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Old 06-24-2013, 02:35 AM   #1
rivercity_homebrew
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Default Is my water unusable?

I am just starting to gather supplies to go all-grain. I asked my local water utility for a water report. It is missing a few important levels- sodium, bicarbonate- but I'm on a budget and I don't want to drop an extra $40 on a full Ward Labs test.

Here are my important levels:
Total Hardness- 508 mg/L
Ca- 112 ppm
Mg- 55.5 ppm
Alkalinity (Total CaCO3)- 342 mg/L
ph 7.18
Chloride- 161 ppm
Sulfate- 53.4 ppm
PO4- 1 ppm
Iron and Manganese are minimal.

I know the water is extremely hard and the Magnesium is high.

I have a few questions:
-If I dilute 1:1 with Distilled/RO water will it rescue my water? Do I need to go to a higher percentage?
-I live in West Bend, WI am I at risk of high sodium or bicarbonate?
-What is my best bet to adjust my pH downward. I don't want to add more Ca or Mg. Sour malt? Lactic acid?

Thanks for any help.

Ian

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Old 06-24-2013, 02:47 AM   #2
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The main factor in pH will be total alkalinity(bicarbonate). 342 is high, but it depends what you are brewing. For dark beers like stout you should hit your mash pH around 5.2 without a problem. Use it for a pilsner and you'll definitely be too high. Cutting with distilled water works, but you'll be cutting ALL the minerals in the water, even the ones you want like calcium. It really depends on what you are brewing but in general I think you'll be using quite a bit of distilled water. The good news is once you get some experience tinkering with your water, it's a snap to customize your water for each recipe/style you brew...

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Old 06-24-2013, 03:56 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rivercity_homebrew View Post
I am just starting to gather supplies to go all-grain. I asked my local water utility for a water report. It is missing a few important levels- sodium, bicarbonate-
In telling you pH and alkalinity they are giving you the information you need to compute bicarbonate but bicarbonate isn't important - that's why they don't bother to report it. Alkalinity is the key parameter here.

With all the other data it is possible to estimate that the sodium content is about 50 mg/L.


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Originally Posted by rivercity_homebrew View Post
I know the water is extremely hard and the Magnesium is high.
So is the chloride but the killer is the alkalinity. Even with a dark beer you would probably need some acid (unless you use inordinate amounts of roast/colored malts).

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Originally Posted by rivercity_homebrew View Post
-If I dilute 1:1 with Distilled/RO water will it rescue my water? Do I need to go to a higher percentage?
Yes. 1:1 dilution cuts everything in half. You want alkalinity to be below 50 and even then need some acid in the mash. 9:1 would be a more reasonable dilution for this water but if you are using a 9:1 dilution why not just use straigt RO water? See the Primer.


Quote:
Originally Posted by rivercity_homebrew View Post
-I live in West Bend, WI am I at risk of high sodium or bicarbonate?
As noted above your bicarbonate is approximately 61*342/50 = 417 which is high but what you care about is the high alkalinity. Also as noted above your sodium will be a bit high at 50 mg/L but that's not really too terrible.

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Originally Posted by rivercity_homebrew View Post
-What is my best bet to adjust my pH downward.
I think there is little question that the most straightforward path to proper mash pH is the use of RO water. There are things you can potentially do with this source such as supplement calcium and then treat with lime or boiling but these are a little involved and if done right require that you measure the post treatment hardness and alkalinity to see what you have realized.


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Originally Posted by rivercity_homebrew View Post
I don't want to add more Ca or Mg. Sour malt? Lactic acid?
Probably not as so much would need to be added that the lactic flavor would most probably shine through into the beer. Best bet IMO is RO with a more modest sauermalz addition.
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Old 06-24-2013, 04:22 AM   #4
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Follow up question-

Do I need to use RO water for the sparge as well as the mash? I will be batch sparging. Its not really that expensive, but every little bit counts.

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Old 06-24-2013, 12:19 PM   #5
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Yes, most probably though you could acidify with the same caveat that the acid anion concentration will be high because there is so much alkalinity to overcome.

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Old 06-24-2013, 01:37 PM   #6
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Go to Palmer's book "how to brew" and read the section on water. I think it will show that your water is a little closer than some of the advice you're getting. For example, getting your bicarbonate below 50 ppm isn't necessary unless you're brewing a pale beer....

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Old 06-24-2013, 01:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demus View Post
Go to Palmer's book "how to brew" and read the section on water. I think it will show that your water is a little closer than some of the advice you're getting. For example, getting your bicarbonate below 50 ppm isn't necessary unless you're brewing a pale beer....
Dude, AJ is one of Palmer's sources for the upcoming book on brewing water. You shouldn't dismiss him so easily.
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Old 06-24-2013, 02:19 PM   #8
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That tap water would not likely make very good beer, regardless of the grist used. 342 ppm alkalinity is far too high for any grists I've used or evaluated. Even half that alkalinity would be darn high. The other huge problem is the magnesium content. At 55 ppm, its going to add an astringent bite that will not be pleasant. The chloride is fairly high also, but its less of a problem.

Given the conditions of that water, significant dilution with RO or distilled water is highly recommended.

Printing a book is much like ringing a bell...you can't really get that information (or the sound) out of the environment. Unfortunately, How to Brew has many poor recommendations and information on brewing water. Hopefully, the publication of Palmer's new book on Water will help supercede the How to Brew misinformation.

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Old 06-25-2013, 04:15 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by afr0byte

Dude, AJ is one of Palmer's sources for the upcoming book on brewing water. You shouldn't dismiss him so easily.
Just trying to help. I guess this post was for VIP's only. My bad...
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Old 06-25-2013, 12:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
9:1 would be a more reasonable dilution for this water but if you are using a 9:1 dilution why not just use straigt RO water?
+1 to that. If this was my water it'd be starting with 100% RO or distilled and building it up from there.

The good news about doing this is that you can quite litterally make anything as you start with a clean slate of (very close to) 0 for all your minerals.

After a bunch of batches you'll end up with the exact amounts you need to use for the various 'styles' you want to brew such that you won't even have to plug in the numbers into a spreadsheet anymore.

Kal

P.S. Looking forward to Palmer's new 'Water' book... I pre-ordered it almost a year ago...
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