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Does anyone make Competition-winning brews from Tap Water?

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TVarmy

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I'm thinking about switching from spring water (cheapest generic from my grocery store) to tap water dechlorinated via campden tablets, to save some money and be a bit more environmentally friendly. I'm in Central NJ in a fairly new house, and I think my water's perfectly fine, but I'm a new brewer so I don't have the world's best palate. Should I also run the water through a Brita filter?

If your brews win competitions, I would like to know how you get your water. I know that it's only $4 or so, but it's a pain to buy and recycle all those bottles.
 

Yooper

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Sure, some people have excellent tap water! If you want to use it, I'd suggest paying $16 or so for a full water report from Ward's Labs. It would be worth it, just to know what is actually in your water and how to make it perfect for brewing.

It turns out that my water is excellent, except it's way too high in bicarbonates for lighter colored beers. So, I buy RO water at the store and mix it proportionally with my tap water for beers like cream ales. In stouts, I just use my tap water. That alone paid for the water report!
 

elkdog

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Get your water tested, like Yooper suggested. I live in Northern NJ, and my tap water is terrible for anything but dark (as in porter and stout) beers- just crazy hard. So send a sample off, and you'll know what your water is best for, and what you need to do to dial it in for styles outside that sweet spot. I buy spring water for lighter colored beers, and the difference has been huge.
 

nealf

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Every award I have won (except one) has been from tap water. But, I know the mineral content of my water and adjust from there to the mineral content I want.
 

remilard

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I've won quite a few medals with tap water (and some with RO water) and I don't often add salts (I do use acid malt to acidify when needed).

I remove chlorine. I have like (from memory) 37 ppm Ca, 8 ppm Mg, 120 ppm Sulfate 40 ppm Chloride, lowish sodium and potassium, RA = 12.

This water only treated for chlorine scored mid-40s for an IPA recently. If I want really low sulfate (dark lagers, bo pils, category 15) I start from RO water.
 

KellyK

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Won several awards and all we use is tap water. We do have some pretty signficiant filtration on the water though, mostly to remove chlorine. Our house has a whole house carbon filter then we have a secondary carbon filter hooked up to our brewing sink. All brewing water is double filtered. But, even with the expense of installing the filters it's much less than the hassle of using store bought water every brew day. Get it tested if you want, but if your water tastes good and you run it through some kind of filtration system (I recommend one of those easy canister filters you can get from the big box stores - cheap and easy) you should be just fine for 90% of the brews.

The only times I mess with the water chemistry is to add 5.2 stabilizer if I'm brewing with a lot of dark grains or plan to do a decoction. I use 50% distilled water when brewing pilsners to cut my house water.
 

KYB

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I have with a Stout. My water is great for dark beers, but sucks for light beers (they all have off flavors). I started using RO for my light beers and they turn out great.
 

carnevoodoo

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I have a carbon filter to remove stuff, but I connect it right to my hose with a quick disconnect. Knowing the make up of your water is good and will help you understand what you have to work with.
 

NorCalAngler

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One thing to keep in mind is that some water districts have multiple sources of water depending on demand, time of the year, etc. The only way to really know what is in your water is to ask the district based on the season. My water district mainly uses water from a local lake, but they say sometimes they use underground aquafers and they provide the numbers for both in their annual report. If you're running from a single source like well water then the report is great.
 

loctones

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I can't speak to winning any competitions as I'm still very much in the learning stage, but I noticed a big difference when I started filtering my water. I use a carbon filter on my tap water, and there's a noticeable taste difference over straight tap water and campden tablets. Even though my city water looks good on paper, it has some pretty funny off flavors that really came through in the beer when it was unfiltered.
 

powderbock

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Have won awards for Pale, IPA, ESB all using tap water, unfiltered with no added chemicals. Just use the water straight out of the garden hose.
 

MattHollingsworth

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Sure. When I lived in Portland, Oregon, I used nothing but tap water and won 17 medals in the couple years I entered competitions.

Now in Croatia, I have a similar experience to Yooper. My water is very high in bicarbonates (386 ppm). It's really *perfect* for stouts but not much else without some adjustment. I buy distilled water and use the EZ water spreadsheet and adjust from that. Usually a pale ale or something in that range with use about 50% distilled water. Stouts and very dark beers use only tap water.

ALL of that tap water is run through a filter.
 

Bobby_M

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The question should be, "has anyone on MY water system had success without treating their water". The followup question should be "what styles do you have most success with?"
My mantra for water is that no single water source is ideal for all beer styles. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has placed in a comp with both a Pilsner and a Stout using their untreated tap water.

What town are you in TVarmy? I might know your water.
 

Optimal

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I think I scored with my water, and the free report! I live like 2 blocks from one of the towns main pumps from Lake Ontario, and about a KM from where its treated. So my water isn't half bad for a lot of beers, but still can't brew a lot of styles. Over the last 5 years the town has spent like 200mil on their water plants, and damn has it made a difference!

My buddy works for one of these companies that goes from building to building (including breweries) testing water in Toronto. So my report was free!
 

mhermetz

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x2 on good brewing water from southern Ontario. No problems what so ever.

On my light beers I still mix about 1/6th osmosis water in there, though.
 

remilard

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The question should be, "has anyone on MY water system had success without treating their water". The followup question should be "what styles do you have most success with?"
My mantra for water is that no single water source is ideal for all beer styles. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has placed in a comp with both a Pilsner and a Stout using their untreated tap water.

What town are you in TVarmy? I might know your water.
I've placed in 1A-1C and with stouts using my tap water with no mineral additions. I do have to use acid malt for the pale beers.

I wouldn't use my water for a Bo pils, could probably do well with a German Pils made from it, although my preference would still be for less sulfate (120 ppm).
 
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TVarmy

TVarmy

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I'm in Central Jersey (water from a utility in Elizabeth). My water is pretty hard. It will leave a mineral stain if you don't wipe it up.
 
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