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Old 08-13-2013, 03:22 PM   #1
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Default Distilled with minerals same as Tap Water?

Hey guys,
I've been brewing with distilled water lately mostly because I like to control the minerals in the beer but I have recently been reading that distilled is not the way to go when brewing all grain. I use EZ water calculator to get my minerals to the appropriate levels and add gypsum, calcium chloride, and epsom salt to my mash to help with pH and flavor. I batch sparge with untreated distilled because I put all of the salts in the mash. I seem to not have a problem and have made great beers using this technique, but am now confused on the many posts I have read to not use distilled water, which leads me to my question:

Is distilled water with salts added to the mash the same as tap with with the same amount of minerals in it. For example, is tap water with ca 50, mg 5, Na 0, Cl 70, so4 40, hco3 97.....the same as distilled water with minerals added to produce those exact same numbers? Is the Alkalinity or RA different in the tap water? And why?

I did have my tap water tested by ward labs about a year ago and am guessing the mineral content has changed, which is another reason why I like using distilled because I know exactly what the water profile is.

Thanks guys!

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Old 08-13-2013, 05:16 PM   #2
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...the many posts I have read to not use distilled water, which leads me to my question:
I haven't seen any of those or if I have I haven't paid any attention to them because they are not worth bothering about.

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Is distilled water with salts added to the mash the same as tap with with the same amount of minerals in it.
Of course it is.

We might temper this absolute stance with a couple of remarks.

1) You would never make up a water from DI or RO which is identical in ion content to your tap water. Your tap water will contain bicarbonate and calcium ions. It is possible for you to emulate that water very closely but it would require you to add salts and then bubble CO2 through the water to dissolve the calcium carbonate and then continue the CO2 while monitoring pH until the pH of the tap water is reached. This is much more trouble than most are willing to undertake and not worth it in terms of the beer that would result. Rather than go this elaborate process most will ignore the Ca++/HCO3- question entirely and adjust mash pH with more or less alkali/acid as is necessary to get correct mash pH.

2) You wouldn't add copper sulfate or zinc choride or strontium nitrate to your water in order to match you tap water's nitrate, copper, zinc and strontium content. There would be no point in this. Nor, obviously would you introduce lead or arsenic traces in order to match the tap.

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For example, is tap water with ca 50, mg 5, Na 0, Cl 70, so4 40, hco3 97.....the same as distilled water with minerals added to produce those exact same numbers? Is the Alkalinity or RA different in the tap water? And why?
If you could make water with those specs then, yes, distilled water with those specs would be the same but you can't, practically speaking. Theoretically you could but the pH would be under 3 and as a consequence you would have to be under CO2 pressure of 135 atmospheres.


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I did have my tap water tested by ward labs about a year ago and am guessing the mineral content has changed, which is another reason why I like using distilled because I know exactly what the water profile is.
This is probably the best reason to use DI or RO water. Don't listen to the naysayers. I'm guessing that about half of homebrewers (or the ones that read this topic anyway) and an equal proportion of craft brewers are using RO.
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Old 08-13-2013, 05:30 PM   #3
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I have recently been reading that distilled is not the way to go when brewing all grain.
Without knowing exactly what you're reading, it's hard to say why you might be hearing that. If I had to guess, though, I'd say that you're hearing that straight distilled water is not what you want to use - which is absolutely true! Modified distilled water is fine, though. You're adding all the important trace minerals to the water and making it suitable for brewing.
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Old 08-13-2013, 05:33 PM   #4
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Excellent! This is exactly what i needed to hear because, like I said, I've been brewing with distilled and adding all my mineral additions to the mash to adjust pH and for flavor reasons. I am brewing a smoked baltic porter tomorrow with 100% distilled water and adding the necessary amounts of minerals to get to this water profile:

How do you think this looks for a baltic porter?

Mash Water / Total water (ppm):
Ca: 83 / 50
Mg: 4 / 3
Na: 0 / 0
Cl: 110 / 66
SO4: 69 / 41
Cl to SO4 Ratio: 1.60 / 1.60

Alkalinity (CaCO3): -107
RA: -169
Estimated pH: 5.45
(room temp)

I'm not sure if the yeast makes a difference in this sense but I will be using WLP 830 German Lager Yeast.

Thanks for the help AJ and I look forward to the water book you are helping Palmer with!

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Old 08-13-2013, 05:40 PM   #5
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Without knowing exactly what you're reading, it's hard to say why you might be hearing that. If I had to guess, though, I'd say that you're hearing that straight distilled water is not what you want to use - which is absolutely true! Modified distilled water is fine, though. You're adding all the important trace minerals to the water and making it suitable for brewing.
I figured that is what people meant by saying not to use distilled but I just wanted to be sure. As long as I am adding the proper amount of gypsum, calcium chloride, and epsom salt I should be alright correct?

I recently brewed a Pliny the Elder clone that is still in my fermentation fridge dry hopping, but I did sample it and it tasted excellent. I used Mosher's pale ale water profile for that and since that was an expensive beer to brew, I wanted to be sure I didn't mess it up. Thanks for the help
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:53 AM   #6
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Also, how do you guys feel about adding salt to the boil? London water profile has sodium at 100ppm via Ray Daniels book Designing Great Beers and he recommends adding some salt to the boil. Suggestions?

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Old 08-14-2013, 12:56 AM   #7
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Also, how do you guys feel about adding salt to the boil? London water profile has sodium at 100ppm via Ray Daniels book Designing Great Beers and he recommends adding some salt to the boil. Suggestions?
I'm not a fan of a lot of sodium in my beers. In small amounts it's ok, but a lot makes the beer taste funny.
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Old 08-14-2013, 01:13 AM   #8
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thanks Yooper for the heads up. I am trying to add a small amount but the EZ water calculator doesn't have a place to add table salt, so I am searching Designing Great Beers to crunch some numbers. What is the max Sodium ppm you added to a beer? And what would you suggest the max be?

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Old 08-14-2013, 01:21 AM   #9
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thanks Yooper for the heads up. I am trying to add a small amount but the EZ water calculator doesn't have a place to add table salt, so I am searching Designing Great Beers to crunch some numbers. What is the max Sodium ppm you added to a beer? And what would you suggest the max be?
I don't know that I ever thought about a "max", so I'm no help at all there.

I don't use EZ water (it's not been accurate for me) but I use bru'n water and I know it has a table salt (sodium chloride) addition. It also has a lot of helpful info on water and those additions like magnesium and sodium that you may find helpful.
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Old 08-14-2013, 01:29 AM   #10
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Awesome, I will look into that table and see what I come up. Thanks

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