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Old 07-10-2007, 07:37 PM   #1
the_wickster
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Default Well water and homebrew

Its been about 10 years since I homebrewed in college. I lived at my parents house and the city water was excellent for homebrewing. I did mostly extract beer with pellet hopps and steeped specialty grains. I would just add cold tap water for the top off to bring it up to 5 gallons and it would be ~70 degF for pitching. I typically ended up with pretty good stuff.

Well I want to start brewing again but now I live in a house out in the country with well water. We have an iron filter and water softener and the water is clear, well airated, and tastes pretty good. The raw well water is not the most pleasant.

With this situation can I brew like I used to, or do I need to be concerned with the water? will I need to add any water additives? (Gypsum) Should I do full volume boils, and get a chiller?

TIA

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Old 07-10-2007, 07:39 PM   #2
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If you're doing extract brews, and your water tastes good, you should be fine. I don't think you'd want water out of the water softener though, since that must add some chemicals. I know some people buy bottled spring water in situations like yours. I'm lucky- I have excellent city water (although hard) and it works great!

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Old 07-10-2007, 07:55 PM   #3
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I have a well with softener and either boil or use bottled water for the top off. Probably just paranoia, but I know that while my tap water tastes OK right out of the tap, if it sits for a while it has a slightly chemical taste, maybe from the softener chemicals but I don't know. In any case, I don't want to risk passing off flavors into the brew. I've never had any problems when the water is boiled but have switched to bottled water for the top off since I'm kinda lazy and just got sick of boiling then cooling the top off water.

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Old 07-10-2007, 07:55 PM   #4
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I use the water from my well all the time with no noticable issue.

I have slightly hard water with a pretty high mineral content. No water softener, but i do have a sediment filter on the line.

With very light beers (as light as I can get with extract), I can notice (if I really look for it) a slight aftertaste from the water, but it is very subdued.

Actually, I've been happier with my well water than the 'city' water. Mine is cold, fresh, and un-chlorinated. The city water runs through miles of pipes, filters, chlorination, etc.

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Old 07-10-2007, 08:00 PM   #5
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The way ours and most water softeners work is by running the water through some type of pelletized media. (specialized filter) And the minerals dissolved in the water adhere to the media. When the capacity is used up, the media is back flushed with a brine solution to break loose the minerals from the media and the system is rinsed clean to start over. Many people incorrectly think the salt is what softens water. So actually there are no chemicals added at all. Maybe just maybe there might be some tiny tiny trace amounts of residual salt from the back flush.

I'm curious to hear what others on well water do?

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Old 07-10-2007, 08:07 PM   #6
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I have two roads that I 'travel' by. Since I have well water that has a significant amount of iron, it is shock chlorinated to precipitate the iron. It then goes into a collection bed of sorts where it settles and is drained off every so often. The water tastes good, no noticeable chlorine. I do mess with the pH because the iron makes it acidic. Plus it needs to be in a certain range for the clearing to be optimized. This is accomplished with soda Ash. I use this water for all of my dark beers. Anything from Amber to Stout in color.

Pils, Wheat, etc...all the lighter colored beer and some of my other recipes I go and get spring water from a mountain spring. In both cases the beers are excellent....

I guess the moral of the story is that you should give a brew a whirl, maybe a NutBrown and see how it turns out!

Oh and, yes go to full boils and a chiller if you have chlorine present.

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Old 07-10-2007, 08:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the_wickster
The way ours and most water softeners work is by running the water through some type of pelletized media. (specialized filter) And the minerals dissolved in the water adhere to the media. When the capacity is used up, the media is back flushed with a brine solution to break loose the minerals from the media and the system is rinsed clean to start over. Many people incorrectly think the salt is what softens water. So actually there are no chemicals added at all. Maybe just maybe there might be some tiny tiny trace amounts of residual salt from the back flush.

I'm curious to hear what others on well water do?
I'm sorry, but you are only partially correct. It is in fact the salt that is used during regeneration that repleneshes the sodium ions in the media used to soften the well water.

A water softener replaces the calcium and magnesium ions in the water with sodium ions. Since sodium does not precipitate out in pipes or react badly with soap, both of the problems of hard water are eliminated (scale buildup and sticky soap scum). To do the ion replacement, the water from the well runs through a bed of small plastic beads or through a chemical matrix called zeolite. The beads are covered with sodium ions. As the water flows past the sodium ions, they swap places with the calcium and magnesium ions. Eventually, the beads contain nothing but calcium and magnesium and no sodium, and at this point they stop softening the water. It is then time to regenerate the beads.

Regeneration involves soaking the beads in a stream of sodium ions. Salt is sodium chloride, so the water softener mixes up a very strong brine solution and flushes it through the beads (this is why you load up a water softener with salt). The strong brine displaces all of the calcium and magnesium that has built up in the beads and replaces it again with sodium. The remaining brine plus all of the calcium and magnesium is flushed out through a drain pipe.
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Old 07-10-2007, 09:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsma22
I'm sorry, but you are only partially correct. It is in fact the salt that is used during regeneration that repleneshes the sodium ions in the media used to soften the well water.

A water softener replaces the calcium and magnesium ions in the water with sodium ions. Since sodium does not precipitate out in pipes or react badly with soap, both of the problems of hard water are eliminated (scale buildup and sticky soap scum). To do the ion replacement, the water from the well runs through a bed of small plastic beads or through a chemical matrix called zeolite. The beads are covered with sodium ions. As the water flows past the sodium ions, they swap places with the calcium and magnesium ions. Eventually, the beads contain nothing but calcium and magnesium and no sodium, and at this point they stop softening the water. It is then time to regenerate the beads.

Regeneration involves soaking the beads in a stream of sodium ions. Salt is sodium chloride, so the water softener mixes up a very strong brine solution and flushes it through the beads (this is why you load up a water softener with salt). The strong brine displaces all of the calcium and magnesium that has built up in the beads and replaces it again with sodium. The remaining brine plus all of the calcium and magnesium is flushed out through a drain pipe.
Geez John, if you aren't sure what you are talking about, or can't articulate it very well, maybe you shouldn't be correcting people....



LOL. Nice piece of info -- thanks!
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Old 07-10-2007, 09:20 PM   #9
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John thanks for the clarification.

Now the big question. Should the softened water be any concern with my homebrew.


Warning

My point/understanding was that the sofetner doesn't just add salt to the water to soften it.

When they say your water hardness is "x" grains. What exactly is that a measurement of? Also I believe our new softener has an adjustment for how hard/soft (# of grains output) the water is. Is this worth playing with? (from a homebrew perspective)

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Old 07-10-2007, 09:32 PM   #10
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There are 7000 grains to a pound, so water hardness of X grains is X *1 lb/7000 per gallon. One gpg (1gpg) is equivalent to 17.1 ppm or mg/l. Hard water: 7.0 - 10.5 gpg = 120 - 180 ppm

Too much salt can prevent proper yeast growth. I would taste the water coming out of the iron processor. If it taste ok, you are probably better off using that as a source. It would be worth the price to have the water at that point analyzed, as well as the softener output. Some styles do very well with hard water. Key words: Burton's salts

[I'm guessing that the adjuster allows some of the water to flow through the ion exchanger and some to bypass it. That's the easy way.]

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