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Old 09-20-2012, 01:37 AM   #21
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think I could brew decent water even with a softener in the line.

Point is, I'm expecting the RO system to greatly improve my consistency, after I spend several batches figuring out how to tweak on the water that comes out of it!

Thanks!

Shane
I also want to mention my "thanks" to these water geeks! I made good beer, but the alkalinity was an issue. I tried buying RO water, decarbonating by boiling, and then lime softening. Finally, I just bought my own RO water system for $119.

I'm so glad I did! Now, I can just brew with a clean slate and I'm as happy as can be.

The only beer I mash with 100% tap water is my oatmeal stout, but I still sparge with 100% RO water. The beers are great, and the effort I put into it is minimal.

It's not for everybody, but buying my own little RO system for my brewery is perfect for me.
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:01 AM   #22
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Master Kaiser--After looking at your interesting website, you are clearly the "Water Wizard"!
Thanks. But lots of credit goes to A.J. whose papers made me understand water chemistry on an analytic level. I'm just trying to illustrate the concepts and procedure since I know that the math can be hard to understand and unless you want to write a water spreadsheet you don't need to go into much detail anyway.

As for the R/O system, I have a simple unit that feeds a 7 gal bladder tank. The tank is a bit small for brewing and you may want to get a bigger one. But I can get my 17 liter strike water. The 13 liter sparge water, which I get later, run a bit slow, but that doesn't really limit me. This RO system is in the basement and also feeds a drinking water faucet at the kitchen sink and the water/ice for the fridge.

I think that capacity of the buffer tank is the most important issue for brewing use since you suddenly want a lot of water. Gallons per hour (GPH) is not all that important since the system will have at least a few days to re-fill the tank.

I probably paid about $200 for the R/O system and the larger tank was extra. The system is now 6 years old and I have not replaced the RO membrane yet. But the product water already has now close to 50 TDS. I should get a new membrane, but then again, I actually brew Pilsners with straight R/O water these days.

Our well water has elevated arsenic levels. I have brewed with straight well water since it works well for dark beers, but I didn't want the family to consume elevated arsenic water all the time. That was the official reason for getting the RO system

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Old 09-20-2012, 08:44 AM   #23
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After looking on line for RO systems, most reviews are favorable regardless of manufacturer. To help me in my quest for a trouble free unit that truly works and will do so for a long time, what is the brand of the unit that you would recommend for me to purchase. I am going to order one pronto so once again, sharing your timely recommendations certainly are appreciated. (I know, it's kind of like the Ford & Chevy feud, but your advice is priceless!)

Rick

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Old 09-20-2012, 01:02 PM   #24
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RO system components are truly commodity items and most of those system retailers use very similar components. The most important component is the RO membrane manufacturer. The rest of the components are pretty much the same. The particulate filters are equal. The carbon filters are nearly equal. But the membrane is a big deal. I suggest looking for Dow or Filmtec membranes. Dow is the manufacturer and the Filmtec brand is theirs. I do not recommend buying a system like GE or Whirlpool that use proprietary components. You'll pay extra for the system purchase and pay more for replacement filters.

A brewer needs at least a 3 stage RO system. That means a particulate filter, carbon filter, and then the membrane. I have a 5 stage with coarse and fine particulate filters, carbon filter, membrane, and a post-membrane carbon filter. I don't really think this level of treatment improves the water quality significantly.

A very important consideration is including enough treated water storage volume to fit your brewing and usage needs. I have an extra 20 gal tank plumbed into my system to supplement the TOTALLY insufficient 3 gal tank that came with the system. The treated water production rate is too slow to use for brewing unless you have a big tank. If you are going to only use the RO system for brewing and don't need pressurized water supply, then storing the water in an open tank will improve the RO system efficiency significantly. I suggest including a float valve in the open tank to allow the system to be operated without supervision.

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Old 09-20-2012, 01:35 PM   #25
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With regard to the low recovery (amount of feed water that comes out as RO water): The small systems do have low recovery (18-20%) and they have to do that in order to be able to tolerate relatively high levels of hardness in the feed.
I installed my 75 GPD unit in the laundry room. I collect brewing/fish tank water and fill the washer with the waste water.

