Quick opinions on water

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

Carrollyn

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2013
Messages
126
Reaction score
49
I’m going to be helping someone with their first brew (BIAB) in a few weeks. I have good water at my house for most brewing purposes, and don’t usually fiddle with it. So that means I have not delved into the subject. Her water is somewhat hard, coming from a ground well in the Sierra Nevada foothills, but there is nothing else wrong with it. She is going to be making an IPA. I don’t want to complicate the water aspect at this point, but I want a good chance of the beer coming out ok. Would it be prudent to have her just buy the water from a water machine?
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
3,034
Reaction score
1,971
Location
· ···
Last edited:

rlprafa

Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2017
Messages
14
Reaction score
5
Honestly? I'd just buy some bottled water for that. Being someone's first brew I wouldn't overcomplicate things.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't still familiarize myself with the topic. hehe I am actually learning about water now. hehe
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
3,034
Reaction score
1,971
Location
· ···
Honestly, can it be simpler than this?

Starting with R/O water gives us the ability to control the concentration of those minerals.

So how do I start building my water, I’ve seen brewing water calculators online, they look very complicated?

[...] For the basic style of beer, I simply:

-Add 1tsp of calcium chloride per 5 gallons of water
-Add 2% acidulated malt to my grain bill (typically between 3 and 5 ounces for a 5 gallon batch.

That’s it.

But don’t different beer styles require different water?

Yes, that’s correct.
Roasty beers (stouts, porters), I skip the acidulated malt.
Hoppy syles (APA, IPA, IIPA), I also add 1tsp of gypsum
Soft water beers (Czech Pils), I cut the calcium chloride down to 1/2tsp
British styles, I double the calcum chloride, and add 1tsp of gypsum.

Those are what work well for me. You may find you need to tweak those numbers some to find what works best for you.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
3,034
Reaction score
1,971
Location
· ···
Best answer: start with water of a known mineral content and adjust it for the style being brewed.

Pro tip: Measuring spoons are not hard to use.
 

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
25,674
Reaction score
4,981
Location
Whitehouse Station
I like simple rules of thumb for beginners. Brewing pale beers with potentially hard water will usually be a bit tannic due to the high pH.

Distilled or RO water.

1/2 tsp calcium chloride
1/2 tsp gypsum

Pale 3-10 SRM beer color: 3ml of 88% lactic acid.
Amber 11-20 SRM beer color: 2ml
Brown to Black 21+ SRM no lactic needed

The mash pH will be within acceptable ranges without nit picking specific numbers.
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
1,720
Reaction score
1,426
Location
VA, USA
I like simple rules of thumb for beginners...
I like the theory of these types of simple rules. Is this based on a sparge? I plugged the values into Bru'n Water for a recent Belgian Blond recipe.

With a full volume mash using 7.8 gallons of strike water, I get a predicted pH of 5.17. 1ml of 88% Lactic Acid would get me to a 5.42 pH and none gets me 5.55.

If I instead mash with 4 gallons and sparge with 4 gallons, and add the full 3 ml of acid to the mash water, I get a predicted mash pH of 5.26.

Since I do mostly full volume mashing, I don't really understand sparge water acidification best practices. Note, I also brew with my tap water as a starting point, so I don't really have a good feel for brewing with RO.

But if I was a new all-grain brewer brewing a light colored beer and starting with RO, I would wonder
  • If I am doing full volume mashing, should I reduce or skip the lactic acid? Won't my mash pH be very low for dark beers?
  • If I am doing a sparge, do I add all the adjustments to my mash water?
Personally, I really like the theory of what I see in this poster: Brewing Water Chemistry Poster I wish it was not $50! I like the idea "If you are brewing X style of beer starting with Y type of water, add A, B and C." The fact that Salt, Epsom Salt and Chalk are on the list of salts to add and Calcium Chloride is not, is a big red flag as to the validity of the chart.
 

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
25,674
Reaction score
4,981
Location
Whitehouse Station
I like the theory of these types of simple rules. Is this based on a sparge? I plugged the values into Bru'n Water for a recent Belgian Blond recipe.

