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General Category => Homebrewer Bios => Topic started by: Village Taphouse on November 11, 2015, 09:48:27 PM

Title: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 11, 2015, 09:48:27 PM
Hey AHA board:  I am Ken from the Chicago area and I have been brewing since 1999.  I have been all-grain since 2004 which means I brewed with extract FOR 5 YEARS!  I know.  Unheard of.  I like a lot of German and Czech Lagers as well as English and American ales.  My latest "areas of study" have been water composition and pH control.  Both of which improved my beers considerably.  I have a site HERE (http://www.freewebs.com/kenlenard/) which is in desperate need of updating but I just don't have the time at the moment.  There are recipes there as well as a beer gallery and other information.  I would like to narrow down that content and update the site at some point.  I'm currently kegging everything I make and I have 4 taps on the back wall of my basement bar with draft fridges on the other side of the wall in a closet that has all my brewing equipment in it.  I know a lot of brewers here from other boards and I can see that there are very good brewers here and good debate back and forth in the forums on some very good topics.  Cheers to all.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: denny on November 11, 2015, 09:52:22 PM
Hey Ken!  Great to have you with us here!

For everybody else, I've known Ken for several years from another forum.  I enticed him to join us here by telling him what a great group of people we have.  Don't make a liar out of me!  ;)
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: 69franx on November 11, 2015, 10:25:49 PM
Glad you're here. I love the level of experienced brewers here that are willing to share experiences and brewing ideas
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: HoosierBrew on November 11, 2015, 10:30:20 PM
Good to have you here, Ken ! More good brewers here makes us all better.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 11, 2015, 10:53:06 PM
NW burbs.  Where about?

Anything north of Evanston is Wisconsin to me.  West of O'Hare and you're almost across the Mississippi.

If you receive City water, I'd be interested in your water and pH studies.  Heading down that wormhole myself.  Slowly.  Very slowly.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 11, 2015, 11:16:35 PM
Guys:  Thanks for the warm welcome.  I know that there are very good brewers here because I recognize some brewers from other boards.  I always say that I'm a student of this hobby and probably always will be... and that's fine with me as long as I'm impressed and happy with the beers I'm making. 

Joe:  I grew up in Arlington Heights and now live in Cook County Buffalo Grove.  Yes, I have Lake Michigan water and have had it analyzed by Ward Labs a couple times.  I am using a very reliable pH meter to check my mash, sparge and kettle pH and using CaCl, CaSO4 and lactic acid as my weapons in the world of water.  I used to shake my fists at the sky because I thought our water was only marginally good for brewing but I now realize that we have pretty nice water... especially compared to some poor souls.  Yes, there is bicarb in our water but that's easy to resolve.  Keep me posted if you want to know some further details.  I will be happy to share my most painful pale lager journey with you and anyone else interested.  Cheers Beerheads!
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 11, 2015, 11:31:49 PM
Ken, good to see you here, and I am one of the poor souls that have nasty tap water.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 11, 2015, 11:37:54 PM
Ken, good to see you here, and I am one of the poor souls that have nasty tap water.
I know we have some people on a well where there is a crazy high number of [something] that won't work for brewing and I know that some people have 400+ppm of bicarb or ZERO chloride and 200+ sulfate or whatever.  Yes, distilled or RO will provide an answer in some cases.  Thankfully, every number in my water is actually very modest except the bicarb which is 138ppm.  I used to think that was an unreasonable number until I heard some other people's numbers and Martin told me that 138 was totally manageable.  He was right.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 11, 2015, 11:48:59 PM
Ken, good to see you here, and I am one of the poor souls that have nasty tap water.
I know we have some people on a well where there is a crazy high number of [something] that won't work for brewing and I know that some people have 400+ppm of bicarb or ZERO chloride and 200+ sulfate or whatever.  Yes, distilled or RO will provide an answer in some cases.  Thankfully, every number in my water is actually very modest except the bicarb which is 138ppm.  I used to think that was an unreasonable number until I heard some other people's numbers and Martin told me that 138 was totally manageable.  He was right.
My town has wells, very hard and alkaline water. I use RO. The next town over gets the water from Lake Huron, almost the same as your Lake MIchigan water. Inwish that is what we had, but RO works great.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 11, 2015, 11:55:47 PM
Ken, good to see you here, and I am one of the poor souls that have nasty tap water.
I know we have some people on a well where there is a crazy high number of [something] that won't work for brewing and I know that some people have 400+ppm of bicarb or ZERO chloride and 200+ sulfate or whatever.  Yes, distilled or RO will provide an answer in some cases.  Thankfully, every number in my water is actually very modest except the bicarb which is 138ppm.  I used to think that was an unreasonable number until I heard some other people's numbers and Martin told me that 138 was totally manageable.  He was right.
My town has wells, very hard and alkaline water. I use RO. The next town over gets the water from Lake Huron, almost the same as your Lake MIchigan water. Inwish that is what we had, but RO works great.
Yeah, as long as you know and you're not guessing, it's all good.  I used to drag gallons of distilled and RO water around to combat my high bicarb but no more.  I still have some gallon water bottles of distilled if I want to make a super-soft Czech Pils or something but otherwise the source water will work.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 12, 2015, 12:09:13 AM
Ken, good to see you here, and I am one of the poor souls that have nasty tap water.
I know we have some people on a well where there is a crazy high number of [something] that won't work for brewing and I know that some people have 400+ppm of bicarb or ZERO chloride and 200+ sulfate or whatever.  Yes, distilled or RO will provide an answer in some cases.  Thankfully, every number in my water is actually very modest except the bicarb which is 138ppm.  I used to think that was an unreasonable number until I heard some other people's numbers and Martin told me that 138 was totally manageable.  He was right.

