Ward Labs Analysis - Cedar Park, TX
I just received my test results from Ward Labs. Before I share the results and ask for help in interpreting them, let me say, I was very happy with the turn around time. I ordered the box and bottle last weekend, and received them on Wednesday. Took the bottle to the PO on Friday ("You can guarantee delivery on Monday for $20." "No, thanks. Priority mail is fine.") and got the results in email today.
Now for the results.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est 277
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.46
Cations / Anions, me/L 4.7 / 4.7
Sodium, Na 20
Potassium, K 3
Calcium, Ca 42
Magnesium, Mg 20
Total Hardness, CaCO3 188
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 9
Chloride, Cl 31
Carbonate, CO3 3
Bicarbonate, HCO3 188
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 159
I've recently returned to brewing, and after buying spring water for the last 4 brews (5 if you count the 1 gallon brew), I would like to be able to understand just enough so I know (or have some vague idea) of what I can do to my water for brewing. My last two (or 3) batches were AG and I expect that's what I'll be doing from now on.
What can I do to be able to use my water?
I'll add one other thing. I have access to 10k gallons of rain water. We have a cabin a little south of Cedar Park and instead of a well, we put in a rainwater collection system. I have the 10k storage, and then the water back to the cabin goes through two filters (6 micron and 3 micron iirc) and then through a UV light. So I could easily haul back some rain water if it would improve the brewing quality of my city water.
What say you, water gurus?
First off, kudos to Ward labs. This report is (per their numbers) perfectly balanced attesting to careful work on the part of the techs (or errors which just canceled).
More to the point - the water is pretty heavy on the alkalinity. You will need to do something about that. You can either add acid to turn the alkalinity into CO2 gas and drive it off or you can try to drop it out by adding gypsum and or calcium chloride and boil. The easiest (IMO) thing to do is dilute it with RO water to cut the alkalinity and then supplement the calcium (and chloride). 1:1 dilution cuts everything by a factor of 2; 2:1 dilution by a factor of 3 etc. The Primer in the Stickies discusses this approach.
Or you could stick to dark beers.
WRT the rain water - I'd run it past Ward Labs too. Rain water picks up stuff from the air it falls through and if there is enough stuff in the air the water may well be of low pH (shouldn't be too important as it will be of low buffering capacity) and contain sulfate and nitrate. I'm guessing the amounts will be low but I'd want to know before I brewed with it. If it passes muster with respect to these then it would be like RO water i.e. low in mineral content. There will be sulfate (from sulfur dioxide in the air), nitrate (from the oxides of nitrogen in the air), sodium and chloride from salt particles, silica from dust particles etc but all should be at low levels.
I'm in Pflugerville, my water looks just like yours because they come from the same source, the highland lakes. (Austin does too, actually, but they lime slake their water to remove 2/3 of the alkalinity, and inject CO2 to bring the pH back down)
For most beers in the 8-15 SRM range, I add gypsum (hoppy beers) or gypsum and calcium chloride (balanced to malty beers) to lower the pH, you need about 2tsp of salts in total for a 5 gallon batch. Lighter than 8 SRM, I add some lactic acid to neutralize the alkalinity in addition to the salts, about a capfull. I also use a capfull of phosphoric acid per 5 gallons of sparge water. For beers darker than 20 SRM I add a little bit of calcium carbonate, a tsp per 10 srm per 5 gallons (eg 30 SRM, add 1tsp, 40 SRM, add 2tsp, etc).
You can use the spreadsheets etc to try to hit water profiles for your target styles, but I prefer to try to be consistent in my water treatment and let the local water be part of the flavor of my beer. You don't need to be exact on your pH, just close, and thinks will work out fine.
BTW the Zealots meeting is this Saturday at the G-man at 5pm, have you been out? You should come. http://www.austinzealots.com/
I suspected the hard is pretty hard here. In fact, that's one reason we chose to go with rainwater collection instead of a well at the cabin. As you might imagine, there's quite a contrast between the water at home and the rainwater.
Again, thanks for the reply.
Thanks for the reply. And thanks for the suggestions concerning our water. I knew that Cedar Park gets its water from Lake Travis, but I didn't realize Pflugerville does, too.
I like your approach to treating your water. I think learning how to adjust our local water to make good beer is what I'm after as opposed to mimicking water profiles around the world.
I have a question about the volume of water you're treating. Are you adding salts and other things to treat the boil volume or just enough to treat the final volume?
I'm planning on brewing tomorrow (Ed Wort's Kolsch) and I think I'll use spring water but at the last minute, I decided to do one of the new AHS $20 kits (Blonde Rye) just to see how a double brew days goes. I also figured that I could use the extract kit to test a few things. Maybe using my home water should be one of those tests. I'll have to think about it.
I didn't realize the Zealots meeting was this weekend (today). I was hoping to take the downtown to it this afternoon, but I'm not sure we're going to make it. I did join the Yahoo group.
I'm sure I'll have some more questions about our local water.
As Saccharomyces pointed out, the local water is predominated by temporary hardness and is treated by lime softening. The sulfate and chloride levels are low and the sodium is moderate. The calcium and magnesium levels are typical for lime softened water.
As AJ mentions, the alkalinity is the problem with this water. Acidification is a good solution for this water. I show that about 3/4 tsp of 88% lactic will bring 5 gal of sparge water into the proper pH of under 6. About a 1/2 ml per gallon of lactic would bring the alkalinity down to an acceptable level for mashing. Bru'n Water allows you to further refine that acid amount based on the actual grist used and other minerals added to the mash.
I'm not with AJ on the easiest approach to treating this water. All the ion concentrations are low excepting bicarb. Dilution will work fine, but it just adds cost and effort. You're just as well off with the acidification.
In fact for water this alkaline you would probably require acid - not alkali. Remember the first rule of brewing water treatment "Never add alkali to brewing water nor to mash unless a pH meter reading indicates it is necessary."
Now we note that the OP here does have access to a large supply of low ion content water (provided it isn't laden with nitric acid and such) so he qualifies.
It would be well to remember that if acid is used for decarbonation each milliequivalent of alkalinity removed is replaced with 1 mEq of the anion of the acid. Thus decarbonating this water with its alkalinity of 159/50 = 3.2 mEq/L with, for example, hydrochloric acid, results in 3.2 mEq/L chloride being added to the water which is 35.45*3.2 = 113 mg/L. And the same for sulfuric, phosphoric, lactic or citric acids (different anion concentrations because of different equivalent weights). With dilution the alkalinity producing bicarbonate is gone (it isn't gone, of course, it's just been diluted so that the alkalinity is lowered). This may have consequences, positive or negative, depending on the brew. People contemplating decarbonation by this method should be aware of this.
I'll leave it to the individual readers to decide whether dividing desired alkalinity into source alkalinity, subtracting 1 and using that many parts of RO water to each part of source water is easier or harder than doing the calculation for an acid addition, measuring out the acid and adding it.
For the record, I do not advocate the use of strong acids by people untrained in their proper handling. If you can buy it at the LHBS (lactic, citric, phosphoric) it's food grade and I'm all for it but I definitely recommend against getting sulfuric acid from the auto parts or hydrochloric acid from the hardware store and throwing those into one's beer.
Peadbody - thanks for doing this. I'm in CP as well. Appreciate you passing on this info.
I know this is an old thread, but I've just starting to do All-grain and I wanted to switch to using my Pflugerville tap water. Do you use campden tabs to remove the chloromine that's in our water? I was reading elsewhere a half-tablet for 10G, that sound right?
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