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NW burbs Chicago - bad water?

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Judochop

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Just started brewing here in my new location, and all of my beers are turning out astringent. My first was a British IPA, and my second was a Foreign Extra stout. Astringency was noted in the first, but overpowering in the second. It’s undrinkable.

- My crush is being performed by my local HB shop, so I think I can trust them.

- I really don’t think there’s any way I’m sparging at temperatures too high. Even though I’ve got my sparge water @ 180, I can see my mash drop in temp from 155 on down. So maybe just at the surface I’m extracting tannins, but I can’t think that makes the difference that I’m tasting.

So… is it my water? My HB shop guy thought maybe chlorine. How much chlorine is too much?

As a reference to anyone else in the Libertyville area, this is the info I got from the station:

Alkalinity (as CaCO3)…….95-108 ppm
Calcium……………………35.0 ppm
Chloride……………………13.0 ppm
Hardness (as CaCO3)…..110-140 ppm
Iron…………………………<50 pp billion
Magnesium………………...11.0 ppm
pH…………………………...7.8-7.9
Sodium……………………..10.0 ppm
Sulfate………………………25.0 ppm (or as low as 10 ppm)

‘Free’ Chlorine………….0.67–1.02 mg/L
 

mklawz

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you're in better shape than me. But like I said in the other thread, I've been using bottled and also distilled/tap.

Sodium, Na 35
Potassium, K 14
Calcium, Ca 64
Magnesium, Mg 23
Total Hardness, CaCO3 256
Nitrate, NO3-N < 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 16
Chloride, Cl 12
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 326
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 267
 

conpewter

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Well at least you don't have any chloromines.

Anyway that is fairly hard water. I live in Dundee and we have really hard water. I generally brew using water from my water softener and it turns out fine. Before that I used my water cut by half with distilled water.
 

slimer

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I have the same water as you and haven't had any trouble with mine. Did you get any husks in the boil?
 
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Judochop

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I may be oversparging. I've just been collecting to 7 gallons (to account for a crazy high evaporation rate) and stopping there. I really can't say I know either the pH of my mash, nor the gravity of my run-off, at that point.

Next round I'm popping some Campden tabs and watching my run-off gravity a little more closely.

But does anybody know about that chlorine level in my water? Can I tell if my levels are too high from my free chlorine levels alone?
 
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Judochop

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I have the same water as you and haven't had any trouble with mine. Did you get any husks in the boil?
Really don't think so. I vorlaufed (sp?) and didn't notice any chunks. Good point though. I'll check that closer next time too.
 

WBC

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I am in California and my water is fairly the same so you might use some 5 Star 5.2 conditioner if the mash PH is too far out of range. Get some PH test strips to find out. Test the mash liquid only at room temperature.
 

Fatgodzilla

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Two minor tips. Your pH is high - as said, use the 5.2 pH to reduce the pH of your mash. Read good texts eg Palmer's "How To Brew" , but there are many others to understand a little about pH and alkalinity in the mash. Secondly, don't over sparge. After a good sparge, if you haven't got your ideal boiling amount, add water. Gravity too low - add a bit of malt extract or sugar. Many brewers sparge and sparge thinking the coloured water coming out is good wort. Actually its low gravity and likely just leaching tannins. If you are nervous about your efficiency, add more grain to the mash. You are better adding a few extra pounds of grain and getting good beer than oversparging and effectively wasting a brew.
 

Whisler85

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I live in Knollwood (corner of Rockland and Waukegan), and im assuming you LHBS is Perfect Brewing, and yes, Billy knows what hes doing- their crush has always been good to me
 
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Judochop

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Looking for some water treatment info, I came across this old thread of mine and thought I&#8217;d close it off for good: the problem was never the water, it was the garden hose I was using to dispense the water.

Don&#8217;t use a garden hose for your brewing water. Unless of course you like the taste of the inside of garden hoses.
 

Randar

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Billy also insists he never modifies his water. I have water from the Evanston pumping station on the lake and my local water is very similar to the OP.

I find that I do have to take some minor steps to add calcium, chloride, and sulfate back to my water and get the pH down a bit depending on the brew.

Have you tried the EZ Water Calculator Spreadsheet?
 

Randar

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Looking for some water treatment info, I came across this old thread of mine and thought I’d close it off for good: the problem was never the water, it was the garden hose I was using to dispense the water.

Don’t use a garden hose for your brewing water. Unless of course you like the taste of the inside of garden hoses.
ACK! Good call. Garden hoses not for potable water!
 

mychalg9

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I live in Algonquin and my first AG turned out similar to what you describe. I was planning on using bottled water on my next brew to see if any difference is noticed.
 
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Judochop

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Billy also insists he never modifies his water.
And I tend to believe him. He readily admits he's very lazy when it comes to giving any special, "unnecessary" attention to his process. He carbs by shaking his kegs @ 30 psi for an instinctive length of time and won’t even apply CO2 after that. He uses foil wrap on his primaries instead of an airlock and carboy cap. He still siphons by sucking through an adapter piece of tubing. I’m not even too sure about his sanitation practices. His response to any queries about the cleanliness of his system is “<shrug> I usually kill my kegs before anything has a chance…”.

