RO system on softened well water

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youngson616

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Hey Folks

Looking for advise or experience with RO systems on well water with softeners. I have well water set up with a whole house filter,water softener, than a carbon block at the kitchen sink only. Should I RO the filtered,softened, carb blocked water or hit the bypass on the softener? Maybe a different combination might works better as well. As it sits now, these are the ph values I have discovered with different setups without considering mineral contents taking out and put back in from softening etc.

1. Well water > Whole house filter > water softener > carbon block > RO system = 6.7

2. Well water > Whole house filter > carbon block > RO system = 6.2

3.Well water > Whole house filter > water softener > carbon block = 7.3

4. Well water > Whole house filter > = 7.3

5. Well water > Whole house filter > water softener = 7.5

6. Well water > Garden Hose = 7.7

Looks like my softener is raising my ph from the above test. Possibly removing the cal/mag ppm and replacing with sodium. What would be the best baseline the work from?
 

Holden Caulfield

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As it sits now, these are the ph values I have discovered with different setups without considering mineral contents taking out and put back in from softening etc.
^PH of your water is meaningless - what is important is the buffering capacity which is related to the bicarbonates in your water.

Water softeners only exchange the Ca and Mg for Na and do not affect HCO3, which will actually make your water worse for brewing. Once you run the softened water through the RO filter you will have a blank canvas to build your water profile by adding salts.

Bottom line - running the carbon filter and RO system is your best option. But you will do no harm by softening it first then running it through the RO filter as most of the sodium and bicarbonates will just be removed by the RO filter - so just a bit more extra work and cost.
 
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youngson616

youngson616

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Bottom line - running the carbon filter and RO system is your best option. But you will do no harm by softening it first then running it through the RO filter as most of the sodium and bicarbonates will just be removed by the RO filter - so just a bit more extra work and cost.
Thanks for the clarification that makes more sense. I think I was missing the point of ph meaning nothing until after getting the baseline water then just adjust it before the mash.

As far as the softener, it doesn't matter to me I just pop the button in the basement to switch it on and off, piece of cake. The RO water comes out VERY slow with using the softener. I may opt to not use it for that reason alone. To me it doesn't make sense using the softener to add Na then remove it during RO, while removing Ca just to add it back in(CaCl) for ph adjustment before the mash.
 
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youngson616

youngson616

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what is important is the buffering capacity which is related to the bicarbonates in your water.
Is a water report the only way I can calculate my bicarbonates? Any at home test? We had test done 2 years ago when we moved in but that was with the softener which Im leaning towards not using. Not sure if I can use this report
 
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youngson616

youngson616

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Ok nevermind I'm getting the bigger picture now just a little slow. I'll run the RO with no softener, make salt adjustments and brew on!
 

hotbeer

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You could just brew with it and see what your results are. If you detect in the finished beer tastes or mouth feel that additions of something might correct, then try them in your next brew and see what they do.

But to make proper guesses at what you should add, you need an analysis of the water from the source you are taking it from. However basic stuff like pH and hardness you can get test kits for. Even the aquarium water test kits will give you some clues... but only if you know what to do with that information.
 
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youngson616

youngson616

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You could just brew with it and see what your results are. If you detect in the finished beer tastes or mouth feel that additions of something might correct, then try them in your next brew and see what they do.

It was the mouth feel that wasn't right, watery not full almost rolled right off the tongue.

I brewed the same style and recipe two ways. Softened well water no chemistry, spring water no chemisry. The spring water definitely made the mouth feel much better. Unfortunately the higher ph of both waters helped the tannins come in some, not too bad but enough to know an addition of salts would help that
 
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Just as hard water will deposit scale on faucets, in water heaters, and on almost anything it touches - it will also deposit scale inside an RO element. The scale will plug the membrane, and in our experience, will act like an abrasive that results in holes in the membrane. So you'll end up with permeate (RO water) production much slower than you expect, and the rejection rate will be low (TDS in the permeate will be higher than you'd like). So yes - if it is an option, always feed an RO system soft, or softened water.

