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Old 09-12-2011, 08:05 PM   #1
Houdini
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Default Need help with my water levels!

I'm a newbie who has just finished making my first batch of brew .

While I wait for it to bottle condition I'm looking at getting a little more in depth for my next batch. I figured I'd get a water report to see how my tap water is, and adjust according to whatever beer type I decide to make next.

However, after talking to the Administrator of Operations for my local water treatment facility, they could only give me levels of Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, and Alkalinity (carbonates). So I have a few questions:

1) If my water treatment facility can't give me levels of Sulfate and Chloride then how can I get this? Is there an inexpensive testing kit I can purchase?

2) Am I right in assuming the "Alkalinity (carbinates)" is CaCO3 and not HCO3-, in which case I have to multiply the value by 1.22 to get the true HCO3- value?

3) I can use calculators to figure out what kind of additions I need to add, but not sure when to add these. Do I add them to the water right at the beginning before I even start boiling?

- Houdini

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Old 09-12-2011, 08:15 PM   #2
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1. http://www.wardlab.com/FeeSchedule/WaterAnalysis.aspx Do it

2. yes CaCO3, I do not think there is any conversion needed, someone else might have a better answer.

3. Yes

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Old 09-12-2011, 08:43 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Houdini View Post
2) Am I right in assuming the "Alkalinity (carbinates)" is CaCO3 and not HCO3-, in which case I have to multiply the value by 1.22 to get the true HCO3- value?
- Houdini
Multiplying by 1.22 will get you close to the HCO3- concentration.

I recommend downloading this: https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/

In addition to being an awesome tool, it has a lot of info about the why's and how's of what it's calculating, and water treatment in general.
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Old 09-13-2011, 03:27 AM   #4
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Wow, thanks for the quick replies! I'll check out those two sites, it sounds like they should give me all the info I need.

- Houdini

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Old 09-13-2011, 04:17 AM   #5
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You didn't say if you were doing all grain brewing or extract brewing. If you're doing extract, then your water quality is not nearly as important. As long as your water doesn't make you gag when you drink it, it should be fine to brew with for extract brewing.

Ward Labs does a good job of analyzing your water for cheap.

The bru n' water application is overly complicated in my (newbie) opinion. I much prefer EZ water 3.0 to figure out water. Also a free application.

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Old 09-13-2011, 04:40 AM   #6
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For now I plan on doing partial mash brewing, with the possibility of moving to AG brewing later on. How important is water quality with PM brewing? Would it be worth the effort to tweak the mineral levels?

- Houdini

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Old 09-13-2011, 07:49 AM   #7
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Water Chemistry is really only important for achieving the proper mash PH of 5.2-5.6. It is really about extracting unwanted tannins from the grains and making sure you have optimal PH for starch conversion.

Though I applaud your enthusiasms, and think it's awesome to want to concentrate on water formulas, as a new brewer I would focus more on your mechanics for now. Get the process of brewing, temp control, recipe formulation, and sanitization down. Water is really one of the last things to start playing with. If your water is drinkable you can brew with it.

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Old 09-13-2011, 01:29 PM   #8
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Water Chemistry is really only important for achieving the proper mash PH of 5.2-5.6. It is really about extracting unwanted tannins from the grains and making sure you have optimal PH for starch conversion.

Though I applaud your enthusiasms, and think it's awesome to want to concentrate on water formulas, as a new brewer I would focus more on your mechanics for now. Get the process of brewing, temp control, recipe formulation, and sanitization down. Water is really one of the last things to start playing with. If your water is drinkable you can brew with it.

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Boy, I don't agree with that at all. Beer is made up of mostly water, so it's very important. Chlorine or chlormines in the brewing water can absolutely ruin the beer, and so can a high alkalinity. It has a lot more to do with the flavor of the beer than the mash pH!

I'd ask the water company if they use chlorine and/or chloramines. If it's the former, chlorine can be boiled off or it will even dissipate just put putting your water out overnight. Chloramines need treatment- usually with campden tablets in the brewing water prior to brewing.

Generally, though, tweaking any mineral levels won't be necessary for extract or PM brewing. You just want to have a chlorine/chloramine-free water without high levels of iron. High alkalinity can be an issue as well, so if your water has high levels of bicarbonate, you'll want to dilute it with some bottled reverse osmosis water.
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Old 09-13-2011, 01:36 PM   #9
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I agree with Yooper. The reason you can use distilled water with malt extract is that the extract contains whatever minerals the extract manufacturer used in their mash. So if you have out-of-whack water to start with, and you add all the manufacturer's minerals too, you could end up with some pretty bad beer.

Ward Labs charges $16.50 for a basic test. I think it's some of the best money you can spend on brewing.

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Old 09-13-2011, 04:49 PM   #10
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I agree with yooper on the chlorine, though most municipal water supplies today use an amount of chlorine and chlorides that will be boiled off during a routine 90 minute boil. The reason I am wary of advising new brewers to use RO or distiller water is because they will usually use it for their yeast starters as well. Where you get the needed nutrients from the malt extracts in your wort boil, such is not always the case with a yeast starter. Using RO or distilled water for your starter could be counter productive.

I would say as long as you are doing the recommended 90 min. Boil, however; the chlorine should dissipate from your brewing water.

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