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Results of my water test - need input

So, at the excellent advice of those on this forum, I went ahead and order a sample kit from Ward Labs. I received my results and could use some help interpreting them. In addition, I would appreciate specifics on how/what I change/add/remove to get the best results from my beer. Below are the results.

Much thanks in advance!
-glueslug

pH 8.0
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 116
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.19
Cations / Anions, me/L 2.0 / 2.1
Sodium, Na 7
Potassium, K < 1
Calcium, Ca 23
Magnesium, Mg 6
Total Hardness, CaCO3 83
Nitrate, NO3-N < 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 5
Chloride, Cl < 1
Carbonate, CO3 6
Bicarbonate, HCO3 91
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 85
Total Phosphorus, P 0.02
Total Iron, Fe 0.03
“<” - Not Detected / Below Detection Limit

What you add will depend on the style of beer you’re brewing.

I’m pretty sure Brew’n’Water lets you input your own water profile.

Your water is similar to mine. Relatively low in most of the ions but higher in bicarb.

First, your SO4 number is actually 15, not five because it’s stated as SO4-S so you multiple it by 3.
Your calcium is 23 and 50ppm is often stated as a minimum so getting Ca into your water would be good. And so…
Chlorides contribute “roundness” and “fullness” to beer and yours is <1 so calcium chloride should be in your toolbox. It will raise chlorides and calcium at the same time.
Sulfates bring out “crispness” or “sharpness” (think pale ales, IPAs or English beers). Right now you have about 15 times more sulfate than chlorides. (although at very low levels) so your beers (as is) might come out sharper rather then smoother.
Bicarb can cause mash pH issues, haze, harshness, foam stability issues and more and in many cases, it’s good to lower that number (mine is 138ppm) by diluting with distilled water.

I’m sure you’ll get more answers. Water is a big topic so this thread could get lengthy but your fellow Beerheads are up to the challenge, I’m sure.

More streaming randomness…

The numbers to be concerned with are calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulfate and bicarbonate. And for now you could probably forget about magnesium and sodium. Magnesium and sodium should be low and yours are both good. Grain contains magnesium so it’s rare that a homebrewer would need or want to add any. The pH of the water is not necessarily an issue because you’re concerned about the pH of the mash when the grains and water have been mixed. Tools to keep in your toolbox if you want to futz with your water are usually: calcium chloride (CaCl), calcium sulfate (gypsum, CaSO4), calcium carbonate (if you make dark beers, this may come in handy… I have some but almost never use it), an acid of some sort… lactic, hydrochloric, etc. to lower mash pH. Either mash pH test strips or (preferably) a decent pH meter so you can measure the pH of the mash and preboil wort.

I typically add CaCl to raise chlorides and calcium. I typically add some gypsum as well but it depends on the style of beer. I make these additions to the mash. Calcium Chloride and gypsum both lower pH which is good for you because the higher level of bicarb works as a buffer to keep mash pH higher than you might like. So to get your calcium number higher (which you want), you can add CaCl and/or CaSO4 which will lower your mash pH into the 5.2 - 5.4 range and boost your calcium at the same time. If the mash pH was still high, small additions of acid will help you lower it further. I have been on a crusade over the past couple of years to digest and understand this stuff because I make a lot of pale and amber beers and my water is just not suited to those styles.

Thank you! These are great tips!

That water is a great starting point. Most ions are low. The main concern is the elevated bicarbonate that will require neutralization for most styles. Learn to dose acid effectively and this will be a great water to work with. Add calcium salts as needed to raise calcium content.

Thanks Martin. I just looked at your website and Excel spreadsheets. These are great resources! Can’t say I understand it yet. :smiley:

Martin, a follow up question…
You mention learning to dose acid effectively; could you provide a little more insight? What kind of acid? I see several listed on brewing supply sites (this one included). Phosphoric, lactic, tartaric, malic, and so on…

Soooo confused. I have John Palmer’s book too, but its just not sinking in. I must not be understanding a fundamental component here… :?
Thanks!
-glue

[quote=“glueslug”]Martin, a follow up question…
You mention learning to dose acid effectively; could you provide a little more insight? What kind of acid? I see several listed on brewing supply sites (this one included). Phosphoric, lactic, tartaric, malic, and so on…

Soooo confused. I have John Palmer’s book too, but its just not sinking in. I must not be understanding a fundamental component here… :?
Thanks!
-glue[/quote]
I know that Martin will be along shortly but in the meantime… lactic acid and also hydrochloric are common among homebrewers.

Well, I’m not sure about the prevalence of hydrochloric acid in brewing. It and sulfuric acid are fuming acids and they can be tough to handle safely. I find that lactic and phosphoric acid are fairly prevalent in the homebrewing community.

By dosing effectively, I mean learning to calculate the acid dose with some accuracy to achieve a specific mash or sparging pH.

[quote=“mabrungard”]Well, I’m not sure about the prevalence of hydrochloric acid in brewing. It and sulfuric acid are fuming acids and they can be tough to handle safely. I find that lactic and phosphoric acid are fairly prevalent in the homebrewing community.
[/quote]

I only use lactic but phosphoric and HCL are often referred to for pH adjustment for homebrewers. The HCL is usually referred to as “10% HCL” and EZ_Water even has a control for it along with lactic acid.

I have been lucky to have good water (in 2 different cities) that works well for most of the styles I brew, so I have only just begun to mess with water. It is certainly a more involved topic than a lot of homebrewing practices/concepts, so don’t feel bad about not ‘getting it’ right away. I know I for one start to doze off every time I hear John Palmer say the words “residual alkalinity”.

One point: Many on here swear by their pH meters. I was listening to one of Jamil’s podcasts where he opines that these really aren’t worth the money, since it is fairly difficult to keep them calibrated, particularly the cheaper ones. He says you are better off with the ‘more expensive’ pH test strips (that you can cut in half). Again, I don’t necessarily have an opinion, but wanted to throw that out there.

I like my pH meter, but maybe it’s just because I’m a gadget guy. I’ve found that Bru’n Water gets the pH where it should be pretty reliably. My meter was 90 bucks, I think. And calibrating it gives me something to do while the mash is getting settled. To each his own…

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