Boiling sanitizes the water.....how about top-off water? Doesnt need sanitization?

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Elysium

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So...we do a 60 or 90-min boil. Several things happen there......DMS precursors evaporate, color changes, hops get isomerized and the water get sanitized.

Now....how come many brewers use simple tap water as top-off water? Isnt there a chance to introduce bacteria into the wort?
Some people even say: "if you can drink it, you can brew with it". Might be true....but worth the risk?

Any thoughts on this?
Shall I always boil top-off water to be on the safe side?
Or shall I just buy bottled water? That is surely filter and clean enough to go straight into the fermentor without boiling, right?
 

unionrdr

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When I used tap water,I topped off with it right out of the tap. But I found the local spring water works better & gives a hair better flavor. It's filtered,ozoned,etc. Even the pipes it travels through to the dispensing taps are ozoned. UV light to take care of any nasties as well. so I use that for my beers now. But you can boil & cool tap water for top off. When cool,put it in a couple 1 gallon jugs in the fridge a day or two before brew day. That way,when I chill the wort down to 75F or so,I strain it into the fermenter. Gets gunk out & aerates it to boot. Then topping off to recipe volume with the very cold water gets the temp down to 65F or so. Good pitch temp for most ale yeasts.
 

Hello

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I do something similar. I chill the top off water in the fridge and dunk the top of the bottles in star san before I uncap them. I've never used tap water as top off water because I wasn't sure if I had to boil it.
 

Fennis

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I've always just used top off water directly from my tap. I use a sanitized container, from the tap to the carboy, but otherwise, its just cool tap water directly from my well. I've been brewing for a few years now and its never been a problem.
 

unionrdr

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Same here. Never got any infections from topping off with tap water. The local spring water,being properly treated,although minimally,seems to work just a bit better.
 

kombat

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I never boil any of my water (besides starters and the wort itself, of course). Top-off water, gelatin water, yeast rehydration water - all just straight from the tap. I'm on a city water supply, so the bacterial content of the water is very low. Any bugs in the water are low enough in population that they get overwhelmed by the yeast.
 

fearwig

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I don't boil top-off water, even on well water. No issues.
 

TheZymurgist

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I top off straight from the tap as well, no issues. It's up to you whether you think it's worth the risk or not. I had been brewing for a while and knew my sanitation practices were sound before I tried it. I knew that if I got an infection I could isolate it to the tap water. Point is, if you're already not sure about sanitation, or if you're dealing/have dealt with infections, I wouldn't try it, because it would make it harder to isolate the source of the infection. Otherwise, give it a shot. What's the worst that could happen? One infected batch of beer. Not exactly a catastrophe.
 

Clonefan94

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The only thing I would worry about in tap water would be the chlorine content. If the chlorine wasn't boiled off or treated to get rid of it, you might end up with some funky flavors from the chlorine. Most municipal water sources are treated enough you shouldn't have to worry about any infection coming from it though.
 

BrewerE

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I pre-boil mine for 2 reasons:

1. so I can treat it with a campden tablet since my city uses chloramine
2. so I can have it in the fridge and freezer so I can goose my water bath and cool my wort faster.

Sanitation b/c of it is a bonus.
 

judsonp

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Your tap water is already treated to kill off bugs. Not as assured as boiling, but probably pretty good. So it doesn't necessarily need to be sanitized by boiling.

Sanitizing the wort, on the other hand, is pretty important. Grains are covered in wild microorganisms.
 

aiptasia

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Our city has one of the worst ratings for drinking water in the nation. I use bottled water from the store.
 

ten80

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Your tap water is already treated to kill off bugs. Not as assured as boiling, but probably pretty good. So it doesn't necessarily need to be sanitized by boiling..
Municipal water is treated to reduce pathogens to an acceptable level, usually measured in the number of colony forming units. Your municipal water report should present values for bacterial counts in CFU or fecal coliform counts. There is no such thing as sterile tap water out of a normal household faucet.

This WHO document details some of the potential risks of bacteria from tapwater Suffices to just read the title to get the idea.

If you are OK with the risk of contamination from your tap water, then at least treat to remove chlorine or chloramines (whichever are in your water) to prevent the formation of phenols. You can also run the faucet for several minutes to reduce the bacterial load you are putting in your beer.

I am definitely not going to put non-sterile water in my beer after spending several hours making wort and practicing good sanitation practices. You might not notice a difference in beers with short shelf lives that are consumed rapidly (e.g. blondes, pale ale, IPAs, etc), but the risk of infection is greater for beers that are to be aged over a long period of time.

Why not boil some top-off water in a spaghetti pot or spare brew pot the night before you brew? Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, with the lid on the pot for the last 2-3 min to sanitize the lid. Let it cool overnight and bingo, free, pretty much sterilized water with no chlorine.
 