I think it was 181 on the last report I looked at.  But I haven't had any analysis done.

Oh, and Arlington Heights I can locate.  Buffalo Grove... Pretty sure I've driven through it.  But they're all one to me.  I'm very parochial.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 12, 2015, 12:38:44 AM
Ken, good to see you here, and I am one of the poor souls that have nasty tap water.
I know we have some people on a well where there is a crazy high number of [something] that won't work for brewing and I know that some people have 400+ppm of bicarb or ZERO chloride and 200+ sulfate or whatever.  Yes, distilled or RO will provide an answer in some cases.  Thankfully, every number in my water is actually very modest except the bicarb which is 138ppm.  I used to think that was an unreasonable number until I heard some other people's numbers and Martin told me that 138 was totally manageable.  He was right.
My town has wells, very hard and alkaline water. I use RO. The next town over gets the water from Lake Huron, almost the same as your Lake MIchigan water. Inwish that is what we had, but RO works great.
Yeah, as long as you know and you're not guessing, it's all good.  I used to drag gallons of distilled and RO water around to combat my high bicarb but no more.  I still have some gallon water bottles of distilled if I want to make a super-soft Czech Pils or something but otherwise the source water will work.
One gallon of campden treated tap water blended with 9 gallons of low TDS RO gets me very close to Martin's treated Bavaria water in his Zymurgy article. It is that crappy.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 12, 2015, 01:04:24 AM
Ken, good to see you here, and I am one of the poor souls that have nasty tap water.
I know we have some people on a well where there is a crazy high number of [something] that won't work for brewing and I know that some people have 400+ppm of bicarb or ZERO chloride and 200+ sulfate or whatever.  Yes, distilled or RO will provide an answer in some cases.  Thankfully, every number in my water is actually very modest except the bicarb which is 138ppm.  I used to think that was an unreasonable number until I heard some other people's numbers and Martin told me that 138 was totally manageable.  He was right.
My town has wells, very hard and alkaline water. I use RO. The next town over gets the water from Lake Huron, almost the same as your Lake MIchigan water. Inwish that is what we had, but RO works great.
Yeah, as long as you know and you're not guessing, it's all good.  I used to drag gallons of distilled and RO water around to combat my high bicarb but no more.  I still have some gallon water bottles of distilled if I want to make a super-soft Czech Pils or something but otherwise the source water will work.
One gallon of campden treated tap water blended with 9 gallons of low TDS RO gets me very close to Martin's treated Bavaria water in his Zymurgy article. It is that crappy.
Funny.  I once had AJ DeLange tell me to dilute my tap water 90-95% with distilled water for a Czech Pils.  If I were going to dilute 95% with distilled... I might as well not bother with tap water at all!  :D    I have spoken to people with high amounts of iron, manganese, etc. and I guess we know why the breweries of 150+ years ago settled on their places... the water!
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: brewday on November 12, 2015, 01:36:57 AM
And still do - water was a big reason SN settled on their Mills River location.  Me? I settled on 100% RO.

