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Old 04-19-2013, 08:19 PM   #1
hops2it
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Default RO water adjustments: Just not getting it

I've been thinking of switching over to all RO water and I'm just not sure if it's necessary or worth it to add anything to straight RO. On Brewer's Friend, I see these:

Chalk CaCO3
Baking Soda NaHCO3
Gypsum CaSO4
Calcium Chloride CaCl2
Epsom Salt MgSO4
Canning Salt NaCl

...and I've also heard lactic acid mentioned. I have tinkered with the numbers a little on there and I somewhat get that various styles could use some tweaks to make a water profile conducive to that style of beer, etc but that might be a little beyond my level of interest.

In a nutshell, I'm just wondering what recommended additions (if any) I should add to straight RO water for the purpose of home brewing the vast majority of beers. So what I'm really getting at...is RO water inherently lacking for the purpose of homebrewing without some minor tweaks ahead of time? Or is RO water fine and dandy to start with and if the brewer wants to micromange it further, that's up to them?



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Old 04-19-2013, 08:31 PM   #2
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RO by itself doesn't really have sufficient mineral/dissolved-ion content for yeast health and beer character unless you're making particularly light or low-gravity beers (i.e., pilsner or light lager).

Tools like Bru'n Water and BeerSmith have stored water profiles that you can add salts to RO water to emulate, and you should pick a style that's appropriate for the style you're brewing, or a region that's famous for that style. Yellow Balanced for middling pale ale, London for malty brown, Burton for hoppy pale, Munich, Dortmund, Pilsn, etc.

Many (very respected) people debate the utility of going for specific areas' water profiles, but RO by itself is a bit bare for most styles.

-Rich



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Old 04-19-2013, 09:29 PM   #3
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http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/brewing-water-chemistry-primer-198460/

This is a great starting point! simple and straight forward and will help you get started. A lot depends upon the type of beer you are brewing but there are some generalities. Once you get going you can then ask more specific questions.
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:33 PM   #4
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If you would like to go in the direction of minimal mineral additions, read the Water Primer sticky that is at the top of this forum. Those are AJ's recommendations for minimum water additions when using RO or distilled water.

You do want to add a minimum level of Calcium to your water or several brewing problems can be created and the beer flavor tends to be a little bland.

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Old 04-19-2013, 09:44 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
If you would like to go in the direction of minimal mineral additions, read the Water Primer sticky that is at the top of this forum. Those are AJ's recommendations for minimum water additions when using RO or distilled water.

You do want to add a minimum level of Calcium to your water or several brewing problems can be created and the beer flavor tends to be a little bland.
Sounds good. Yeah I read that sticky in it's entirety a couple of years ago and I'm not up for that much reading again so thanks for the reminder. Just to be sure, I'm looking at the OP and this quote for baseline right?

Quote:
Baseline: Add 1 tsp of calcium chloride dihydrate (what your LHBS sells) to each 5 gallons of water treated. Add 2% sauermalz to the grist.
So I'm to understand that the sauermalz can be added into the mash tun and then stirred in at the beginning of the mash?
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Old 04-20-2013, 02:38 AM   #6
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I want to just mention a lesson I recently learned: Not all RO water is created equal. I once heard a number of brewers tell me that RO is 'close enough to distilled to not matter' and I brewed with it as if it were distilled. Then I got suspicious and had it analyzed by Ward Labs (Martin, you may remember this)... it had about 50ppm TDS and 50ppm bicarbonate and it was not the water I needed to use to dilute my higher-than-I-would-like bicarb. My point: If you don't know what's in your RO water, it makes it hard to understand where your water numbers are and what to add, etc. You're playing a guessing game. Hops2it, I feel your pain. I have been on a water odyssey for over a year and have made some terrible beers during my experimentation. But I have also made some great beers so stay with it. The great thing about this particular forum is that you have people like Martin, AJ DeLange and Kai all contributing and posting here and these are the water and brewing rock stars. Cheers.

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Old 04-20-2013, 02:44 AM   #7
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Very interesting kenlenard- what exactly is the explanation for your RO water still being so hard? Are you using an RO filter on your home water source or getting RO water from the store?

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Old 04-20-2013, 02:56 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hillhousesawdustco View Post
Very interesting kenlenard- what exactly is the explanation for your RO water still being so hard? Are you using an RO filter on your home water source or getting RO water from the store?
I get it at my local grocery store in bulk for 49¢ a gallon. But it sounds like the technology has its variables and when people don't maintain the system properly, your results are going to be all over the place. My source water has 138ppm of bicarbonate and I was diluting with water that I thought was close to zero. 50% would mean 69ppm bicarb but with this RO water I was still close to 90ppm. So I switched over to distilled for all my diluting. I know the numbers on the distilled (zero) and I know my numbers so this way I know exactly what's in the water, what I should add, etc.
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Old 04-20-2013, 05:33 AM   #9
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I hear ya pal, my well water is 358ppm bicarbonate. I put in a RO system for diluting my brewing water but still occasionally have astringency I attribute to the water. Might have to send off a few sample to the lab and see just how pure my "filtered" water is.

Sorry to thread jack.

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Old 04-20-2013, 01:35 PM   #10
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For anyone using RO water, having a TDS meter is a very valuable quality assurance check on the water. This applies to both people with their own machines and those that purchase from a vending machine. Membranes eventually wear out and the water quality goes down. The TDS meter alerts you of this condition.



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