Author Topic: Hard Water  (Read 1035 times)

Offline vermont802

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Hard Water
« on: November 18, 2011, 12:11:17 PM »
I recently moved to a place that the water is hard. So I have a water system that has salt to make the water able to drink, but my question is, is it still okay to use this water for brewing?

Offline blatz

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Re: Hard Water
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2011, 12:18:20 PM »
water softeners tend to leave a lot of salt in the output, which will in turn affect the flavor of your beer.  naturally, it may be imperceptible if the additions in the softener are slight, or it could be overpowered.

I would use RO water for some or all of your brewing water.  I would have your unsoftened water tested by Ward Labs and then you can determine how much RO to cut it with and add back any minerals that are lacking as guided by a tool like Bru'n Water.

There is lots of good advice here on how to build/adjust your water so come back for help if you get stuck.

I'd be surprised if Dr. Brungard doesn't comment on this thread too  ;)
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Offline Kit B

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Re: Hard Water
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2011, 12:31:31 PM »
Chances are pretty good that your water softener isn't being used to make the water safe to drink...
It's being used as a measure to ensure that your appliances have longer lives & you don't need to use as much soap to get things clean (like laundry).
Hard water is normally safe for drinking, unless things are extremely out of whack.
You won't want to use water from a salt-based softener for your brewing water.
The high sodium levels & low calcium & magnesium levels will make the water less useful.
In fact...Most folks are finding that they don't want to drink softened water, due to the sodium it's adding to their diet.

I have outrageous pre-softener calcium & magnesium levels...
I have outrageous post-softener sodium levels.

When I brew, I resort to buying reverse osmosis water, from Walmart & adding minerals back as Blatz has mentioned.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2011, 12:33:57 PM by Kit B »
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Offline euge

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Re: Hard Water
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2011, 12:43:47 PM »
I have very hard water. Whole house softener and an under-sink RO unit. The RO was only $150 at Lowes. I have successfully brewed a Saison with the softened water (set at 14 grains) which gives about 275-350 ppm of sodium. The beer wasn't salty but dropped bright rapidly- which was a surprise. Not a great Saison either. Lackluster comes to mind.

That being said my recommendation is to install the RO unit and dilute your unsoftened local water or add the minerals yourself as previously suggested.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Hard Water
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2011, 01:44:14 PM »
One should also know that the softener removes Ca and Mg (as pointed out), but does not remove Bicarbonate.  If you have high levels of Bicarbonate in the softened water, it is then even less suited for brewing - like my softened water.
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Offline hamiltont

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Re: Hard Water
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2011, 02:01:42 PM »
One should also know that the softener removes Ca and Mg (as pointed out), but does not remove Bicarbonate.  If you have high levels of Bicarbonate in the softened water, it is then even less suited for brewing - like my softened water.
Exactly.

Here's what mine looks like out of the softener:
pH 7.4
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 265
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.44
Cations / Anions, me/L 5.0 / 5.2
ppm
Sodium, Na 114
Potassium, K < 1
Calcium, Ca < 1
Magnesium, Mg < 1
Total Hardness, CaCO3 < 1
Nitrate, NO3-N 1.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 3
Chloride, Cl 6
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 291
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 239
"<" - Not Detected / Below Detection Limit

And out of the hard water tap:
pH 7.6
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est 274
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.46
Cations / Anions, me/L 5.2 / 5.1
ppm
Sodium, Na 7
Potassium, K 5
Calcium, Ca 77
Magnesium, Mg 10
Total Hardness, CaCO3 234
Nitrate, NO3-N 1.0 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 3
Chloride, Cl 5
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 287
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 236
"<" - Not Detected / Below Detection Limit
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Offline Kit B

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Re: Hard Water
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2011, 02:34:06 PM »

And out of the hard water tap:
pH 7.6
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est 274
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.46
Cations / Anions, me/L 5.2 / 5.1
ppm
Sodium, Na 7
Potassium, K 5
Calcium, Ca 77
Magnesium, Mg 10
Total Hardness, CaCO3 234
Nitrate, NO3-N 1.0 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 3
Chloride, Cl 5
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 287
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 236
"<" - Not Detected / Below Detection Limit

Wow...If you precipitated out the bicarbonate, you'd have nice looking water.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Hard Water
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2011, 06:44:08 AM »
Hardness is VERY desirable in brewing water.  Soft or softened water is not very desirable (even if it does not contain high sodium concentration) since calcium is very beneficial to many mash and fermentation performance indices.  The typical minimum calcium concentration of 50 ppm equates to a moderately hard water in the water treatment profession.  A soft water would have under 20 ppm calcium.  So, hardness is rarely a concern to brewers unless some of that hardness is due to excessive concentrations of iron or manganese.  I'm assuming that might be the cause of unpalatability that the OP mentioned.  Hard water that is due to just calcium and a small percentage of magnesium is actually very tasty water.

Even those of use that use RO or distilled water in their brewing typically add calcium (hardness) to their brewing water to bring the calcium level into a preferred range.

As pointed out above, alkalinity is always the primary concern for brewers and it is not amended by the typical ion-exchange (salt) water softener.  Kit B properly pointed out that bicarbonate is the problem with Hamiltont's water.  Unfortunately you can't just precipitate only the bicarb, some calcium is going to drop with it.  But you could neutralize the bicarb with acid and leave the calcium intact.  The trick is to avoid acids with strong flavor when a large amount has to be added. 

Enjoy!

PS: Paul, Dr. Brungard is my dad.  I only have lowly Masters degrees. 
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Offline ibru

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Re: Hard Water
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2011, 10:22:04 AM »
Martin, you are THE "Water Doctor" in our eyes! I've learned a lot from your posts and water program.

Bruce

Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Hard Water
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2011, 10:23:46 AM »
My well water is way too hard to brew with - I use a softener and an iron filter to enable household use, but I use delivered bottled water for brewing.  I got the delivered water company to send me its water analysis to make sure it was good to use and it was RO water with minerals added back, so I use it straight up for most beers.



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