Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: DW on January 28, 2011, 12:08:16 AM

Title: More about water
Post by: DW on January 28, 2011, 12:08:16 AM
I've seen many recent posts regarding mash pH, etc.  Being relatively new to all-grain, I have never really investigated wether my water profile was appropriate or wether I was hitting a good pH.  So my question is... how important are these things?  recently I've been using distilled water for the whole mash, since my tap water tastes bad.  I have had pretty good results.   But am I leaving out vital minerals, etc that are found in tap water?  Could I have better efficiencies if I started paying attention to mash pH?
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: rmusser74 on January 28, 2011, 01:11:39 AM
From what I understand, because I too am new to all grain, The calcium and sodium are the two most important factors in water. If you are using distilled water with no minerals you really should be adding them back in to create a water profile that matches the style of beer you are brewing. You can use gypsum, table salt, and epsom salt to adjust these minerals. Not only do these affect taste, but also yeast health.

I am brewing a witbier and am also using distilled because my water is a bit hard.

Here is a good article...
http://www.beersmith.com/blog/2008/08/24/brewing-water-hard-or-soft/

Hope that helps.

Title: Re: More about water
Post by: hopfenundmalz on January 28, 2011, 01:32:58 AM
That beersmith article was not peer reviewed, was it?  There are several things I just don't agree with.  When Kai or Martin - a water engineer - read this maybe they can comment.

You need to pay attention to water, as that influences the mash pH.  Calcium levels are very important.  I did a Bo-Pils today with some CaCl2 to get the calcium up to 50 ppm.  That was it, no bicarbonate wanted in this beer.  You need to understand Residual Alkalinity to see how Ca, Mg, and HCO3 work and determine the mash pH.

Sulfate and chloride will influence taste, maybe more than sodium.

Here, read John Palmer's take on water.
http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-1.html

Kai has some information, read his page after Palmer.
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php/Understanding_Mash_pH

Title: Re: More about water
Post by: mabrungard on January 28, 2011, 02:12:09 AM
Distilled water is always an option for brewing.  Adding important major and minor ions that help promote good mashing performance and fermentation performance is a good idea too.  Even though brewers in Pilsen were able to brew great Pils using water with really low calcium, we now know that calcium is very important to good mash and yeast performance. 

If starting with distilled water, adding gypsum and or calcium chloride to boost the calcium concentration to at least 50 ppm is a good idea. I'm not sure where the notion that sodium is necessary came from, but its not needed except as desirable for flavor impacts.  I'm with Jeff regarding the mention of the Beersmith article.  Although I appreciate their software, I'd say it was safe to say that brewers should not get water knowledge or advice there.  Kai's and Palmer's sites are much better for basic water information. 

Distilled water will work OK for light colored beers, but might produce a lower mash pH and thinner, lower bodied beer as the color increases.  Alkalinity is a necessary evil for brewing darker beers.  Adding alkalinity is a little tougher and that may be a reason why a brewer might want to include some of their tap water in their brewing water. These are nuances that cannot be covered in a quick message.  But as a brewer increases their brewing knowledge, those nuances become more understandable and approachable. 

Understanding what you need for brewing great beer might not be a goal yet, but brewing a good beer is probably a minimum goal for any brewer.  Adding minerals may not necessaryily improve efficiency, but it might make better tasting beer.  Keep doing what your doing and add knowledge with each brew.

Title: Re: More about water
Post by: dcbc on January 29, 2011, 06:25:33 PM
I would add that zinc is a very important mineral for yeast health in fermentation.  If your water tastes that bad and you don't want to blend it with distilled water, I'd suggest a yeast nutrient like Servomyces added with about 10 minutes left in the boil to be sure you have some zinc in your fermenting wort.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: hopfenundmalz on January 29, 2011, 06:51:49 PM
The yeast need the zinc.  Wort does not provide much, according to the experts.  I add zinc to the wort, and my yeast are very happy.   :D
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: euge on January 29, 2011, 07:03:26 PM
I typically add yeast nutrient which always makes a difference. My assumption is that there's zinc in there somewhere.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: DW on January 29, 2011, 09:35:22 PM
Wow! Some really great advice and ideas.  Do many people use Britta filters?  Do these filters remove any important nutritients?  My second question is: How do you find out what your water profile is? 
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on January 29, 2011, 09:37:54 PM
Send a sample to Ward Labs and request the W-6 Household Water Test for $16.50.  www.wardlab.com
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tschmidlin on January 30, 2011, 07:33:16 AM
I used a brita to remove chlorine for years, it works fine.  It shouldn't affect anything that you want in your beer.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tygo on January 30, 2011, 12:41:47 PM
Wow! Some really great advice and ideas.  Do many people use Britta filters?  Do these filters remove any important nutritients? 

