Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com

R.O. Water maybe not

I can not use my well water to brew with so I buy what was advertised as RO water at a fill your bottle station at a big store. Here is the Ad.
Our systems provide four levels of filtration: sediment filters, carbon filters, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light. The quality of the water is terrific and it is more environmentally friendly and cheaper than buying bottled water.

Here is the test sent in to Ward Labs
pH 8.1
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 353
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.59
Cations / Anions, me/L 6.2 / 6.3
Sodium, Na 141
Potassium, K < 1
Calcium, Ca 1
Magnesium, Mg < 1
Total Hardness, CaCO3 3
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 6
Chloride, Cl 58
Carbonate, CO3 6
Bicarbonate, HCO3 244
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 211
Total Phosphorus, P 0.63
Total Iron, Fe < 0.01
“<” - Not Detected / Below Detection Limit
This is softned water not RO water. Ray Ward

I would not water my plants with that much Sodium and that much Bicarbonate will buffer most acid or salt adjustments. With all the filtering and back flushing involved with RO water are those little fill stations really RO?

I have been brewing using water from a similar machine. For clarification, you sent in a sample and those are the results or did you stumble on these results somewhere?

I and members of my brew club found that the water adjustments we were using made little difference in PH. with this water. We sent in a sample to Ward Labs and are quite mad at the results. We are all using RO water in are calculations. I don’t want to say the name but this is a major suppler of water products.
Now I wonder how can a RO filter that slows down the water supply and has to be back flushed work in those little cabinets in the stores at what seems to be full line pressure?

About 15 years ago I worked for a Fred Meyer where we had one of those water bottle stations. I came in for my shift early one morning, and the utility guy was there and had the machine open to work on it. It was just a simple charcoal canister hooked up to the tap line. I don’t know what I expected, but I would have thought there was more “magic” to it. Filtered water is filtered water, regardless how much you pay for it. Also, with those fill machines you never know when the last time the filter was changed, so who knows what your water profile is at any given time from those.

Interesting. I have really enjoyed the beer I’ve made using it (and blending it along with additions) but wonder if ours is the same. Thanks for letting us know about this!

It appears that there was no attempt to demineralize that water. It is a typical ion-exchange softened water. NOT SUITABLE FOR BREWING.

This is where a TDS meter is very handy. It would tell you instantly that this was not RO water. A reading of more than about 50 ppm TDS would be a big red flag. A properly operating RO machine is likely to deliver water with less than 10 ppm TDS.

Possible class-action lawsuit here ya think?

[quote=“mabrungard”]It appears that there was no attempt to demineralize that water. It is a typical ion-exchange softened water. NOT SUITABLE FOR BREWING.

This is where a TDS meter is very handy. It would tell you instantly that this was not RO water. A reading of more than about 50 ppm TDS would be a big red flag. A properly operating RO machine is likely to deliver water with less than 10 ppm TDS.[/quote]

Do you have a hand-held meter you’d recommend?

[quote=“DUNNGOOD”]I don’t want to say the name but this is a major suppler of water products.
[/quote]

Why not? I want to know who to avoid.

“Our systems provide four levels of filtration: sediment filters, carbon filters, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light”

The description alone sounds very much like the RO station in Rainbow foods here in MN. I just brewed an IPA with it for a 2nd time and thought the first time the beer should have been better. I wonder how this batch will be :slight_smile:

I did the exact same thing as you… filled my own 5-gallon bottle with “RO” water from a machine at the grocery store. At some point I got suspicious about the water and sent some to Ward Labs. The numbers were not as high as yours but I still had TDS approaching 100 and bicarb over 50ppm. Martin mentioned at the time that all of these RO machine fail eventually and need to be properly maintained. The only solution for me was to go to distilled water which you know is zeroes across the board. At any given time, I have 10-20 gallons of distilled water around for brewing. Find a sale and giddy up. Also… it seems like an easy trick to pull off doesn’t it? Having a “water machine” in a store that is supposed to have purified or low-ion water? It looks like water. It tastes like water. But only with a lab analysis do you know what you really have. Bottom line is that you really need to know the numbers for the water you’re brewing with. Otherwise you have a blindfold on. All RO water is going to have differing numbers.

I have seen some really cheap TDS meters on sites like ebay, but I’m leery of them. I’ve used a meter from HM Digital for several years now. They seem to be reputable and they are only a few dollars more expensive. The only problem is that most of their cheap meters are calibrated to a sodium chloride standard and that ends up underestimating the TDS in drinking water a little bit. Its not really a big deal, but if you really wanted to get a better estimate with a cheap HM Digital meter you just multiply its result by about 1.33. When you are dealing with a low TDS water like RO, 1.33 times a really low number is still a really low number! There are more expensive meters that can be set to a different standard and that makes their TDS reading more accurate. But considering that we are using a TDS meter primarily as a comparative tool, we don’t really need to be super accurate. We only need to see if the TDS is low where its supposed to be.

Ken, don’t dispair too much. A TDS meter can provide anyone with a quick assessment of a RO machine’s output. No lab testing required.

all I can say is you deffinatly do not have an RO filter

Definitely.

He said he got the water from a “bottle station at a big store” so it’s not his filter, it’s the store’s filter.

I actually have a very expensive RO unit in my house. I have to change my filters AT LEAST yearly or more frequently with how much water I use. Unfortunately with store models, not only do they need maintained there are NO WAYS for the consumer to determine how much water has been pushed through the filter. Luckily for me, my unit not only has a filter indicator, it will also shut off when the filter is finished. My brother is in the water business and has it set up to shut off at a more conservative level.
If you are buying the “RO” water at the store you might as well spend the extra $.30 and get distilled so you know exactly what is in it.

[quote=“Loopie Beer”]I actually have a very expensive RO unit in my house. I have to change my filters AT LEAST yearly or more frequently with how much water I use. Unfortunately with store models, not only do they need maintained there are NO WAYS for the consumer to determine how much water has been pushed through the filter. Luckily for me, my unit not only has a filter indicator, it will also shut off when the filter is finished. My brother is in the water business and has it set up to shut off at a more conservative level.
If you are buying the “RO” water at the store you might as well spend the extra $.30 and get distilled so you know exactly what is in it.[/quote]
Don’t the RO water systems use a boatload of water too? Like, if you wanted 10 gallons of RO water it would take 20 gallons of source water or something crazy like that? I’m making that up possibly but I thought I heard there was a good amount of waste water. I also agree that if you don’t know the origin of the “RO” water you’re getting, you’re rolling the dice. When I brew, I want to know… to the best of my ability… what is in the water. I don’t want to guess and I don’t want to be surprised.

Ken you are exactly right. I’m not sure if its double but there is some waste water. My bro told me that upfront but nothing is too good for my beer. :lol:

I really don’t know the RO process but can those little cabinets support a whole RO unit that can supply water at what seems like to be water line pressure ? The house units I have seen take time for the filter to work and back flush.

I thought only water "softening " systems did the “backflush” deal?

The same with "R.O. " systems as well?

Well, I did some testing on the water I got from the grocery store “RO” machine. Due to the limited testing supplies I have I can only get general ranges.
But RO water it is not.

PH = 7.2
carbonate (CO32-) and bicarbonate (HCO3-) = 10 - 20 ppm
Ca and Mg combined > 80 ppm

Right. I tell myself that every time I lug 20 gallons of distilled water to my car! :slight_smile:

Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com