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Old 12-07-2010, 07:08 PM   #1
the_mox
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Default Got my water report...

Hey all,

Got my water report for Fairfax County Va. Here is what it says:

Calcium: 34.4
Magnesium: 9.5
Sodium:21.8
Chloride: 29.0
Sulfate: 46.3
Ammonia: .61
Nitrate: 1.0
Nitrite: BQL (Below Quantitation Limit)
PH: 7.4
Bicarbonate: 82
Carbonate:0
Total Alkalinity: 82


What the Heck does all this mean? I've tried searching and cant find anything that makes sense. Man, if you had told me that Chem would have helped me make beer back in school, I would have paid much better attention. Is my water any good for making beer? IS there anything I should add to it? Do I need to find out more information that I have listed here?


Thanks guys for all your help!

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Old 12-07-2010, 09:04 PM   #2
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Can we *bump* this? I'd also appreciate an answer to this question. Thanks!

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Old 12-08-2010, 02:32 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the_mox View Post
Hey all,

Got my water report for Fairfax County Va.
First thing you should do is go to http://www.fcwa.org/water/imar.htm and download the last years report for the whole year for the plant from which you get the water. Potomac (Corbalis plant) water is somewhat different from that from the plants which draw from the Occoquan. You may have already done this i.e. listed the most recent month's results but you need to be aware of the seasonal changes and the variability between plants.

As to what some of these things mean:
Calcium: 34.4
Magnesium: 9.5

These are the minerals responsible for "hardness". These numbers mean, respectively, that there are 34.4 mg/L of calcium ion and 9.5 mg/L magnesium ion in your water. The hardnesses associated with those 2 levels are, respectively, 86 and 39 "ppm as Calcium Carbonate" for a total hardness of 125. This is not terribly hard nor terribly soft. It is a good level for brewing i.e FCWA water is pretty good stuff for brewing. Lots of people would have you supplement calcium to 50 mg/L and while that may be helpful 34 is close enough that you don't have to worry about it. Calcium and magnesium react with malt phosphate to lower mash pH (the extent to which they can do this depends on the alkalinity which we'll get to in a moment) and, as such are considered beneficial. Calcium also has many other roles in brewing - all beneficial.

Sodium:21.8
Sodium, at this level, is something you don't have to worry about. It is pretty flavor neutral until it gets to levels appreciably higher than this.

Chloride: 29.0
Chloride is generally considered beneficial because of its mellowing effect on beer.

Sulfate: 46.3
I didn't remember FCWA product as having this much sulfate. Sulfate tends to sharpen hops bitterness and render them harsh. Some beers are brewed with many times this level of sulfate but many are brewed with water much lower. In general, you should be OK but only add gypsum judiciously.

Ammonia: .61
Not a problem at this level in fact of benefit as ammonia is a nitrogen source that yeast can use.

Nitrate: 1.0
Not a problem.

Nitrite: BQL (Below Quantitation Limit)
Nitrite is a problem. This is where you want it i.e. undetectable.

PH: 7.4
For all the talk of pH you will see here the pH of the water itself is not that important. There are public health guidelines as to the limits within which potable water should lie and 7.4 is certainly within them but most of the common spreadheets don't even allow you to enter pH. This is fine as long as the pH is < 8.3 or so so perhaps I should say pH isn't that important unless pH > 8.3 and 7.4 isn't.

Bicarbonate: 82
Carbonate:0
Total Alkalinity: 82

This can be confusing at first. These are all alkalinities which, in potable water, are caused by bicarbonate and carbonate ions exclusively (with a tiny bit caused by the water itself). Alkalinity is a measure of the resistance of the water to pH change when acid is added. As such, this is your main enemy in brewing water. With few exceptions alkalinity is considered bad. Fortunately there isn't much of it here. The "residual alkalinity" gives a rough idea as to how suitable water is for brewing with respect to mash pH. It is the part of the alkalinity that isn't canceled by the acid produced when calcium and magnesium react with malt phosphate. For this water report the RA is 51.7 which is just slightly over the recommended maximum of 50. But you should be able to brew many beers without a problem with this water.

Note that alkalinity and bicarbonate ion concentration are not the same. The actual bicarbonate ion concentration for this water report is about 97 mg/L.


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Originally Posted by the_mox View Post
What the Heck does all this mean? I've tried searching and cant find anything that makes sense. Man, if you had told me that Chem would have helped me make beer back in school, I would have paid much better attention.
Yes me too. But I blame the prof's. I met one at a competition who teaches analytical chemistry and assured me that he holds the attention of his male students by couching each analysis in terms of beer. I remember old Doc Sienko's only animated lecture was the one on fermentation but he never hinted how important ionic equilibria would turn out to be in my brewing life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by the_mox View Post
Is my water any good for making beer?
Sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by the_mox View Post
IS there anything I should add to it?
In some cases and in some cases you'll want to take things out which you do by RO treatment or dilution. Depends on the beer you are brewing.


Quote:
Originally Posted by the_mox View Post
Do I need to find out more information that I have listed here?
If you mean do you need more water parameter data the answer is no. If you mean is there more to learn about brewing water the answer is yes!
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