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Old 02-08-2007, 08:41 PM   #1
FlyGuy
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Default Advice on water quality?

So I think I want to give all grain brewing a shot, but I read that water quality is more important to AG brewing. I have started reading about water quality issues in brewing, but it gets pretty complicated.

I have obtained my municipal water quality report, and I know my tap water is considered 'hard'. So darker beers, like porters and stouts should be OK. But I am wondering about paler beer, like a Pilsener -- perhaps I will have to do some water adjustments? I have this vague recollection of Chairman Cheyco saying that our Calgary water was 'not great' or something, so I am generally a bit worried about all-grain brewing with it. There is lots of advice on water on this site, but frankly, I am not sure how any of it applies to my situation.

Can anyone with some experience in this area provide some feedback about issues that may arise using Calgary tap water? Here is a quick summary of the water quality (full details are here):

Hardness as CaCO3: 144 – 185 mg/L
pH: 6.80 - 8.01
Total dissolved solids: 177.2 – 211.2 mg/L

Bicarbonate as CaC03: 92.3 – 137.5 mg/L
Calcium: 39.8 – 55.4 mg/L
Chloride: 2.36 – 6.20 mg/L
Free Chlorine residual: 0.78 - 1.53 mg/L
Magnesium: 10.6 - 16.1 mg/L
Sodium: 2.24 – 4.01 mg/L
Sulfate: 38.8 – 51.3 mg/L


Thanks!

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Old 02-08-2007, 10:19 PM   #2
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The information that I got from BYO.com was that you want calcium to be high (100-250 ppm) and carbonites low 50ppm or less.

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Old 02-09-2007, 02:33 AM   #3
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From what I've read you need water with very low levels of dissolved solids for a Pilsner. The only adjustments you could make to achieve this would be to remove the unwanted salts already present in the water. Pre boiling would precipitate some of the CaCO3, but for an RO system is the only thing I know of that would bring your water into line with that found in Pilsen.
Adding some Gypsum however should produce a water profile that would be fine for Pale Ales.

-a.

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Old 02-09-2007, 03:26 AM   #4
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Ordinary Carbon Filtration will do the trick. Go to www.byo.com and look for last months article on how to make your own filter.

You can also use a refridgerator ice making filter thats available at just about any Lowes or Home Depot.

RO is really, really low in PPMs ~ 25ppms of dissolved solids.

You can call just about any local Culligan water place. In fact they would be happy to lease one to you and tell you anything you need to know about water. Lease fees are pretty cheap.

Most likely, they won't know about your needs for brewing water. If you tell them what you need they will hook you up.

You might even be able to buy carboys from them too. I've done it in the past.

Don't mean to plug Culligan too much but I use them at work for all of my water treatment needs. UV Sanitization, DI, RO, Softening, Carbon filtration....

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Old 02-09-2007, 12:28 PM   #5
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Tbh, I wouldn't worry about it unless your water is unpalatable. You could easily waste lots of time worrying about getting optimally conditioned brew water and in the end what does that mean exactly? This should not stop you from going AG. Just brew and roll with the punches. I am guessing that you can make an excellent beer sucessfully. Now if you plunge in and get poor conversion, high tannin extraction, etc then perhaps it would be a good idea to then look at your water profile. Why am I telling you all this? Because I had the same concerns. But you know what, it all turned out fine without messing with the water chemistry. What you can do, and is adviseable is to determine the best style that your water chemistry supports if you want to add a level of safety to your first AG batch.

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Old 02-09-2007, 12:37 PM   #6
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According to the results I get from using this Nomograph:

http://www.howtobrew.com/images/f83.pdf

using the values you supplied for Mg, Ca, Alkalinity, the best suggested style for you to brew is the range in SRM from about 12/13 to 17/19. Hope that helps. So your Nutbrowns, Amber Ales to Brown Porter looks like the best window to start without having to make adjustments. Even so, I wouldn't be afraid to strech the bounds even strongly. I checked using both your low range and high range numbers on the water report and again, same thing Nutbrowns to Porter will be great.

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Last edited by zoebisch01; 02-09-2007 at 12:41 PM.
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Old 02-09-2007, 12:50 PM   #7
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That's all great advice. Thanks guys! And special thanks to zoebisch01 for running the numbers on my water quality (that nomograph sounds like a handy tool -- I'll have to learn it).

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Old 02-09-2007, 01:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyGuy
That's all great advice. Thanks guys! And special thanks to zoebisch01 for running the numbers on my water quality (that nomograph sounds like a handy tool -- I'll have to learn it).
It is indeed handy. Keep in mind, one of the main factors in AG is the pH of the mash not the pH of the water that is important. So I wouldn't get too wrapped up in the numbers. One thing you can do, is if you find that your water isn't working for say a Pils is to search around for a spring where you can get water. Get that water checked. I am blessed to have a spring nearby where I can get naturally soft water for when I do lighter styles.
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Old 02-09-2007, 02:27 PM   #9
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I've got piles of notes at home regarding a few months of water research I did specificly for an AG pilsner. If you are going down that lane, I could reference some of them for you later. There are also a few threads on this forum where I was picking the brains of some very insightfull brewers around here on this very subject. For the most part, I totally agree with zoebisch. I used a lot of the Palmer info to determine the 'ideal' types of beer that my local water can support (pales to porters.....and that's 70-80% of my brewing!) and to be honest I only plan to make small chemistry additions to the water within that range.

Pilsners, though, are kind of a different beast. Having tackled a pils in my 2nd AG brew, I would not advise against it, I would simply raise a flag to say that the pils style does require water attention. If you are the type who likes to keep thing to style, you want to replicate a pilsner type water. For me, this ended up meaning treating distilled to a Dortmund-type profile, and I adjusted my previously-planned Bohemian pilsner to a German Pils. Pilzen water is very, very, hard to replicate, even if you go over the top with the chemistry. If you want to do a pils, doctoring up distilled or RO to Dortmund is much more achievable. If I was going to stick with the Bohemian/Pilzen, I probably would have got RO and almost used it straight. Pilzen water is freakishly low in most of the minerals brewers worry about.

Overal tho, I wouldn't let the water chemistry discourage you from going all grain. If you are within the addplicable styles and colors for you local supply, brew away. As zoe says, tho, make sure you are on top of the mash pH levels....don't sweat the water too much (if you are in that local-water comfort range). Pils, tho, I say sweat the minerlas AND acidity before mash. You might find that you will be making some larger-than-expected acid modifications on-the-fly if not.

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Old 02-09-2007, 03:50 PM   #10
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Thanks again, guys. Very sage advice. A pilsener wasn't on my list of first AG batches to do, so I will see how some browns and porters go first, then tackle something like a pils later.

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