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isitwortit

Building Water From Scratch

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Just wanted to share some information on building water from scratch.

 

Mr. Beer kits are generally comprised of HME which when dissolved and diluted in water create a wort with a certain pH.

 

pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity and has a scale of 0 - 14.  A pH of 7 is neutral (neither acid or alkaline).  On this scale, acidity is less than 7 and alkalinity is greater then 7.

 

When the HME is made it's pH is set during the brewing process.  All-grain brewers will normally adjust their mash pH to 5.2-5.6 to maximize extract and minimize tannins and other unwanted organics.  The boil pH is also adjusted separately from the mash pH.  It is set at the beginning of the boil to optimize hop oil extraction (5.2) and at the end of the boil to accommodate the amount of acidity added by the yeast while fermenting - such that the final beer arrives at a pH of approximately 4.2 - 4.8 or for a sour beer 3.5 or less.

 

Why is that important?  Well if you dissolve your HME in neutral water (distilled or deionized) the HME will bring the pH of that water to approximately that which was intended by the brewery.  The problem is that there are no minerals in the neutral water thus relying on the minerals from the HME to re-mineralize.  However, if the HME itself was made with mineral deplete water there's not many minerals to propagate.  Thus you end up with a dull tasting beer.

 

Let's take the other end of the spectrum and say you use tap water.  Tap water is normally alkaline and has a pH of 8 - 9.  Mixing your HME with this water will result in a wort with a higher than optimal pH.  Remember that the optimal end of boil pH is 5.2, however in these circumstances you would end up with a pH of 6 - 7, perhaps with a darker HME and if you're lucky, it may be in the high 5's.  After adding the yeast you'll wind up with a beer that has a much higher than optimal pH.

 

This is where the long conditioning times come into play and why darker HME's are more successful than lighter ones.  During the room temperature conditioning period, the yeast are trying to clean up their by-products as well as to bring the pH of the beer down to where they're comfortable living, though they do tire out and eventually drop out of suspension.  Darker HME's are more acidic than the lighter ones therefore the alkalinity of the tap water has less of a negative effect when making those types of kits.

 

Let's talk about water.

 

Types of water:

 

  1. Tap - City tap water is normally treated with chlorine or chloramines.  Chlorine can be eliminated by boiling, setting the water out for a period of time and campden tablets which remove both chlorine and chloramine.
  2. Well - Well water can have chlorine if it has been "shocked" to remove iron or rust bacteria, however, most well water should be free from chlorine and chloramines.
  3. RO - Reverse Osmosis water has been run through a RO filter which removes most of the minerals.  Before running through the RO filter this water must be run through a chlorine/chloramine filter.
  4. RO/DI - Reverse Osmosis and Deionized water has been through the RO setup and through Deionization filters which remove the remaining minerals.  Deionized water is the most pure water you can obtain.
  5. Distilled - Distilled water has been run through a distillation unit and is almost as pure as DI water because certain oils can make it through the distillation process.
  6. Softened - Softened water has been run through a water softener which removes certain mineral ions (mostly calcium and magnesium) as well as metal cations by exchanging them with sodium.  Softened water should be used cautiously for brewing as it may contain slightly higher sodium or potassium content which may adversely affect the beer.  This is not to be confused with "soft" water which is simply water that has very little mineral content.

 

Alkalinity vs. Hardness

 

  1. Alkalinity is a measure of resistance to change in the pH of the water.  Alkalinity is neutralized using acid additions.
  2. Hardness is a measure of the amount of mineral content in the water.  Hardness is eliminated by using a RO/DI system or RO/DI, distilled or naturally soft spring water.

 

Saying that you have "hard" water means there's a lot of minerals in it (good and/or bad).  Saying that you have "alkaline" water means that it is very resistant to change in pH.

 

Both can adversely affect beer. High alkalinity buffers against pH change by the grain in the mash and the yeast in the fermentation.  High mineral content adversely affects the flavor of the beer but also plays a smaller role in pH.

