How to Order a Water Analysis Report

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Homercidal

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New brewers often have a myriad of variables to juggle from building recipes, choosing ingredients and supplies, to methods to try. At first it's common for the beer to suffer a bit as these things are worked out. After a few batches a brewer might wonder if there is more that can be done to improve the beer quality, or perhaps there is a lingering off-flavor that doesn't seem to have come from fermentation temps, process issues, ingredients, etc.

It may then be time to check your water for suitability. This is more important for All-Grain brewers who strive to give their enzymes the best environment for doing their job, or who wish to tweak the flavor of the beer in ways simple ingredient changes can't accomplish.

The easiest way is to send a sample of your water off to a professional analysis company and get a report that lists what's in your water. A municipal water report *may* have this information, but they rarely disclose more than the government requires, and they are usually lacking in some key mineral information. On top of that, there is usually a considerable distance between the water supply stations where their tests are performed, and your house, with thousands and thousands of feet of pipes the water must pass through to get to your faucet. It's best to get a sample right from the tap.

The most popular homebrewer water analysis company is Ward Labs. They have very reasonable pricing, and they actually have a water report tailored specifically for homebrewers.

Let me describe how you can get a report from Ward Labs.

First, as I noted before, they offer a test called a Brewer's Test, which is currently priced at about $28. This is very similar to the test which was previously recommended, the Household Complete Mineral Test. They are the same price, but the Brewer's Test provides Phosphorus results instead of Fluoride, and may be more useful.

They sell a "kit" which contains a form you fill out with minimal information, and a sample bottle to fill with your water and return. The kit costs $42 but you don't need their bottle to submit a sample; you can simply use any plastic water bottle sold at gas stations or grocery stores with bottled water in it.

Just pour out the bottled water (or drink it...) and wash the bottle our with some mild soap. Rinse well a few times with tap water. Then fill the bottle with tap water, cap it, tape the cap to prevent it from opening up during shipment, and mail to Ward Labs and include the form you downloaded from the Internet.


Here is a Page of different reports that Ward sells.

Here is a PDF of the Form you will need to send into Ward Labs along with your water sample. It also has instructions for filling a bottle and payment options at the bottom so you won't have to print a copy of this sticky.

A short while after submitting you will receive a water report and an invoice to cover the cost of the test if you did not include a check or pay over the phone.

Cheers!
 
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ajdelange

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I don't understand why you would have to wash the sample bottle with soap. If anything it would need to be washed with acid to remove any carbonate that had precipitated onto the plastic as a consequence of carbonate content in the water it originally contained but that really shouldn't be necessary. That the bottle be clean is sufficient and that it be rinsed several times with sample to make sure that the lab gets 100.000% sample should be enough.

Before filling the bottle let the tap run a good long time - as mush as 15 minutes. This is to flush all stagnant water out of the pipes including any iron or copper that has leached as the water stood in the pipes out. If the faucet has an aerator, remove it. After flushing the lines rinse the bottle with the water to be tested at least 6 times. Then fill it slowly to the brim and cap it tightly. This (including the aerator removal) is to minimize exchange of CO2 in either direction between sample and air which can throw off the all important alkalinity test if the lab is as scrupulous as you are. If you are going to go to the trouble, you might as well do it right.
 
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I wondered about that soap thing too. Seems dumb.

But wouldn't you want to run the water for about the same amount of time as you would when you are brewing? So you get a report that is closest to what you woudl have when brewing?
 

PGEduardo

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I wondered about that soap thing too. Seems dumb.

But wouldn't you want to run the water for about the same amount of time as you would when you are brewing? So you get a report that is closest to what you woudl have when brewing?
I finally ordered a water report, and that's exactly what I did - run the water for only a couple of minutes beforehand because normally I fill 8 gallons worth right off the bat (probably only takes a couple minutes total). My understanding is that I want to test the water as it's used, not the (possibly different) true source water. In fact, I even used the RV hose I use when filling the kettle.

If you don't do this, wouldn't you run the risk of having untraceable water characteristics in your mash that aren't accounted for?
 

mabrungard

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Don't forget that we have plenty of brewers from around the world participating on this forum. While Ward is a good option in the US, shipping may make their service too costly. Engaging a reputable water quality lab in their own country or area may be most feasible. You are looking for a lab that routinely performs testing on the Secondary Parameters of water quality which include at least the following concentrations: Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Chloride, Sulfate, and Bicarbonate/Carbonate (aka: Alkalinity). There are other secondary parameters of interest, but this listing is basic for brewing.
 

ajdelange

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But wouldn't you want to run the water for about the same amount of time as you would when you are brewing? So you get a report that is closest to what you woudl have when brewing?
Yes. But I always make sure to run enough water to get the stagnant stuff out of the pipes before I brew.

