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Old 10-07-2013, 03:09 AM   #1
DonnieZ
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Default Do I even bother with this water at all to brew with?

This year I made the jump from extract to all grain. Though it's fun as my first trip to Las Vegas, I've only made one beer so far that was remotely drinkable out of about 6 or 7 batches.

I think my sanitation is good, I generally make yeast starters when required, and I've got a temperature controlled fermentation chamber (Chest Freezer with STC-1000.).

The only beer I made that was remotely drinkable was a super light ale with about 14 IBUs. I generally brew IPAs, but that's what I like to drink and I'd like to get this right.

So far I've figured out that our city's water uses chloramines after talking with other guys in our brew club. I also was asking around at the LHBS and one of the guys who works there made a call to someone at the water department and got me a water report!

I've been listening to the TBN's Brew Strong Water Chemistry parts 1-4, I'm halfway through Palmer's "How To Brew", and I've watched a few YouTube videos on water chemistry. (Most involve John Palmer to some capacity, some might think I'm Internet stalking the guy..)

After reading the report, applying my newly learned knowledge, and putting these values into EZ Water 3.0 and Palmer's spreadsheet, I'm thinking the water in my town is just about useless for all but the darkest stouts:

Here's the pertinent info:

Alkalinity: 267
Sulfate: 40
Calcium: 60
Magnesium: 18.8
Sodium: 40
Chloride: 24

Now alkalinity is just listed on this water report as "Alkalinity", not Bicarbonate or Alkalinity as CaCO3. I'm assuming it's the latter. Using Palmer's spreadsheet I have to dilute this 90-95% with distilled water to get into the SRM below 10. I'm wondering if there's a nonlinear calculation when you get to the extreme ends of the scale here.

In other words, I'm guessing it might be easier to build up distilled water than try and dilute and adjust my tap water.

Water chemistry is making my head spin. I know that Palmer states that water should be one of the last things you look at to adjust if your beers aren't coming out as desired, but I think this water is pretty far off the scale.

(BTW.. These water figures are for Joliet, IL, straight from the city. These values are for West of Larkin Ave. Values for East of Larkin are as follows, following the same order as above: 286, 164, 81.9, 60, 28.5, 41.1, 60)

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Old 10-07-2013, 03:30 AM   #2
ajdelange
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonnieZ View Post
So far I've figured out that our city's water uses chloramines after talking with other guys in our brew club.
See
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/cam...-water-361073/
if you don't know what to do about chloramine.

I also was asking around at the LHBS and one of the guys who works there made a call to someone at the water department and got me a water report!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DonnieZ View Post
I've been listening to the TBN's Brew Strong Water Chemistry parts 1-4, I'm halfway through Palmer's "How To Brew", and I've watched a few YouTube videos on water chemistry. (Most involve John Palmer to some capacity, some might think I'm Internet stalking the guy..)
Try to put most of that out of your head. In the process of writing his new book John learned a lot about water chemistry. Much of what was in his earlier books etc is out the window.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DonnieZ View Post
After reading the report, applying my newly learned knowledge, and putting these values into EZ Water 3.0 and Palmer's spreadsheet, I'm thinking the water in my town is just about useless for all but the darkest stouts:

Alkalinity: 267
Sulfate: 40
Calcium: 60
Magnesium: 18.8
Sodium: 40
Chloride: 24
That's not a bad conclusion though you can brew other beers with this water simply by adding acid (phosphoric is the most flavor neutral) to the water until the pH is about 5.4 and then treating the water, from the alkalinity POV, as if it were RO. Or you can cut it 6:1 or more with RO or use straight RO and follow the recommendations of the Primer at
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/bre...primer-198460/
to get you started.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DonnieZ View Post
Now alkalinity is just listed on this water report as "Alkalinity", not Bicarbonate or Alkalinity as CaCO3. I'm assuming it's the latter.
That's a good assumption

Quote:
Originally Posted by DonnieZ View Post
Using Palmer's spreadsheet I have to dilute this 90-95% with distilled water to get into the SRM below 10. I'm wondering if there's a nonlinear calculation when you get to the extreme ends of the scale here.
Trying to match water chemistry to beer color is one of the concepts that is definitely passe. There is a correlation but it is much too loose (Pearson's r is much too small) to allow color to be used as a design driving parameter. 6:1 or more dilution is a good idea because it gets your alkalinity below 50 regardless of the color of the beer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DonnieZ View Post
In other words, I'm guessing it might be easier to build up distilled water than try and dilute and adjust my tap water.
If you have a readily accessible supply of low ion content water (RO is good enough for this) then use of it is definitely a robust, reliable and simple way to go. The Primer is based on this concept.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DonnieZ View Post
I know that Palmer states that water should be one of the last things you look at to adjust if your beers aren't coming out as desired,
I think you will find he is singing a different song currently.

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Originally Posted by DonnieZ View Post
... but I think this water is pretty far off the scale.
Not really. There are beers that can be brewed with water this alkaline and the alkalinity can be dealt with in several ways:
1. Precipitation by boiling
2. Precipitation by lime addition
3. Neutralization by acid addition
4. Reduction by dilution with DO/DI water.

No.4 is, as noted, probably the simplest and most reliable.
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Old 10-07-2013, 04:16 AM   #3
J-Drew
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I can't add much to what AJ said, but I can tell you that I was in a similar boat of frustration until I purchased a pH meter and some phosphoric acid to adjust my water, which helped me hit my target pH range for the mash and also bring my sparge water pH below 6. That was a game-changer for my brewing.

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