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Old 02-08-2011, 04:35 PM   #1
cjsturch
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Default Water treatment question

After being away from brewing for a while, I've started brewing again. In the past I haven't put much thought into my water profile and all has gone well. Since the last time I brewed I have moved however and have a new water supply. My latest brew went fairly well despite having everything that could have gone wrong, go wrong - including an ice storm showing up a day early and starting to sleet while I was brewing outside, hose on my counterflow chiller came loose spraying water everywhere while transferring to the fermenter, coaching basketball that went into double overtime so I got a late start, power went out and ended up brewing by flashlight because it was late and a few other odds and ends.

Anyway, I've tried a beer a week over the past couple of weeks just to see where it's at and even with all the issues I had on brewday it has a pretty good flavor - however, I can taste the local water in it. It tastes like a good beer mixed with tapwater - if that makes any sense. With as wrong as everything went, it could have been any number of things that are at the root of that taste, but it caused me to think about my water supply. I decided to look more at water treatment before I start my next brew (Chimay Red clone) and see if that helps any. I got a copy of the annual water profile for my town (Commerce, TX) and am trying to work through it. Right now my thoughts are to dilute using about 50% distilled water and adding 3tsp of gypsum, but I'm not sure what else, if anything, I need to do with it. I've been reading through everything I can find, and was tinkering with the brewing water chemistry calculator I found on another post here as well. Any thoughts on what you would do with this water would be greatly appreciated. Also, is there anything else on the profile I need to look for?


Calcium 1.4
Magnesium was not listed
Sulphate 45
Sodium 132
Chloride 67
Bicarbonate 233
Hardness as Ca/Mg 28
Alkalinity as CaCO3 18
pH 7.7

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Old 02-08-2011, 04:53 PM   #2
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Edit: After reading my response, I realized that I answered a question that you didn't asked. I just spent 6K on a treatment system so I could drink/brew with my well water. I can not help you with specifics about your water chemistry. Sorry for the thread hijack - Dwain

The rule of thumb I've always used is, if the water is OK to drink, it's OK to brew with. You can find the water chemistry for just about anything you want to brew.

To troubleshoot, I would start down this path:
What was your first beer, and how old was it when you tried it.
Was it something lighter that any abnormality would show up it? Had it aged at all?

Is it possible that in the confusion, you added too much water to the final product?

Are you AG, PG, Extract?
There are several things that could account for the body being lighter than expected.


Before I started messing with water chemistry too much, as long as it is drinkable, I would make notes of my previous brew day, make necessary changes, and even do a walk through to make sure I had placement/ingredients laid out properly. You may be able to pinpoint what happened. When I get back in after a layoff, I tend to do heavier beers. They are much more forgiving of mistakes. I think the red clone should be heavy enough. Luck and let us know how it turns out. - Dwain
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Old 02-08-2011, 05:34 PM   #3
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I'm pretty sure it is something from all the other issues that went on that have made it "watery", it just got me thinking about my water chemistry and what I can do to improve in that area. I'm brewing all-grain, and this one was using beirmunchers centennial blonde ale recipe that I found in the forums here. 2 weeks in the primary then bottled, tried 1 after the first week, another after the 2nd and just had a 3rd after the 3rd. It's been thin each time. Could have been from sleeting in the brew kettle, or more likely from when the hose came off the wort chiller, the hose falling perfectly to spray water into the fermenter that was half filled with wort at the time. I have learned not to trust the weather in Texas (were supposed to have a light dusting of snow this past week and got 7 inches), and to be more thorough in checking my hose connections because of this.

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Old 02-08-2011, 05:56 PM   #4
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There are some big inconsistencies in your reported ion profile. The most dramatic is that 18 ppm as CaCO3 alkalinity and bicarbonate content of 233 mg/L doesn't compute. A simple fix is to assume that you left off a digit. If I use the definition of alkalinity in which the end point is the equivalence end point Alkalinity of 189 would get you a bicarbonate level of 230mg/L. I reason that the 1 and 8 digits are correct and use the largest digit for the third, 9, because that still leaves me a bit shy of 233.

