Brewing pale beers with hard water

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JoeHoffman

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Looking for some advice here. I charcoal filter my tap water which comes from wells in Chino Ca. It's great water for brewing dark to amber beers. Even with a big Russian imperial stout my mash ph will hit 5.2 to 5.3 with no additions. I usually just brew what works with my water but I'm getting tired of keg after keg of stout and Porter or dark mild. I don't really want to get in to messing with my water chemistry. Is acid malt my only option if I'm not going to pay more money for distilled water? Any ideas on simple affordable ways to brew pale ales IPA or Belgian ales with the water I have?
 

Braufessor

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Usually grocery stores/walmart has refill stations with Reverse Osmosis Water.... .37 cents per gallon or similar. Pretty cheap and easy.

The first step though is to get a water report from somewhere like ward labs so you know exactly what you are dealing with in your tap water as to hardness. Basically, the simplest solution is to cut your tap water with RO water and then add some basic mineral additions.

You can get into boiling your water or using slaked lime to drop out the hardness... .but that is way more of a PITA than just getting some 3 gallon or 5 gallon jugs and filling them up at walmart.

I have very hard water and have attempted to add enough acid to the water to make good pale beers.... they were ok.... but they came off as "rough" even though I was able to get the mash pH where it needed to be with lots of acid.
 

schematix

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Get yourself a cheap n dirty RO system. One of the best brewing/home drinking water investments you can make.
 
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JoeHoffman

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So how cheap is a cheap and dirty RO system.
 
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JoeHoffman

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I get a really fancy poster from the water district with all the details but the problem is that my city has three different sources that come in at different times of year and sometimes blend together depending on supply and demand. To really know what I am dealing with I would have to run a full analysis every time I brew.
 

Gadjobrinus

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I get a really fancy poster from the water district with all the details but the problem is that my city has three different sources that come in at different times of year and sometimes blend together depending on supply and demand. To really know what I am dealing with I would have to run a full analysis every time I brew.
Exactly my issue, coupled with very high RA, etc. I'm thinking RO is unfortunately the only remedy.
 

day_trippr

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Make sure you size an RO system for brew day needs at least.
And understand the quoted yield assumes input pressure is at the top of the range.
Eg: my system claimed 50 gallons per day but to hit that the input pressure needs to be 90psi.
My well pump cuts out at 55 and the yield is closer to 30 gallons - which is enough for my 10 gallon brew days but does require starting the gathering process the night before...

Cheers!
 

mabrungard

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Hardness does not make brewing pale beers difficult. It's alkalinity that makes brewing pale beers more difficult. Burton water is rock hard water, but brewers there had little trouble in producing acceptable mashing pH.
 

Gadjobrinus

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Hardness does not make brewing pale beers difficult. It's alkalinity that makes brewing pale beers more difficult. Burton water is rock hard water, but brewers there had little trouble in producing acceptable mashing pH.
Martin, monkeying around with your "pale ale" water from the historical waters presentation, as we speak! Probably a bit leery of having a 6:1 SO4/Cl ratio, so pulling SO4 down to 165 ppm and Cl stays where you have it, 55 ppm. Anyway, all English style bitters, pale ales, to include IPAs. Then again, can't know before trying so I've got your profile ready to go. Just a quick nod to say thank you for your work - a fascinating presentation, and fascinating lurking your posts here and elsewhere.

If I have it right, Burton works because its hardness matches its alkalinity very well, so they have an extremely low RA, almost like Pilsen, if memory serves. Is that correct?
 

z-bob

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The water here is very alkaline. I've been brewing light-colored beers by diluting it with RO water from Walmart and adding 1 ounce of Sauermalz per gallon. Lately I'm using less and less RO water and adding increasing amounts of lactic acid (88%). My goal is to brew a nice Kolsch or pale ale using all tapwater. I think I can do it if I shoot for a little higher mash pH than normal; maybe 5.6.
 

mabrungard

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You are correct that Burton water has an RA of about one. The hardness and alkalinity are almost equal. I don't recommend emulating Burton water for brewing, but it gives you an idea of what they were brewing with. The pale ale profile in Bru'n Water is a more modest version of Burton water. It also has some alkalinity in it to balance the high hardness.
 

SoCal-Doug

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You must have way better water than we do on the other side of the freeway here in Norco. The last few city water reports I saw were fugly. Well water in our area still has to be heavily treated because of all the dairy farms that used to be around Eastvale. Start with RO or at least those big blue water machines in front of supermarkets. $1.50 for 5 gallons is worth it. Add what you need for a few cents, for whatever beer style you are making.
 
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JoeHoffman

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You must have way better water than we do on the other side of the freeway here in Norco. The last few city water reports I saw were fugly. Well water in our area still has to be heavily treated because of all the dairy farms that used to be around Eastvale. Start with RO or at least those big blue water machines in front of supermarkets. $1.50 for 5 gallons is worth it. Add what you need for a few cents, for whatever beer style you are making.