TheZymurgist

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Municipal water is treated to reduce pathogens to an acceptable level, usually measured in the number of colony forming units. Your municipal water report should present values for bacterial counts in CFU or fecal coliform counts. There is no such thing as sterile tap water out of a normal household faucet.

This WHO document details some of the potential risks of bacteria from tapwater Suffices to just read the title to get the idea.

If you are OK with the risk of contamination from your tap water, then at least treat to remove chlorine or chloramines (whichever are in your water) to prevent the formation of phenols. You can also run the faucet for several minutes to reduce the bacterial load you are putting in your beer.

I am definitely not going to put non-sterile water in my beer after spending several hours making wort and practicing good sanitation practices. You might not notice a difference in beers with short shelf lives that are consumed rapidly (e.g. blondes, pale ale, IPAs, etc), but the risk of infection is greater for beers that are to be aged over a long period of time.

Why not boil some top-off water in a spaghetti pot or spare brew pot the night before you brew? Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, with the lid on the pot for the last 2-3 min to sanitize the lid. Let it cool overnight and bingo, free, pretty much sterilized water with no chlorine.
No one is saying tap water is sterile, just that it is fine to use for top off since the yeast will dominate and the resulting alcohol will kill off most anything.

So you're saying my Russian Imperial Stout that has been aging for a year, topped off with a half gallon of tap water, should be infected. Well, it's not, and I think the risk for beers that are going to be aged is actually lower, since they tend to have a higher alcohol content.

I understand the trepidation, and each water source is different, but with all the personal accounts on here saying it's ok to use tap water for top off, that really doesn't have any effect on your opinion? Sounds like your decision is more emotional than logical.
 

fearwig

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If you brew often, you should have an idea of what will lead to infection and what won't, and you won't be so terrified of a lost batch that you can't experiment with sensible changes to your sanitation scheme. Can tap water infect your beer? Yes. Will it? Nah.
 

ten80

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No one is saying tap water is sterile, just that it is fine to use for top off since the yeast will dominate and the resulting alcohol will kill off most anything.

judsonp was implying this very idea in his post, I just want to make certain that folks understand that bacteria are present in tap water

So you're saying my Russian Imperial Stout that has been aging for a year, topped off with a half gallon of tap water, should be infected. Well, it's not, and I think the risk for beers that are going to be aged is actually lower, since they tend to have a higher alcohol content.

I just said using tap water increases the risk of contamination, but I did not quantify the risk. I agree that risk of infection decreases with alcohol content, but I don't think anyone is topping off post-fermentation when all of the alcohol has been produced and the beer is relatively well protected.

I understand the trepidation, and each water source is different, but with all the personal accounts on here saying it's ok to use tap water for top off, that really doesn't have any effect on your opinion?

I'm not here to tell folks how to brew, however I would like to point out a simple precaution that might improve some people's beer. As you say, each water source is different so you cannot generalize that all water sources are OK to top off from. My opinion is that one colony forming unit of bacteria is one too many.

Sounds like your decision is more emotional than logical.

I have only presented recommendations based on peer-reviewed sources I linked to above. I think you may be reading too far into my post; I even suggested that if you are OK using tap water, then you should at least treat for chlorine or chloramines.
If you brew often, you should have an idea of what will lead to infection and what won't, and you won't be so terrified of a lost batch that you can't experiment with sensible changes to your sanitation scheme. Can tap water infect your beer? Yes. Will it? Nah.
I would argue that boiling water is a sensible precaution for your sanitation scheme ;)

Ask yourself "what would John Palmer or Jamil do..."
 

fearwig

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They'd give newbies hypercautious advice because that's what you do when you give advice for a living? :)

Infections are hard to catch during active fermentation, period, unless some catastrophic quantity of the bug gets into the wort (which is not rare, e.g. direct contact with raw grain dust) or your yeast is half dead. If your water from the faucet causes reproducible infections in freshly pitched wort, you shouldn't be drinking it.

I hate to contradict anyone in the pantheon of homebrew gods, but teaching people to ignore insignificant risks so they can focus on significant ones isn't careless, it's just smart.
 

ten80

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I get your point but if a newbie can't boil water, then perhaps they are not qualified to brew beer :cross:
 

skiluvr03

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I read somewhere where the guy moved to Texas and used the Tap Water and said his beer was much better because the water was harder. I have Hard Water too so I was thinking of doing the same. Otherwise, I was going to buy some cheap bottled, spring water or RO water from the Store. Sometimes, I get to tied-up with these little decisions. I'm fixing to brew here in about an hour or two, so no telling what I end up doing, but I'm sure it will be fine. I wish I had put some on the Fridge beforehand, but, oh well.
 
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