 

Water Minerals:

 

  1. Chloride - provides a fullness and perceived sweetness to the beer
  2. Sulfate - provides a dryness and sharpness of flavor of the beer
  3. Magnesium - provides a sour bitterness to the beer
  4. Sodium - enhances the flavor of the beer in limited quantities
  5. Calcium - provides for yeast health during fermentation (as well as enzyme activity during mashing)

 

Water salts:

 

Minerals are added to water by using "water salts":

 

  1. Calcium Chloride
  2. Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum)
  3. Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts)
  4. Sodium Chloride (Kosher table salt)

 

Any of these salts are available at your LHBS or in your local pharmacy or grocery store.

 

Acids:

 

Acids are used to reduce or neutralize alkanity in water during the brewing process:

 

  1. Lactic acid - a very popular acid that adds the lactate ion to the beer
  2. Phosphoric acid - a very popular and neutral acid does not add flavor to the beer
  3. Hydrochloric acid - not very popular on the homebrew scene, requires great care and caution as it is very strong
  4. Sulfuric acid -  not very popular on the homebrew scene, requires great care and caution as it is very strong

 

Lactic and phosphoric acids are available at your LHBS.

 

An example:

 

Let's suppose that I want to make the Classic American Light HME and I've done it before using my tap water and it just didn't turn out.  We've previously seen that this is due to high alkalinity in the tap water and not much acidity in the light colored HME.  This time we have a choice, use the tap water and neutralize the alkalinity using an acid or start with distilled water.  We'll start with distilled because we haven't had our tap water tested to determine it's mineral content.

 

Following the Mr. Beer instructions we add the four cups of distilled water to our pot and we add 1/8 teaspoon of calcium chloride and an 1/8 teaspoon of calcium sulfate and continue to bring to a boil.  Knowing that these minerals will enhance our perception of fullness and sweetness and increase the effect of the small amount of hops in the HME.  We follow the rest of the Mr. Beer instructions using distilled water to complete the brew.  Perhaps the next time we make this can of HME we'll try a 1/4 teaspoon of calcium chloride or calcium sulfate and none of the other to determine which we like best.

 

If we had a pH meter we could even add lactic or phosphoric acid until we hit a target pH of approximately 5.2 (before fermentation).

 

How much water salts to add:

 

Water calculators or spreadsheets were made for this purpose and most of them center around all-grain brewing.  They can be used, however, to determine how much of each salt needs to be added to reach a certain mineral level in the brewing water.  They also provide different water profiles for various brewing regions (not that you should attempt to match or even brew with those).

 

  1. Bru N Water - a popular spreadsheet for homebrewers - https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/home/files
  2. EZ Water -  http://www.ezwatercalculator.com/

 

Getting your water tested:

 

If you're going to continue to use your tap water and want to experiment with using an acid to neutralize alkalinity while building upon your current water, then you'll want to get it tested to determine it's mineral content and alkalinity.

 

Many labs will do this for you and there are home test kits available.

 

https://producers.wardlab.com/brewerskitorder.php

 

You'll also want to purchase a good pH meter for testing purposes.

 

More Information:

 

Water is a complex subject until you "get" it - after which point it becomes mostly second nature.

 

While this topic will probably not be that popular with Mr. Beer users and most will continue to just use their tap water, it is interesting to note that excellent beer can be produced by adding minerals back to neutral water (or even some tap waters). 

 

For those that are interested, there are many excellent resources, both books and online, concerning water and brewing:

 

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

 

Thanks for reading and hope some will continue to learn more and experiment with their water.

 

Cheers!

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Wow. Thank you for posting that.

 

While reading I had this sort of, I don't know, insight, that water IS one of the ingredients of beer!

 

I  never really connected it like that. I mean, I essentially have just been using either Arrowhead or Crystal Geyser. (I don't use my tap water. It never really hit me that I could actually adjust "water."

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You grouped tap and well together.  Does that mean that my well water has chlorine in it even though I've never added it?  TBH I didn't read the entire post.  Science is not my forté.

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1 hour ago, AnthonyC said:

You grouped tap and well together.  Does that mean that my well water has chlorine in it even though I've never added it?  TBH I didn't read the entire post.  Science is not my forté.

 

Well water can have chlorine if the well has been "shocked" to remove rust, however, most well water should be free of both chlorine and chloramine.  One of the mentioned tests would be beneficial, if you're really interested in the makeup of your well water.

