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Old 12-19-2011, 07:19 AM   #1
Formito
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Default Wilmington Water

Hey all,
I'm trying to get a little more serious about my AG process and I wanted to know if anyone could give me any pointers on the quality of my water and/or anything I should be putting in it for my beers. I'm in Wilmington, DE, here's my city water profile: Public Works: Water Quality Reports :: Government :: City of Wilmington, Delaware
Thanks

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Old 12-19-2011, 12:46 PM   #2
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Pretty nominal water. The question as to whether you should put anything in it for brewing is a very broad one and depends on the style, your goals (e.g. whether you want your beer to please your mother in law or win ribbons in competitions) and how much effort you want to go to. You can make lots of good beer with this water without doing a thing for many styles.

Up until fairly recently the approach people were taking was to get the water analyzed, treat it to remove alkalinity where necessary and add anything that was low for the style being brewed. The tendency now is to "remove" most ions (by dilution with RO water which is now readily available at modest cost) and dose in the minerals that are needed for a particular style. The Primer in the stickies in this topic (Brew Science) is designed to get you started with this approach. The next step is to start using one of the spreadsheets.

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Old 12-19-2011, 02:10 PM   #3
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The posted water reports don't really present all the information that is of interest for brewing. Hardness, alkalinity, and chloride are reported, but you're on your own as far as deciphering how much calcium or magnesium the hardness represents and what the levels of sodium and sulfate are. Try and contact the water quality lab at the water plant to see if they will tell you those other values that were omitted from the published report. If this fails, send a sample to Ward Labs.

Its very possible that this water is suitable for brewing many beers, but without the other information, you won't know. The Primer is an excellent resource if you're going to include RO water in your brewing. That may or may not be necessary. Bru'n Water will help you decipher what your options for brewing water might be.

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Old 12-19-2011, 03:06 PM   #4
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Ok, thanks guys. I guess I'll have to dig into the primer a little bit now and figure some things out on my own. I do have a quick follow up though. Getting more specific from my first question, My two favorite types of beer are stouts and IPA's. Is there any type of treatment with those that could help me improve them? I feel like most of my other aspects of brewing have been locked in so I'd like to try tuning this in to see any differences.

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Old 12-19-2011, 03:51 PM   #5
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The stouts are really the most challenging when it comes to brewing water treatment and the reason for this is the variability in the malts - both dark and base. In some cases you will definitely need to add some alkali (chalk usually) but in others adding chalk would result in disastrously (well that's a bit of an exaggeration) high mash pH. There are people on this board who can attest to the fact that either of these situations can arise. My personal experience is that with Maris Otter as base malt with 10 % 500-700L roast barley and somewhat less flaked barley you will not need to add anything to your water. That's the only stout (Ashton Lewis's Irish stout from the AHA Stout monograph) I can comment on because it's the only stout I brew. Now if you were to brew a RIS with 30% roast barley you would probably need to add some chalk. Perhaps others that have found this necessary will share their experiences.

WRT IPAs your water should again be OK. The big design choice for an IPA is how you want the hops to be. If you really want assertive hops then lots of sulfate is the way to get them. If you don't then less sulfate should be employed. Chloride almost always improves beer (up to a point) which is why the old timers used to put salt in their beer at the bar and why the primer suggests the addition of calcium chloride.

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Old 12-19-2011, 04:24 PM   #6
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Interesting, I really do want to make my hops more pronounced in my IPA's and I'm wondering if that's what is missing.

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Old 12-19-2011, 05:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Formito View Post
Ok, thanks guys. I guess I'll have to dig into the primer a little bit now and figure some things out on my own. I do have a quick follow up though. Getting more specific from my first question, My two favorite types of beer are stouts and IPA's. Is there any type of treatment with those that could help me improve them? I feel like most of my other aspects of brewing have been locked in so I'd like to try tuning this in to see any differences.
Hey Formito,

Good to see another Wilmington brewer. I looked at the exact same report you posted. I even called the City water department to see if I could get some more information but they weren't to helpful.

I haven't treated my water for stouts, porters, brown ales and they've come out great. I've never tried to treat the water for these beers but since they've come out good, I've never seen a reason to add anything to it. I've added some gypsum to my IPA's and pale ales and I think the hop profile is much more pronounced compared to not treating the water. All in all, I think the water is pretty good for brewing standard english style ales.

Have you had any bad experiences with the water?
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Old 12-19-2011, 06:02 PM   #8
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I haven't had any bad experiences with the water, but I know that using some additives could help me out. I have noticed that my hoppier "clones" and other IPA's lack some of the zing or crispness that I get from the bottle of the microbreweries that I like. Looks like im gonna try some gypsum for my next stone ipa clone.
Its kinda sad to say but I'm actually a chemist with duPont so this should be my bread and butter lol

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Old 12-30-2011, 01:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KozHops View Post
Hey Formito,

Good to see another Wilmington brewer. I looked at the exact same report you posted. I even called the City water department to see if I could get some more information but they weren't to helpful.

I haven't treated my water for stouts, porters, brown ales and they've come out great. I've never tried to treat the water for these beers but since they've come out good, I've never seen a reason to add anything to it. I've added some gypsum to my IPA's and pale ales and I think the hop profile is much more pronounced compared to not treating the water. All in all, I think the water is pretty good for brewing standard english style ales.

Have you had any bad experiences with the water?
Wilmingtonian here as well! Are you you saying that by 'not treating' that you are just pulling your water straight from the tap? Are you filtering it at all? I ask because I'm trying to determine the best way to do this. Right now I run my water through a PUR sink filter which takes forever, and am wondering if I can go right from the sink since it gets boiled anyway.
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Old 12-30-2011, 01:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Formito View Post
I have noticed that my hoppier "clones" and other IPA's lack some of the zing or crispness that I get from the bottle of the microbreweries that I like.
Words like theses suggest (but do not prove) that mash pH may well be the problem. Most beers require acidification of the mash in order for it to reach proper pH (the exceptions being beers with lots of dark malt). When pondering additions to the water do not forget to also ponder acid additions to the mash. The Primer offers suggests which ought to work in many cases but to really get a handle on mash pH one must have a pH meter, check the mash and adjust pH to near 5.4. People that do this report that all beer flavors are "brighter".
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