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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Brew Science > Water Help in Pittsburgh, PA
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Old 10-12-2013, 04:15 PM   #1
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Default Water Help in Pittsburgh, PA

Ever since moving to Pittsburgh I've brewed 2 batches of beer using bottled purified water purchased from Lowe's. Both batches were IPAs. The first batch had great hop flavor and aroma at first, but this rapidly disappeared after a few days in the keg. The 2nd batch had very subdued hop flavor/aroma from the get go. It definitely should have had a much more pronounced hop character than it did. Not sure where Lowe's get its tap water from (they sell it in 5-gallon bottles) but I thought using purified/RO water would be safer than using tap water without having any information on the chemistry of the local tap water.

I brew all-grain and both beers were mashed at 152F and full mash conversion was achieved. I pitched the correct amount of yeast (per yeastcalc) and both batches reached 79-percent attenuation.

I'd like to switch to using local tap water if possible. I sent a sample of our tap water to Ward Labs and they came back with the following. I'm still reading the various threads about water but thought I would post this hoping someone could give some advice or feedback on our water report.

Ward Labs report: Pittsburgh, PA tap water

pH 7.7
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 131
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.22
Cations / Anions, me/L 2.1 / 1.9
Sodium, Na 17
Potassium, K 2
Calcium, Ca 18
Magnesium, Mg 5
Total Hardness, CaCO3 66
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.6 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 10
Chloride, Cl 22
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 38
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 31

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Old 10-12-2013, 04:20 PM   #2
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I've been pretty unhappy with my bottled water beers in the city (wine seems fine) so I always use tap water. I've noticed that certain hops (citra specifically) tend to fade fairly quickly, whereas others (pacific jade/gem) seem to hold up for quite a while. Not sure if this is the water or the hops, but I'd imagine the hops.

What part of the burgh are you in?

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Old 10-12-2013, 05:30 PM   #3
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We're in New Kensington ... (north east Pittsburgh)

I just pulled a sticker from the Lowe's water bottle. The ingredients listed are: purified water, sodium bicarbonate, calcium chloride, magnesium sulfate. "Primo" is the brand name on the bottle.

Anyways, I'm hoping to use carbon filtered tap water if the Ward Labs report doesn't look too bad.

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Old 10-13-2013, 03:40 PM   #4
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That is great tap water. With proper disinfectant removal, that water is a good starting point for brewing. Even the alkalinity is fairly low.

Boosting the calcium content is desirable in most brewing. For IPA's, boosting the sulfate content substantially can help create the character that you may be lacking in your current beers. Do visit the Bru'n Water site and read the Water Knowledge page.

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Old 10-14-2013, 03:05 PM   #5
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I feel better about using our tap water now. I plan to brew my next batch using carbon filtered tap water in addition to the following:

  • 1/4 campden tablet (crushed and dissolved)
  • 1 tsp calcium chloride
  • gypsum (???)
  • 2% saurmalz or acid malt

How much gypsum should I use for an IPA with sulfates at 30? (The Ward Labs number multiplied by 3)

This is for a 5 gallon all grain batch with about 7.5 gallons total mash/strike water.

Please let me know if I'm on the wrong track. I will also check out the Bru'n Water site as suggested.

Much appreciated!
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Old 01-21-2014, 08:00 PM   #6
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Default Thanks for posting this!

I live in Penn Hills so we most likely have the same water supplier. I've been too lazy to do the sample thing. Thanks for bailing me out . Interestingly, I've had similar issues with IPAs using the Pittsburgh tap water without modification. My IPAs are never bitter enough. Now that I know the water chemistry, I can start modifying the water to try to improve this.

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