The OP talks about a whole house filter... be never clarifies what sort of filter that is. Is it a sediment filter? Assuming so, it is not uncommon for well water to have high sediment loads. And yes, you can address this with one or more sediment filters. You can do some experimenting with the number of sediment filters you use, and the micron pore size on each - until you find a combo that results in a reasonable life span for each filter.

The potential downside of adding these sorts of filters is that you pay a price for each in terms of pressure loss. You may lose 2 or 3 psi going through even a brand new sediment filter.
 

mabrungard

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If a household needs a softener, the RO system should use the softened water for the sake of membrane longevity...

Cheers!
Exactly! If the raw water creates scaling or staining problems, that water is likely to reduce the longevity of RO membranes. Using the softened water is substantially better for the machine and since it’s already available, it’s the right alternative.
 
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youngson616

youngson616

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Brewed today! Got a decent 6.2 ph fresh RO water going. Threw in 1 tsp CaCl
Just as hard water will deposit scale on faucets, in water heaters, and on almost anything it touches - it will also deposit scale inside an RO element. The scale will plug the membrane, and in our experience, will act like an abrasive that results in holes in the membrane. So you'll end up with permeate (RO water) production much slower than you expect, and the rejection rate will be low (TDS in the permeate will be higher than you'd like). So yes - if it is an option, always feed an RO system soft, or softened water.

The OP talks about a whole house filter... be never clarifies what sort of filter that is. Is it a sediment filter? Assuming so, it is not uncommon for well water to have high sediment loads. And yes, you can address this with one or more sediment filters. You can do some experimenting with the number of sediment filters you use, and the micron pore size on each - until you find a combo that results in a reasonable life span for each filter.

The potential downside of adding these sorts of filters is that you pay a price for each in terms of pressure loss. You may lose 2 or 3 psi going through even a brand new sediment filter.
Yes yes and yes.

Whole house sediment filter. I decided to use the softener with the RO.

Figuring out the Combination of filters before the RO in the most efficient manner for the water mostly, life of the filters and membrane secondly.

And the water pressure. I am running through 2 sediment filters, water softener, 2 carb blocks, and the membrane. Barely in the green zone (40-60)of 42 psi, actually not terrible. Had to turn main valve on well a little to get up there. I pulled some water out this morning for brutae Kama looks like I'm getting 5 gallons every 2.25 hours not bad. Im satisfied
 
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What are you trying to accomplish with the carbon blocks? You don't have chlorine to remove, and hopefully you also don't have problems with organics.

What size are these filters? 10" x 2.5"? If so, they are way too small.
 
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youngson616

youngson616

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What are you trying to accomplish with the carbon blocks? You don't have chlorine to remove, and hopefully you also don't have problems with organics.
Nothing. It is just there under the kitchen sink. I thought about either removing the carb block from the RO unit, or running the RO in my bathroom, which doesnt have the carbon block and would reduce the setup to 1 block as well, and potentially free up a few psi
What size are these filters? 10" x 2.5"? If so, they are way too small.

Yes. What is the better size?
 
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There are four standard cartridge filter sizes:
10" x 2.5"
20" x 2.5"
10" x 4.5"
20" x 4.5"

For whole house applications think about either that are 4.5" in diameter. What is the diameter of the pipe you're connecting to the housings?
Read the fine print regarding the flow capacity of the carbon blocks if you really want to keep using them
Russ
 

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Option 1 will increase the filter and membrane life of the RO system. Hard water deposits ruin the membrane much faster than soft water.

Potassium soft water is marginally easier on the membrane than regular sodium.

Activated charcoal before the RO also increases the life of the membrane, many ground water contaminants will damage the membrane.

Keep in mind that the combination of water softener and RO will create a LOT of waste water. A typical RO will create ~4 gallons of waste for every gallon of clean. Water softeners create ~150 gallons of waste per week, though that can drastically vary, depending on the brand, model and water usage.
 

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I put a diaphragm pump on mine to get 90 psi at the RO inlet. I get 5 gal of permeate to 4 gal of effluent when the water is 64* goes to 5/5 in winter and am thinking of using a preheater. Also if using this for brewing don't capture it in a pressure tank. I collect mine in 6.5 gal Big Mouths.
 