Welcome by the way!
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 12, 2015, 02:00:05 AM
And still do - water was a big reason SN settled on their Mills River location.  Me? I settled on 100% RO.

Welcome by the way!
That, and tax breaks, the outdoor lifestyle, and the bigger thing is the interstates that give access up and down the eastern seaboard and to the Midwest. The savings in shipping beer from CA was why they decided to build an eastern brewery, the payback on shipping savings was a bigger factor than the water.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: brewday on November 12, 2015, 02:10:04 AM
And still do - water was a big reason SN settled on their Mills River location.  Me? I settled on 100% RO.

Welcome by the way!
That, and tax breaks, the outdoor lifestyle, and the bigger thing is the interstates that give access up and down the eastern seaboard and to the Midwest. The savings in shipping beer from CA was why they decided to build an eastern brewery, the payback on shipping savings was a bigger factor than the water.

Yikes!  You sound like a Roanokian.  :D

Fair points.  Perhaps I bought into KG's spin a bit too much.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 12, 2015, 02:11:28 AM
And still do - water was a big reason SN settled on their Mills River location.  Me? I settled on 100% RO.

Welcome by the way!

So you don't use chicago water? 

Please tell me more. I'm interested as to why and what problems you encountered.

I don't mean to hi-jack Kens thread though.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 12, 2015, 02:29:40 AM
And still do - water was a big reason SN settled on their Mills River location.  Me? I settled on 100% RO.

Welcome by the way!
That, and tax breaks, the outdoor lifestyle, and the bigger thing is the interstates that give access up and down the eastern seaboard and to the Midwest. The savings in shipping beer from CA was why they decided to build an eastern brewery, the payback on shipping savings was a bigger factor than the water.

Yikes!  You sound like a Roanokian.  :D

Fair points.  Perhaps I bought into KG's spin a bit too much.
They had pretty much settled on western TN around Knoxville, but reevaluated. The first location had good quality water too. IIRC, the outdoor lifestyle in the Asheville area was the deciding factor. I think that was in his book.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 12, 2015, 03:00:56 AM
And still do - water was a big reason SN settled on their Mills River location.  Me? I settled on 100% RO.

Welcome by the way!

So you don't use chicago water? 

Please tell me more. I'm interested as to why and what problems you encountered.

I don't mean to hi-jack Kens thread though.
I can't answer for Brewday but it's very possible that there are some who choose RO, bottled, distilled, etc. for any numbers of reasons including that they're not sure how to get the bodacious amount of chlorine out of the water (carbon filter or campden) or maybe the bicarb level has them trying to dilute as opposed to neutralize.  I was told by many, many brewers to ditch Lake Michigan water and at the very least... dilute it with distilled.  I would like to hear why someone with LM water would choose to use something else but I could see any number of reasons.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: brewday on November 12, 2015, 03:22:39 AM
And still do - water was a big reason SN settled on their Mills River location.  Me? I settled on 100% RO.

Welcome by the way!

So you don't use chicago water? 

Please tell me more. I'm interested as to why and what problems you encountered.

I don't mean to hi-jack Kens thread though.
I can't answer for Brewday but it's very possible that there are some who choose RO, bottled, distilled, etc. for any numbers of reasons including that they're not sure how to get the bodacious amount of chlorine out of the water (carbon filter or campden) or maybe the bicarb level has them trying to dilute as opposed to neutralize.  I was told by many, many brewers to ditch Lake Michigan water and at the very least... dilute it with distilled.  I would like to hear why someone with LM water would choose to use something else but I could see any number of reasons.

No major problems, small things really.  Mostly consistency and simplicity.  And for the record, I haven't had chlorine in my beer since my first stovetop batch!  Generally speaking Chicago water fine for brewing, but I think you really do need to at least cut most of the pale beers with RO here.

