What water to use to brew

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Hi, I'm new to brewing and have seen a few brewers recommending bottled water, mineral water, distilled water and others using municipal water. My town pulls water from Lake Ontario and the PH is between 7.02 and 7.38. There is a residual chlorine amount too. Would using town water to brew beer/make wine be a bad idea? If I buy bottled water, what am I looking for ie some mineral content, distilled? Thanks in advance for any advice you can pass on.
 
There is no magic water.

Extract or all-grain?

For extract, just about any water will work. Relatively low-mineral water is ideal.

For all-grain, you'll want water that you can predictably reach 1) proper mash pH and 2) overall levels for good yeast health, flocculation, and appropriate for the style. Some brewers have very reliable tap water. Others have seasonal swings depending on rainfall etc.

Stouts, American WC pales, New England Haziest, English bitters, German lagers. All different mineral levels and how to get there.

Extract? Just brew with your clean tap. Unless you live in a place like Phoenix with extremely hard water.
 
First of all, plenty of beginners brew their first few kit batches with their tap water and make drinkable beer. Second, chlorine is not good for beer but fortunately is easy to remove from tap water with sodium metabisulfite, also known as campden tablets. Third, the starting pH of your water isn't that important. What is important is the alkalinity of the water (which is really its buffering capacity) because that will affect the pH of the mash (if you're doing all grain) or the boil. You may be able to find that on your water company's reports. If you decide not to trust your tap water then the best thing would probably be distilled or RO (reverse osmosis) water. If you're brewing extract you don't have to add anything. If you're doing all grain there are calculators that will tell you what minerals to add based on your grain bill.
 
I haven't tried my tap water yet. It's municipal water from deep wells. Chlorinated, heavy with minerals and very high pH. Might actually be good for some beers except despite taking care of chlorine being very easy, I choose not to. And since we already had bottled water that we used for coffee and other things that it seemed better for, it was natural to just brew beer with it too.

The bottled water didn't have much mineral content for buffering capability . But it did work well for the lighter all grain beers and IPA's I brewed the most. However for darker stouts and porters, it's proved inadequate and I'll have to get more into the different types of calcium additions and other things to better control the pH during sparge. But I don't know when I'm going to try porters and stouts again. I still enjoy the IPA's too much.
 
Hi, David, welcome to HBT!

The posters above have given you lots of good advice to help you move forward.

I will add that there is a good primer on water chem (if you're doing all-grain).

https://www.homebrewtalk.com/threads/a-brewing-water-chemistry-primer.198460/

When getting started, water doesn't have to be terribly complicated. As others have pointed out, you'll want to remove things like chlorine/chloramines, easily done with Campden tablets. This is true, whether you are brewing extract or AG. For AG, some calcium chloride and calcium sulfate are all you need to get started. You can get those for a few bucks at your brew store.

Ask lots of questions. We're here to help!
 
brewing is like a science experiment (i like to consider it baking or even preparing meals). It does involve some time and effort and struggles.

whether you decide with tap water or building a water profile from distilled water (also depends on extract, partial mash, or all grain).

keep notes from a base line profile and brew similar beers to get an idea of what it is creating.

building a water profile from distilled water for all grain would be the guaranteed outcome. of course, homework is involved with whatever recipe is done.

My self am happy with the tap water I use for the styles I brew and don't add anything to remove chlorine etc. for the water profile. I could dive into the deep of brewing beer and use more time an effort for making a "great" beer but time is limited for me and am making very good beer to some excellent beers.

all depends how far you want to dive into the beer making world, i mean there are some pit masters that will watch how the animal stands to know which cut they want for competition.
 
I started as most of us with tap water. Mine in my hometown is not very hard or anything at all and a few studies said it is below 6 pH which is nice.

Beers tasted just fine, but as time went by and I got better at it ai noticed it was missing some body, mostly in the clearer styles.

So I started studying water chemistry and did some testing. Looked for some base bottled waters that fitted my needs as a good starting point and I found a couple very good ones.

So now I use those, about 12cts/litre and I add the needed minerals to it plus acid fir the pH and my god, it makes a difference!
 
