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Old 10-10-2013, 04:51 PM   #1
J0N
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Default Water Chemistry - Nassau County, Long Island, New York

Hello All,

I have been home brewing for a little less than 2 years and just started all grain brewing. My brews have never been as good as I had hoped and they all seem to need aging for them to A. taste decent or B. be drinkable. I've gotten weird off flavors from cloying sweetness, hotness (fusel alcohol from fermenting too hot), to a band aid flavor in my current pumpkin ale (but that was the flavor after 3 weeks in the primary. It's currently in the secondary being dry hopped and I'm hoping I won't have to wait until next Halloween for this to be drinkable).

Anyway, I am trying to figure out why all of my brews have been disappointing. I'm looking at the water I use. Below is my water quality report. According to this site http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-1.html my tap water is low in several areas.

I am hoping that I can get some guidance and clarification (I may be reading this water quality report wrong). Any help would be greatly appreciated. I love this hobby, but am tired of hoping things will just work themselves out.



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Old 10-10-2013, 06:25 PM   #2
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Are you getting rid of the chlorine in your water? That could cause off flavors, though those wouldn't normally age out. The band aid flavor in the pumpkin ale sounds like an infection. Your report doesn't list akalinity, but based on your calcium/sodium/magnesium (and relatively low sulfate/chloride) you could have some appreciable alkalinity (though not a huge amount) to deal with.


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Old 10-10-2013, 07:55 PM   #3
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It looks like that water should be a decent starting point for brewing. The main issues are going to be neutralizing excess alkalinity and removing chlorine compounds. With those issues addressed, this should be a good brewing water and ready for mineral additions as needed.
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Old 10-11-2013, 05:20 PM   #4
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I have not been treating my water at all. There was 1 extract brew that I made in which I used water from my fridge that has a purifier in it, but I did not notice a difference in the final beer. I heard (and read) that if the water is good enough to drink, it's good enough to brew with. My water tastes great and doesn't smell like chlorine.

In order to remove the chlorine from my water I should use Campden Tablets, correct? Will this also neutralize excess alkalinity? I'm still very new at this and water treatment is something I've never done before.

I also contacted my local water authority to see if they can provide me with details regarding alkalinity, ph, and the amount of chlorine present in the water.

Lastly, I'm hoping the pumpkin ale is not infected. I read a threat about someone having a kind of band aid like flavor to their brew, but it was at the same stage of where mine is at and theirs turned out fine. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed because it tasted great prior to pitching the yeast.
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Old 10-11-2013, 05:24 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J0N View Post
In order to remove the chlorine from my water I should use Campden Tablets, correct? Will this also neutralize excess alkalinity? I'm still very new at this and water treatment is something I've never done before.
Yes, campden tablets would work for neutralizing chlorine. No, they won't remove alkalinity (I think they actually add a very small amount of alkalinity...though not enough to be worried about.).
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Old 10-11-2013, 05:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J0N View Post
I heard (and read) that if the water is good enough to drink, it's good enough to brew with. My water tastes great and doesn't smell like chlorine.
A more important quote: Good tasting water can still make bad beer.
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Old 10-11-2013, 07:34 PM   #7
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I heard back from my water district center and my average level of chlorine is .3ppm and the PH is an average between 8.0 and 8.2. So 2 questions: Is .3ppm enough chlorine that I need to remove it from my brewing water? And how can I soften my water to bring down my PH?

Thanks!
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Old 10-11-2013, 07:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J0N View Post
I heard back from my water district center and my average level of chlorine is .3ppm and the PH is an average between 8.0 and 8.2. So 2 questions: Is .3ppm enough chlorine that I need to remove it from my brewing water? And how can I soften my water to bring down my PH?

Thanks!
Yes, .3ppm is enough to worry about. Fortunately campden tablets are wicked cheap.

You don't actually want to soften your water. You want to add hardness (calcium and magnesium...though you should mostly only add calcium)...by adding either calcium sulfate (gypsum) or calcium chloride. You want you calcium level in the 50-150 range. The calcium reacts with stuff in the malt to help (somewhat) lower the pH. Your primary tool for getting rid of excess alkalinity will be phosphoric or lactic acid (or, to some extent, dark grains/crystal malts...if you brew a porter for example).
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Old 10-11-2013, 08:19 PM   #9
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To summarize, I should do the following:

- Remove chlorine (always)

- Add hardness (calcium: ie gypsum)
- Remove excess alkalinity

The amount of calcium I need to add and alkalinity that needs to be removed is based upon the type of beer I'm making.

Also, I'm not comfortable adding phosphoric or lactic acid. If this is used to acidify the brewing water, can I add something like lemon or white vinegar?
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Old 10-11-2013, 08:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J0N View Post
To summarize, I should do the following:

- Remove chlorine (always)

- Add hardness (calcium: ie gypsum)
- Remove excess alkalinity

The amount of calcium I need to add and alkalinity that needs to be removed is based upon the type of beer I'm making.

Also, I'm not comfortable adding phosphoric or lactic acid. If this is used to acidify the brewing water, can I add something like lemon or white vinegar?
There is almost no chance that you could use lemon or vinegar for acidification unless your alkalinity was already very low. The taste thresholds for those acids are low. Are you concerned about adding natural materials to your beer? If so, phosphoric acid and lactic acid are natural. But then, so are cyanide and arsenic. I'm pretty sure I could 'live' with adding phosphoric or lactic acid, probably not with the other substances. ;-)


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