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Calling All Water Experts

I’ve been doing all grain brewing for about two years now. But I just recently broke down and got a study of the Tate Aquifers completed by Ward Labs. This is ice-cold well water from my house in New Hampshire.

I was hoping that some water experts here might look at my water profile and offer any suggestions or warnings based on what they see. Thanks!

Here’s the important info:

pH 7.20

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 93
Cations/Anions, me/L 1.5 / 1.3

Sodium, Na 8
Potassium, K 3
Calcium, Ca 18
Magnesium, Mg 3
Total Hardness, CaCO3 58
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.4 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 2
Chloride, Cl 8
Carbonate, CO3 <1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 53
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 44
Total Phosphorus, P 0.27
Total Iron, Fe < 0.01

I am not an “expert” - But that looks like some pretty darn good water to me… Pretty soft overall. Seems you could use it “as is” with some relatively minor additions of CaCl2 and gypsum to bring up Calcium in all your beers, and then Cl levels higher in malty beers or Sulfate levels higher in hoppy beers.

Just a little alkalinity to deal with, otherwise this is almost Pilsen-quality water. Its a good place to start. Normal mineral additions of calcium chloride or gypsum are going to be typical. Adding alkalinity may be necessary for some brews or they will be too tart or acidic. Baking soda and lime are good alternatives for adding alkalinity when needed. I invite you to review the Water Knowledge page of the Bru’n Water website to help illustrate the things you should aim for with your brewing water.

That is great water. You can brew any style with that water. You are lucky.

Wow. Thanks for the good news, guys.

Martin, I just downloaded the Bru’n Water spreadsheet. Nice work. I’ll have to play around with it. Are there any resources available for “building” an appropriate water profile for a particular beer. For example, if I brew mostly hoppy IPAs, what kind of water should I aim to create?

Thanks again for the analysis, all.

They still print books and a good, basic brewing textbook is still the most valuable resource for the homebrewer IMO. John Palmer’s “How To Brew” is the consensus best GP homebrewing publication available. It will be the best $15 you’ll ever spend towards improving your beer.

There is an abbreviated online version available which is handy for quick checks. The section on water in the following link will explain why those various ions in your water are important as well as info on traditional beer styles. http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-1.html

Okay, Larry, since you’ve asked, here’s my 2 cents…

For any beers that have no caramel or highly kilned malts, such as pilsner or perhaps cream ale or blonde ale, I find I need to adjust pH with a lot of calcium chloride, plus a little gypsum and/or a little acid. Carapils malt can also help. You always want to shoot for a pH of 5.2 to 5.4. The darker specialty malts are slightly acidic and get the pH down into the right range. But without sufficient quantities of any specialty malts, you can run into flavor or fermentation problems due to the high pH. This is a bit of a swag, but a couple of teaspoons of calcium chloride and a teaspoon of gypsum in 5 gallons of light colored beer won’t hurt a flea and will lower your pH considerably, as long as you start with your very soft water or RO or distilled water. Add to that a few ounces of acidulated malt as needed, and you’re basically guaranteed the right pH. Acidulated malt is normal base malt that is coated with just the right amount of acid to make easy pH adjustments. With experience you’ll know how much to use.

For anything else besides light colored beers, with soft water, it kind of goes based on the style. Red, brown, and black colored ales usually have enough dark roasted malts or caramel malts in them to bring the pH down appropriately if you start with very soft water. American styles can have very soft water, very hard water, or anything in between. IPAs usually have very hard water, so add a couple teaspoons each of CaCl2 and gypsum, or maybe more if your experience dictates. For other styles, you ask yourself, what’s the German water like? Or Belgian water or English water or whatever. Another swag, but with the exception of Pilsen which is extremely soft, European water overall tends to be pretty hard. If I’m making a European style beer, whether German or English or Belgian or whatever, I can either choose to use harder water on purpose, or use soft water and add a teaspoon of both gypsum and CaCl2, and call it good.

For really black beers like stout and porter, a very small amount of baking soda (maybe 3/4 teaspoon?) can help bring the pH up to the right range, since the black roasted malts can sometimes be a little TOO acidic. Ever get that odd vinegar/green olive flavor in a black beer? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s because the pH is way too low. Nothing a little baking soda can’t fix. Just don’t use too much or it will taste terrible.

With any salt additions, the best advice is to use restraint. When in doubt, don’t do any salt additions, and see how the beer turns out. 90% of the time, it will taste great without playing with salt. If not, you can dig into the water stuff more. However I think water additions are the very last thing that any homebrewer needs to be concerned with. First master every single other possible aspect of brewing. Then and only then do you really need to play with water.

Finally, I’ll say it again: don’t ever use very much Epsom salt. It ruins good beer. We don’t need no nasty magnesium in our beer. It’s just bad. Calcium chloride and gypsum will get you all the good tasting salts that you need.

Thanks, Dave.

I’d consider myself a pretty decent brewer at this point. But water is my final frontier. I’ve basically geeked out on everything else. My chemistry knowledge is limited, so I guess it was always going to be the last thing I considered. It is really good to know that I’ve got great water to work with. I guess that’s why I’ve been so lucky so far with my beers.

I was thinking about getting Palmer’s new book on water. Perhaps that will be the next book in the Tate reading room.

Thanks again for your generous responses.

LT

I also have soft water.

I add minerals with three goals in mind:

  1. Making sure I have between 50-100 ppm of Ca in the final wort… this is for yeast health
  2. Having an appropriate RA for the color of the beer I’m making
  3. Having Cl and SO2 levels at appropriate levels to enhance bitterness/maltiness.

[quote=“LarryTate”]Wow. Thanks for the good news, guys.

Martin, I just downloaded the Bru’n Water spreadsheet. Nice work. I’ll have to play around with it. Are there any resources available for “building” an appropriate water profile for a particular beer. For example, if I brew mostly hoppy IPAs, what kind of water should I aim to create?

Thanks again for the analysis, all.[/quote]

You have good water… Everything you need is in Bruns water.
Google Search for hoppy water profiles and play around with them, some you may like some you might not

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