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Old 11-11-2011, 11:27 PM   #1
Brickout
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Feb 2010
Lockport, IL
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Like the subject says, I'd like to get my water tested. I'm getting tired of going to Walmart every time I brew and getting 6 gallons of water from the Hinkley Spring machine.

When I moved to Lockport, IL three years ago I was told that the water was pretty bad. So on the house I currently have a GE GXWH40L whole house filtration system using the FXHTC filter. You would not believe the crap this thing filters out every three months. From there it goes to the water softener and out to the house. In the kitchen we have an eSpring water purifier for drinking and cooking water.

So where do you think I should have my water tested at? Pre-softener , post-softener, in the kitchen, or all three?

Also, where should I have it tested at and what test should I have done? Any place that does it for free?

Thanks,
-Chris

 
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Old 11-11-2011, 11:40 PM   #2
ajdelange
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Aug 2010
McLean/Ogden, Virginia/Quebec
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You definitely want to test pre softener as brewing with softened water is something no good brewer does (all the generally speaking beneficial calcium and magnesium has been replaced by at best useless sodium). Given that it needs to be tested pre softener your options as to where to obtain the sample are limited.

The place most people go for their water tests is Ward Labs. Someone here will doubtless post the number of the appropriate test.

Any place that is trying to sell you a treatment system will do a free test for you. These are pretty rough* and not sufficient for brewing puposes.

The filter you are using is intended to remove dirt and other particles. It will have no effect on the iron content.

* I recently walked into a water treatment store in Magog, Quebec and announced that I wanted an RO unit. They said they'd have to test the water. I gave them a piece of paper with test values written on it. I had wagged the pH as I didn't have a pH meter with me. The lady, who was very nice, looked at the numbers dubiously and said she'd need to test the water herself. I had a sample in the car and gave it to her. She said well the pH is right. As she'd just dropped a dye into a couple of mL I asked what value of pH she had determined. Answer: It's not too high and it's not too low. She then said the hardness was right. I again asked what value of hardness she had determined and got essentially the same answer "If it were too hard it would be red". Alkalinity wasn't even checked and she clearly didn't know what that is though that was the main problem which I hoped the RO unit would solve (this is for drinking - not brewing). I just remembered another occasion on which a salesman gave me a free water analysis. He stuck a conductivity probe in a sample and told me what my "Totally Dissolved Solids" were.Bottom line: a free water analysis is worth about what you pay for it.

 
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Old 11-11-2011, 11:50 PM   #3
Brickout
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Feb 2010
Lockport, IL
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I figured pre softener, but I had to ask. Getting a sample won't be hard. My outside spigots are plumed pre softener. Don't need soft water to water the lawn.

 
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Old 11-12-2011, 03:51 PM   #4
Brickout
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Feb 2010
Lockport, IL
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So I was poking around Ward Lab's site. Looks like the offer two tests that would pertain to us, home brewer and household. The only difference I see is that one has Total Phosphorus and the other has Fluoride in the test. I think I'll go with the beer test.

Here are the tests:
Beer Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $26.50
Sodium
Calcium
Magnesium
Potassium
Carbonate
Bicarbonate
Chloride
Iron
Sulfate
Nitrate
Electrical Conductivity
Est. Total Dissolved Solids
pH
Total Hardness (Lime)
Total Alkalinity
Total Phosphorus

W-5 Household Complete Mineral Test . . . . . . . . . . . $26.50
Sodium
Calcium
Magnesium
Potassium
Carbonate
Bicarbonate
Chloride
Sulfate
Nitrate
Fluoride
Iron
Electrical Conductivity
Est. Total Dissolved Solids
pH
Total Hardness
Total Alkalinity

 
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Old 11-12-2011, 03:58 PM   #5
michaeltrego
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Sep 2009
Amherst, NH
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I opted for the W-6 test...for $16.50 it has everything we need for brewing...

 
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Old 11-14-2011, 04:43 PM   #6
Fritobandito
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Jun 2010
Michigan
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I've been getting my water straight out of the sink faucet ever since I started. I need to get a water report done here shortly, but are you recommending I send in the sample pre-softener or right out of the sink? I never really thought about using water that hasn't been through the softener.

 
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Old 11-14-2011, 04:59 PM   #7
ajdelange
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Pre softener. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, you would not brew with post softener water. Second, it's easy to calculate the post softener chemistry from the pre softener assuming the softener is working properly. It's not so easy to go the other direction.

 
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Old 11-14-2011, 11:57 PM   #8
Fritobandito
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Michigan
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It looks like I've been brewing with post softener water since I started. There is a valve in the basement that I can get pre softened water from that I just realized existed. I haven't noticed anything bad about any of the beers I've made using that water though.

 
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Old 11-15-2011, 04:41 AM   #9
ajdelange
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I did that too early in my brewing career before I understood anything about water. If your water isn't too hard (and mine wasn't) the softener does not dump in that much sodium so the main detriment is the lack of calcium and magnesium. Good beers are made with very low calcium and magnesium but most are improved by having some. So if you brew the same beer you have brewed with post softened water with pre softened you will probably find that it is appreciably better.

 
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:03 AM   #10
insurgus
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Aug 2011
Calgary, Alberta
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Up here in the frozen wasteland of Canada, we get our water reports directly from the City water works free of charge. You may want to start there.

 
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