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Water chemistry

So I have been trying to educate myself on the topic of brewing water chemistry. From what I gather, all I really need from my water report is the alkalinity, magnesium and calcium levels? I find those levels and use JP’s nomograph and adjust from there? That simple?

Also, my water report has none of the information I need. Do you recommend going to the store and filling up on RO and going from there or should I send off a sample of my drinking water to a lab? Is all RO water the same? Do I need a water report on RO?

Those parameters would be a good start and they will assist in predicting the potential mashing performance of the water. But you won’t be able to use Palmer’s nomograph to guide your efforts. John and I have discussed how outdated the nomograph is, but he hasn’t had a chance to update it and doesn’t necessarily want to remove it. It is a ‘hand-grenade’ approach to water chemistry that is fatally flawed…you may or may not improve the quality of your beer by using it.

The other consideration for having the rest of the important water information is to assess the concentrations of the flavor ions (sodium, sulfate, and chloride) so that you can evaluate if you want more (or less) of particular ions in your brewing water.

A better approach to brewing water adjustment is to have a complete water report and use more modern calculations to assess what water treatment options you should employ.

Martin is being modest. He didn’t say, “My spreadsheet is the best way to adjust your water to make excellent beer!” His spreadsheet is available (FREE) at https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/

It will look intimidating at first, but if you read the the first and last pages, it will come into focus. Be aware that GIGO still applies. (If you enter garbage you’ll get garbage; I used a ridiculous amount of phosphoric acid and messed up a batch of all grain Dead Ringer because I didn’t do a sanity check.) You’ll need a good water report, such as one from Ward Labs.

Thank you Martin!

[quote=“Old_Dawg”]

Thank you Martin![/quote]

Because I like competition ( :smiley: ) I’ll also mention that Kai has a web-based calculator that is equivalent to Martin’s:

http://www.brewersfriend.com/mash-chemi ... alculator/

I say equivalent, in that the results are not 100% identical, but that I’ve done enough investigating such that I believe they’re equally good. Martin’s is usually closer for my water & additions, but they’re both usually within +/- 0.1 pH units. Kai’s web-based calculator is an easier interface for new-to-water-chemistry brewers, IMO.

First off, WOW. What an incredible amount of information! Kudos for putting that together. Modest was an understatement. Second, Thanks for the help. I have been reading the water info page from bru’n water and have learned so much. Only half way through it and already have a good grasp on the topic.

Now a question about RA. If im understanding correctly, the RA value is for your water before the mash right? By looking at the equation on Bru’n water, you determine your RA before you mash correct?

[quote=“Silentknyght”][quote=“Old_Dawg”]

Because I like competition ( :smiley: ) I’ll also mention that Kai has a web-based calculator that is equivalent to Martin’s:

http://www.brewersfriend.com/mash-chemi ... alculator/

[/quote][/quote]

I just checked this out, and it looks pretty good. One big difference between that calculator and Bru’n Water is that the online calc doesn’t offer nearly the same number of “target water profile” options.

I agree that Bru’n Water basically taught me everything I know about water chemistry. I was able to use the program for a few batches without really understanding what I was doing. It was user-friendly enough that I could do it right away. Then I finally read the Introduction page, and things really became clear.

Nice Job, Martin! :cheers:

Late to the party here but I just wanted to mention that not all RO is the same. Distilled should be ALL ZEROES so distilled should always be the same. But I was getting bulk RO water from a machine at my local grocery store and I got suspicious about it so I sent a sample to ward labs. There were still high levels of TDS plus over 50ppm of bicarbonate which is exactly why I was using the RO in the first place… to dilute the bicarbonate. So be aware of RO water not always being the same.

As Ken pointed out, RO machines can and will fail. The best and least expensive way to assure that your machine or the one down at the corner grocery store is producing great water is to check it with a TDS meter. They are cheap and WELL worth your investment if you rely on RO water and its low mineral content for your brewing.

I do recommend the digital TDS meters from HM Digital. There are plenty of other manufacturers too. HM does seem to be relatively inexpensive and my unit has been in operation for over 3 years now.

As Ken pointed out, RO machines can and will fail. The best and least expensive way to assure that your machine or the one down at the corner grocery store is producing great water is to check it with a TDS meter. They are cheap and WELL worth your investment if you rely on RO water and its low mineral content for your brewing.

I do recommend the digital TDS meters from HM Digital. There are plenty of other manufacturers too. HM does seem to be relatively inexpensive and my unit has been in operation for over 3 years now.[/quote]
Martin - As one who relies on RO water from “around the corner”, I was wondering if you could explain, in layman’s terms, what these units test and how a brewer building from RO water would use one. Thanks as always for your advice!

TDS stands for total dissolved solids. It will be a reading in ppm to verify that the water is actually as clean as is claimed.

As pointed out above, TDS stands for total dissolved solids. A TDS meter is a glorified resistance meter (ohm meter). Except that it is measuring the conductivity of the liquid. Conductivity is the inverse of resistance. Since its the ions that carry most of the current in water and the more ions it has, the more current it can pass (conductivity).

So its possible to correlate the conductivity to the ionic content (TDS). That correlation is not exact but its close enough.

So a TDS meter is a dead simple instrument (ohm meter) that has been recalibrated to report in units of TDS. That is why they are cheap AND reliable.

Get one!

[quote=“mabrungard”]As pointed out above, TDS stands for total dissolved solids. A TDS meter is a glorified resistance meter (ohm meter). Except that it is measuring the conductivity of the liquid. Conductivity is the inverse of resistance. Since its the ions that carry most of the current in water and the more ions it has, the more current it can pass (conductivity).

So its possible to correlate the conductivity to the ionic content (TDS). That correlation is not exact but its close enough.

So a TDS meter is a dead simple instrument (ohm meter) that has been recalibrated to report in units of TDS. That is why they are cheap AND reliable.

Get one![/quote]
Thanks to all for clarifying. So as Ken mentioned, distilled water would read as all zeros – at what threshold would one start to get nervous when measuring RO water? Also, is it the case that since the meter only reads total dissolved solids, the brewer would not know what minerals/salts were present based on the TDS reading alone?

Also, +100 to the previous comments about learning everything I know about water chemistry from Bru’n Water! Learning to navigate that program really has improved my beers. :cheers:

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