Also, your hardness of 28 with a calcium level of of 1.5 mg/L (3.5 ppm calcium hardness) implies magnesium hardness of 24.5 ppm (and a magnesium concentration of 5.6 mg/L). While I don't suppose there is any fundamental reason that you can't have magnesium hardness higher than calcium hardness I think it quite unusual.

So, given the assumptions I have made the main problem with your water is that it is highly alkaline and the alkalinity is paired with sodium rather than calcium which means that there is no calcium to offset the pH raising effects of the bicarbonate.

I think your best bet would be to dilute 9:1 with low ion water and supplement with calcium chloride first and then gypsum. See the Primer in the Stickies section for starting guidance.

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Old 02-09-2011, 04:37 PM   #5
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Thanks for the info. I looked over the profile they sent me to check my numbers and saw that I had misread part of it. The alkalinity I listed is labeled as P. Alkalinity as CaCO3. Not sure what the P. means. Farther down there is a listing of Total Alkalinity as CaCO3 which shows 269. Now I'm not sure how much of this report I misread. I have another snow day today so spending the day reading up on water chemistry and treatment. If someone wouldn't mind taking a look at this and make sure I'm not misreading something else I would appreciate it.

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Old 02-09-2011, 05:47 PM   #6
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This is a classic example of how one can be led astray by a water report such as yours. And I'm not saying there is anything wrong with your water report. It just doesn't represent the water you can expect to draw from your tap on a given day.

P - alkalinity is the alkalinity measured by sticking a pH probe in the sample and adding acid until pH 8.3, the phenolpthalein (that's what the P stands for) end point is reached. Thus the P alkalinity is 0 if the pH of the sample is less than 8.3 - you'd have to add base, not acid, to get to pH 8.3 if the sample pH is less than 8.3. Looking at maxium levels we see that pH goes as high as 8.9. The sample that gave that pH reading would have a P - alkalinity but a sample at pH 6.5, the minimum, or 7.7, the average, wouldn't. Thus P - alkalinity and pH 7.7 cannot describe a particular water sample though the average pH measured over an ensemble of samples could be 7.7 and the P - alkalinity, measured over that same ensemble, could be 18. Similar arguments apply to all of the other entries. The averages do not represent any real water sample - just the average over many samples. If I try to use the average values to represent an actual sample I wind up with water that contains 6.2 mEq/L cations and 8.2 mEq/L anions. This is a physical impossibility - anion and cation numbers must be the same (or the same within measurement error tolerances).

Looking at the maximum and minimum values it is clear that your water is very variable either from seasonal variations or use of different sources or combinations of sources over time.

So what is someone in this situation to do? The only robust answer is to analyze the water each time you brew (or have it analyzed). Given the range of sodium and sulfate analyzing it yourself is a problem - you need pretty expensive gear to measure those 2 ions. But you can, with simple kits, measure alkalinity and the hardnesses (i.e. calcium hardness and magnesium hardness). These are the most important in terms of setting mash pH.

Sending a sample off to Ward Labs once a month might be an alternative if the variations are seasonable and predictable. But that's an investment of $300 on water tests.

Given the high (average) alkalinity we can conclude that this water is, on average, not very suitable for brewing. So rather than chase the chemistry from brew to brew it seems to make more sense to dilute, say, 9:1 with RO. This would cut worst case alkalinity down to 39 (and average alkalinity down to 27). The water, diluted or not diluted, is going to require calcium supplementation.

I really do think the Primer fits your particular situation.

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Old 02-09-2011, 08:52 PM   #7
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Thanks for the explanation. Going to follow the primer for my next brew and see how that works out. I may send a few samples off this year just out of curiosity, but from your explanation I'm not sure that it would do me much good.

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