I started with tap water myself years ago, the beers were good, but not great. I finally decided to do a Ward Labs water test because my town's water report is always a year old and is an average mineral quantity of multiple tests over the year. It turned out that my local water had sodium around 100 ppm and Chloride around 165 ppm (it should not be above 100 for most beers), while Calcium was a decent 65 ppm and sulfate only 9 ppm. So malty beers and dark malty beers would be OK with that water, but not hoppy/bitter beers. Anyway, so I switched to RO water and building a water profile based on what I was brewing and my beers definitely got much much better.

What I say to guys in my club who are fairly new at brewing...you bought the best equipment, using the best grains and hops, so why ignore your water, when beer is 90% water?
 
There is no magic water.

Extract or all-grain?

For extract, just about any water will work. Relatively low-mineral water is ideal.

For all-grain, you'll want water that you can predictably reach 1) proper mash pH and 2) overall levels for good yeast health, flocculation, and appropriate for the style. Some brewers have very reliable tap water. Others have seasonal swings depending on rainfall etc.

Stouts, American WC pales, New England Haziest, English bitters, German lagers. All different mineral levels and how to get there.

Extract? Just brew with your clean tap. Unless you live in a place like Phoenix with extremely hard water.
Thanks for advice :) I have a already bought a couple different all grain beer kits that I will be using. I have seen some kits use liquid extract and might try those later as well. You mentioned proper mash PH, what does that mean? I didn't know there was a target PH range for the wort to reach.
 
I started with tap water myself years ago, the beers were good, but not great. I finally decided to do a Ward Labs water test because my town's water report is always a year old and is an average mineral quantity of multiple tests over the year. It turned out that my local water had sodium around 100 ppm and Chloride around 165 ppm (it should not be above 100 for most beers), while Calcium was a decent 65 ppm and sulfate only 9 ppm. So malty beers and dark malty beers would be OK with that water, but not hoppy/bitter beers. Anyway, so I switched to RO water and building a water profile based on what I was brewing and my beers definitely got much much better.

What I say to guys in my club who are fairly new at brewing...you bought the best equipment, using the best grains and hops, so why ignore your water, when beer is 90% water?
Great advice! I can access my towns latest water report and have looked at it but I really didn't know what to look. Could you please tell me which minerals affect water quality with regards to making beer? Thanks again.
 
I started as most of us with tap water. Mine in my hometown is not very hard or anything at all and a few studies said it is below 6 pH which is nice.

Beers tasted just fine, but as time went by and I got better at it ai noticed it was missing some body, mostly in the clearer styles.

So I started studying water chemistry and did some testing. Looked for some base bottled waters that fitted my needs as a good starting point and I found a couple very good ones.

So now I use those, about 12cts/litre and I add the needed minerals to it plus acid fir the pH and my god, it makes a difference!
Good idea...bottled water :) Another fellow here said how we spend all this money on the hardware but overlook the water. As beer is mostly water it makes so much sense to have a nice start point for your brew. Thanks!
 
Thanks for advice :) I have a already bought a couple different all grain beer kits that I will be using. I have seen some kits use liquid extract and might try those later as well. You mentioned proper mash PH, what does that mean? I didn't know there was a target PH range for the wort to reach.

If you go for extract, try to get dry extract. It has a much better shelf life and stale LME makes for stale beer.

The mash enzymes work best within a fairly narrow range. 5.4-5.6 roughly. Depending on your grist (grain mix) and starting water's alkalinity, you treat the water with salts and/or acid to bring the mash to your desired pH. For most beers, you're going to add some acid or calcium salts to lower the pH. For some, like stouts, you might use some baking soda to raise the pH.

Then there's the sparge. If you're using RO or distilled, there's nothing to do here.

Then overall levels should total out at 50-150ppm calcium (and the other ions falling in line) depending on the style. I adjust this in the boil kettle.

There are a lot of approaches to how to do this. The primers in post #5&6 above are a great start.
 
I have seen some kits use liquid extract and might try those later as well.

If you go for extract, try to get dry extract. It has a much better shelf life and stale LME makes for stale beer.