Yeah, my suspicion is that the Chino well water is highly contaminated. And then highly filtered / stripped of everything in it and then reconstituted with a minimal amount of minerals that will make it palatable. Not good brewing water, especially coming from my home in Oregon where the water is amazing. I have been struggling to make satisfactory beer with this water since I moved down here.
 

dsaavedra

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I second the notion of getting an inexpensive RO filter (~<$100), I got one for $70 (called the Aqua buddie or something) and it's served me well with alkaline tap water. I just add calcium chloride, gypsum, and lactic acid to my strike water to get the right mash pH as well as chloride:sulfate profile for the style I'm brewing. Been doing this for a couple years now and been very satisfied!
 

mashinary

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Personally, I did a water report through Ward Labs. I have alkaline water, and use Bru'n Water to calculate acid and mineral additions. I'm glad that I did and have noticed pretty solid improvements in my beer.
 

keith1664

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How hard?
A lot of home brewers over here have hard water, usual practice here is to use acids to reduce the alkalinity. Either one known as CRS (or AMS) which is a blend of Sulphuric and Hydrochloric acids, this does the job. The more hands on use Sulphuric and Hydrochloric separately to hit whatever Sulphate to Chloride ratio they're aiming for.
It does seem however that over there you're much more averse to acid usage and prefer to strip everything out and then put back in what you want.
 

z-bob

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How hard?
A lot of home brewers over here have hard water, usual practice here is to use acids to reduce the alkalinity. Either one known as CRS (or AMS) which is a blend of Sulphuric and Hydrochloric acids, this does the job. The more hands on use Sulphuric and Hydrochloric separately to hit whatever Sulphate to Chloride ratio they're aiming for.
It does seem however that over there you're much more averse to acid usage and prefer to strip everything out and then put back in what you want.
I used hydrochloric acid once to dealkalize my water, and it worked very well. The problem is finding food-grade or pharmaceutical-grade HCl or H2SO4 in the US. And I just didn't like the idea of using non-graded muriatic acid from the hardware store, so after that "proof of concept" batch I abandoned it for lactic acid.

Edit: I have since found an affordable source ($25 per liter) of 37% USP/NF hydrochloric acid, but if lactic acid will work I can make that myself almost for free, and it's more traditional. Traditional is good.
 

aulrich

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I am just starting into the water adjustments, does anyone do the boil pre treatment to remove hardness.
 

baz72

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We have very hard water in SE WI. I just cut mine with RO or distilled water from the grocery store. I got a water report from the city when I first started brewing.

I've had good luck just plugging that into the water profile calculator in Beersmith. I'll adjust with brewing salts as needed. It works for me.
 

mabrungard

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I am just starting into the water adjustments, does anyone do the boil pre treatment to remove hardness.
The effectiveness of pre-boiling your water is dependent on the water's mineral composition. Your water needs to have a high amount of Temporary Hardness for pre-boiling to be effective. Not all water's can be improved via pre-boiling.
 

triletter

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Aulrich,

Based on my water report from Ward, I have very good water with the exception of high bicarbonate (310). Based on the water book, I add CaCl and CaSO4, boil, then decant. It was a chemistry review from 30yrs ago in college, but doable. My profile is toward the malty side, but I can modify as required. My friends rave about the beer I make. Then again, that and $1.00 will get you a cup of coffee.
Takes a bit of planning, a way to store until use and just a bit of math. Probably costs the same as buying RO at the store, but I like the challenge.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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Even with sufficient calcium ions present for both boiling to remove bicarbonate and permitting some residual calcium left behind for mashing you will only be able to get alkalinity down to ballpark 60 ppm and bicarb down to ballpark 75 ppm via boiling. That will generally work for dark brews, but acidification will likely be required for amber to pale brews.

https://mashmadeeasy.yolasite.com/
 

Silver_Is_Money

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I have had no problems with Pale brews; Kölsch @ pH 5.3 with no addition of acid.
After pre-boiling to knock down what starts as 310 ppm bicarbonate water, or without such pre-boiling? Generally a Kolsch recipe requires relatively substantial acidity to achieve a mash pH of 5.3, even if beginning with alkaline free water. And you can not boil your water into the state of being alkaline free.


https://mashmadeeasy.yolasite.com/
 

mabrungard

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I have had no problems with Pale brews; Kölsch @ pH 5.3 with no addition of acid.
I suppose this is possible. Adding a bunch of calcium salts to the mash, adding acid malt to the grist, measuring with pH strips, or using an uncalibrated meter are all ways to measure a 5.3 pH in a pale brew with no acid addition. Otherwise, there is no physical possibility of a pale brew to achieve a pH that low (even with no alkalinity, distilled water).
 

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