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2 hours ago, MrWhy said:

Wow. Thank you for posting that.

 

While reading I had this sort of, I don't know, insight, that water IS one of the ingredients of beer!

 

I  never really connected it like that. I mean, I essentially have just been using either Arrowhead or Crystal Geyser. (I don't use my tap water. It never really hit me that I could actually adjust "water."

 

Yes, building water from scratch or adjusting existing water is an every day occurrence in brewing (as well as other industries).  Being that beer is mostly water it is a significant ingredient.  Learning more about the water you use will give you knowledge and insight into the why your beer tastes the way it does as well as help you advance your brewing.

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3 hours ago, isitwortit said:

 

Well water can have chlorine if the well has been "shocked" to remove rust, however, most well water should be free of both chlorine and chloramine.  One of the mentioned tests would be beneficial, if you're really interested in the makeup of your well water.

Thank you, sir.  Much appreciated! :)

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my understanding of 'softened' water via a water softener is not an increase in salt content.  Water softeners uses a resin bed to extract hard water mineral content only.  The salt that is added is a flush for cleaning the resin bed - it is not actually used for exchanging anything in the water.  

 

I believe it is a misconception that " a water softener which removes certain mineral ions as well as metal cations by exchanging them with sodium (Salt)."  

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Quote

my understanding of 'softened' water via a water softener is not an increase in salt content.  Water softeners uses a resin bed to extract hard water mineral content only.  The salt that is added is a flush for cleaning the resin bed - it is not actually used for exchanging anything in the water.

 

All water softeners work by exchanging minerals in water for sodium ions - in a process called ion-exchange.  The salt that is added recharges the resin beads but still makes it's way into the water via the ion-exchange because the process and the machine (resin beads) aren't perfect and don't stay new forever.  Obviously the volume of sodium passing into the water isn't the same volume as is present in the brine tank but it is still elevated.  Perhaps in a new system or one that has been well maintained the level is insignificant.  The most important thing to remember is to try and avoid using softened water that contains highly elevated levels of sodium or potassium or at least if you go down that road to get it tested to ensure the sodium (or potassium) levels are only slightly elevated.

 

http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/interior-projects/how-to/a150/1275126/

http://www.diamondcrystalsalt.com/Water-Softening/How-does-Water-Softening-work/How-does-Water-Softening-work.aspx

https://www.whirlpoolwatersolutions.com/learning-center/water-softeners/

http://watersoftenerfacts.ca/how-softeners-work/

 

 

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If you're brewing extract brews and your water tastes good, that's all you need to worry about.

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21 minutes ago, isitwortit said:

 

 The most important thing to remember is to try and avoid using softened water.

 

for the lack of magnesium and calcium, or the addition of sodium?  

 

I should clarify that I think it is important to be clear about the words salt and sodium, largely because most read salt and think table salt (NaCl).  yes, sodium is a salt, but again, writing salt is added to your water makes most think that NaCl is directly added to your drinking water, which is not the case.  Sodium ion exchange, yes.  Salt in my water, not exactly... I am sure i'm making too much out of this... 

 

how much sodium is added to water?  It varies on how hard the water is to begin with, but in general " The process adds about 750 milligrams of sodium to each gallon of waterhttp://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-water-softeners-wo/

 

and for a quick reference:   ".. the amount of sodium in 3 grams of salt = 39.3% x 3 = 1.179 g or about 1200 mg" http://chemistry.about.com/od/moleculescompounds/a/Sodium-Versus-Salt.htm

 

so you're getting about 1.5 grams of sodium in a gallon of water and losing magnesium and calcium..  

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1 hour ago, cowboykyle said:

I am sure i'm making too much out of this...

 

Absolutely, though you do make valid points.

 

1 hour ago, RickBeer said:

If you're brewing extract brews and your water tastes good, that's all you need to worry about.

 

A generalization that is often true, but this thread is more about the advanced topic of building water to make your brew taste even better or the way you want it to taste.

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1 hour ago, isitwortit said:

 

Absolutely, though you do make valid points.

 

 

A generalization that is often true, but this thread is more about the advanced topic of building water to make your brew taste even better or the way you want it to taste.

