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Old 05-18-2013, 11:58 PM   #1
KPaul
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Default Which Water To Use?

I've brewed 5 acceptable but not fantastic extract batches over the past month or so. I think the mediocre results have a lot to do with my water. I'm ready to try out all grain and have built a mash/lauter tun and got a 10 gallon brew kettle. I figured I would get my water supply taken care of before I brew any more batches.

I'm sending a sample off to Ward's and am getting a good PH meter to keep track of the mash. My question is whether I should send off a sample of my inside water which is softened with salt, or should I send a sample from the outside spigot? It's much more convenient to have the water on hand in the kitchen, but if it will be easier to adjust water straight from the municipal supply, I'll deal with hauling buckets into the house.

Neither water is what I would call refreshing to drink. It's wet, and doesn't taste awful to me, but it doesn't taste good either. We run our drinking water through an RO system. Using our RO water for brewing would be quite a task as the system is a small under-sink model that has a slow refill rate on the bladder tank. So it's either outside municipal water or inside softened municipal water. Which would be the better candidate for tweaking for brewing?

Your advice is greatly appreciated.

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Old 05-19-2013, 01:27 AM   #2
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I'm in Sarasota. I just use tap water. I condition with a crushed Campden tablet and let it sit overnight in both of my kettles. I also throw some Ph 5.2 in my mash tun for kicks. Beers are drinkable. That said, I have never had my water tested, nor do I care to. I am hitting my efficiency numbers and I am happy.

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Old 05-19-2013, 01:57 PM   #3
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I use local spring water for my beers from AE to PM. It def tastes a bit better than with tap water around here. Thanks to new government regs,it did go up from 10c/G to 25c/G,but it works very well for mashed worts.

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Old 05-19-2013, 02:06 PM   #4
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I sent both. I mention the differences a little here:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/water-report-369539/

For me, I would rather use the softened water because of the decrease in iron and just deal with the excess sodium. You may just have to deal with chloramine or chlorine.


I use the RO system under the sink. I put a splitter and valve on the bladder tank and drain 3 gallons at a time. So to get the 9 gallons I need for brew day takes 2 days prep. It's not that big a deal to me.

Hmm, Actually I may just put a splitter in the line that goes to the fridge which runs through the lower level of the house which would cut down on the travel to the garage.

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Old 05-19-2013, 02:07 PM   #5
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In some other threads,I read of others having trouble with the softened waters' sodium level messing up the brew?...

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Old 05-19-2013, 02:08 PM   #6
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Ideally, you'd be able to use the softened RO water. If you can't, then the outside (unsoftened) water would be the right water to use.

Water softeners work by replacing calcium (which you want) with sodium (which you don't want). Unless you're going to use RO water after it's been softened, then you don't want to use the softened water.

RO water is ideal for brewing, and I went out and bought an RO system for $120 just for brewing. My water tastes great, but it's high in bicarbonate so I was buying RO water at the store for a long time. Finally I just decided to add a portable RO system (no storage tank) to make life easier for me.

You could send a sample of your water to Ward Lab and get the $16.50 test. You may be able to work quite well with it, or dilute it with some of your RO water if that's a possibility.

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Old 05-19-2013, 02:30 PM   #7
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Our municipal water is awful. I use RO with a bit of gypsum, calcium chloride and brewer's salts. Search for "bruin water" for a helpful spreadsheet to get the water profile to what you want.

PS, I also have the small under sink RO so I take my carboys to the kiosk at the market and buy it for $1.50/5G.

Water is the difference between acceptable and fantastic at least it was for me.

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Old 05-19-2013, 09:31 PM   #8
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My city water tastes great but it doesn't have good characteristics for brewing, found out the hard way. I buy RO water through the supermarket across the street for .39/gallon. Add a little calcium chloride and call it good.

I'm fully convinced that switching to RO water and getting a fermentation fridge were the 2 best things I've ever done in the way of brewing. Always awesome beer ever since.

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Old 05-20-2013, 12:00 AM   #9
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Thanks folks, I think I'll go the RO route. Should I still send a sample off to Ward's to know what I need to add to bring it up where it should be, or is all RO water the same? If so, do I just use the additions as spelled out here by Yooper?

Thanks again!

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Old 05-20-2013, 11:42 AM   #10
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Check the TDS of the RO water. If it's under 50 I wouldn't bother testing and just assume it needs the salts in that thread.

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