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How important is my water?

I have been extract brewing for a few years now and want to jump to all-grain. The only thing that holds me back is the seemingly compex act to balancing water chemistry to beer styles. Though I am sure it is far easier to do than I’m making it out to be, just how important is the water profile for all grain beer?

As long as my water is good to drink and doesn’t taste funny, will it still make all-grain beer as good as my extract? Will not fine-tuning my water lead to terrible beer, or beer that just isnt quite as good as it could be?

[quote=“Flapjack_Peso”]I have been extract brewing for a few years now and want to jump to all-grain. The only thing that holds me back is the seemingly compex act to balancing water chemistry to beer styles. Though I am sure it is far easier to do than I’m making it out to be, just how important is the water profile for all grain beer?

As long as my water is good to drink and doesn’t taste funny, will it still make all-grain beer as good as my extract? Will not fine-tuning my water lead to terrible beer, or beer that just isnt quite as good as it could be?[/quote]

That depends on your water. It could be fine or it could lead to terrible beer. I am not trying to be a smart ass and I have much the same issue but I solved it, short term, by using RO water. I started using that with no additions when I was brewing extract. Now that I do all grain, I add some sea salt and some gypsum but I am working on fine tuning that more in the near future. However, there is no urgency as my all grain beer has been turning out very good.

Back in March I moved to a location with a well and have had it tested, but have not had time to mess with it as my primary water.

Finding out what your water contains is an important first step. Then you can compare it to suggested limits for ions in brewing. If those ions are relatively low, then you can probably make good beer without much problem. Upping your game to make great beer may require a little more effort to adjust your water to better suit your next beer. That is when you might want to use a tool like Bru’n Water to help you out.

But for brewers just getting into mashing, I would ask around to local homebrewers and local shops for advice on what they do. There are places where you don’t have to do anything to the water to make certain styles. Conversely, there are places where its going to take a lot of water adjustment to make certain styles. Asking those homebrewers and shops about what styles they have success with should help you pick what those first all grain brews should be. In the old days, the local styles evolved to meet the requirements of the local water. A brewer just starting out should follow that model. When you get to be a good all-grain brewer, then its time to pull out the water tool and put on your thinking hat and learn how to adjust your local water to allow you to brew the other styles that your local water may not be ideal for.

For now, don’t worry about water too much. There are too many things to get comfortable with before worrying about water!

I have never worried about water chemistry and I’ve been doing all grain for a few years. I go by the old rule: “if the water tastes good then it is good enough to brew with.” If I was making a pilsner or something that really needs to have a clean profile I’d go get some bottled water. My water has always been plenty drinkable out of the tap with no odd metallic, chlorine, etc. flavors in it so that’s why I use it. I brew for myself and everybody that drinks my stuff likes what I brew so I don’t see the reason to change. I’m also inherently lazy and am not out to make the greatest possible beer imaginable so I see water chemistry as more work than I’m willing to do.

For a beginner to all grain get your processes and recipes down first and then worry about water stuff (unless your water tastes funny, then go by some bottled stuff).

[quote=“Flapjack_Peso”]I have been extract brewing for a few years now and want to jump to all-grain. The only thing that holds me back is the seemingly compex act to balancing water chemistry to beer styles. Though I am sure it is far easier to do than I’m making it out to be, just how important is the water profile for all grain beer?

As long as my water is good to drink and doesn’t taste funny, will it still make all-grain beer as good as my extract? Will not fine-tuning my water lead to terrible beer, or beer that just isnt quite as good as it could be?[/quote]

If your water is good tasting you can make good beer with it. Will messing around with it to match an individual brewing city’s water profile make better beer? maybe, but try it first as is.

If you tell us a little about your water supply we can help you with some of the general stuff and give you some direction as to how you might :

Where do you live?
Do you have a well or a municipal supply?
If well, how deep?
If municipal supply, is the source groundwater or surface water?

[quote=“Rookie L A”]

If your water is good tasting you can make good beer with it. Will messing around with it to match an individual brewing city’s water profile make better beer? maybe, but try it first as is.[/quote]

Its not a question of matching your brewing water to a brewing city’s water, it is about adjusting the water to meet the requirements of the grist and the flavor character desired in the finished beer. That is what makes better beer.

Knowing your water is very important and modifying it is really simple. I recently took a keen (but admittedly, much delayed) interest in my water and with just a little reading, have a much better understanding. I now see why I could make certain styles very well, but others were really lacking. My paler beers are much better now after having my water tested and doing the appropriate mods.

[quote=“mabrungard”][quote=“Rookie L A”]

If your water is good tasting you can make good beer with it. Will messing around with it to match an individual brewing city’s water profile make better beer? maybe, but try it first as is.[/quote]

Its not a question of matching your brewing water to a brewing city’s water, it is about adjusting the water to meet the requirements of the grist and the flavor character desired in the finished beer. That is what makes better beer.[/quote]

That’s kind of what I was trying to say, matching the brewing water to the water of cities like Munich or London where certain styles developed the way they did because of the water.

As usual, great advice from Martin. I brewed hundreds of batches for 10+ years and won some awards before I started checking and adjusting my water. I think that my beers are better for doing that, but it’s incremental. As long as you have good water and understand enough about it to brew styles that are compatible with the water you have (the way t was historically done) you can brew some killer beers without really needing to understand too much about water. After you get all the other parts of brewing down, learning about water will let you take your beer to the next level.

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