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astewart 02-19-2011 12:47 AM

Water Profile
I posted this in general earlier but I think this is probably where this should be.

I have gotten some information on my local water profile from my water dept.
To me it looks like everything is pretty low except sulfate and chloride. Although compared to other profiles from around the world these are not very high. So my question is - Does any one have any comments about what kind of beer(s) this water is suited for or maybe suggestions and things to be concerned with!? Up till now I haven't been paying too much attention to the water profile so all comments are welcome.

Calcium 8 ppm
Magnesium 4.2 ppm
Sodium 30 ppm
Sulfate 38 ppm
Chloride 53 ppm
Ammonia ~ 0.2 pp billion
Nitrate 2.5 ppm
Nitrite 0.02 ppm
Hardness as CaCO3 37
Alkalinity as CaCO3 15

Bicarbonate HCO3 * they do not test for this and do not use any bicarb for water modification - His comment was that it should be low. I am south of Boston so maybe I should use 10 ppm as I have seen for their water profile.

PH 7.5 **tested daily and 7.5 is their target.

Thanks All

jescholler 02-19-2011 01:27 AM

I assume you're an AG brewer? Your water should be able to be used in the mash as is for about a 14 SRM beer (amber ale, ESB, etc). You can add salts to the boil to bump up your calcium (50ppm minimum) with either gypsum or calcium chloride to get the chloride to sulfate ratio you want. As you've probably read, a lower chloride to sulfate ratio accentuates the hops while a higher ratio rounds out the beer.

I used the EZ Water calculator 2.0 to get 14 SRM as a good approximate SRM:

ajdelange 02-19-2011 03:27 AM

But they do test for bicarbonate. That's what alkalinity measures (though indirectly. If the pH of the water is less than about 9 (and it is) all of alkalinity is due to bicarbonate in potable water. Take the alkalinity and divide by 50 (15/50 = 0.3) and then multiply by 61 (.3*61 = 18.3). That, 18.3, is the bicarbonate ion content of your water.

As to the water in general it can be used to brew a whole range of beers from very light in color to stout. The main exception would be lagers that use noble hops as the sulfate is a little high for that. Sulfate can be reduced to levels low enough for those beers by a simple 1:1 dilution with RO or DI water. For beers in which sulfate hop character is desired, by contrast, the sulfate is low so you might want to add a tsp of gypsum per 5 gallons for beers like that to start. The calcium is low and you would probably do well to boost it by adding a tsp of calcium chloride to each 5 gallons of water for most beers. Again, some lagers, in particular Bohemian Pils, are made with very soft water and you wouldn't do calcium supplementation for those.

You water fits under the description of "soft" in the Primer in the stickies. Therefore, the general guidance in the Primer applies to your water.

astewart 02-19-2011 02:25 PM

Thank you both for the replies!

I am gearing up for all grain but I do partial mash sort of like the deathbrewer stovetop method. I have a fair sized pot so I can do about 5 lbs of grain.
Thank you for the link to the EZ calculator.

That's a nice calc for the bicarbonate Ill change my value to 18.3.
It seems I need to scour the forum for posted info and the primers.

I do appreciate the comments!!!
I think one of the best aspects of brewing is that even if you don't know every thing you can still brew good (sometimes great beer), and when your ready to make another step adding knowledge only helps the whole. Thank you for helping with my steps.

astewart 02-19-2011 02:26 PM

In addition to what I can find on the forum are there any books you would recommend?

astewart 02-19-2011 02:50 PM

For the other regions of the brewing world that have 'soft' water do commercial breweries make additions to their water or do they just use what they have?

astewart 02-19-2011 03:32 PM

I have had softened water to drink, my water definitely does not have that odd mouth feel. Does beer made with softened water retain that 'slippery' mouth feel?

astewart 02-19-2011 04:21 PM


Does your recommendation for British beers (Add 1 tsp gypsum as well as 1 tsp calcium chloride) include the sauermalz or should that be left out? Also I assume (yes I know thats often a mistake) these additions would be appropriate for American style light ales and IPAs.?.?

ajdelange 02-19-2011 05:26 PM

Yes, the British recommendation is the baseline (which includes 2% sauermalz and 1 tsp CaCl2.2H20) plus 1 tsp gypsum. One needs to be aware, however, that the base malts used in making ales (pale ale malt) usually have a distilled water pH as much as 0.15 unit lower than the base malts (Pilsner malt) used in making lagers. I really encourage people to obtain and use pH meters. Without there is got to be some uncertainty about these things.

Other questions:

Is the British recommendation suitable for American style ales and IPAs? I assume so too but I don't brew those styles.

Do soft water breweries add salts? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. In the traditional brews made at a particular location the general answer is "No". They learned to make the beer they could with the water they had. The water chemistry we take for granted today was not so widely understood in those days. Soft water generally makes better beer so that anyone who experimented with adding minerals to an available soft water supply would soon discover that this was not a great idea.

Books? Also no. There are lots of articles in magazines and on the net, however. But some are better than others and many contain some sort of bombshell. Most commonly this has to do with carbonate and bicarbonate as the chemistry of those is quite intricate if not complex but some also advance the notion that there is a strong correlation between beer color and the water chemistry it was made with (there isn't) and/or attach great importance to chloride/sulfate ratio which, while that may be justified in some cases isn't generally. Another common problem is with profiles for various brewing cities which the authors instruct you how to match (usually with a spreadsheet). The profiles are often not matchable (in the sense that the ion concentrations in them cannot exist in a physically realizable water).

It's just a difficult subject. I have been trying for 20 years to figure out how to simplify it and the best I have been able to come up with in that time is the Primer. I find it interesting, after all those years, that I'm getting a fair amount of positive feedback on it i.e. people are following it and reporting substantial improvements in their beers.

Does beer made with soft water have that funny mouthfeel associated with very low ion water? No. The stuff from the malt and fermentation mask that (not that it is really a flavor that needs masking but rather an un-flavor).

astewart 02-19-2011 07:07 PM

Again, thanks for the input.

I did a quick online brewery store search for PH meters. Do you have any recommendations? I know paying more doesn't always get you more. Are the PH and temp tools ok or is it best to stay away from something that's trying to do two things but may not do either well? The prices I am seeing ($30 to $80 ish) don't seem bad but it would be nice to avoid one or another if something is known to be a bad product.

So are you saying that the generalized additions are a 'quick fix' for the water and that a commercial brewery would alter there brewing methods to compensate for or utilize better the water they have to work with? Or do they avoid some styles due to their water and just brew with what they have and stick to what they can make well with it?

I will try your recommended additions. I have just put an IPA into a keg so I'll brew the same in the next few weeks and do a comparison of the two. Of course this will take a while as I think its at a good drinkable state at about a month and a half from brew day.

Bit of a bummer on the no books front - I guess I'll start another binder and do some searching, if you have any recommendations please post.

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