Practically speaking, there is going to be more variability in the supply between the time you pull the sample and the next time you brew than there will be between letting the water run for 5 min. as opposed to 15. Also note that the typical Ward Labs imbalance is typically 0.2 - 0.3 mVal. That's equivalent to 10 - 15 ppm alkalinity error.
 
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If there are more suggestions, keep 'em coming! Any other sources for reports in the US?

Anyone from the EU is welcome to offer suggestions for services over there. I'm quite positive they have them there, but I have no experience with them.
 

Finlandbrews

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I have tried to find any good suppliers of water reports in Europe but there is nothing really. In Finland, I had asked a laboratory and the price was a but higher than 200 usd! If anybody would know a place with fair pricing, that would be great.
 

ajdelange

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I don't know if this is going to be helpful or not but Ward Labs isn't a drinking water testing company. They are an agricutural testing company that tests irrigation water. Perhaps overseas home brewers might find similar, that is, agricultural, testing services in their countries that would do water testing.

Other than that there is the possibility of doing the testing ones self. The self testing kits for alkalinity and hardness that are most popular in the US are made in Europe and thus, I assume, readily available there. These are the most important parameters but one does, of course want to know chloride, sulfate and sodium as well. Tests for those parameters are made in Europe, of course (Hach-Lange) but are not intended for the hobbyist by which I mean they are expensive. You may well pay $100 USD for a kit though it will often do 50 to 100 tests.
 

Finlandbrews

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I don't know if this is going to be helpful or not but Ward Labs isn't a drinking water testing company. They are an agricutural testing company that tests irrigation water. Perhaps overseas home brewers might find similar, that is, agricultural, testing services in their countries that would do water testing.

Other than that there is the possibility of doing the testing ones self. The self testing kits for alkalinity and hardness that are most popular in the US are made in Europe and thus, I assume, readily available there. These are the most important parameters but one does, of course want to know chloride, sulfate and sodium as well. Tests for those parameters are made in Europe, of course (Hach-Lange) but are not intended for the hobbyist by which I mean they are expensive. You may well pay $100 USD for a kit though it will often do 50 to 100 tests.
I'm totally up for testing by myself I believe it is important to understand better water chemistry and can be fun to do too. Ward labs is the most valuable I found including shipping costs from Europe. And by far! Only concern I have is how could the water change if they receive my sample only 10 days after bottling my sample. I have not digged into the hach Lange yet but Lamotte is selling their kits in Europe at a ridiculous cost. Lamotte UK sells 350 usd with shipping. 314 usd only the lamotte basic pro instead of 179 usd in USA, again cheaper if I buy from USA. Doesn't make any sense.

Ajdelange, which self testing kits for alkalinity and hardness are made in Europe?

Thank you.
 

ajdelange

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I'm totally up for testing by myself I believe it is important to understand better water chemistry and can be fun to do too.
It became almost a separate hobby for me.

Ward labs is the most valuable I found including shipping costs from Europe. And by far! Only concern I have is how could the water change if they receive my sample only 10 days after bottling my sample.
The main change is that if you don't seal the bottle completely CO2 can be exchanged with the air (e.g. get out because of low pressure in an aircraft hold) throwing off the alkalinity reading. Another concern would be if there were any microbes in the water which might start metabolizing and excreting acid which would, again, effect the alkalinity reading.


I have not digged into the hach Lange yet but Lamotte is selling their kits in Europe at a ridiculous cost. Lamotte UK sells 350 usd with shipping.
Ouch!

Ajdelange, which self testing kits for alkalinity and hardness are made in Europe?
Here are a couple:
http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i:aps,k:alkalinity test kit

I am assuming that they are made over there as we don't use dH, KH... etc. in North America.
 

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I'll add my experience with shipping a sample to Ward Lab, that I [almost] got done this morning.

I didn't order the separate sample kit Ward Lab offers, instead I washed out and filled up a Poland Spring 16oz water bottle per the instructions. Filled it up almost to the top, wrapped the top with tape, wrote a check (27.25), filled out sample form, and off to USPS I went.

I was able to actually shove the bottle into one of the small media shipper boxes (cost 6-7 bucks to ship), but it does which deforms the box a bit (bends out the sides). This did not appear to be a problem for the USPS cashier. However when they asked what it was I told them it was liquid and water, and they said they would not ship without the bottle being in a zip lock and with absorbent material in the box with it. I will pack up and take it back tomorrow.