The key factors for fresh LME appear to be
  • oxygen barrier bags (no head space)
  • store it in the fridge when it arrives
  • brew with it promptly
I've brewed a couple of times with style specific LME from Williams (HBT advertiser). They shipped it in oxygen barrier bags. I stored it in the fridge on arrival and brewed with it promptly (within about six weeks). The beers came out good - no evidence of stale LME.

If shipping from them to me was 2 days (rather than 4 to 7), I would use their style specific LME more often.

My approach to brewing is to have a bunch of ingredients on hand so I can brew what I want when I want. DME works better for that approach.
 
I started with tap water, but the chlorine wasn't helpful. Moved to bottled water and the cost was high. Bought a chlorine filter at HD (and modified the water with salts and acid) and that helped for several years until I went RO.
 
Great Lakes water can be a decent place to start for brewing water, but it will certainly require adjustment for most brewing. I suggest you read the Water Knowledge page of the Bru'n Water website to understand the What and Why of brewing water adjustment. If you're going to stick with that water source, you'll find that using a program like Bru'n Water will help ease the transition to properly adjusting that water for your brewing use.
 
Great advice! I can access my towns latest water report and have looked at it but I really didn't know what to look. Could you please tell me which minerals affect water quality with regards to making beer? Thanks again.

This is a decent overview...if you go to the section on ions, it lists the key things you need to look for. Brewing Water
 
Good idea...bottled water
"Bottled" in a much larger sense of the word.

RO (Reverse Osmosis) water has extremely low mineral content, and can be bought in many Walmarts and other stores. It usually comes from a machine, so you can bring and fill your own containers. A few years ago it ran 19 cents a gallon, that way. YMMV.

Much water sold in bottles as "drinking water" is actually RO water, then re-mineralized for taste. You want to avoid those for brewing.
 
Second, chlorine is not good for beer but fortunately is easy to remove from tap water with sodium metabisulfite, also known as campden tablets.
I'll add this - If you do extract batches using top-off water after the boil, both the boil water and the top-off water need to be treated with campden. While waiting for the boil to finish, the campden-treated top-off water will need to be kept sanitary since it won't be boiled. All this is based on the assumption that your tap water has enough chlorine or chloramine to cause off flavors. I never tested this with my tap water because it's so easy to treat it with campden, why risk the off flavors?
 
I'll add this - If you do extract batches using top-off water after the boil, both the boil water and the top-off water need to be treated with campden. While waiting for the boil to finish, the campden-treated top-off water will need to be kept sanitary since it won't be boiled. All this is based on the assumption that your tap water has enough chlorine or chloramine to cause off flavors. I never tested this with my tap water because it's so easy to treat it with campden, why risk the off flavors?
Campden tablets seem like the way...getting rid of chlorine and chloramines and preventing a degrading of the taste of your beer. It's cheap insurance and I will do it. Thanks for the advice!
 
Campden tablets seem like the way...getting rid of chlorine and chloramines and preventing a degrading of the taste of your beer. It's cheap insurance and I will do it. Thanks for the advice!
1/4 Campden tablet will treat 5 gallons of water.
Crush up that 1/4 Campden tablet very finely before adding it to your water. It's otherwise very slow to dissolve and react.

Or instead, get yourself some Potassium Metabisulfite (powder)* aka "Meta" (powder) and there's no crushing involved. It's the same stuff as Campden without the binder that's used to press it into a tablet. It's the binder that makes it slow to dissolve if not crushed beforehand.

1/16 of a teaspoon (that's 1/4 of a 1/4 teaspoon) of "Meta" is enough to treat 5 gallons of chlorinated or chloraminated tap water. Toss it in, it dissolves almost instantly, and stir well to homogenize. You can hardly overdose it. If you added a little more for all security, or even 4 times that amount (the full 1/4 teaspoon) it won't cause any harm to your beer or yeast.

* Potassium Metabisulfite (or Sodium Metabisulfite) powder is used by wine, mead, and cider makers, you can find it in the homebrew store in small 1 oz jars or pound bags. Store cool and dry, the opened bag inside a well closed jar.
 
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