Water problems - well, softener, rust, etc

Recently moved to Michigan. New house uses well water and a softener. When we first moved in, the water had a strong sulfur/rust odor and a red tint (such that the inside of the dishwasher was rust colored). As a result, installed a substantial sulfur/iron water filter which has corrected the problem (here’s the specific filter we installed: File Not Found) But, all of these adulterations have made me apprehensive about brewing. I have made a couple of batches where I took the water from the iron filter before it went to the softener, and it seemed acceptable, but in the bottom of my kettle there was a small amount of white powder. Not sure what that was.

Have not gotten the water analyzed. How badly do I need this done (any recommendations on services to use?)? Otherwise, what solutions do I have other than buying 12 gallons of bottled water every time I want to brew? From what I’ve read, I don’t want to use water from a softener because the sodium could affect the mash. What about out of the iron filter? And what’s up with that powdery residue?

Any help would be appreciated. Not quite ready to spring for a RO system. They’re not cheap.


I’d take the water after the iron filter and before the softener if that’s possible, and have it analyzed. Ward Labs is who many homebrewer’s use for water analysis. Without a complete analysis you won’t know what you have or how to treat it.

Many people myself included brew with well water.

Wards water test would be a good idea. You can also draw the volume of water you need for a batch of beer the day before brewing. This will allow time for minerals to precipitate.

I held off having my water tested by Ward for way too long, thinking it would be a PITA and not absolutely necessary.

When I finally broke down and did it, I found it was simple to send and they were really easy to deal with. I totally recommend it, especially with the situation you describe.

I have the same situation with my well, not with sulfur just the iron. When I first started brewing I only had a softener so the water had to be drawn after the softener. All the beers I brewed were good, especially the darker ones. The only ones that seemed to be lacking were the IPA’s. I since installed a green sand iron filter and when I brew I draw about half after the iron filter and before the softener and half after the iron filter and softener. My IPA’s have improved since using this method. I know I should get my water tested and I will at some point. For now I say the proof is in how it tastes.

Fair point, but to some extent you’ve probably gotten lucky (not that I’m criticizing, as I did the same for some time).

I agree that if you have no issues that could be traced back to your water, there’s no real urgency unless you want to make something that wants a very specific water profile or is beyond the color range of what you’ve proven works well. :beers:

Water from an ion-exchange softener is NOT an automatic disqualification from brewing use. If the softener is in place only to knock out a little iron or manganese and there is very little calcium or magnesium in the raw water, then its possible that not much sodium is added to the softened water.

It is worth checking out the profile of the softened water. If the raw water is full of metallic flavors or sulfur, then its not suited for brewing.

Ok, going ahead with Ward analysis. Was planning on pulling the water post iron filter but pre softener. Is that the best plan. My thought, as a primarily IPA brewer, is that hard water isn’t so bad. Should I pull the sample post softener instead?

I know it’s more money but I planned on doing both. Or Morebeer sell a kit for testing your brewing water. It gets good reviews so I may also go that route. The base kit is about $110 but it allows you to do many many tests.