With a full volume mash using 7.8 gallons of strike water, I get a predicted pH of 5.17. 1ml of 88% Lactic Acid would get me to a 5.42 pH and none gets me 5.55.

If I instead mash with 4 gallons and sparge with 4 gallons, and add the full 3 ml of acid to the mash water, I get a predicted mash pH of 5.26.

Since I do mostly full volume mashing, I don't really understand sparge water acidification best practices. Note, I also brew with my tap water as a starting point, so I don't really have a good feel for brewing with RO.

But if I was a new all-grain brewer brewing a light colored beer and starting with RO, I would wonder
  • If I am doing full volume mashing, should I reduce or skip the lactic acid? Won't my mash pH be very low for dark beers?
  • If I am doing a sparge, do I add all the adjustments to my mash water?
Personally, I really like the theory of what I see in this poster: Brewing Water Chemistry Poster I wish it was not $50! I like the idea "If you are brewing X style of beer starting with Y type of water, add A, B and C." The fact that Salt, Epsom Salt and Chalk are on the list of salts to add and Calcium Chloride is not, is a big red flag as to the validity of the chart.
My rules of thumb are for full volume mashes as the OP mentioned BIAB.

Honestly anything between 5.0 and 5.5 is fine. Above 5.6 is getting risky.

When you add sparging, it gets a little more complicated than a rule of thumb is adequate for.
 
OP
Carrollyn

Carrollyn

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2013
Messages
126
Reaction score
49
Thanks, Everyone! I will be going over all the answers more slowly and thoughtfully. Yes, brew in a bag, all grain, no sparge. It is going to be enough of a exercise for her first beer without adding in a complicated water aspect. Once you’re used to the water modification, I’m sure it’s an easy thing. Just like when I was first going to keg, and the whole assembly seemed like rube Goldberg‘s bad dream. But now it’s an easy thing. i’m just as glad I started with bottles, to not be overwhelmed with too many things to learn in the beginning.
i’m lucky, since my water is fairly agreeable to most things I want to brew. So I have not had to dig into that subject myself.
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
1,720
Reaction score
1,426
Location
VA, USA
Another option is the "if your water tastes good it will make good beer" adage. For most people that is a decent place to start. With the description "somewhat hard, coming from a ground well in the Sierra Nevada foothills, but there is nothing else wrong with it" I don't see any big red flags. It might save you from having to lug home jugs of water and round up Gypsum, Calcium Chloride and Lactic Acic (or Acidulated Malt). (Edit: if this is well water, treating for chlorine and chloramine would not be needed)

The issue is that without more information on the water, it would be hard for others to give any advice on additions or potential pH adjustment. My guess, is that important ions for the water would be okay, and that mash pH would come in a bit higher than ideal (though it depends a bit on the water and the grain bill for the recipe). Plenty of medal winning beers were made of the years with untreated tap water.
 
Last edited:

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
25,674
Reaction score
4,981
Location
Whitehouse Station
I would agree that without getting into the weeds at all, the two acceptable options for an IPA would be to use the hard tap water and add 2ml of 88% lactic acid OR use bottled water.
 

Gnomebrewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2014
Messages
2,811
Reaction score
1,596
Location
Hobart
Ha! I wish. But: She's doing a 10 gallon batch, it's a 7 hour drive, I'm in a Subaru with a husband and lots 'o stuff.
Haha. Yep, 7 hours is a bit far. I was thinking more like the next suburb over!
 

Brewdog80

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 17, 2021
Messages
94
Reaction score
85
I'm on the easy side. If she drinks her water, and it doesn't smell or taste bad. I'd just brew with it. It won't turn out bad it it is really drinkable water. I'd talk with her..... If she already filters it, then it should be fine. My local water changes by the month. I filter it and go from there adding just a bit of brewing salts.
 

mabrungard

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 22, 2011
Messages
6,037
Reaction score
1,985
Location
Carmel
The ONLY thing you can get from the way a water tastes is that “if the water tastes bad, it won’t make great beer”.

Starting with a un-mineralized or lightly mineralized water does improve a brewer’s chances of success. If that tap water has high alkalinity like most water supplies typically have, brewing with that unadjusted water is probably going to give an unsatisfactory result.

“Knowledge is power” in brewing too.
 