I was finding the more RO that I used, the better the beer.  And the best ones seemed to be 100% RO.  Since I was filling one 5-gallon jug anyway, might as well fill two and make better beer.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 12, 2015, 03:38:37 AM
And still do - water was a big reason SN settled on their Mills River location.  Me? I settled on 100% RO.

Welcome by the way!

So you don't use chicago water? 

Please tell me more. I'm interested as to why and what problems you encountered.

I don't mean to hi-jack Kens thread though.
I can't answer for Brewday but it's very possible that there are some who choose RO, bottled, distilled, etc. for any numbers of reasons including that they're not sure how to get the bodacious amount of chlorine out of the water (carbon filter or campden) or maybe the bicarb level has them trying to dilute as opposed to neutralize.  I was told by many, many brewers to ditch Lake Michigan water and at the very least... dilute it with distilled.  I would like to hear why someone with LM water would choose to use something else but I could see any number of reasons.

No major problems, small things really.  Mostly consistency and simplicity.  And for the record, I haven't had chlorine in my beer since my first stovetop batch!  Generally speaking Chicago water fine for brewing, but I think you really do need to at least cut most of the pale beers with RO here.

I was finding the more RO that I used, the better the beer.  And the best ones seemed to be 100% RO.  Since I was filling one 5-gallon jug anyway, might as well fill two and make better beer.
I make quite a few Czech Pilsners and Munich Helles batches and I use 100% Lake Michigan water.  I use lactic acid in the mash water to lower the pH (I add it to the water as it's heating) and also to neutralize the bicarbonate and then I would add anywhere from 2-3 grams of calcium chloride to that to boost the calcium.  The SO4 in the source water is 27 (9x3 as SO4-S) which is slightly high for something delicate and I will occasionally use 25% distilled water but it's not really necessary.  I consider Helles to be one of the more finesse beers you can make and I have made some dynamite batches of helles with 100% source water.  I will also say that when others suggested using some amount of distilled or RO water, those batches came out nicely as well but I was really looking for a way to stop lugging water around... especially if it wasn't necessary.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: brewday on November 12, 2015, 04:25:41 AM
I make quite a few Czech Pilsners and Munich Helles batches and I use 100% Lake Michigan water.  I use lactic acid in the mash water to lower the pH (I add it to the water as it's heating) and also to neutralize the bicarbonate and then I would add anywhere from 2-3 grams of calcium chloride to that to boost the calcium.  The SO4 in the source water is 27 (9x3 as SO4-S) which is slightly high for something delicate and I will occasionally use 25% distilled water but it's not really necessary.  I consider Helles to be one of the more finesse beers you can make and I have made some dynamite batches of helles with 100% source water.  I will also say that when others suggested using some amount of distilled or RO water, those batches came out nicely as well but I was really looking for a way to stop lugging water around... especially if it wasn't necessary.

Your process is solid, I've done it that way too.  In fact I'm sure I've read some of your posts on other boards and learned a few things.  And from one gelatin-finer to the next, if those beers taste anywhere near as good as they look in your pics then dynamite indeed!

Homebrewing can be funny sometimes.  I use 100% RO in large part for the opposite reasons that you mention.  I don't mind lugging the water around - I keep the jugs in my trunk and fill them whenever I'm at Mariano's.  I was, however, looking for a way to stop messing with the water spreadsheets and tinkering with mash pH.  Certainly nothing wrong with those, but I just wanted an extremely simple, consistent and streamlined process on brewday.

The ah-ha moment for me was over the summer when I read through Gordon's new book.  I went all in on his approach to water and haven't looked back.  But who knows, maybe that will change again...

