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Old 01-14-2011, 05:43 PM   #1
amrmedic
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Default Water Testing Advice

I have been buying bottled Spring water or Drinking water for my homebrewing needs. My local tap water usually has a strong sulphur odor to it. I have never tested it, but have looked at the countys webpage for data but cant find anything current.

What lab do most homebrewers use to determine the ion concentrations of the water? I see many water testing labs and kits, but most of them are testing for toxins, bacteria, etc, but not really brewing needs.

My other thought is buying distilled water and then mixing up my own water based on the beer. The last option is intensive and would require me breaking out my chem text ( is that M or m, and I hate moles) again and calculator.

My goal is to try to use my tap water and tweak it, but the sulfur smell probably indicates high SO4 concentrations.

Thanks

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Old 01-15-2011, 07:48 AM   #2
LakewoodBrew
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Do you have a water filter? A good activated carbon one or RO will reduce or eliminate most of the funk. It's cheaper in the long run than buying bottled, especially if you brew a lot. I use an activated carbon type on my rig. Water tastes real clean, but still carries some hardness so I have to watch my bitterness.

There are lots of water places that will test your water for ions for you. Many for free since they want to sell you a filtration system. Just make sure they can give you a real water report and not some cheesy "hard - nuetral - soft" BS

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Old 01-15-2011, 04:18 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amrmedic View Post
I have been buying bottled Spring water or Drinking water for my homebrewing needs. My local tap water usually has a strong sulphur odor to it. I have never tested it, but have looked at the countys webpage for data but cant find anything current.
If the smell is of rotten eggs it is probably sulfide that is responsible - not sulfate which is odorless. If you do have sulfide it is quite volatile and you should be able to drive it off/oxidize it with nothing more than aeration - certainly worth a try. Other wise, an oxidizing agent can be used. Bleach is common and has the nice property that the chlorine will leave the water after a few hours.

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What lab do most homebrewers use to determine the ion concentrations of the water? I see many water testing labs and kits, but most of them are testing for toxins, bacteria, etc, but not really brewing needs.
I think 99 out of 100 send samples off to Ward Labs. Their test covers everything needed by most brewers. Note: they test for sulfate but not sulfide. Some of us test the water ourselves but AFAIK we are few and far between. Fish hobby suppliers usually have tests for pH, hardness and alkalinity. Lab suppliers, such as Cole Parmer have a variety of kits for sale and companies that specialize in water testing equipment/chemistries such as Hach and LaMotte offer diverse testing solutions (from drop count titrators to spectrophotometers).

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My other thought is buying distilled water and then mixing up my own water based on the beer. The last option is intensive and would require me breaking out my chem text ( is that M or m, and I hate moles) again and calculator.
Probably more buy RO water or install RO units in their breweries. Improved performance and cost make this a viable approach. The subject of salt additions can be as simple (see the Primer) or as complex as you like. Many strive to make it much more complicated than it needs to be but full understanding will require substantial effort. The good news is that 95% of brewing water chemistry is the chemistry of carbonate and calcium carbonate has a molecular weight of 100 mg/mmol. You ought to be able to remember that.


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My goal is to try to use my tap water and tweak it, but the sulfur smell probably indicates high SO4 concentrations.
As noted above sulfate is not responsible for the odor but that doesn't mean that you couldn't have a load of sulfate in the water and you need to know that. So I'd say the first step would be to see if aeration or bleach will handle the odor. Given that there is a sulfide odor I'd suspect organics as well and a GAC filter might get rid of those. If you can satisfy yourself that the odors can be dealt with then send a sample off to Ward Labs. Otherwise, consider RO (buying either the water or an RO system).
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Old 01-15-2011, 04:19 PM   #4
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Check http://wardlab.com/#
You need test W-6
And you need to multiply the sulfate reported by 3 (because of the way they express it).

-a.

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