Importance of water?

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IPAMike

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I've seen a lot of posts regarding water and what people treat their water with to add or remove certain properties.
I believe our local water (Vancouver, WA) is pretty good...to my knowledge. Maybe a bit hard? No RO.
I've attached a document here if anyone is interested.
I'm curious what you all do (if anything) to treat (or test) your water at any point in the brewing process.
 

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Jim R

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The bottom line is that you don't really know what your water contains (based on that document) and you probably haven't yet learned the basics of water management for homebrewing. I was at the same point not all that long ago. Now is a good time to educate yourself on an important part of brewing. I think it even adds to my enjoyment of the whole brewing process to manage the water for any particular beer style that I brew.

The water chapter in John Palmers book or even his entire book on Water ($14 on amazon) would be a good place to start. Some of the online youtube videos from John would probably wet your appetite. This is more complex than any simple answers that you are going to get on a forum.
 

AlexKay

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If your water isn’t dreadfully hard, you can probably ignore water chemistry for your first 6-12 months of homebrewing and be pretty happy with the beer you make.

But your water looks kind of hard to me, to the point where you might want to dilute it, or use RO, or add acid.
 
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IPAMike

IPAMike

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The bottom line is that you don't really know what your water contains (based on that document) and you probably haven't yet learned the basics of water management for homebrewing. I was at the same point not all that long ago. Now is a good time to educate yourself on an important part of brewing. I think it even adds to my enjoyment of the whole brewing process to manage the water for any particular beer style that I brew.

The water chapter in John Palmers book or even his entire book on Water ($14 on amazon) would be a good place to start. Some of the online youtube videos from John would probably wet your appetite. This is more complex than any simple answers that you are going to get on a forum.
Appreciate it! It seems pretty subjective to me. If I brew with straight tap water vs. treated water, how big a difference will I notice? I guess It'll take a lot of batches to figure out.
 
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IPAMike

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If your water isn’t dreadfully hard, you can probably ignore water chemistry for your first 6-12 months of homebrewing and be pretty happy with the beer you make.

But your water looks kind of hard to me, to the point where you might want to dilute it, or use RO, or add acid.
Thanks for the feedback. I guess it's a lot of experimenting.
 

AlexKay

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Wait a bit for someone who actually knows how to read a water report to come by (not me!)

My city water is extremely hard. I diluted it 2x for my first batch, and the beer turned out terrible, an astringent dumper. I had to make the shift to all-bottled water by batch 2. It was at least a year before I bought a ten-milligram scale for brewing salts, and a pH meter, and started actually building water profiles from RO. Plenty of pretty good batches early on, though.

I can taste the difference in bitter beers when I jack sulfide real high. I’ve also gotten off-tastes in a few batches when I was adding too much magnesium (Pro tip: don’t use magnesium.), as well as when I thought that adding calcium carbonate was a good idea. (Pro tip: it isn’t.). And I’ve never done a side-by-side, but my guess is that for most other beers, the difference from a tailored water profile is small to imperceptible. (Disclaimer: I have a pretty blunt palate.).

If you’re just starting out, you should probably worry about other things first. Fermentation temperature control, fermentation temperature control, and fermentation temperature control. And maybe yeast health and pitch rates.
 

marc1

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Are you brewing extract or all grain?

The water has chlorine in it, so it would be good to add crushed campden tablet to all brewing water before use to neutralize it.
 

csantoni

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Calcium, chloride, sulfate, total hardness, and total alkalinity are fairly low so this is generally good brewing water. If you are an extract brewer you’re good to go as extracts already have all the minerals you need. If you brew all-grain then you’ll need to do some reading on what minerals are important to brewing (the suggestions above are good places to start). If you decide to start playing with water profiles you’ll probably want to learn how to use Bru’n Water or one of the full brewing software apps like Beersmith. No one is going to tell you exactly how to treat your water so you’ll need to do some experimentation and it’s somewhat dependent upon what styles you like to brew.

Water is often the last thing new brewers tackle. As @AlexKay said, there are definitely other process areas you should get good at first as they will have more impact on your finished beer and can somewhat cancel out water adjustments if you don’t have them under control.

edit: was looking at the wrong water report somehow, disregard my advice.
 
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Do you have micro breweries nearby? You could ask them what, if anything, they do to their water before brewing with it, and also take note of what styles they do well. Fact is, you can go through the hoops to duplicate tap water from someplace else, but when you're just starting out, I think it makes more sense to learn what you can brew with the water you already have and spend your time/effort developing your skills at other aspects of brewing.
 
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IPAMike

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Wait a bit for someone who actually knows how to read a water report to come by (not me!)

My city water is extremely hard. I diluted it 2x for my first batch, and the beer turned out terrible, an astringent dumper. I had to make the shift to all-bottled water by batch 2. It was at least a year before I bought a ten-milligram scale for brewing salts, and a pH meter, and started actually building water profiles from RO. Plenty of pretty good batches early on, though.

