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-   -   Just got my water report from Ward Labs..... Now what? (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/just-got-my-water-report-ward-labs-now-what-206360/)

SamuraiSquirrel 11-16-2010 12:59 PM

Just got my water report from Ward Labs..... Now what?
So I just got my water reports from ward labs and was wondering if I could get some help interpreting the results.

This is for city of Aurora (IL) water:

pH - 8.9
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est - 306
Electrical Conductivity - .51
Cations/Anions, me/L - 4.9/4.6

Sodium, Na - 58
Potassium, K - 10
Calcium, Ca - 11
Magnesium, Mg - 19
Total Hardness, CaCO3 -107
Nitrate, NO3-N - .9
Sulfate, SO4-S - 13
Cloride, CL - 73
Carbonate, CO3 - 9
Bicarbonate, HCO3 - 77
Total Alkalinity, CACO3 - 78

So I guess I have a couple of questions. In general does anything jump out that would cause problems in any style of beer using this water? Or in general is it good water to brew with given a few minor game day adjustments/additions depending on the type of beer being brewed?

I brew mostly pale ales and IPA's so if I plug all this info into the EZ water calculator 2.0 it looks like I just need to invest in some gypsum. So for an IPA, if I'm looking at it correctly for a five gallon batch I would want to add about 4 grams gypsum to the mash and another 5.4 grams gypsum to the boil which would put everything pretty much right in the middle of the target ranges given in the spreadsheet (they are pretty big ranges) and the PH seems to be in check as indicated at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Is there anything else I need to add or modify.

Would I use the same additions for a pale ale or would I lower the gypsum additions to 2 grams in the mash and 2.7 grams in the boil so the cloride to sulfate ratio falls in the "balanced" category?

Am I in the right direction with these adjustments or am I completely missing something? Please feel free to correct me if I'm way off.

jwatson 11-16-2010 03:39 PM

I am only bumping this thread cus I live in Aurora IL and would also like to know the answers. I really appreciate you posting this information, I am just getting started, first brew is fermenting.

ajdelange 11-16-2010 03:42 PM

This water is unusual in a couple of ways. First, the pH is unusually high. WHO recommends that potable water have pH < 8.5. Second, also WRT pH, the given value of 8.9 is not consistent with 77 mg/L bicarbonate and 9 mg/L carbonate. The ratio of the two is 0.117 and that ratio is only found at pH 9.35 (for water of this ionic strength). Third, the potassium is high. This usually tops out at a couple of mg/L. Fourth, the Mg is a bit high. Fifth, the sodium is high. Sixth, the calcium hardness is somewhat low. None of these is serious enough that you shouldn't be able to make decent beer but you need to be cognizant of what you are doing if you supplement minerals. Clearly, you will want more calcium but as your chloride is already pretty substantial there is a limit as to how much calcium chloride you would want to add. As your sulfate is 39 mg/L (as SO4--) you clearly cannot add gypsum for any beer using noble hops as the sulfate is already over. For ales you should be OK in this regard but you may still run into hops harshness.

Your RA is 59 and that's a bit higher than you might like to have but lots of people brew with water that alkaline. I'd try a few brews with this water but would also try cutting it down pretty far with RO water and then follow the recommendations in the sticky at the top of this topic.

SamuraiSquirrel 11-16-2010 05:38 PM

jwatson I'll post this info for you as well as for reference for anyone else who wants to comment

This is the "official" water report I recieved from the city.


This is the ward labs report. It differes from the "official" city report a little.


This is info as entered into the water calculator for my IPA recipe. I was going to add some gypsum also entered into the calculator shown below.


I just wanted to get some feedback as to how this looked before I brewed the recipe. I've read a good amount about water but am not sure I have even approached understanding everything. So any comments would be appreciated if I'm way off target here.

I should add that I have brewed a LOT of beers with this water using no mineral additions or modifications - just straight out of the faucet. Pale ale's and light IPA's have been turning out great. Other beers are hit or miss which may be procedural or recipe design. Not really sure. I just got the water report and started reading into water as a way to improve already good beer.


1971hemicuda 05-09-2011 12:57 AM

I'm really interested in this thread as well, seeing that i'm ALSO in Aurora...and my IPA's tend to turn out great...but beers on the paler side have been difficult. Anyone with any idea's on mineral additives for this, what I understand to be, unique water profile

RichBenn 05-10-2011 03:29 AM

In my own location, the water varies at different times of the year. They blend from several different aquifers to meet standards, and I'm pretty much at the end of the line. So in my location, the variability is the worst!

