Water.....

Brewing processes and methods. How to brew using extract, partial or all-grain. Tips and tricks.

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Water.....

Postby wingsfan61 » Sun Mar 15, 2015 8:32 am

I live in the Burbs of Chicago. I have been doing all grain brewing for just under a year and (in my opnion) made some good brews. I have never used anything but tap water, never had it tested, dont know the Ph or anything... Am I in the minority?
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Re: Water.....

Postby jawbox » Sun Mar 15, 2015 10:53 am

probably not based on your length of brewing. Where in the Chicago burbs? I'm in Dundee.
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Re: Water.....

Postby slothrob » Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:41 pm

I brewed for a few years before I started altering my water.

I probably started treating my water to remove chloramine, sooner. Eventually, I started adding Calcium Chloride and Calcium Sulfate to try to improve clarity, then started worrying about pH to reduce tannins. It helped that I was able to easily get a water profile from BeerTools Pro, which matched the analysis supplied by the state, and that Kai Troester's water calculators started appearing at about the same time. I had a pack of ColorpHast pH strips around, so I started using them to check that the resulting mash pH was close to the calculation (adding 0.3 to the measured pH to match Kai's observations of their accuracy in wort).
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Re: Water.....

Postby wingsfan61 » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:33 pm

JawBox, Im in Huntley..
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Re: Water.....

Postby jawbox » Fri Mar 20, 2015 6:43 pm

I'm guessing Huntley is on well water. I would send it in to Ward Labs. If its anything like Dundee its horrid for brewing.
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Re: Water.....

Postby slothrob » Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:50 am

From other brewers I've talked to from that area, it tends to be high in Carbonate and low in Calcium; is that your experience Jawbox?

That type of water is almost certainly going to create a high pH mash for all but the darkest, Munich Malt-rich beers. It's also going to benefit from Calcium Chloride and Gypsum additions, where appropriate, but probably going to require acid addition to get the mash pH in line for pale beer.

Some characteristics of mash that is high in pH are beers that don't clear well and have higher astringency. Some brewers also feel that a high pH can dull hop flavor. These are typically exaggerated in paler beer, so you might find that your amber-to-brown beers clear well and your pale beers stay hazy, if you water needs modification.
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Re: Water.....

Postby jawbox » Thu Mar 26, 2015 6:13 pm

Here's a copy of an old post

you'll be close using all zeros i sent in my water to ward labs after running through my RO.

Here's the results pre and post RO filter, and note I have crap water for brewing.


Pre-Filter RO
Sodium 78 17
Calcium 95 <1
Magnesium 50 1
Total Hardness 446 4
CO3 <1 <1
HC03 378 28
Chloride 164 20
Sulphate 15 <1
Total Alkalinity 310 23

The only way to know for sure is sending it in for testing. Do a search for ward labs they have a household test that should give you everything you need to know for brewing. However, you might be able to get this info from your municipality

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Re: Water.....

Postby jawbox » Thu Mar 26, 2015 6:14 pm

I would seriously consider picking up RO water from your local grocery store. Unless you like Stouts
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Re: Water.....

Postby slothrob » Fri Mar 27, 2015 6:50 am

That's some hard water! That's tough to work with. Acid will reduce the Carbonate, but leave the Magnesium and Chloride. Preboiling would reduce the Magnesium, but leave the Chloride. You probably would need to preboil, dilute 3-fold with RO, then add acid to reduce the pH, to get everything down to desirable range. But then your Calcium would be a little low, so you would probably need to add Pickling Lime to the water, before boiling, in order to have enough Calcium remaining. What a headache.
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Re: Water.....

Postby jawbox » Sat Mar 28, 2015 11:31 pm

Which is pretty much why I just start with a relatively blank canvas with RO. Just too much of a pain to work with. Probably biggest impact I made on my beers was getting that water tested.
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Re: Water.....

Postby slothrob » Sun Mar 29, 2015 7:58 am

jawbox wrote:Which is pretty much why I just start with a relatively blank canvas with RO. Just too much of a pain to work with. Probably biggest impact I made on my beers was getting that water tested.

I would do the same.
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Re: Water.....

Postby Mesa Maltworks » Sat Jan 09, 2016 6:24 pm

It seems like a great idea to strip everything out of your water (RO/DI) but actually the most important thing is pH and water that does include some minerals. One reliable method of making sure your water is ok is to blend spring water with RO. This will add back some minerals that your yeast will like, will add to the texture of the beer and will not adversely affect your hopping practices. Adjust your water addition to be around pH 6 (phosphoric or lactic acid as needed). The buffering capacity of the malt should lower this pH to the optimal range of 5.2 to 5.4. There are also subtleties to unadulterated water that are positive contributors to beer texture so to exclude something like spring water addition and instead trying to build up the water via additives will not create the same result.

Now, divergence.... Other than in areas where there are severe water issues, most commercial brewers try not to mess with their water beyond basic requirements. This is because since water is over 90% of any beer it has a huge effect on technical brewing procedures as well as the final perception by the consumer. The brewers consider their water composition as a differentiation for their products. In the distillation industry this is why they are located where they are.... the water.
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