Author Topic: Water, how important is it?  (Read 1115 times)

Offline jimrod

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Water, how important is it?
« on: April 10, 2012, 08:19:10 PM »
I've visited 4 small breweries in different areas of California in the last month and each of them said that they don't treat their cities water, they only filter the water. Their beers tastes great and in some cases very great.

I have been adjusting my water using the profile supplied to me by the city. In the case of real light colored beers, I've been cutting the city water with distilled to get the elements to the correct PPM and then adding calcium chloride and other things.

How important is it to get the water elements to the perfect PPM? And why don't they treat the water?
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2012, 09:45:43 PM »
There is no perfect ppm.  If they don't treat their water they may be brewing styles that fit their water profile or have figured out how to make great beer with the water they have.  Or maybe they are adding salts/buffers/acids and whoever you talked to doesn't know it.  Or maybe they don't consider adding MgSO4 to be treating their water, it's just part of the recipe.  I don't know.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2012, 05:34:59 AM »
Sierra Nevada uses phosphoric acid to treat their brewing water to 5.5 pH.  I know they add salts to the kettle for some beers.

Stone has a large industrial RO system, and the blend 1:1 RO to supply water.  There was a pallet stacked high with CaSO4 and CaCL2 when I was on that tour.  I would say they are doing some tratment.

Water varies with location.  If you look at the hardness and alkalintiy maps in the link, you will see different breweries will do different treatments for different beers.

Where were you at?  One of the local homebrewers in SD last year said the water works great for IPAs, and that is why so many are brewed there.

Edit - the water on the Detroit water system is great for light amber to brewn beers.  People who have it only need to consider treating the water for Pilsners or dark Stouts and Porters.

Water is the last thing to play with as a homebrewer.  It can make a difference, but get your other processes under control first.  Don't go overboard, less is more on the treatments.

« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 05:38:30 AM by hopfenundmalz »
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2012, 06:39:47 AM »
At a minimum, I recommend filtering your water.  I also suggest having your water tested.  A city water report should suffice but keep in mind that your water is likely to change seasonally.  I would also remove the chlorine and chloramine which can be accomplished by a few different methods including proper filtration and/or the addition of campden tabs.

I also recommend monitoring your mash/sparge pH and adjusting when and if necessary using phosphoric acid.  I use salt additions to mimic world water profiles as needed.  I think it can make a difference.
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Offline jimrod

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2012, 08:07:44 AM »
Here is my report from the city, I had this text to me from an employee inside the water district, It differs slightly from the published reports. Murrieta, Califronia.

2011
pH 7.9
Calcium: __(52-75) 64_ ppm
Magnesium: _(21-28) 25_ppm
Sodium:___(80-100) 91___ppm
Sulfate:___(160-240) 210__ppm
Chloride:___(88-98) 96____ ppm           
Bicarbonate:_99 (from Sept 2011)__
Hardness: _(11-18)  15_ grains per gallon or__(190-300) 260_ mg/l
Alkalinity __(91-130) 110__
Hardness: see above
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Offline denny

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2012, 08:22:22 AM »
Sierra Nevada uses phosphoric acid to treat their brewing water to 5.5 pH.  I know they add salts to the kettle for some beers.

Absolutely!  I don't know about your experience at Beer Camp, Jeff, but for our batch we carefully considered and used water treatments. 
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Offline jimrod

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2012, 08:28:03 AM »
These are the treatments for this very light beer, but I still got an astringent taste. It almost seems overboard to go the trouble and not get a better beer.
0.50 gm Calcium Chloride (Mash 60.0 min) Misc
2.40 tsp Lactic Acid (Mash 60.0 min) Misc
3.80 gm Epsom Salt (MgSO4) (Mash 60.0 min) Misc
4.60 gm Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 min) Misc
5.88 gm Calcium Chloride (Mash 60.0 min) Misc
80% - 14.00 gal Distilled Water Water
20% - City, Colorado River + treatment
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Offline denny

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2012, 08:33:57 AM »
Something doesn't seem right.  Your water already has a high level of sulfate, yet you're adding a bunch more with both the Epsom salts and the gypsum.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2012, 09:01:56 AM »
I can't really think of a good reason to add Epsom salt to beer. Yeast only need like 5ppm of Mg. Any more than that isn't necessary, or wise. Epsom salt tastes nasty (bittersalz auf Deutsch) so why do you want to drink it?

Water treatment isn't a magic bullet, and if you're not exactly sure what you're doing, your treatment is more likely to harm than help. (Mash pH is a different issue, that needs to be in the proper range no matter what).
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 09:03:33 AM by nateo »
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2012, 09:30:15 AM »
At 210 ppm you are in Palmers range for bitter beers.  I haven't run the water and dilutions with RO through Brunwater, but if you were over 400 you are in the astrigent range, and the Mg doesn't help taste either.

From Palmer
The sulfate ion also combines with Ca and Mg to contribute to permanent hardness. It accentuates hop bitterness, making the bitterness seem drier, more crisp. At concentrations over 400 ppm however, the resulting bitterness can become astringent and unpleasant, and at concentrations over 750 ppm, it can cause diarrhea. Sulfate is only weakly alkaline and does not contribute to the overall alkalinity of water.

http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-1.html
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Offline richardt

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2012, 09:37:21 AM »
I don't consider myself a "super taster", but I can really pick up on sulfur aromas and flavors. 
Your base water has considerable sulfate levels.  Under normal circumstances, there'd be no reason to add gypsum or epsom salts.  The base water looks OK for an ESB or English IPA, but otherwise I would find the sulfates excessive/unpleasant for nearly any other beer style.  I would consider diluting or substituting with RO water for many beer styles, particularly if you're doing partial-mash or extract beers.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Water, how important is it?
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2012, 10:53:34 AM »
I can't really think of a good reason to add Epsom salt to beer. Yeast only need like 5ppm of Mg. Any more than that isn't necessary, or wise. Epsom salt tastes nasty (bittersalz auf Deutsch) so why do you want to drink it?

Water treatment isn't a magic bullet, and if you're not exactly sure what you're doing, your treatment is more likely to harm than help. (Mash pH is a different issue, that needs to be in the proper range no matter what).
If you wanted to add SO4 without adding Ca, epsom salts would be a good way to do it.
Tom Schmidlin