What I wound up doing is using about 7/8 distilled water and back filling with the right amount of epson salts, gypsum, and calcium cloride to get me in a Pale Ale/IPA range.

It sure was alot easier brewing beer when we didn't know so much......

As for your question about Pale Ale chemistry vs. IPAs, I use the same for both, assuming both use mainly light malts. Of course, I tend to like my Pale Ales a bit on the hoppy side, so YMMV. For a "Cascadian IPA", I'll change the chemistry it a bit, hopefully to keep my mash at the right pH (haven't bothered measuring that one yet).

I look at that nice spreadsheet, I think correctly, as an education and "get in the ballpark" tool. Good beer is brewed a lot without water chemistry for alot of folk. As long as you can duplicate results you like, you can RDWHAHB.

SamuraiSquirrel 05-14-2011 02:01 PM


I messed with this Aurora water for about 3-4 batches and they came out worse than when I just brewed with the water straight out of the tap.

I had some awesome beers before I even got into water with an occasional one that bombed and wasn't great.

Once I started adding crap the beers came out overly harsh or just subpar overall. I scrapped this whole water adjustment thing and just returned to brewing with 100 water out of the faucet. My beers have returned to excellent for the most part.

I am still interested in water and would like to know if it could improve my beer, I just couldn't figure it out for the life of me and it confused the heck out of me. One thread says chloride/sulfate ratio is important, another says forget about it. Not being a chemist, i only know what I read and it goes back and forth depending on what you are reading. I found it hard to find a definative answer on any of the issues or questions I had.

I would still like to have a "go-to" formula for my more common styles (APA & IPA) if I knew it would improve my beer over my 100% tap water beers.

for example..... for a pale ale - cut 75% RO and 25% tap and add X cacl and X whatever.

For IPA cut X and X, add X and X of whatever. This is kind of where I was hoping to get when I was readin about the water thing but never really was able to figure it out.

If you have had success, I'd be interested in hearing what you do with water.

sudsmcgee 05-14-2011 02:29 PM

Where is your water from? Lake Michigan? Fox River? Most lake Michigan water is the same year round.

SamuraiSquirrel 05-14-2011 02:33 PM

Lake michigan I believe. I dont' think it varies much by season which is why I was interested in building some "default profiles" by style.

I currently seem to have better luck just brewing with the straight up lake michigan water (and whatever they do to it at during the treatment process) than when I was messing with it. The only thing I do to it right now is add 1/3 of a campden tablet prior to heating.

ajdelange 05-14-2011 02:34 PM

There is certainly lots of conflicting information out there. There are four (and probably more) reasons for this. First is that people have different criteria of optimality. Second, and related, is that people have certain prejudices based on personal preferences and experiences. As an example of this, I personally brew mostly lager beers and have, over the years figured out how to do this. I believe my advice on lager beers is sound but always caution people when they ask me about ales. Third, there is old, outdated and simply incorrect data (for example hundreds of water ion profiles that are not capable of physical existence). There is, unfortunately, a trend to say "I read it in a book - it must be right" so that these bits of misinformation get propagated. Fourth, because this is so complicated there is lots of motivation to try to simplify things and there are lots of guys like me with technical backgrounds to muse "Maybe it's complicated but if I can just figure out how to model it I can put it in an Excel spreadsheet and then anyone can use it". That works up to a point but if the models are wrong, or not broad enough then they can lead you astray and that's apparently what has happened to you (and you are not alone).


If you have had success, I'd be interested in hearing what you do with water.
As I said earlier I have had success (with lagers certainly and my ales aren't that bad either). If you want to see what I do look at the Primer in the Stickies section. That was put there to help people like you but it is how I brew beer and I do it because it works for me. It will probably work for you too but it says throughout that it is only intended to get you to a starting point. Yes, you'll get a good beer if you follow it but the possibility for better beer is definitely there if you fine tune the recommendations for the style, available materials and your personal preferences. You wouldn't expect to determine exactly the correct amount of fenugreek for your sausage on the the first try and you can't expect to find the proper level of sulfate on the first try in your brewing either.

The keys to success are, IMO:

-Low mineral content water with calcium supplemented
-pH control by use of lactic acid or, preferably sauermalz
-Verification of pH control via use of a pH meter
-Do not use sulfate without understanding what it does and determine what it does by brewing without it at first and then incrementing it is subsequent brews until it does what you want it to.

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