Brewdog80

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 17, 2021
Messages
94
Reaction score
85
The ONLY thing you can get from the way a water tastes is that “if the water tastes bad, it won’t make great beer”.

Starting with a un-mineralized or lightly mineralized water does improve a brewer’s chances of success. If that tap water has high alkalinity like most water supplies typically have, brewing with that unadjusted water is probably going to give an unsatisfactory result.

“Knowledge is power” in brewing too.
Well, while it is
 

Brewdog80

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 17, 2021
Messages
94
Reaction score
85
Arrghhh phone. I'll stand by my statement, it it tastes good, it will make good beer. If boiling leaves stained pots, don't use it.... I've brewed with hard and I've brewed with soft. It will all work. There is no perfect profile for beer. I filter all of mine currently as its surface water and can smell pretty badly at times. Good beer can be made without starting with RO or distilled, and It really is up to you if you want to tote 15 gallons of water or have her obtain that along with then adding minerals or use what she has... I know what I'd do....
 

Oleson M.D.

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2021
Messages
128
Reaction score
112
This has been addressed before, here and on other forums.
We filter our water, city tap.
Sometimes we use our RO filter. But always use our countertop cartridge filter.
These produce sparkling water that tastes terrific. And the beer made with the filtered water is very good.
No, we have never added anything in the way of salts or calcium or sulfates.

Here is our profile:

Ca = 96
Mg = 17
S04 = 58
Cl = 20
Na = 30
K = 4
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
3,034
Reaction score
1,971
Location
· ···
Here is our profile:
IIRC, OP doesn't know the profile of the water being used for brewing.

Brewing with water of a unknown mineral may work. If the beer comes out poorly, one of the things to understand will be the mineral content of the water.

RO/distilled water was offered as an approach because it enables one to start with water of a known mineral content. Obviously, obtaining sufficient RO/distilled water can be a factor in not using it. One could consider blending the source water to reduce the unknown mineral content.
 

Gnomebrewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2014
Messages
2,811
Reaction score
1,596
Location
Hobart
Just another idea, and not one I've personally tried (maybe Martin would have more to say about this).....

Use water from her home, but get some Phosphoric acid and a pH meter and treat all of the brewing water with acid to reach 5.2. I think I remember reading that Sierra Nevada does (or a least did) water treatment this way?
 

IslandLizard

Progressive Brewing
Staff member
Mod
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
18,306
Reaction score
8,444
Location
Pasadena, MD
Do you have a mineral profile of her well water? Or something useful to start with?

If you have space in the car, 2 brew buckets with lids and your water would fill the ticket.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
3,034
Reaction score
1,971
Location
· ···
Use water from her home, but get some Phosphoric acid and a pH meter and treat all of the brewing water with acid to reach 5.2. I think I remember reading that Sierra Nevada does (or a least did) water treatment this way?
On source of the "adjust brewing liquor to pH 5.5" (not 5.2) story may be Modern Homebrew Recipes p 27.

I can see where the specific technique works as part of the larger approach for water adjustments that the book uses.

I can also see the specific technique fail spectacularly when used "out of context".
 
Last edited:
OP
Carrollyn

Carrollyn

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2013
Messages
126
Reaction score
49
Ok, latest.
She hasn't got a water profile on it, but I've lived in the area, and I know it is harder than one usually uses for brewing, even though It's clean and clear. She wants to make an IPA, which is why I'm concerned about the alkalinity. I do want the least complicated (and most likely for success) water method for a first time brewer who is working really hard to just get the whole rest of the brewing process, err, processed.
I suggested two choices: either use 50-50 RO water from a machine plus her well water, or buy some bottled drinking water. She told me she chose to buy some bottled drinking water.
I will let you know the results. The plan is to brew the day before Thanksgiving day.
 
OP
Carrollyn

Carrollyn

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2013
Messages
126
Reaction score
49
Do you have a mineral profile of her well water? Or something useful to start with?

If you have space in the car, 2 brew buckets with lids and your water would fill the ticket.
I absolutely don't have space in the car!
If all goes well with this brew day, then I expect she will work on getting a water profile and figure out best practices for next time.
 
Top