Author Topic: Newbie here. Water question.  (Read 3147 times)

Offline Laminarman

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Newbie here. Water question.
« on: December 15, 2016, 09:13:05 PM »
Nice forum folks.  I walked into our local home brew shop a few weeks ago and got "bit."  Background: I'm a 52 year old health professional who has a great love of wine, single malt scotch and beer.  I did some home brewing about 30+ years ago in college and it was all extract and the quality was, shall we say...there was a reason I gave it up.  There was no internet, no local HBS, few resources and money at the time.  I DO plan on doing all grain as that's the way I roll, I want total control and am an obsessive note and record keeper (I will start off again however with extract to get my rhythm going).  I have well water with a water softener.  Right from the get go I would like to know what factor water plays in my brewing so I would like recommendations for having my water tested?  I DO have the ability to pull water off the main before it gets softened if that's the smart thing to do.  If it helps at all I count among my favorite beers Troegs Nugget Nectar and Perpetual IPA, Sam Smith Pale Ale (yup...), Sierra Nevada and Dales Pale Ales...etc.   I was lucky enough to get some Society and Solitude #5, #8 from Hill Farmstead from my mother in law (nice surprise).  Loved Heady Topper and The Pliny Elder of course but not enough to go to all the baloney to get them. I am a hop head but can get over hopped at times and drink a few stouts or wheat beers for a break.  I do not enjoy overly malty flabby beers that much.  I have a much more refined nose/palate for Bordeaux and cabernet than beer but that's due to what I've been focused on for the past 20 years, so I'm still learning to taste.  With that overload of information does anyone have a recommendation for how I test my water?  I asked the local HBS and he said don't bother if using extract.  If you think I'm wasting my time just tell me.  I do know before the water is softened it is pretty hard and scaly and all our fixtures in our house had white deposits on them.  Thank you in advance.

Offline BUZZSAW52

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2016, 09:15:26 PM »
I buy spring water. It's worth the extra $10 to me.


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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2016, 09:27:09 PM »
If using extract, it already has minerals in it. Use Distilled or RO water. Spring water can have low to high levels, depending on the spring.

Are you on a well or municipal system? If a well use Ward Labs. City system look for the report or call them.

https://producers.wardlab.com/default.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f
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Offline Laminarman

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2016, 09:31:02 PM »
If using extract, it already has minerals in it. Use Distilled or RO water. Spring water can have low to high levels, depending on the spring.

Are you on a well or municipal system? If a well use Ward Labs. City system look for the report or call them.

https://producers.wardlab.com/default.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f

No I'm on a well, so spring water.  Ice cold and tastes great and we have a natural spring on the property.  Thanks for the link, I appreciate it.

Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2016, 09:35:22 PM »
Jeff has it right - Ward Labs is great for testing well water.  However, I installed an Reverse Osmosis system that includes a Total Dissolved Solids meter (simple inline t with a probe on a gasketed insert).  With that I get consistent readings of 10 -14 TDS.  I treat that as pure RO and adjust from there with the Brunwater spreadsheet by Martin Brungard (the nominally priced "paid" version has a lot of nice features and is worth supporting it).  There are also similar functions out there in brewing software such as Beersmith and the like.  Being away from brewing for a while, you may be pleasantly surprised by the information available now.
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Offline GS

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2016, 12:46:47 AM »
How does your water taste if you bypass the water softener? If it tastes good to drink, it will very likely make good beer. Honestly I would brew a batch with unsoftened water and see what happens before getting too heavy into water chemistry. You really need to establish a baseline of sorts before you go any farther.

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Offline Stevie

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2016, 12:53:38 AM »
Good to drink doesn't always make good beer. Doesn't mean it will make bad beer either.

Offline narcout

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2016, 01:00:22 AM »
The Bru'n Water spreadsheet is pretty great once you know the mineral content of your starting water.

You can download it here:

https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater

Reading the water knowledge page is a good place to start.

https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge
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Offline el_capitan

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2016, 01:10:15 AM »
The Bru'n Water spreadsheet is pretty great once you know the mineral content of your starting water.

You can download it here:

https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater

Reading the water knowledge page is a good place to start.

https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge

Bru'nWater has been a huge help for me - I was hesitant to get involved with water chemistry and was using 5.2 mash stabilizer as a crutch.  My beers immediately improved when I started building brewing water.

I would recommend buying RO water at your grocery store or Walmart (if you go there). I prefer my grocery store, because I contacted their field technician and he gave me specific info on the TDS readings.  It's only like 35 cents/gallon, so it's super cheap and a great start toward brewing awesome beer.  Avoid softened water in any brewing application.  Even if you're just using it to chill, you'll be burning through softener salt for no reason.  I take that back - hard water isn't great for soaking bottles and equipment.  Stick with softened water for that. 

Have fun rediscovering the hobby!

Offline M-O-O-N That spells beer!

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2016, 01:43:13 AM »
If using extract, it already has minerals in it. Use Distilled or RO water. Spring water can have low to high levels, depending on the spring.

Are you on a well or municipal system? If a well use Ward Labs. City system look for the report or call them.

https://producers.wardlab.com/default.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f

+1
I also brew extract and distilled water has always worked for me!
Na zdrowie!

Offline bboy9000

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Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2016, 03:44:49 AM »
+10 for Bru'n Water (I really should support it- thanks Martin).

I get RO water for 33-39 cents per gallon at the water stations in town.  For a 5 gallon batch it adds $3.50-$4.00 per brew.   When you switch to all grain RO or distilled makes it much easier to build the water profile for the beer style you are brewing.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2016, 04:11:14 AM »
I get RO water for 33-39 cents per gallon at the water stations in town.  For a 5 gallon batch it adds $3.50-$4.00 per brew.   When you switch to all grain RO or distilled makes it much easier to build the water profile for the beer style you are brewing.


Yup.
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Offline Laminarman

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2016, 03:03:20 PM »
Jeff has it right - Ward Labs is great for testing well water.  However, I installed an Reverse Osmosis system that includes a Total Dissolved Solids meter (simple inline t with a probe on a gasketed insert).  With that I get consistent readings of 10 -14 TDS.  I treat that as pure RO and adjust from there with the Brunwater spreadsheet by Martin Brungard (the nominally priced "paid" version has a lot of nice features and is worth supporting it).  There are also similar functions out there in brewing software such as Beersmith and the like.  Being away from brewing for a while, you may be pleasantly surprised by the information available now.

I'm more like a bit overwhelmed rather than pleasantly surprised, but I love it.  I am reading Palmers book now and getting a base of knowledge before I brew.  Right after Christmas I'll do my first batch, probably an extract IPA of some sort to see what I'm capable of out of the gate.  I think the guy at the LBS will put the ingredients of a recipe together for me instead of buying a kit.

Offline Laminarman

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2016, 03:04:38 PM »
How does your water taste if you bypass the water softener? If it tastes good to drink, it will very likely make good beer. Honestly I would brew a batch with unsoftened water and see what happens before getting too heavy into water chemistry. You really need to establish a baseline of sorts before you go any farther.

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The water before softening is pretty incredible actually.  I've never gotten any off odors.  While mowing I prefer to drink right from the garden spigot which doesn't get softened. 

Offline JJeffers09

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Re: Newbie here. Water question.
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2016, 04:11:08 PM »
The only way to go is with Bru'n Water.  I am obsessive and want total control, however water is not an animal you can master.  You are at the mercy of nature and water has more secrets than I will understand in the next 30 years.
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