Here's what a Brita filter did to my water:

Tap:

pH   7.7
TDS Est   258
Sodium   22
Calcium   46
Magnesium   11
Potassium   3
Total Hardness   161
Nitrate   0.7 (SAFE)
Sulfur   21
CO3   < 1
HCO3   121
Chloride   23
Total Alkalinity   99
Fluoride   1.22

Brita:

pH   6.1
TDS Est   169
Sodium   25
Calcium   8
Magnesium   4
Potassium   18
Total Hardness   37
Nitrate   0.3 (SAFE)
Sulfur   19
CO3   < 1
HCO3   16
Chloride   23
Total Alkalinity   13
Fluoride   1.18

Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tomsawyer on January 30, 2011, 01:00:07 PM
I'm surprised the Britta knocked out so much calcium bicarbonate (hardness and alkalinity)  and so selectively (leaving other cations and anions untouched).  Is it simply filtering out a bit of insoluble CaCO3?

I'm sure it does remove chlorine (Cl2), you probably wouldn't see this in the chloride level since its at low residual levels.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tom on January 30, 2011, 03:36:46 PM
Did you test the chlorine/chloramine levels?
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tygo on January 30, 2011, 05:08:37 PM
Those are from the Ward Labs reports.  It does remove the chlorine taste from the water as well.  I used to use Brita when I extract brewed but these days I just use tap water with a campden tablet.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tschmidlin on January 30, 2011, 06:53:27 PM
Here's what a Brita filter did to my water:

Tap:
Potassium   3

Brita:
Potassium   18
I'm surprised too.  Did you take the tap water sample at the same time as the brita sample, or were they some weeks/months apart?  The reason I ask is because of the ones that increase.  Sodium is probably within the margin of error, but potassium going from 3 to 18 seems like a big change.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tygo on January 30, 2011, 07:16:01 PM
I filled them both at the same time.  Tap water into the brita then into the sampling bottle for one.  And tap water directly into the sampling bottle for the other.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tschmidlin on January 30, 2011, 07:29:14 PM
Well, maybe someone who understands the water tests better an explain why it would increase that much.  Maybe someone who does water testing for a living . . . :)

Was it a brand new filter, or had you run a bunch of water through it already?
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: denny on January 30, 2011, 07:33:22 PM
Well, maybe someone who understands the water tests better an explain why it would increase that much.  Maybe someone who does water testing for a living . . . :)

Calling Martin!   :D
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tygo on January 31, 2011, 12:58:20 AM
Well, maybe someone who understands the water tests better an explain why it would increase that much.  Maybe someone who does water testing for a living . . . :)

Was it a brand new filter, or had you run a bunch of water through it already?

Now you're asking my brain for too much  :D

I didn't really have anything in mind when I did it so I didn't pay attention to the variables.  I'm planning to submit another sample in a month or two.  Maybe I'll do another run at it in the name of brewing science. 
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: malzig on January 31, 2011, 01:31:38 AM
Here's what a Brita filter did to my water:

Tap:
Potassium   3

Brita:
Potassium   18
I'm surprised too.  Did you take the tap water sample at the same time as the brita sample, or were they some weeks/months apart?  The reason I ask is because of the ones that increase.  Sodium is probably within the margin of error, but potassium going from 3 to 18 seems like a big change.
Brita filters are good at removing temporary hardness, as well as metals, but gradually release potassium into the flow through.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: Kaiser on January 31, 2011, 01:44:28 AM
That beersmith article was not peer reviewed, was it?  There are several things I just don't agree with.

me neither. He got quite a number of things mixed up.

Quote
Kai has some information, read his page after Palmer.
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php/Understanding_Mash_pH

This article is rather old and I hope to be able to completely replace it soon. Here is a more recent one that does a better job in explaining what minerals in the water do to the beer:

http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php/How_to_read_a_water_report

Kai
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tschmidlin on January 31, 2011, 03:24:06 AM
Here's what a Brita filter did to my water:

Tap:
Potassium   3

Brita:
Potassium   18
I'm surprised too.  Did you take the tap water sample at the same time as the brita sample, or were they some weeks/months apart?  The reason I ask is because of the ones that increase.  Sodium is probably within the margin of error, but potassium going from 3 to 18 seems like a big change.
Brita filters are good at removing temporary hardness, as well as metals, but gradually release potassium into the flow through.
So it's in the filter?  I thought it was just carbon in there.  Good to know.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: Kaiser on January 31, 2011, 04:28:53 AM
I didn't know that BRITA is more than just a carbon filter. They also contain an ion exchange resin:

http://www.brita.net/uk/faqs_household.html?L=1#27:

The content of the original BRITA cartridge is an experienced mixture of ion exchange resin and activated carbon, which is particularly suitable for this type of drinking water conditioning.