I can taste the difference in bitter beers when I jack sulfide real high. I’ve also gotten off-tastes in a few batches when I was adding too much magnesium (Pro tip: don’t use magnesium.), as well as when I thought that adding calcium carbonate was a good idea. (Pro tip: it isn’t.). And I’ve never done a side-by-side, but my guess is that for most other beers, the difference from a tailored water profile is small to imperceptible. (Disclaimer: I have a pretty blunt palate.).

If you’re just starting out, you should probably worry about other things first. Fermentation temperature control, fermentation temperature control, and fermentation temperature control. And maybe yeast health and pitch rates.
Thanks! Yeah, I'm just brewing my first batch ever. I'm an over-thinker. Lol!
I did strugle a bit with my temperatures for the first couple of days. At some point I'll invest in equipment to help control that.
 
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IPAMike

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Do you have micro breweries nearby? You could ask them what, if anything, they do to their water before brewing with it, and also take note of what styles they do well. Fact is, you can go through the hoops to duplicate tap water from someplace else, but when you're just starting out, I think it makes more sense to learn what you can brew with the water you already have and spend your time/effort developing your skills at other aspects of brewing.
Thanks JayJay. I live in the Pacific NW. I could throw a rock in any direction and hit a micro brewery. :)
I actually wondered about what exactly the pros do to their water. Hmmm....
 

IslandLizard

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Most water questions are handled in the Brew Science Forum:
Do some reading there, and read the stickies.

There are many threads there dealing with water related issues and solutions.
From the posted report your water is considered fairly hard, 130 ppm hardness, 120 ppm alkalinity, but controllable.

When extract brewing most of those minerals and alkalinity won't harm your beer, for certain styles may even give you somewhat better flavor perception.
For all grain (or partial mash/mini mash) the mash pH is important, as is the alkalinity of the sparge water. Adding a little, carefully measured, amount of acid goes a long way remediating those.
 
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IPAMike

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Most water questions are handled in the Brew Science Forum:
Do some reading there, and read the stickies.

There are many threads there dealing with water related issues and solutions.
From the posted report your water is considered fairly hard, 130 ppm hardness, 120 ppm alkalinity, but controllable.

When extract brewing most of those minerals and alkalinity won't harm your beer, for certain styles may even give you somewhat better flavor perception.
For all grain (or partial mash/mini mash) the mash pH is important, as is the alkalinity of the sparge water. Adding a little acid goes a long way remediating those.
Thanks very much for the info.! I'm a total noob, but I'm considering BIB soon.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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How much alkalinity is high? Generally, high alkalinity is anything greater than 100 ppm as calcium carbonate. However, alkalinity greater than 50 ppm can be considered high for extract brewing because you are rehydrating a dehydrated wort that already has minerals and alkalinity in it. The alkalinity in your water will add to what’s already there.
Brewing Water, Craft Beer And Brewing (link)
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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If you are an extract brewer you’re good to go as extracts already have all the minerals you need.
Sorry, but this statement is, at best, partially correct if OP was using RO/distilled water. Please stop repeating it.

Tap water has minerals (and alkalinity). So does the wort. Some combinations of tap water and specific brands of DME/LME will come out ok, some will come out 'flat/insipid' (link), and some will be dumpers.

With RO water, extract-based recipes can be adjusted to include flavor salt (CaCl, CaS04) additions. The adjustments are brand specific.
 

Oleson M.D.

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This is our approach...we use filtered city tap water, no treatment at all. None. If a softer water is desired for a Bohemian or Czech style beer, we will cut the tap water with RO.

No chemical additions. Never have, never will.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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This is our approach...we use filtered city tap water, no treatment at all. None. If a softer water is desired for a Bohemian or Czech style beer, we will cut the tap water with RO.
That works for many people. For others, it can be #EpicFailure.

Nothing wrong with starting with tap water.

If one doesn't get the desired result (off flavors, 'flat/insipid' (link)), an deeper understanding of the source water, an understanding the desired approximate mineral content for the beer style, and some common salts may be helpful.

Or with extract-based recipes, one can substitute tap water with RO/distilled for a batch (or two).
 
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Extract. I'm in the middle of my first batch ever. I'm already 100% hooked. :)
At such an early stage, I would concentrate more on the brewing process and get that worked out before I even thought about water profiles. Heck, I've been brewing for 30 years, and the only time I do water adjustment, is if I brew something under 8 SRM. Otherwise I use my tap water with great results.
 
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Hey, the good news is that they disinfect with chorine (not chloramine) and use relatively low levels (4.0 ppm). Probably a good idea to let it sit out or boil off the free chlorine before use. You have pretty high alkalinity and hardness but Ca++ and Mg++ levels are pretty reasonable and I'm having some trouble reconciling those data. You might want to get a Ward Labs report. In any case, you are probably going to want some lactic or phosphoric acid on hand to adjust pH.
 

