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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Brew Science > Do breweries adjust water profiles?
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Old 02-10-2013, 08:19 PM   #1
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Default Do breweries adjust water profiles?

I'm still somewhat new to brewing. I've currently made 5 all grain batches and continually seek to improve my process and lower costs. I currently use Ozarka Spring water with no adjustments. I would like to get away from purchasing spring water and investigate ways to use my tap water. In general, do all breweries adjust their water to target certain profiles for different styles of beer? I understand the mash pH is the main focus, but didn't now if they adjust sulfates for bitter beers, add calcium, etc. This may also depend on a brewery's local water profile, but I couldn't find any information to see if breweries add salts to their water and for what purpose (mash pH or also to enhance certain styles).

Thanks

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Old 02-10-2013, 08:40 PM   #2
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Have you read the primer? No need to over think it at this point. You just need to understand the basics of what water makes a good beer to YOUR taste.

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Old 02-10-2013, 09:15 PM   #3
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Yes, I read the primer which was very informative. I was just curious if anyone knew if breweries, in general, adjusted their water and for what purpose. The reason I ask about breweries is there is one locally that I have heard only filters their water using a charcoal filter and no other adjustments. I definitely plan on using the primer as a resource for my brewing.

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Old 02-10-2013, 09:24 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by oujens View Post
Yes, I read the primer which was very informative. I was just curious if anyone knew if breweries, in general, adjusted their water and for what purpose. The reason I ask about breweries is there is one locally that I have heard only filters their water using a charcoal filter and no other adjustments. I definitely plan on using the primer as a resource for my brewing.
Unless you are trying to clone a specific beer just knowing what some random brewery does or doesn't do with their water isn't really very helpful. There are plenty of craft brews I don't care for and really don't care what they do with their water because I don't care for the beer.
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:42 PM   #5
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I completely agree with you there. I was just curious if there was a standard industry practice (to monitor mineral content for taste). For me, I'm thinking about decreasing the size of my batches and experimenting with different variables, so water treatment will be one of those. After reading the primer again I realize this question won't really help my process, I guess its just more for my knowledge. For all the tours I've been on, I have never asked about the water but I have inquired about everything else. Just when I thought I had everything mapped out a new variable is entered into the equation. I'm an analyst by day, so this hobby is a perfect fit for me.

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Old 02-10-2013, 09:43 PM   #6
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Some do and some don't, as you might expect. Michael Lewis at UCD taught his students that water was the brewing equivalent of terroir and that one ought not fiddle with it but rather brew beers that fit the water and so give them 'house character'. His students tend to do things that way. Others like to experiment. Colin Kaminsky (Downtown Joes) comes immediately to mind as he is writing a book on brewing water treatment.

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Old 02-10-2013, 10:26 PM   #7
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I figured that is probably how it is. As Hermit stated, why worry if it tastes good to you? I can understand why or why not a brewery would do it. Thanks for the input from both of you.

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Old 02-11-2013, 12:41 AM   #8
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I figured that is probably how it is. As Hermit stated, why worry if it tastes good to you? I can understand why or why not a brewery would do it. Thanks for the input from both of you.
You're quite welcome but it was originally AJ that pointed out that chasing 'historic' water profiles could be an exercise in futility and we should be more concerned about pleasing our own pallets. Certainly understanding what effects the flavor profile is becoming more well understood. I found an old text on the Burton water. Different wells had different profiles. Someone of the time actually did a clone and accused the brewers of the area of adulterating their water because he could only reproduce their beers by adding gypsum. He had to do a retraction when he found out the water of the area was naturally high in gypsum but the take away from that is gypsum probably is enough to do a pale ale to that style. After that you just worry about things like calcium to keep the yeast happy and get a good break and your own taste preference.
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:19 PM   #9
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Some do and some don't, as you might expect. Michael Lewis at UCD taught his students that water was the brewing equivalent of terroir and that one ought not fiddle with it but rather brew beers that fit the water and so give them 'house character'. His students tend to do things that way. Others like to experiment. Colin Kaminsky (Downtown Joes) comes immediately to mind as he is writing a book on brewing water treatment.
I despise when AJ quotes Michael Lewis' very flawed advice to leave water as it is because it is their terroir. Using that advice, I suppose I could refine a recipe for an Indianapolis Stout. But I'm screwed if I want any other styles? Needless to say that is not a workable or wise for anyone wanting to brew more than what their water allows and it would be commercially infeasible for ANY commercial brewery to do so. AJ, please let that pearl from an otherwise illustrious researcher, die.

Yes, many commercial breweries do adjust their water to better fit the needs of the mash and the flavor they want in their product.
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:25 PM   #10
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Yes, many commercial breweries do adjust their water to better fit the needs of the mash and the flavor they want in their product.
And something that I've learned (I have very high bicarbonate water) is that simply boiling the water can be a "water treatment", and an effective one, to reduce the alkalinity of the water and make it usable for many beer styles!

I'm not sure how many breweries do that, but I would assume that some do.

I know some breweries go to more lengths- water systems and so on, while others set up in a place with fairly neutral water on purpose so they can use city water (Summit Brewing Company and Surly Brewing in Minneapolis come to mind).

Mark Stutrud himself told me that they use St. Paul city water, and that's why they built the brewery there.
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