Kai
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: jamminbrew on January 31, 2011, 04:54:08 AM
Send a sample to Ward Labs and request the W-6 Household Water Test for $16.50.  www.wardlab.com
I just called my utility company to ask for a water report.  They put connected me to their water chemistry expert (I forget the official title) and she emailed me a detailed, recent rport on the wate quality not only for the city, but for my particular sub-station as well, and it was free.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: tschmidlin on January 31, 2011, 08:33:18 AM
Send a sample to Ward Labs and request the W-6 Household Water Test for $16.50.  www.wardlab.com
I just called my utility company to ask for a water report.  They put connected me to their water chemistry expert (I forget the official title) and she emailed me a detailed, recent rport on the wate quality not only for the city, but for my particular sub-station as well, and it was free.
You're lucky to get that kind of service.  My water utility office is completely unhelpful.  They don't have a water chemistry expert on staff that I know of.  It's really a tiny operation, but fortunately the water is excellent.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: malzig on January 31, 2011, 11:12:36 AM
Yes, ion exchange and carbon.
Here's what a Brita filter did to my water:
Tap:

Calcium   46
HCO3   121
Total Alkalinity   99

Brita:

Calcium   8
HCO3   16
Total Alkalinity   13
I always stayed away from using a Brita filter for brewing water because I knew it removed calcium.  However, for brewers with high HCO3 alkalinity, it might be a very good choice.  You can always add Calcium back and the water will probably taste better thanks to the activated Carbon.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: jeffy on January 31, 2011, 12:28:32 PM
Send a sample to Ward Labs and request the W-6 Household Water Test for $16.50.  www.wardlab.com
I just called my utility company to ask for a water report.  They put connected me to their water chemistry expert (I forget the official title) and she emailed me a detailed, recent rport on the wate quality not only for the city, but for my particular sub-station as well, and it was free.
You're lucky to get that kind of service.  My water utility office is completely unhelpful.  They don't have a water chemistry expert on staff that I know of.  It's really a tiny operation, but fortunately the water is excellent.

I'm lucky to have a good friend as the lab scientist at my local water treatment facility.  He runs my well water through the system tests for me at no charge, but I get the feeling he's doing it on the sly.  Occasionally he'll test other club members' well water for me, too, but I don't want to overstep my friendship and get him fired.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: hopfenundmalz on January 31, 2011, 01:35:06 PM
Send a sample to Ward Labs and request the W-6 Household Water Test for $16.50.  www.wardlab.com
I just called my utility company to ask for a water report.  They put connected me to their water chemistry expert (I forget the official title) and she emailed me a detailed, recent rport on the wate quality not only for the city, but for my particular sub-station as well, and it was free.
You're lucky to get that kind of service.  My water utility office is completely unhelpful.  They don't have a water chemistry expert on staff that I know of.  It's really a tiny operation, but fortunately the water is excellent.
My water utility is completely unhelpful, and the water is pretty crappy.   :D
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: mabrungard on January 31, 2011, 02:02:45 PM
I have to admit that I thought that the Brita filters were only activated carbon filters.  Didn't know that they also include a cation exchange resin.  

I see that the cation exchange resin is charged with potassium instead of sodium which should reduce its impact to brewers.  

I'm a little surprised by the reduction in total dissolved solids.  If it were just the reaction from the cation exchange resin, the TDS would remain similar.  But, it appears that the filter also decarbonates the water as it passes through.  That causes the Ca and CO3 to precipitate onto the activated carbon surface.  That is the reduction in temporary hardness that is touted by Brita.  

I wouldn't call the filter worthwhile, but it doesn't really hurt the brewing water.  Go for it.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: malzig on February 01, 2011, 01:22:16 AM
I wouldn't call the filter worthwhile, but it doesn't really hurt the brewing water.  Go for it.
Really?  There's an awful lot of people that want to reduce the HCO3 in their brewing water.

It should also remove much of the organic compounds that can make surface water taste foul in the warm weather.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: euge on February 01, 2011, 07:36:17 AM
I tried the Zerowater (http://www.zerowater.com/) system, but even my softened water makes it unfeasible from a cost standpoint. I could use my RO and get pure water probably forever, though doing that somehow seems redundant.
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: mabrungard on February 01, 2011, 02:21:17 PM
I wouldn't call the filter worthwhile, but it doesn't really hurt the brewing water.  Go for it.
Really?  There's an awful lot of people that want to reduce the HCO3 in their brewing water.

It should also remove much of the organic compounds that can make surface water taste foul in the warm weather.

There are far better alternatives for reducing HCO3 than a filter like that. Either acid addition or boiling are much better options.

In my statement above, I was speaking about the cation exchange filter.  Activated Carbon is very useful to nearly anyone.  Sorry for the confusion!
Title: Re: More about water
Post by: malzig on February 02, 2011, 02:21:20 AM
There are far better alternatives for reducing HCO3 than a filter like that. Either acid addition or boiling are much better options.
Alternatives, surely, but "far better" seems to be a matter of personal preference.  A lot of homebrewers might find passing water over a filter readily available at the supermarket to be preferable to boiling or sourcing, storing and measuring acid.

The Brita's reduction of 120 ppm HCO3 to 16 ppm seems pretty effective.