In the past two weeks I've had a love affair with distilled water. I'm not crazy, and the other half doesn't have anything to worry about, but it is seriously amazing stuff.
I grew up across the country, at sea level, and with water that wasn't hard.* In my new home I follow the high altitude direction on the back of brownies (though it's not at all the same) and finally understand what all those infomercials about removing calcium deposits mean.
Growing up we used dried beans as often, if not more often, than canned ones so I was familiar with how to soak and cook beans. Despite the familiarity, the calls to mom, and the recipes I got online were not working out. Even after cooking all day (at 7 hours I stopped counting) my beans were a chalky mess with skins falling off. They were to a point where we could eat them, but it was not a pleasant experience.
For a few weeks I reverted to canned beans and then a mix of stubbornness and frugality kicked in. I'm a vegetarian, so we go through a lot of beans. Researching methods on how to cook beans, instead of looking at recipes, produced a helpful tip- distilled water. The minerals that make water hard and beans don't get along. Throw in altitude, which reduces atmospheric pressue and as a result the boiling point, and my bean making efforts were doomed when using tap water.
Since learning about using distilled water I've made beans twice with great results. Sunday night I put beans in a container for an overnight soak and was amazed** at how quickly they were expanding. So if you have hard water, or dried beans just won't cook for you, give distilled water a try.
*There's soft water and hard water, what do we call the stuff in between? Regular?
**Amazed to the point where I made Gameboy come look