acid”, causes the water’s pH value to go down into the acidic milieu.

    What table water is permitted to contain

    The treatment processes approved for mineral water and table water essentially cover:

    • separation of volatile constituents like iron and sulphur compounds by means of filtration or decantation,
    • separation of iron, manganese and sulphur compounds, plus arsenic, using air, and
    • complete or partial removal of free carbonic acid by means of physical processes.

    So what should water taste like to suit your own personal preferences?
    I don’t have a favourite water. What I like best is a cool, slightly sparkling natural mineral water from my region, which I pour into a nice large-bowled, thin-walled crystal glass that’s been washed by hand. You see, even if it’s “only” water you can still celebrate your drink.

    Water is also the basic ingredient of many other beverages. What water qualities are ideal for which product, for instance beer, wine, soft drinks, juice or tea?
    This is a subject that fills volumes of books, and their expert authors are still unable to agree. As far as beer is concerned, we know that fully demineralised water does not work. If it were used for brewing, it would try very hard to absorb salts and/or minerals from the malt, thus impairing the finished beer’s taste.

    On the other hand, completely demineralised water would be ideally suited for rediluting juice from concentrate because the previously evaporated water is likewise fully demineralised. Frequently, however, this option is not used because complete demineralisation is, of course, more expensive than partial demineralisation.

    Article 25424
    In the Hydronomic water treatment system, the individual treatment steps are customised to suit each client’s financial and technological requirements.

    You have long been working for Krones and specialised in water treatment. What perceived importance do beverage producers attribute to this process field?
    Mineral water bottlers and breweries mostly rank water treatment among their top priorities. Mineral water bottlers are permitted to use only those treatment processes that are specified in the German Mineral and Table Water Ordinance.

    The mineral water itself must also be continually monitored because the technical tolerances for the water’s constituents have likewise been specified by law. And globally operating beverage companies, who want their products to taste the same all over the world, usually scrutinise their bottlers’ water supplies. Often, they even issue instructions to their licensees, specifying what process steps to use for what mains water / raw water.

    Futurologists have for quite some time now been issuing statements warning of a global water shortage, of a “world water crisis” and a “distribution war” for water. What is your stance on this issue, and where do you see possible solutions?
    This is an extremely complex question. No doubt about it: All life on Earth depends on water to survive. Water circulates, which means its quantity neither increases nor decreases. But it changes its state of aggregation, becoming ice, forming clouds, and so on. In my view, there is enough water for humankind. And here’s the big “BUT”: Far too many people do not have access to clean drinking water. Here in Europe, we are lucky enough to have plenty of potable water.

    Would you have known it?

    • 2.4 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water.

    • The average German consumes approximately 145 litres of drinking water a day, in the shower, for example, for flushing the toilet, running the washing machine or dish washer, washing the car or watering the garden. Each person drinks only about two to three litres of this huge amount.

    • According to the German Federal Environmental Agency, the “water footprint” in Germany is actually 3,900 litres per person and day. This figure includes the indirect water consumption for manufacturing products used in daily life: from bread to the car right through to the mobile phone.

    Source: German Federal Environmental Agency (only in German)

    What responsibility does the international beverage industry bear in this context?
    Major responsibility, in my view, because it uses a raw material that belongs to all humankind. And in so doing, the companies concerned also incur an obligation to handle it with care and with a view to long-term viability. What I want to say is that the international drinks industry must design and implement their beverage-production processes so as to make sure that a) the precious resource, water, is optimally utilised and b) no wastewater is produced that later generations will only be able to recover at great cost and effort. Meticulous attention must also be paid to issues like groundwater table drawdown.

    On the flip side, what opportunities does this open up for the international beverage industry?
    Since all life depends on water, this sector will always be necessary. But even today we aren’t able to supply the people on our planet with enough drinking water. Since water quality continues to deteriorate across the globe, water treatment, that is, the removal of toxic or carcinogenic substances, is absolutely essential. Therefore, humankind will continue to depend on packaged drinking water.

    In future, “Water Design” will be available at Krones as a consultancy service, which covers the creation and filling of perfectly customised water for our clients. The following remains true for the international beverage industry, of course: Water is vital for our future.

    New: Ultra-pure water thanks to electrodeionisation 

    Krones offers its customers an option for combining their Hydronomic systems with a module for electrodeionisation (EDI). They can thus create ultra-pure water – and beverage companies can then produce exactly the water they want, by adding the ions needed. This process of electrodeionisation will be used for the first time in a Hydronomic water treatment system in Saudi Arabia.

    Read more


    25. August 2021
    7:55 min.

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