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Old 08-08-2011, 07:17 PM   #1
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Default I think I need a RO filter, opinions?

So, I have 18 months left in the army, in Texas, 15 of which I will be able to brew (I get back from Iraq in like three months). After that, I will be moving back to Oregon where the water is soft and awesome. My water here is pretty hard (although not as bad as some of the reports i've seen on here) and I dont really want to rely on boiling or lime softening.

I have not been able to send a sample off to Ward labs for testing, because I'm deployed, but when I go home in three weeks I will be getting it tested.

Here is the city's water report:

Bicarbonate: 182
Calcium: 52
Chloride: 23
Magnesium: 10
Sodium: 18
Sulfate: 22
Total Alkalinity as CaCO3: 149
TDS: 240
Total Hardness as Ca/Mg: 174

I plan to brew a lot, about a 10G batch every week, so buying RO/DI water is pretty much out I think, which brings me to a RO/DI filter. My kitchen came with one, but when I remodeled I didnt think I would need it, so I just got rid of it (kicking myself).

From what I can tell, its really only high in Bicarbonates, Ca, and CaCO3 ... so Would lime softening work? Is it really just better to dilute with RO/DI water?

I have found this filter on ebay for $74 after shipping: http://cgi.ebay.com/Portable-Mini-Reverse-Osmosis-50GPD-Water-System-4stage-/280500949107?pt=Small_Kitchen_Appliances_US&hash=i tem414f28d073

If that is the only investment I need to make in my water, I am down and will do it in a heartbeat, but if there is a way around this ... I would rather take that because 15 months down the road I'll be back in water heaven.

Could I build a filter like that from lowes for cheaper? Also, that one does not have a DI stage, is it better to spring the extra $20 for the DI stage one, or add one once I get it home?

It comes down to this: If you were in my shoes what would you do? (other than send the water off to get tested for actual numbers, because thats being done in three weeks.)



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Old 08-08-2011, 07:41 PM   #2
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At the price I'd definitely go with the RO unit but that's because I brew all my beers with RO water and am really sold on doing it that way.

[Edit] And no, you wouldn't need the DI unit. RO will clean the water up adequately.



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Old 08-08-2011, 07:42 PM   #3
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That water is not really that bad. Reducing alkalinity is the only thing that might be needed on a regular basis and that is accomplished with acid. Bru'n Water software will help you calculate your acid additions.

A RO system would be a nice addition, but not absolutely necessary. You won't find one at a home improvement store for anything near the price mentioned above. The main concern is the quality of the RO membrane. I suggest looking for Dow or Filmtec membranes in a system.

Lime softening would work to a degree, but that process would only drop the Ca into the 30 ppm range and you would still have to deal with some of the alkalinity. Again, acid would probably be needed.

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Old 08-08-2011, 08:42 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
That water is not really that bad. Reducing alkalinity is the only thing that might be needed on a regular basis and that is accomplished with acid. Bru'n Water software will help you calculate your acid additions.

A RO system would be a nice addition, but not absolutely necessary. You won't find one at a home improvement store for anything near the price mentioned above. The main concern is the quality of the RO membrane. I suggest looking for Dow or Filmtec membranes in a system.

Lime softening would work to a degree, but that process would only drop the Ca into the 30 ppm range and you would still have to deal with some of the alkalinity. Again, acid would probably be needed.
So I actually plugged my water profile into your spreadsheet (which is awesome btw) and yeah it just recommends some acid in the sparge water.

I guess, being used to Portland, OR water and tasting the water in Texas, I figured I would need to dilute.
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Old 08-09-2011, 04:38 AM   #5
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I can't imagine that an RO system for that price could do 50 gpd effectively. More than likely you would be swapping out the filters and membranes a lot faster than your wallet would be happy. I've had all sorts of RO systems over the years and the only one that I like is the pricey Merlin system which has been discontinued.

btw - right now the Portland H20 I'm getting has got a heavy dose of Chloramines. Must be the summertime special. Glad I have my RO system.

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Old 08-09-2011, 11:13 AM   #6
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As there are only a handful of manufacturers of RO membranes it's unlikely that a cheapie unit will require that the membranes be replaced more often then usual and the throughput is a function of the size of the membrane and the pressure across it. There are several 50 GPD units on the market that use line pressure. The only way they are able to do this is large membrane area. Now if the manufacturer saved a buck by undersizing the carbon filter which precedes and protects the membrane from chlorine and the water contains chlorine/chloramine the membranes will be poisoned sooner and need to be replaced more often but the simple solution to that is to monitor the output and as soon as chlorine "breakthrough" (i.e. you can smell it in the RO water) is detected change the carbon filter and perhaps install a separate, larger carbon filter in front of the system.

In Portland you don't need an RO system. All you need is a campden tablet to "neutralize" the chloramine or, if you don't want even the small amounts of mineral that adds to the water, a carbon block filter to take the chlorine/chloramine out.

I'll also note that I brewed for years (5 or more) with a cheapie RO system from GE and never changed the membrane. Of course brewing was the only demand put on the system i.e. we didn't drink, bathe in or cook with the RO water. I am on a well and thus no chlorine/chloramine was present to potentially poison the membrane.



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