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I cranked my well pump pressure switch up to 50-70 with no ill effects. If you really want to get some performance out of your membrane, a $80 diaphragm pump will put 120psi into it and everything improves. Production rate, TDS goes down and waste ratio goes down too.
 

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The thing for me is use the softened water for your RO as it has a better chance of removing iron if it goes through the sofener first. I have used this system for 20 months and been very happy - just add your brewing salts and very little to no iron ( my well water has about 0.2ppm of iron).
 
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youngson616

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So is it safe to assume my RO water is almost mineral free? I just mashed with some RO water that was 6 2, added 1 tsp CaCl made it 5.7 strike water , and 1/2 tsp gypsum to mash. After 10 minutes pulled sample cooled it until room temp. Nice 5.5 mash ph. However, I didn't consider that I didn't add CA carbonates or any carbonates back in, but wouldn't that raise ph? Thats confuses me. I undershot my preboil gravity - got 1.032 for an ipa. Only boiled out to .1044. I'm missing the point here as usual, Is it more minerals?
 

Bobby_M

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RO is usually close enough to mineral free to consider it so, but you can verify that will a cheap dip-in TDS meter. I'm getting 6-7ppm of TDS which may as well be distilled. Measuring the pH of water outside the mash isn't useful for anything.

While mineral additions like calcium chloride and gypsum will slightly lower the resulting mash pH, it's not really the purpose of the additions. It's for enzymatic function (calcium) and flavor. I'm sure the 5.5 mash pH was okay in your case but you'll want to look at some 88% lactic acid in the future. Even 1-2 mL added to the mash would get you a little closer to 5.3-5.4 which is a bit of a cushion from the higher tannin/astringent danger zone.

Based on what you've written, I wouldn't look at pH or mineral composition as the reason for your low extraction.
 
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youngson616

youngson616

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Based on what you've written, I wouldn't look at pH or mineral composition as the reason for your low extraction.
I think you are right and I'm over thinking on the water. TBH my extraction has been
better using my softened well water without RO. I need to get a water report asap so I can really calculate this. I will process this info and pay more attention to step mash and tempature for better extraction.i think I might mash in my kettle next time, as its equipped with a thermometer and I can moniter temp much better throughout the process
 
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youngson616

youngson616

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A 5.5 pH would favor hop extraction,while a 5.2 would favor the grain. I mash my pale beers at 5.0-5.2 pH
I would agree and would like to try for a 5.2 target ph,especially with a low bitterness hefeweizen. Just acheived a 5.7 malt ph on my last batch. Added 3% acid malt and 1tsp cacl. I think an addition of gypsum of some amount and possibly 0.5% more acid malt may get me there. Cheers
 
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youngson616

youngson616

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Is it ok to clean with soften water and sterilize in RO water?
I only clean and/or sanitize with straight up well water filtered. No need to worry about water chemistry when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing, I think? I assume all is good as long as clean water source
 

marc1

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Is it ok to clean with soften water and sterilize in RO water?

You can clean with softened water, it might make things leave less residue if you have really hard water and your cleaner doesn't have something like EDTA in it to chelate.

How are you sterilizing? With a pressure cooker, minerals in the water might leave a little buildup, but I wouldn't think it's a big deal unless you are using something like a commercial sized autoclave.
 

mabrungard

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I only clean and/or sanitize with straight up well water filtered. No need to worry about water chemistry when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing, I think? I assume all is good as long as clean water source
Sort of, but not for all sanitizers. The phosphoric acid based sanitizers like StarSan perform much better and last longer when they are made with very low hardness water. That's because the calcium in the water causes a precipitate to form, making it cloudy and that can coat your brewery surfaces with slimminess.

It's better to use distilled, RO, or ion-exchange softened water for those types of sanitizers.
 
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A word of caution regarding RO booster pumps.
Be aware of the max pressure limits for each component in your system. Typically the weakest component is the housings - which are often rated at a max of 80 psi. To take advantage of your elevated pumped pressure, and protect your housings:

Booster-Pump-High-Pressure-Switch.PNG

Russ
 
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