I"m not going to do it for this sample, but in the future I would probably not fill it up all the way, instead leave some room to compress the bottle so it goes in the box without deforming it. Less volume, but I don't think they need the full 16 oz to test.
 

mabrungard

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Tests for those parameters are made in Europe, of course (Hach-Lange) but are not intended for the hobbyist by which I mean they are expensive. You may well pay $100 USD for a kit though it will often do 50 to 100 tests.
I happened to stop by the Hach booth at the Craft Brewers Conference today and they have a "kit" for breweries. It included the Pocket Pro pH meter and digital titrator and capability of testing many ions. The price was a little over $600. That would be worth it if you were relying on a varying municipal water supply.
 

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I don't know if this is going to be helpful or not but Ward Labs isn't a drinking water testing company. They are an agricutural testing company that tests irrigation water.


That is interesting. I know our drinking water lab is held to a pretty high standard (ie. Standard Methods driven) due to it being for public heath.



Good enough!
 

ajdelange

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It sells for a little over $800 in the US (according to the website). Wonder what he could get it for from Lange in Europe?

Were he to go that route he should look into buying the piece parts separately. The big, big plus in the kit is the digital titrator (alkalinity and the hardnesses). But one can also buy cartridges for chloride. I also wouldn't want to pay for a refractometer for the purpose of measuring wort SG as you really can't rely on them. The bear with any of these kits is the sulfate (unless you have a turbidimeter or photometer) as their precision (and I hesitate to even use the word) is 50 mg/L.
 

ajdelange

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That is interesting. I know our drinking water lab is held to a pretty high standard (ie. Standard Methods driven) due to it being for public heath.
They don't use Standard Methods for alkalinity, for example, but rather some Department of Agriculture brochure from the 30's. The method is actually the same as Standard Methods' but they were misinterpreting it.
 

PGEduardo

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For those prices I'd just install a reverse osmosis system and build from scratch...
 

ajdelange

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Ideally before each brew. Practically speaking it depends on how variable your water is.

RO certainly does make management easier but even then you will want some idea as to what is feeding your RO system.
 

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For those prices I'd just install a reverse osmosis system and build from scratch...
When I'm finally ready to start doctoring my water, this is the way I'll be going. Municipal water is variable and testing for those of us outside of the US can be difficult and expensive (the place I found for water testing in China was over $1,000 for the same gamut of tests Ward Labs does for $28 - there's almost certainly a cheaper option but I don't know where to find it). RO systems are relatively inexpensive, will give you consistent water to build from, and are often required to safely drink the local water in many parts of the world anyway.
 

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Bumping an old post, hope I get a response...

So are y'all saying that I don't need to order the whole kit from Ward to get testing? Can I just use my own bottle and packaging and just pay for the testing? I'm all about cost efficiency.
 

kh54s10

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I don't know what you mean by "the whole kit"? I wanted to make sure I got it right so I ordered the test from Ward labs. They send instructions and a small plastic bottle, I think there was packaging to send it back. It was maybe a couple dollars more at most, than sending your sample in your own container. I don't remember exactly since it was a year or so ago.

You should be able to find all the information and pricing on their website. Make sure you are getting the brewing test. They have lots of more intensive tests which cost $$$
 

TravelingLight

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I don't know what you mean by "the whole kit"? I wanted to make sure I got it right so I ordered the test from Ward labs. They send instructions and a small plastic bottle, I think there was packaging to send it back. It was maybe a couple dollars more at most, than sending your sample in your own container. I don't remember exactly since it was a year or so ago.

You should be able to find all the information and pricing on their website. Make sure you are getting the brewing test. They have lots of more intensive tests which cost $$$
Thanks brother. Yeah, I was looking at the different tests and trying to decide between the brewer's test and the household mineral test. They look pretty similar.
 
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Homercidal

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Bumping an old post, hope I get a response...

So are y'all saying that I don't need to order the whole kit from Ward to get testing? Can I just use my own bottle and packaging and just pay for the testing? I'm all about cost efficiency.
Either test is suitable, but the brewer's test is geared more toward brewers. Whether the additional information is really useful to you is up to you to decide. Either will give you enough information to calculate pH and flavor additions.

You don't need to order the full kit. Buy a water bottle from the gas station. Drink or pour out the water. Run tap water for 5-10 minutes. Flush bottle a few times to remove any trace of purchased water. Fill bottle and send to Ward Labs along with printed order form you downloaded from their website.

No need to wait for their special bottle and saves a little bit. They even have instructions on the site for doing all of this.
 

TravelingLight

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Either test is suitable, but the brewer's test is geared more toward brewers. Whether the additional information is really useful to you is up to you to decide. Either will give you enough information to calculate pH and flavor additions.