Cheers and again, welcome!  Beerhead. ;)
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: jimmykx250 on November 12, 2015, 09:58:06 AM
Welcome Ken. You will find a good group here and a wealth of info as well. I have learned quite a bit and still am young to the hobby with only 2 years under my belt. I haven't touched the water chemistry yet but will get there at some point. I am on a private well and am having good luck with the outside tap that is un softened and run thru a corbon block filter. Im down the road from you in Barrington neighbor.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 12, 2015, 02:19:36 PM
Welcome Ken. You will find a good group here and a wealth of info as well. I have learned quite a bit and still am young to the hobby with only 2 years under my belt. I haven't touched the water chemistry yet but will get there at some point. I am on a private well and am having good luck with the outside tap that is un softened and run thru a corbon block filter. Im down the road from you in Barrington neighbor.
Hey Jimmy!  My inlaws used to live out that way (just W. of Dundee and Ela) and they were on a well too.  I'm not sure if well water is more or less consistent than municipal water but I would guess "less" consistent only because you don't have people monitoring it, adjusting it, etc. but as long you're having good luck and making good beers with it, it's all good.  Cheers!
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 12, 2015, 03:26:30 PM
I can't answer for Brewday but it's very possible that there are some who choose RO, bottled, distilled, etc. for any numbers of reasons including that they're not sure how to get the bodacious amount of chlorine out of the water (carbon filter or campden) or maybe the bicarb level has them trying to dilute as opposed to neutralize.  I was told by many, many brewers to ditch Lake Michigan water and at the very least... dilute it with distilled.  I would like to hear why someone with LM water would choose to use something else but I could see any number of reasons.

No major problems, small things really.  Mostly consistency and simplicity.  And for the record, I haven't had chlorine in my beer since my first stovetop batch!  Generally speaking Chicago water fine for brewing, but I think you really do need to at least cut most of the pale beers with RO here.

I was finding the more RO that I used, the better the beer.  And the best ones seemed to be 100% RO.  Since I was filling one 5-gallon jug anyway, might as well fill two and make better beer.
I make quite a few Czech Pilsners and Munich Helles batches and I use 100% Lake Michigan water.  I use lactic acid in the mash water to lower the pH (I add it to the water as it's heating) and also to neutralize the bicarbonate and then I would add anywhere from 2-3 grams of calcium chloride to that to boost the calcium.  The SO4 in the source water is 27 (9x3 as SO4-S) which is slightly high for something delicate and I will occasionally use 25% distilled water but it's not really necessary.  I consider Helles to be one of the more finesse beers you can make and I have made some dynamite batches of helles with 100% source water.  I will also say that when others suggested using some amount of distilled or RO water, those batches came out nicely as well but I was really looking for a way to stop lugging water around... especially if it wasn't necessary.

This is actually really helpful and confirms what I've been thinking.  Maybe I can understand the water chemistry stuff after all!

Thanks, fellas.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 12, 2015, 05:32:30 PM
Joe, if you ever have questions on this, just let me know.  I'll be happy to tell you what I do and the fact that we use the same water will make it easier.  If you click on my site, there is a spot there someplace where you can shoot me an email too.  All I really wanted to do was have a strategy to make whatever style I wanted with this water and I think I have it.  I make modest water additions based on the style I'm making.  I can usually help others with their water but I don't pretend to be a 'water expert' as much as a person who has a better feel for what to do with my water based on what I want out of my beer.  Cheers.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 12, 2015, 06:06:50 PM
Cool.  Thank you.
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: duboman on November 12, 2015, 10:10:37 PM
Hey Ken, welcome as well! I'm in Glenview so not more than a stones throw form you. Like you I too try to use straight Lake water with modest additions as per Brun' Water calculations and have been really pleased with the results. Mostly the same additions in the tool box as you. There's enough lugging around in brewing as it is without having to lug water;)
Cheers!
Gary
Title: Re: Ken from NW burbs of Chicago...
Post by: Village Taphouse on November 12, 2015, 11:12:44 PM
Hey Ken, welcome as well! I'm in Glenview so not more than a stones throw form you. Like you I too try to use straight Lake water with modest additions as per Brun' Water calculations and have been really pleased with the results. Mostly the same additions in the tool box as you. There's enough lugging around in brewing as it is without having to lug water;)
Cheers!
Gary
Gary:  I hear that!  No more lugging water, thankfully.  I have heard of some brewers who tell me that they get their sulfate up into the 350 range and it may be for a big IPA or something but my chloride and sulfate numbers are typically low... like between 40 and 70 maybe and I just add more SO4 for beers that would be suitable for that... pale ale, red ale, etc.  I add more chloride for maltier beers like festbier, dunkel, etc. but the additions are always modest.  I usually add about 3 grams total of a combination of CaCl and CaSO4 but change the ratio based on style.  For pils or helles I use all CaCl and leave my SO4 at the source water level... 27.  Cheers!