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Old 01-24-2013, 11:42 AM   #1
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Default Diving into Water Chemistry

I've been brewing for about 6 years (about 4 All Grain), and have come to the conclusion that there are three important steps to getting good beer.
1 - Sanitation. This is easy, and should be the first thing any brewer does.
2 - Temperature control. This part is harder, takes more time and skill, but makes huge differences in every step of the process.
3 - Water Chemistry. This is the part I'm trying to get into...

I got the Ward Labs report with the following info:
pH - 8.0

Na - 4
K - 1
Ca - 18
Mg - 2
NO3-N - 0.2
SO4-S - 4
Cl - 6
CO3 - 3
HCO3 - 56
CaCO3 - 51

I'm trying to read through all the various posts and references to figure out what it all means. For the experts among you - am I screwed, or heading in the right direction? Thank you.

-Kevin

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Old 01-24-2013, 12:30 PM   #2
ajdelange
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I'd change Item 2 to temperature and pH control. Three quarters of the effort that goes into water manipulation is directed towards establishing proper mash pH. You can visit http://www.wetnewf.org/pdfs/a-differ...ective-on.html to see why this is important and perhaps learn something about pH from a brewer's perspective.

Your water is pretty good - you are lucky to have it. Your alkalinity (what you have labeled CaCO3) is 1 ppm higher than the 50 we usually consider to be the upper end of the desirable range. This is easily disposed of by either diluting it away with RO water or treatment with acid. If you choose the former path (which is probably the simplest depending on how easy it is for you to get RO water) then the Primer here will get you started. If you choose to neutralize with acid then look at http://www.wetnewf.org/pdfs/alkalini...tion-with.html.

As your alkalinity is so low you don't really have to do either. Most of your beers will come out fine with no treatment to this water though most would be improved by adding some calcium chloride (see Primer) and/or calcium sulfate (gypsum) if you like the effects of sulfate (dry, assertive hops bitterness). Especially try to get the chloride up as it rounds out the beer and improves mouth feel. Most of your beers will also improve by the addition of some acid as the pH is likely to be a tad high especially for lighter beers. Doubtless the most convenient way to add acid is through sauermalz (see Primer). It gets a bit tricky when you move to darker beers as the highly colored malts contain acid and if you use lots of them you can pull pH too low. In these cases you will want to add more alkalinity to the water and there are spreadsheets and calculators abroad to help you do that but going back to the first point in this post: you want to know what actual pH values are. IMO a pH meter is as much a part of a brewers kit as his thermometer an hydrometer.

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Old 01-24-2013, 12:33 PM   #3
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Fine water, go and brew! You will likely want to add some minerals to that water depending upon the beer style you are brewing, but that is much easier than trying to take those minerals out!

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Old 01-24-2013, 03:16 PM   #4
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Thank you both. I have wasted (at least, from my employer's perspective) a good portion of the morning studying the links from AJ as well as the information in the primer and about anything else I can get my hands on. More needs to be done, but at least I'm comfortable that the water at my place is resonably good - I just moved, so at least this house has something right!

-Kevin

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2014:
5gal Scottish Wee Heavy
5gal Saison
15gal American Pale Ale
20gal Belgian Wit
10gal Oktoberfest
10gal Southern Pecan Ale

Keg 1: Apfelwein
Keg 2: Oktoberfest
Keg 3: Southern Pecan

On Deck: Winter Spice Ale
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