You don't need to order the full kit. Buy a water bottle from the gas station. Drink or pour out the water. Run tap water for 5-10 minutes. Flush bottle a few times to remove any trace of purchased water. Fill bottle and send to Ward Labs along with printed order form you downloaded from their website.

No need to wait for their special bottle and saves a little bit. They even have instructions on the site for doing all of this.
Done. Thanks. Just got it packaged up and ready to go. Looks like the turnaround time is pretty quick?
 

Hudini56

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Just ordered their kit from Ward - Test w-6 - was 37.50 I think. Yea I went the more expensive route having them provide the packaging and sample bottle, but really Ive wasted alot more that 37 bucks on bad beer, extra hoses, extra everything for brewing or kegging, so I just went the east route. Cant wait to stop wasting brewing time and loosing all my hop aroma to bad water!
 

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What do you do when the muni water chemistry changes throughout the year?
 

ajdelange

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The easiest thing to do is use RO water removing both the minerals and the variations in their concentration. Next best thing is to do the water analysis yourself. This is quite possible to varying degrees with readily available kits. They can, however, be a little dear.
 

Hudini56

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For me, I'm on a well. So shouldn't change, but as time goes on, I will likely do another sample year to year see if there's any changes over the next year or 2.
 

ajdelange

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Wells vary too. My alkalinity has ranged from, 70 to a little over 200 (mean 131, standard deviation 49) in random grabs over the last year or so. OTOH other ions stay pretty constant except, I suspect, calcium. When they come up with a hardness test that's as easy as the alkalinity test I'll start checking it as often as I check alkalinity.
 

archthered

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The links in the original sticky are broken, looks like Ward labs updated their site. I'm not sure exactly what the originals looked like but here is a link with the information indicated in the first link- http://www.wardlab.com/water-services.php
It is NOT a pdf as the original link was.

Here is the new URL for the form- http://www.wardlab.com/download/sampleforms/HomeBrewer.pdf
It is still a pdf

These are pretty to find, Wards site is pretty user friendly, so this is really not a big deal but I just wanted to pass this on.


Here is a PDF of The various tests they offer and the list of results given for each test.

Here is a PDF of the form you will need to send into Ward Labs along with your water sample. It also has instructions for filling a bottle and payment options at the bottom so you won't have to print a copy of this sticky.
 
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Homercidal

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The links in the original sticky are broken, looks like Ward labs updated their site. I'm not sure exactly what the originals looked like but here is a link with the information indicated in the first link- http://www.wardlab.com/water-services.php
It is NOT a pdf as the original link was.

Here is the new URL for the form- http://www.wardlab.com/download/sampleforms/HomeBrewer.pdf
It is still a pdf

These are pretty to find, Wards site is pretty user friendly, so this is really not a big deal but I just wanted to pass this on.
Thanks! I will update the OP.
 

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So is the price $27.25 if I submit my sample with my own water bottle and pay for shipping?

A month or so ago I fumbled my way through their site and thought I saw it was $40. Maybe that was the cost if they covered everything (container and shipping)?

Side note, I am on A well and my inside water is chlorinated and softened. I used to take water from my outside faucet for brewing, before going with store bought RO. It is probably a no brainer question, but should I send in a sample from the treated water, or the untreated water? My inclination is to send in what I normally would use (outside), I just want to have some reassurance.
 

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Yes. I would use whatever water you brew with.

Unless you* want to know if the treated water is good to brew with. Or maybe both?
 

sweetcell

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for the price-conscious (AKA just about everyone), you might want to consider the $21.00 Household Mineral Test. the only difference between it and the Brewers Test is that you lose iron and phosphorus. personally i have never looked at iron nor phosphorus, not sure what i'd do with that information anyways... i'll be saving myself $6.25 by going with the cheaper option.

fyi, if you have too much iron in your water, you'll know - beer will taste like blood.

phosphorus shouldn't be a problem unless you live in a very agricultural area - fertilizer runoff could jack up your P levels, but this will vary throughout the year (rainfall, growth phase, crop type/rotation, etc.). however, if you or someone you know have kidney disease and are on dialysis, phosphorus levels matter and you should get the test. then again, if you have kidney disease, i'm not sure drinking beer is a great idea anyways...
 

ajdelange

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Knowing the level of iron in in the water is helpful in designing a remediation solution.

A small amount of phosphate can contribute significantly to alkalinity if pH is high and alkalinity low. Now if you have low phosphate and low iron you have for sure wasted your $6.25. But if you don't have a car accident this year you have for sure wasted your insurance premium.
 
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