Yes sir, Billy manifests the spirit of RDWHAHB. And cheers to him for it.

Anyway...
Have you tried the EZ Water Calculator Spreadsheet?
Nope. Ever since I dumped the hose, I’ve been very happy with my beers, which have been British/American ales, with the occasional Belgian or two. But I’m getting near the point where I’ll have temp control to do some lagers, and once I’m there, I think I will want to soften up my water for Pilsners and maybe a tweak for Helles and other German lagers.

So… is this EZ calculator as easy as advertised?
 
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Judochop

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I plugged in my numbers, and it looks like for a basic pils recipe (12# pils,0.5# carapils), I can get my pH into the sweet spot with a 4-6 oz addition of acidulated malt. I hope that&#8217;s correct, because I did exactly that (at Billy&#8217;s suggestion) with a 98% Pils Belgian Golden Strong I brewed a while back.

One thing I don&#8217;t get&#8230; I always understood that the Chicago water I use was relatively &#8220;hard&#8221;. Yet, I plug in my numbers, and the results tab shows me that I am woefully under-ion&#8217;d relative to what Palmer recommends. So, my ion #s are all piddly, yet my water is still &#8220;hard&#8221;? What gives?

I really don&#8217;t get the water chemistry stuff, and if I&#8217;m to be honest with myself, I&#8217;m not sure I really want to understand it either. I think I just want someone to tell me exactly what to do to turn my particular water into something which favors maltiness, so things like Pils and Munich-style beers come out tasting authentic. (&#8220;Come out&#8221; being the operative phrase&#8230; I couldn&#8217;t care less if the water is authentic &#8220;going in&#8221;.)
 
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Judochop

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It's good to see so many brewers from around my area chiming in. What are you guys doing to adjust your water, if at all? Any Chicago-water lager brewers in the house? What's your experience been?
 

SickTransitMundus

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If you live in Cook County, you're probably getting your water from the City of Chicago.

http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/water/WaterQltyResultsNRpts/ccReports/cca09.pdf

We pull our water out of Lake Michigan and minimally process it. Ever see the round buildings waaaaay out in the lake? Those are the intake cribs. There's some interesting history behind this setup, but it's offtopic.

Libertyville, like most of Lake County, pulls from the lake as well.

http://www.clcjawa.com/

I don't imagine Lake County's treated water is much different than Chicago's. If you're in one of the suburbs farther from the lake, you're getting water from municipal wells, which are notoriously bad - hard water, agricultural contamination, etc.

http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=119335

Living in the city, I've never had problems with the water. I use tap water. If the style calls for it I'll put in some Burton salts, but that's it. I almost never brew lagers. I can't detect any chlorine in my brews, but that doesn't mean that someone else might.

One question I haven't been able to answer, though - does Chicago use chloramine? I tried called Water Management a while ago to ask them, but whoever answered the phone had no clue what I was talking about. In typical Chicago fashion, they told me to call my alderman.

There's definitely a whiff of chlorine when the water comes straight out of the tap, but it dissipates pretty quickly so I think they don't use chloramine which persists.
 

DrawTap88

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I use RO water and build up the ions myself. (I won't pretend to know or understand water chem.) Joliet water is horrible tasteing. Has to go through a salt filled water softener before running through the house, and I then run it through a carbon filter attached to the kitchen faucet. After all that it still tastes bad, but not so bad that it's not drinkable.
 
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Judochop

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Libertyville water is fine for drinking. And it ends up being fine for all the ales I've done. Of course, how would I know unless I brewed with treated water and compared? There's got to be someone around me who's modifying their tap water to soften it for lagers. I'm hoping they'll show up...

I have a complete set of data on the water up here. I'm not recalling if chloramine was mentioned though. I'll look it up and get back here to post.
 

wickman6

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It's good to see so many brewers from around my area chiming in. What are you guys doing to adjust your water, if at all? Any Chicago-water lager brewers in the house? What's your experience been?
I have a pilsner lagering right now, used unadjusted Vernon hills water (except campden for chlorine removal). I can let you know how it turns out in a month or two. Or better yet, I could let you taste one for yourself! I'm pretty excited about it and I hope the water didn't hurt anything.

I also have a schwarzbier bottled and an amber lager in secondary. Once those are set, I can share my findings.
 

duboman

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Have you taken a PH reading of your mash? While the PH of your water is quite high for brewing it really doesn't mean anything unless your mash PH is remaining high as well.

Tannin extraction can come from the combination of a high mash PH AND sparging with water that is above 170F. In other words, if your mash/grain bill is not lowering your PH into the 5.1-5.4 range and then you are sparging with 180F water you run the risk of extracting tannins.

If you find the mash PH is not in the ideal range next time you brew then you can either sparge with water that is less than 170 which makes very little to any difference or look into modifying your water chemistry to drop the PH.

As a test, you can also decide to brew your next batch with bottled water, R/O water and see if you get improvement.
 
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