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Old 03-12-2009, 03:26 AM   #1
jpalarchio
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Default Reverse Osmosis Water Users?

I've been out of homebrewing for a while but some BOP sessions have revived me and I'm getting back into it again. I was doing extract before and have acquired the equipment for all-grain now.

In my current home, the water is "community well" which seems to be excessively hard. We have a water softener but we don't drink or cook with the water, we instead use a reverse osmosis system and that water tastes just fine.

It's my understanding that RO water needs to be modified for all-grain as it lacks mineral content.

The posts and articles I've read have all been a bit confusing. Essentially I was wondering if someone who uses RO could comment on three things:

1 - How to determine what to add to the water? (Simpler is better, the less I have to mess with - the better)

2 - In relation to the pH, do I have to add anything in addition to the minerals? (i.e. Five Star 5.2 buffer)

3 - When is it added?

I do have Beersmith if any of the toolsets there are of help.

Thanks!

Joe

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Old 03-12-2009, 03:59 AM   #2
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If it's true RO water (or distilled water), you will need to add minerals, yes. The enzymes required to mash need some calcium in the water at the very minimum. Depending on your style of beer, you will need to add more or less salts...the three likely ones would be calcium carbonate (hardness + alkalinity), calcium chloride (hardness only), and calcium sulfate (hardness and a kick to the hop flavor).

Playing around with Beer Smith will allow you to get an idea of what to add (look at the Water Profiles tab). Otherwise, How To Brew by Palmer does cover the topic. It's not perfect, but it will help. That book is available online at How to Brew - By John Palmer.

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Old 03-12-2009, 11:28 AM   #3
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If you want to keep it simple, you could always just dilute your well water with the RO water. Perhaps just a gallon or two of the well water with the rest being RO water would get you closer to what you want.

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Old 03-12-2009, 11:59 AM   #4
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I agree with both of the above posts. The only easy way is to just dilute the water with you well water, but this is only possible if your well doesn't have iron. If you get orange staining when your softener runs out of salt, then don't use that water. Also don't use softened water, the level of sodium in the water is going to concentrate when the boil reduces it and it will make terrible beer.

I am on an iron well with a softener, so I build all of my own water from RO. I basically use the chart on John Palmers site that allows you to put in your water profile and will tell you the pH range for that SRM. This is very helpful when trying to get an appropriate pH for the style/color of the beer. I then went through Designing Great Beers/BJCP/a few other sources and made up a water profile for every style using Palmers chart and the desired flavor profile of each style. This is really the best way to do it and my efficiency is consistent, the flavors are brighter and I have more control over them. You can learn to do this with a basic understanding of water chemistry and Palmers chapter on water, just keep reading it till it "clicks".

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Old 03-12-2009, 01:12 PM   #5
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All the replies are good, however the only way to know what you have for sure is have your well water and RO water tested. With that data you can then develop a blending strategy and build a profile suitable to the style your brewing. RO purification should remove 95+% of the minerals, but there is some variation in performance of different membranes.

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Old 03-12-2009, 01:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
All the replies are good, however the only way to know what you have for sure is have your well water and RO water tested. With that data you can then develop a blending strategy and build a profile suitable to the style your brewing. RO purification should remove 95+% of the minerals, but there is some variation in performance of different membranes.
jdieter is absolutely correct. Membrane performance varies and in wells having a very high dissolved solids count you may still have water not suitable for some beers or you may need to add nothing. Testing is the only way to know for sure and with ward lab the W-6 Household Mineral Test at $16.50 is the way to go.

Ward Laboratories, Agricultural Testing, Consulting, Kearney, Nebraska
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Old 03-12-2009, 02:06 PM   #7
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RDWHAHB! Yes, building up the right water profile from RO water is a good thing, but you can just use RO water and not worry about the rest! I have used RO water without adding any salts and it turns out fine. In fact, this weekend I got 90% mash efficiency doing just that. As stated, RO is not 100% effective at removing minerals, so in effect, you get really soft (Pilsen, anybody?) water. There will still likely be plenty of the right minerals for conversion. The biggest difference will be taste.

Just my two cents....

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Old 03-12-2009, 02:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
RDWHAHB! Yes, building up the right water profile from RO water is a good thing, but you can just use RO water and not worry about the rest! I have used RO water without adding any salts and it turns out fine. In fact, this weekend I got 90% mash efficiency doing just that. As stated, RO is not 100% effective at removing minerals, so in effect, you get really soft (Pilsen, anybody?) water. There will still likely be plenty of the right minerals for conversion. The biggest difference will be taste.

Just my two cents....
Yes, but Austin water is already great brew water without an RO. I brewed with it for years by only removing the chloramines. Try that in Odessa Texas or Calumet Oklahoma. You will not get pilsen water there after the RO. You still get pretty thick soup.

Since you nor I know the content of his water, I still say test.

I up you two cents . . . bet or call?
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Old 03-12-2009, 02:43 PM   #9
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I've found that RO water can lead to some fairly bland beer if you are brewing a style that was formed around harder water, such as many of the British styles.


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Old 03-13-2009, 02:15 AM   #10
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I got a RO from a friend who uses them in his line of work. I use them and add 5.2- and I have had no issues what-so-ever....PH tests are always right at about 5.2, etc.

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