Author Topic: Water help  (Read 982 times)

Offline ShawnMull

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Water help
« on: November 01, 2015, 02:50:20 PM »
Hey everyone.

So I'm trying to understand water. I recently brewed an Irish Red and the beer had a hint of a metallic flavor. There wasn't anything that made me think infection (it was still drinkable) and I also couldn't think of any oxidation issues.

So I'm left to look at my water. I'm trying to figure this out (new to water chem) and I BELIEVE the iron may be too high as well as the manganese. I linked the most recent range report but having some trouble understanding it.

http://www.townofbarnstable.us/WaterSupply/WaterQualityReport14.pdf

Any help is greatly appreciated. I plan on getting Palmer's Water book in the future :-)

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Water help
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2015, 03:15:37 PM »
I think a Ward Labs analysis would help.  The link doesn't show a number for bicarbonate (HCO3) which is critical for brewing if the number is higher.  The iron sounds like an issue at 3000+ppm and I will say right now that I have no real experience with that mineral in my own water.

Other thoughts:  Your calcium number is low (15ppm).  Calcium is necessary for yeast health but the good news is that most brewers add calcium chloride or calcium sulfate to brewing water which will raise your calcium.  My Ca number is 34ppm and that is considered low as well.  Brewers add calcium chloride or calcium sulfate (gypsum) to alter the water towards a particular style.  Calcium chloride brings out a smooth, rounded character and provides a "fullness" to beer (think helles or Oktoberfest).  Calcium sulfate creates a crisper and sharper character in beer (think pale ale, IPA, etc).  A combination of those two (in varying ratios) is common for many brewers.  People with very high chloride in their water may only add gypsum and people with very high sulfate may only add calcium chloride and still others need to use some percentage of RO or distilled water because the want to make a soft helles but they have 100+ppm of sulfate in their water.  On the topic of sulfate, it's usually expressed as SO4-S (which means you would multiply the number by 3).  Your link doesn't not show it so it may be "18" as shown but it's not clear.  It could be 54 and a Ward Labs analysis would show that. 

Finally, there is a water page on my site (link somewhere over there <-) which may have some other info. 

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Water help
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2015, 03:35:29 PM »
Iron content in water is one of the things that can cause metallic off flavors:  http://www.bjcp.org/cep/Metallic_Flavors.pdf
I can't claim to know whether your iron levels are high or not per se, but an easy way to eliminate that factor as a cause is to brew your next batch with RO (reverse osmosis) water. My water is not good for most any style, so I use all RO water for all my beers. If the problem goes away with RO, iron was likely a problem. Aside from that, it is is huge help regardless of water source to use good water software to help you predict your mash pH. Brunwater is just excellent software and has a very informative water knowledge tab to read as an intro to the software. I recommend it highly :  https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/

As said, it's hard to know how good your water is for many styles without seeing a bicarbonate content. I would try a batch with Brunwater software, using RO water to see if your problem goes away. Let us know how it goes !
Jon H.

Offline BrodyR

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Re: Water help
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2015, 03:59:11 PM »
My water report had some holes as well but I had luck calling up the Phila. Water Deptartment to get a tech to fill me in on what I need.

I second HoosierBrew's Brunwater comment, it's a fantastic spreadsheet. Distilled water may be even better, when I use my local groceries RO water my targets are off (pH comes in lower than estimated). The Palmer book was solid but pretty technical - I tried to just concentrate on what was useful for brewing.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Water help
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2015, 04:07:44 PM »
Nothing wrong obviously with using distilled - except for paying $2/gallon, which I'm not willing to do. To each his own, though. I use a cheap TDS meter to test the RO at the machines until I get one with the low ppm I'm looking for and get great results. Lots of good beer is made on this forum with RO FWIW. Regardless, any RO would help OP eliminate his water as the issue.
Jon H.

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Water help
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2015, 04:55:25 PM »
You can find gallons of distilled water at some places (Menards here in the Midwest and someone mentioned Walmart too) for 69¢ to 89¢ so that's a thought.  I agree that using some distilled, RO, bottled spring water or 'drinking water' would be a good way to just see if the next beer improves... it may tell you that your iron level is higher-than-desired for brewing.  It should also be mentioned that almost all water sources vary over time.  My 2009 Ward Labs report shows a Chicago-area (Lake Michigan) water pH of 6.6 and now it's closer to 7.5.  A good pH meter is a huge help and the one I purchased about a year ago has been an absolute champ in terms of accuracy and ease-of-use.  Water can be a complex topic but once you find what works for your specific water source and what you like in your beer, it's just another tool in your toolbox.  Cheers.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Water help
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2015, 05:17:09 PM »
You can find gallons of distilled water at some places (Menards here in the Midwest and someone mentioned Walmart too) for 69¢ to 89¢ so that's a thought.

I realize distilled can at places be bought cheaper than I mentioned. But I buy RO for 39 cents/gal and RO's very slightly higher mineral content is accounted for in Brunwater. I just can't find the problem with RO that justifies spending 2 -5 X the cash for distilled. Having said that, brewers are obviously free to use whatever water they prefer.
Jon H.

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Water help
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2015, 05:52:12 PM »
You can find gallons of distilled water at some places (Menards here in the Midwest and someone mentioned Walmart too) for 69¢ to 89¢ so that's a thought.