So far, I haven't seen any negative effects to my clothes and I've wasted almost no water. I can get all the brewing water I need, fill the washer most of the way up, and 'do a load of clothes' to make the wife happy.
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Old 09-20-2012, 03:39 PM   #26
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...storing the water in an open tank will improve the RO system efficiency significantly. I suggest including a float valve in the open tank to allow the system to be operated without supervision.
I just checked the specs on one of the GE under the sink units. I didn't realize how bad they are. With the pressure tank the recovery is 9.6% (for every 100 gallons run through the thing 9.6 gallons of RO water are produced). Running into an atmospheric tank that about doubles to a whopping 18.8%! I will note that I brewed large batches of beer with two of these for many years. I'm on a well and water conservation is not a big issue in my area so I really wasn't much bothered by this aspect of them. The slow production rate was the killer.

The packaged systems that use pressure tanks have a pressure operated valve that turns off the feed when the tank is 'full' (pressure has risen to the point where the valve shuts). If you disconnect the pressure tank and run the line to an atmospheric tank then that valve does not operate and feed will continue to flow even if you shut off the permeate line with a valve. You must, therefore, shut off the feed as well. Or just shut off the feed as that, obviously, stops permeate flow as well.

Float switches are really a must have in an atmospheric tank system (unless it's located in the basement near a drain). In fact, I recommend 2 NC switches in series with the circuit energizing the feed valve solenoid. This way if anything happens to one switch (it fails, a bug gets stuck in it so it doesn't rise with the water level.....) the other one will still shut the system off and save your oriental carpet.
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:52 PM   #27
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I bought a unit from airwaterice.com today. After spending a lengthy time on the internet and making numerous phone calls, the staff at AWI seemed to be the most knowledgeable. I bought the Extra Duty RO 5 stage unit with the permeater pump and an additional 20 gallon pressure tank. I also purchased a TDS meter for a total of $295. It was shipped today with free shipping. I will keep you posted with pictures during the installation and testing process. Again--thanks for the info. Your wisdom helped me understand the importance of good brewing water!

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Old 12-24-2012, 06:02 PM   #28
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I bought a unit from airwaterice.com today. After spending a lengthy time on the internet and making numerous phone calls, the staff at AWI seemed to be the most knowledgeable. I bought the Extra Duty RO 5 stage unit with the permeater pump and an additional 20 gallon pressure tank. I also purchased a TDS meter for a total of $295. It was shipped today with free shipping. I will keep you posted with pictures during the installation and testing process. Again--thanks for the info. Your wisdom helped me understand the importance of good brewing water!
After a few AG batches with my new RO water setup, my beer has a much better finish than when I used softened water only. I am now using only straight RO water, with nothing added to tailor the water style. Short of sending in another water sample, is there a way to calculate the RO water report? My TDS was 636 and according to my tester, it is now 10!!!

Below is my softened water report:
pH 8.0
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 636
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 1.06
Cations / Anions, me/L 11.4 / 12.1
ppm
Sodium, Na 261
Potassium, K < 1
Calcium, Ca < 1
Magnesium, Mg < 1
Total Hardness, CaCO3 3
Nitrate, NO3-N < 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 90
Chloride, Cl 7
Carbonate, CO3 15
Bicarbonate, HCO3 348
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 311
Total Phosphorus, P 0.35
Total Iron, Fe < 0.01
"<" - Not Detected / Below Detection Limit
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:20 PM   #29
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R/o filters have different pass rates for different ions. But for your purposes I'd simply assume that all ions are affected equally. Simply divide the starting ion concentration by 63.6.

Kai

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Old 12-24-2012, 10:51 PM   #30
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I would recommend adding 1.2 tsp of calcium carbonate to your mash water since you will need a little more Ca+ for the enzymes.
I would also recommend adding 1T of Caco to the boil if you are making a stout with RO water.

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