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Old 03-13-2012, 01:33 PM   #1
May 2010
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Posts: 228
Liked 6 Times on 5 Posts

First off, I'm just getting into water chemistry stuff, so bear with me. My water comes out of a well, and it's really hard and there's tons of iron, so I just figured that it wasn't even worth brewing with straight well water. For a long time I've been using 50/50 softened and unsoftened water, knowing that softened water was also no ideal. After reading the primer, I decided I really needed to get a Ward Labs report and get a better handle on the situation. So I got a report of my softened water thinking I would be diluting with RO/distilled and adding appropriate salts, and keeping track of stuff with the EZ Water spreadsheet.

Here's the results for my softened water:

pH 7.9
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 452
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.75
Cations / Anions, me/L 7.4 / 7.6

Sodium, Na 168
Potassium, K 1
Calcium, Ca < 1
Magnesium, Mg < 1
Total Hardness, CaCO3 < 1
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 9
Chloride, Cl 32
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 373
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 306

So, correct me if I'm wrong, but this water stinks for brewing. It does look like my water softening system works pretty good though. My plan now is to use this water diluted 3 or 4 to 1 with RO/distilled then adding CaCl2, gypsum, maybe some epsom salt for Mg, and a few mL of lactic acid as needed.

Any thoughts or advice would much appreciated.

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Old 03-13-2012, 02:54 PM   #2
Nateo's Avatar
Jul 2010
Bennett Springs, MO
Posts: 2,050
Liked 39 Times on 30 Posts

Water chemistry matters for 1) mash pH, and 2) flavor, but only if your chloride, sulfate or sodium levels are crazy.

Water softeners don't do anything to address 1, because the bicarbonate is still there, and usually hurt 2, because they add a lot of sodium.

I have ridiculously hard water and use lime softening. Most people will tell you to just use RO water. I'm stubborn though, so I don't. I'm happy with my process.

I also think brewers put too much emphasis on water treatment. I know I used to. It's not a silver bullet, and IMO is one of the least important aspects (unless the water is really out of whack.)
To paraphrase Dr. England - "Off-flavors smooth with time. So do mountains. Brew it right from the start!"

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Old 03-13-2012, 09:42 PM   #3
May 2010
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Posts: 228
Liked 6 Times on 5 Posts

I know what you're saying. I'm liking the way most of my beers are turning out, I just don't want to ignore water, especially knowing my house water is particularly difficult. I'm not looking to get crazy with it, essentially just to same level that the primer in this sub-forum is aimed at. I posted this here just to make sure I wasn't missing anything crazy.

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Old 03-13-2012, 10:52 PM   #4
Grinder12000's Avatar
Jul 2008
Columbus WI
Posts: 2,995
Liked 42 Times on 35 Posts

Read the primer. It's really good and after a couple readings makes sense. Your water listed is almost like mine. I now use 100% RO water and build it back up according to the Primer.

I made an IPA with my new knowledge and WOW. I can not WAIT for carbonation. It was so much better then my tap water batches.

Our water comes into the house soft so we have no choice. I believe most brewers under play what water does to your beer. :-)
Grinders Island Brewery - Pipeline

145 batches and counting

West Coast Blaster #4 almost go and on tap and a Dbl Chocolate Stout aging/carbing. Brewing East India Porter #4

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