I realize distilled can at places be bought cheaper than I mentioned. But I buy RO for 39 cents/gal and RO's very slightly higher mineral content is accounted for in Brunwater. I just can't find the problem with RO that justifies spending 2 -5 X the cash for distilled. Having said that, brewers are obviously free to use whatever water they prefer.
I do agree with you but my only issue is that you don't actually know what's in RO water as mentioned in another recent thread.  You know that distilled should be ZEROES so at least you know your starting point.  But again, I agree... if I needed water to brew and RO was available, I would make some assumptions and roll.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Water help
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2015, 05:55:04 PM »
You can find gallons of distilled water at some places (Menards here in the Midwest and someone mentioned Walmart too) for 69¢ to 89¢ so that's a thought.



I realize distilled can at places be bought cheaper than I mentioned. But I buy RO for 39 cents/gal and RO's very slightly higher mineral content is accounted for in Brunwater. I just can't find the problem with RO that justifies spending 2 -5 X the cash for distilled. Having said that, brewers are obviously free to use whatever water they prefer.
I do agree with you but my only issue is that you don't actually know what's in RO water as mentioned in another recent thread.  You know that distilled should be ZEROES so at least you know your starting point.  But again, I agree... if I needed water to brew and RO was available, I would make some assumptions and roll.

As I've posted I use a cheap TDS meter to gauge the mineral content. So I know within reason. Without the meter, you're right that there is some unknown. I eliminate the guesswork.
Jon H.

Offline BrodyR

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Re: Water help
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2015, 06:02:05 PM »
You can find gallons of distilled water at some places (Menards here in the Midwest and someone mentioned Walmart too) for 69¢ to 89¢ so that's a thought.

I realize distilled can at places be bought cheaper than I mentioned. But I buy RO for 39 cents/gal and RO's very slightly higher mineral content is accounted for in Brunwater. I just can't find the problem with RO that justifies spending 2 -5 X the cash for distilled. Having said that, brewers are obviously free to use whatever water they prefer.
I do agree with you but my only issue is that you don't actually know what's in RO water as mentioned in another recent thread.  You know that distilled should be ZEROES so at least you know your starting point.  But again, I agree... if I needed water to brew and RO was available, I would make some assumptions and roll.

Yea, I'm with you 100% on the cost - I can get RO for 40 cents/gallon and distilled is minimum double. Definitely make good beer with RO Just for whatever reason the RO at the store near me is resulting in both lower than expected pH's and variability. TDS meter is a good idea.

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Water help
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2015, 07:22:40 PM »
Quote
As I've posted I use a cheap TDS meter to gauge the mineral content. So I know within reason. Without the meter, you're right that there is some unknown. I eliminate the guesswork.

I would probably assume lower calcium, sulfate and chloride, make some additions based on that and even though I have found some bulk RO water with 50ppm of bicarbonate, the only concern there is pH so I would just add lactic acid until I got to the right pH (using a meter) and things should be good from there.  I like knowing what's in there so I can use spreadsheets and plan ahead but my guess is that most RO (especially those systems maintained by brewers in their homes) should be close enough to distilled.

Offline ShawnMull

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Re: Water help
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2015, 10:44:32 PM »
Maybe I will have to try it with the RO next. See what happens.

Is RO good to typically use on it's own? Or should I add something too it pre-boil (I brew extract at the moment).

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Water help
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2015, 10:48:14 PM »
Maybe I will have to try it with the RO next. See what happens.

Is RO good to typically use on it's own? Or should I add something too it pre-boil (I brew extract at the moment).


If you brew extract beers, don't add anything to the RO water - the extract manufacturer added their own water salts in the making of the extract. So if you were to add anything to the water you could be over mineralizing the beer.
Jon H.

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Water help
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2015, 12:21:39 AM »
I think a Ward Labs analysis would help.  The link doesn't show a number for bicarbonate (HCO3) which is critical for brewing if the number is higher.  The iron sounds like an issue at 3000+ppm and I will say right now that I have no real experience with that mineral in my own water.


When I read the report I immediately said that has to be ppb, parts per billion. If you look at the left column, you see that it says "Iron (ppb)" for that row. Moving the decimal, it is 3.13 ppm iron. Is that too high? Yes it is. Martin recommends 0.1 ppm as a maximum.

https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge
« Last Edit: November 02, 2015, 12:25:17 AM by hopfenundmalz »
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Water help
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2015, 01:06:07 AM »
I think a Ward Labs analysis would help.  The link doesn't show a number for bicarbonate (HCO3) which is critical for brewing if the number is higher.  The iron sounds like an issue at 3000+ppm and I will say right now that I have no real experience with that mineral in my own water.


When I read the report I immediately said that has to be ppb, parts per billion. If you look at the left column, you see that it says "Iron (ppb)" for that row. Moving the decimal, it is 3.13 ppm iron. Is that too high? Yes it is. Martin recommends 0.1 ppm as a maximum.

https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge
Oooh, good catch.  I genrally don't pay attention to water contents other than the standard 6 we worry about.  If a municipal water source (or a well) has high levels of other things like iron, my experience is zero.  So 3.13ppm of iron is high?  Huh, did not know that.