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Old 10-29-2013, 11:17 PM   #1
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Default Hoppo's Crappy Water Test - Help!

As I finish up my electic brewing system, finally got around to sending a water sample into Ward Labs. I just received the results and they are not looking promising. To give you a little insight, I'm on a well and have a light commercial water softening system installed in my house. I did not want to consider softened water for brewing, so I got the bright idea of tapping into my water supply before the filter and installing a dual canister filter. I put a sediment filter in the first canister and a carbon filter in the second. It supplys the pot filler faucet directly above my HLT. See the pics.

I have a hot tub and a swimming pool, so I am well aware that my water is hard and very high in alkalinity. I guess I didn't know how bad until I sent in the sample. My goal is to use my water, as carrying 20 gallons of water down to my basement everytime I brew is not what I had in mind. To this point, I have always used R/O water purchased from Meijer, added gypsum, and experienced really good results. Honestly, I really had no idea how vitally important water chemistry is until I tried using my water for the last 3 A/G batches on my old system. I made a wheat IPA, an American Lager, and a Rye Maibock. The lighter beers were an absolute train wreck! The darker beer is tolerable, but still not great. That's when I started exploring water chemistry by reading this thread and watching water chemistry videos from the likes of Bobby from NJ and John Palmer.

I plan on using -TH-'s excel spread sheet, but I also know that there are some brilliant chemistry guys that patrol the brew science threads. I guess I need to know if my water is useable or if I'm going to have to take drastic measures like boiling my water and adding acids. I really don't want to install an R/O system if I can get away with it, so I'm looking for advice. Here are my results.

pH: 7.5
Total Dissolved Solids: 452 ppm
Electrical Conductivity: .75 mmho/cm
Cations/Anions: 9.2/9.0 me/L

Sodium: 12
Potassium: 3
Calcium: 103
Magnesium: 29
Total Hardness: 378
Nitrate: 0.6
Sulfate: 16
Chloride: 55
Carbonate: <1
Bicarbonate: 387
Total Alkalinity: 317
Total Phosphorus: <0.01
Total Iron: 0.17

Is there any hope?

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Old 10-30-2013, 01:39 AM   #2
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Scribing. I'm interested in what you find out. I just stared using ro water because my water source is a local river 1/4 mile away and my water is never the same season to season.

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Old 10-30-2013, 01:56 AM   #3
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You should consider an RO setup. If you have patience, you can manage with an inexpensive system. The basic filter setup is about 100-125 but you'll need storage tanks for a cheapie setup like this. Mine is a GE system I believe and generates about 1 gal per hour, which is stored in a pair of bladder tanks holding 4 gal total. I begin collecting a day or two before brew day into plastic 5 gal water jugs. It's a PITA but cheap.

Option 2. Try boiling the water and test the water again post boil. This should drive off dissolved CO2 and precipitate the chalk, Lowering the hardness. Also a PITA but without additional hardware expenditures. Reportedly they do this in Ireland per recent zymurgy issue, at some breweries with hard water. The resultant water is soft and they mash their brew without adding the dark grains until after the main mash is complete.

If youre getting zymurgy, read that article as it explains better than I can.

Good luck.

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Old 10-30-2013, 01:58 AM   #4
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bump...

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Old 10-30-2013, 02:11 AM   #5
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That's a **** ton of TDS though hard to see where it is based on the report. I recently picked up an RO system with 20g holding tank from airwaterice.com and love it. Something to think about.

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Old 10-30-2013, 02:17 AM   #6
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I have to agree. An RO system then roll your own water profile from there.

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Old 10-30-2013, 02:43 AM   #7
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I'll jump on the RO train. I rent a system with a 3 gal tank from Culligan for $21/month. Seems expensive but they come and service it every year and change all 4 filters for no additional charge. The guy came last week and said I could get a 9 gal tank for a little more, so I don't have to start filling buckets a day before a 10 gal brew. I bet they'd run a line to your brewery and another to your kitchen.

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Old 10-30-2013, 02:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roadie View Post
That's a **** ton of TDS though hard to see where it is based on the report. I recently picked up an RO system with 20g holding tank from airwaterice.com and love it. Something to think about.
If you don't mind me asking, what does a system like that cost?
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Old 10-30-2013, 03:08 AM   #9
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Not sure on cost but the three element filter setup for the RO is about 100-125 dollars. The big 20 gal holding tanks might be 200-300 but totally guessing. My small 3 gal tanks are about $100. They contain a bladder that produce water pressure needed to dispense the water.

I forget who rents from culligan, but you should consider buying the setup outright. The filters last several years under regular use and I'd bet if you brew once a month, they'd last even longer. More money to spend on ingredients!!

Back to the OP. I don't really think you can escape the high Cl levels by anything other than RO or ion exchange softener. Boiling might mitigate the hardness to a degree but you got several problems with your water that boiling won't entirely help.

Is that report from the water before the two filters you are using or after it already filtered??

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Old 10-30-2013, 03:16 AM   #10
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When I throw all of my numbers into -TH-'s spread sheet and inputed several different grain bills for different styles of beer, most of my numbers aren't out of line pertaining to calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, and sulfate. Nothing that a little minor tweaking with salts can't correct. The major issue is obviously with the mash ph, which is high due to the excessive alkalinity of my water. I guess I am wondering why I couldn't utilize acid malt or lactic acid additions into my mash to control the mash ph and then just tweek the minerals prn with salts. I have taken my share of chemistry, but it was a long, long time ago, so this is a relatively new topic for me. I know that most of you are in the camp of stipping the water with an R/O system and then rebuilding from there. I guess I am wondering why I couldn't take advantage of the existing mineral content of my water, which in most cases isn't horribly out of line and then adjust mash ph. Are the acid malts or lactic acid expensive? Do they impart off flavors in relatively small doses?

If I can take advantage of the mineral rich water that I am working with and then find a reasonable way to control the mash ph, I would prefer to go that route. I have put a lot of hard work and money into my brewery, so I'll do what it takes to produce beer of the highest standards. If that means investing in an R/O system, I will, but I really what to know chemically, if it is feasible to alter my existing water source. Thanks for all of the feedback thus far.

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