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Old 02-14-2012, 08:19 AM   #1
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Default HCO3 = CaCO3?

Science is not my strong suit. Please don't laugh at me. I'm married to a scientist and I get enough of that at home.

My water report lists "bicarbonate as CaCO3" but BeerSmith is asking for bicarbonate as HCO3. Can one derive the former from the latter? Does any of this really matter since apparently I should be using EZ Water calculator?

Also, is the convention to use averages when determining the constituents of one's water? I live in the Bay Area and my water report lists what sometimes seem a large range of values (but may actually be insignificant...I'm still new at this and trying to figure that out).

Thanks for the help. If any of you need any help with 19th century post-Hegelian German philosophy or the history of Continental political thought I'm your man.

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Old 02-14-2012, 09:09 AM   #2
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HCO3 is bicarbonate

CaCO3 is calcium carbonate

Maybe these will help.

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Old 02-14-2012, 01:50 PM   #3
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The molecular weight of CaCO3 is 100. Thus if you put 100 mg CaCO3 in 1 liter of water and bubble carbon dioxide through the water until the CaCO3 is all dissolved you will have dissolved 1 millimole of the stuff. There will be 1 mmol of calcium and 2 mmol of bicarbonate (one from the CaCO3 and one from the CO2 that dissolved it). Because calcium is doubly charged, we say there are 2 milliequivalents of that. Because bicarbonate is singly charged there are also 2 milliequivalents of that. So there are a couple of ways we could describe this solution. We could say is 0.001 M (1 millimole) or 0.002 N (2 milliequivalents). But instead water chemists have for years preferred to refer to the hardness and bicarbonate content in terms of the amount of calcium carbonate, dissolved in natures way, that led to the observed hardness and bicarbonate (alkalinity) and so say the calcium hardness is 100 parts per million as calcium carbonate and the alkalinity (bicarbonate) contents is 100 parts per million as calcium carbonate. Thus 1 ppm as CaCO3 is 1/50 milliequivalent per liter.

The equivalent weight of bicarbonate (the same as its molecular weight because of the single charge) is 61 mg/mEq. Thus if we have alkalinity of 50 ppm as CaCO3 we have 50/50 = 1 mEq/L and 1*61 mg/L as bicarbonate. Or, put more succinctly ppm_bicarbonate = 61*alkalinity_ppm_as_CaCO3/50.

Don't know why the water industry persists in using ppm as CaCO3. It would be much better IMHO to just use mEq. And I don't know why the spreadsheets insist in asking for mg/L bicarbonate as the vast majority of water reports list alkalinity. To calculate bicarbonate precisely (the 61/50 thing is approximate) you must know pH. The alkalinity number is valid whatever the pH.

I'll get back to you on the Hegel.

[Edit] Forgot the second question: Yes, it is common practice for municipalities to publish average numbers though some also publish fairly extensive monthly data. They all have it - it's a question as to whether they want to publish it or not. Where the water is highly variable as it is in California, this can be a disaster for brewers. They must measure their water parameters every day (and Chico Brewing does this) or wind up making beers which are grossly inconsistent. This is impractical for most home brewers but it can be done. The workaround is to swamp the variations by heavy dilution with low mineral water. See
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Old 02-14-2012, 02:11 PM   #4
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The conversion from bicarbonate (as CaCO3) to bicarbonate is to multiply the (as CaCO3) value by 1.22. Bru'n Water has a number of conversion calculators to aid the brewer in getting the right values in the right units in their brewing calculations.
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