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Of course water is extremely important. It's 99%+ of your finsihed beer.
So it comes to your local water if it's OK to use as-is or should you treat it.
I have't yet gone down that waterfall as to treating mine - I've used my tap water right out for my whole brewing career and make pretty good beer, with occasional excellent (IMO...) batches.
That'll probably be the next wormhole I go down - once I get my yeast wrangling to the point I don't have to look everything up every time I do something.
 

IslandLizard

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The water has chlorine in it, so it would be good to add crushed campden tablet to all brewing water before use to neutralize it.
That's a small but very important detail. ^
Chlorine "kills" beer.

Dosage: 1/4 crushed Campden tablet per 5 gallons of water. Just stir it well to dissolve. And stir it again, a minute or so later (timing is not critical). It works within minutes.

Probably a good idea to let it sit out or boil off the free chlorine before use.
Campden works faster and 100% guaranteed to remove all traces of chlorine.
It's so easy, cheap, and imperceptible, it's borderline criminal that a Campden Tablet isn't included with every recipe kit.
 

VikeMan

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You have pretty high alkalinity and hardness but Ca++ and Mg++ levels are pretty reasonable and I'm having some trouble reconciling those data.
If we're talking about the report attached to the OP, the 130 ppm hardness is correct (within rounding errors) for 36 ppm Ca and 10 ppm Mg

(2.5 x 36 ppm Ca) + (4.1 x 10 ppm Mg) = 131 ppm Hardness

Alkalinity is 120 ppm, either as CaCO3 or as HCO3 (not stated). Either way, it's not too high, in fact there are more anions (total alkalinity or other) needed to make this all balance. The missing anions are doubtless mostly Chlorides and Sulfates, which the report doesn't specify.
 

bwible

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Do you have micro breweries nearby? You could ask them what, if anything, they do to their water before brewing with it, and also take note of what styles they do well. Fact is, you can go through the hoops to duplicate tap water from someplace else, but when you're just starting out, I think it makes more sense to learn what you can brew with the water you already have and spend your time/effort developing your skills at other aspects of brewing.
Great thought but when I asked our local brewpub they said they have an RO system and build all their water. I think thats what we’ll find in most cases.
 

VikeMan

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Calcium, chloride, sulfate, total hardness, and total alkalinity are fairly low so this is generally good brewing water.
Did you see chloride and sulfates listed somewhere in that report?
 

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... continuing with a thought based on my previous reply on alkalinity limits ...

Starting out with DME/LME, there's nothing wrong with using tap water of an unknown mineral content - as long as the beer comes out fine. But if the beer ends up with unexpected flavors, inappropriate mineral content needs to be considered as a source of the unexpected flavors.

Starting with distilled/RO/low mineral water is one way to avoid the troubleshooting step.

If mineral content of the tap water is known, there appears to be information (note: this is speculation) in a couple of places that can be used to establish rough ppm ranges for good vs poor tap water. Once this is known, some of the techniques that people use to dilute minerals / alkalinity may (again: this is speculation) be appropriate for adjusting tap water when brewing with DME/LME.
 

jerrylotto

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If we're talking about the report attached to the OP, the 130 ppm hardness is correct (within rounding errors) for 36 ppm Ca and 10 ppm Mg

(2.5 x 36 ppm Ca) + (4.1 x 10 ppm Mg) = 131 ppm Hardness
Took me a minute to figure out where this came from. Total hardness is expressed as molar mass equivalents of CaCO3

CaC03 = 100.1 g/mol
Ca2+ = 40.1 g/mol
Mg2+= 24.3 g/mol

So, molar mass ratios can be expressed as:
MCaCO3 / MCa = 100.1 / 40.1 = 2.5
MCaCO3 / MMg = 100.1 / 24.3 = 4.1
 

csantoni

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That's the best excuse I've ever heard! :lol:
I mean, I totally admit it was some kind of user error (I work in software, I know about idiot users) but I swear I was looking at a sideways pdf of various treatment plants with the mineral contents listed when I wrote my comment. I need a "no, really, I swear!" emoji.
 

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I mean, I totally admit it was some kind of user error (I work in software, I know about idiot users) but I swear I was looking at a sideways pdf of various treatment plants with the mineral contents listed when I wrote my comment. I need a "no, really, I swear!" emoji.
What does a "No, really, I swear" emoji look like?
 

IslandLizard

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That was the primary reason I suggested that the OP might want to get a Ward Labs report.
As long as his water supply is indeed as constant as his water company claims it is.

Even so, I'd contact the water company instead, and ask for their "Quality Control Dept."
Ask them about those other minerals/ions (e.g., Cl-, SO4-- etc) that are missing from the report. They have the numbers as well as their variation over time and with the seasons.

That's how I got mine, at a total cost of... $0.
 
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