 

Just making the clarification since probably 99% of the active users on this site brew Mr. Beer HMEs, and have no need to do anything, nor will they likely notice any difference.

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1 hour ago, RickBeer said:

 

Just making the clarification since probably 99% of the active users on this site brew Mr. Beer HMEs, and have no need to do anything, nor will they likely notice any difference.

 

Your input is greatly appreciated and is in fact stated in the last section of the OP, however...

  1. There may be users who want to experiment with their water, perhaps just for fun or maybe to gather knowledge for advancement to partial-mash and all grain brewing
  2. There may be users who want to use distilled or RO/DI water in their brewing
  3. There may be users who can absolutely improve their beer by manipulating their water
  4. There may be users who want to learn more about water and brewing in general
  5. There may be users who want to know more about the tap water they are brewing with

There are more but these are the types of users who will benefit from this thread.  Water is an Advanced Brewing Technique!

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For brewers interested in understanding their brewing water, my recommendation would be for them to download ezBrewingWater-RO© when starting out. ezBrewingWater-RO© uses reverse osmosis, or distilled water, as the source water making it extremely easy to understand. While other water property calculators are complicated to setup and difficult to use, ezBrewingWater-RO© allows you to focus on the most important aspects of your brewing water. 

 

https://sites.google.com/site/screwybrewer/ezbrewingwater/ezBrewingWater-RO.xlsx

 

ezBrewingWater-RO© works on any computer that has MS Excel installed on it. 

 

ezBrewingWater.jpg

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On 12/23/2016 at 8:37 AM, The Screwy Brewer said:

For brewers interested in understanding their brewing water, my recommendation would be for them to download ezBrewingWater-RO© when starting out. ezBrewingWater-RO© uses reverse osmosis, or distilled water, as the source water making it extremely easy to understand. While other water property calculators are complicated to setup and difficult to use, ezBrewingWater-RO© allows you to focus on the most important aspects of your brewing water. 

 

https://sites.google.com/site/screwybrewer/ezbrewingwater/ezBrewingWater-RO.xlsx

 

ezBrewingWater-RO© works on any computer that has MS Excel installed on it. 

 

ezBrewingWater.jpg

 

This is a great resource. Thanks Screwy!  :)

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Just one simple question. Could I buy a Pur water filter and run that from my tap faucet to use for my beer?

 

Exploring options instead of having to buy gallons of spring water all the time.

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Depends.

 

If you're brewing with HMEs, then the only criteria you need for water is that it taste good.  If it tastes good, you can brew with HMEs (Mr. Beer refills).

 

If you're going to do all grain brewing, then it depends what's in your water.  There is no simple answer.  For example, if you have chlorine in your water, simply let it sit out for 12 - 24 hours before brewing, and all the chlorine will be gone.  If you're trying to match your water to a particular water used in a well-known beer, then it's much more complicated.

 

Water is the single most overlooked variable by many brewers.

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22 minutes ago, Bach's Brews said:

Just one simple question. Could I buy a Pur water filter and run that from my tap faucet to use for my beer?

 

Exploring options instead of having to buy gallons of spring water all the time.

Sounds like a good idea. Probably the least of your worries. You would taste a defect in your mashing before youd ever taste extra minerals. I agree with rick. I know youre trying to go all grain but I personally just added a culligan type filter and said good enough. You should prob dial in your recipe before worrying about the water. 

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14 minutes ago, Creeps McLane said:

Sounds like a good idea. Probably the least of your worries. You would taste a defect in your mashing before youd ever taste extra minerals. I agree with rick. I know youre trying to go all grain but I personally just added a culligan type filter and said good enough. You should prob dial in your recipe before worrying about the water

The problem with this is that if you are doing AG, you can have your recipe "dialed in", but if you change the water profile you are brewing with, that recipe aka the end result might change "bigly".  It could be "yuge".  I currently build my recipes based just simply on my local water.  I do not know the breakdown, I like the water, I use it.  However, in the past, after reading some of Screwy's articles I wanted to get more technical, so I took a recipe I liked, a really good IPA, and I made it based on a water profile for a really good IPA (using distilled water as my base).  Without adjusting the actual recipe, that beer ended up being EXTREMELY bitter.  It was the same recipe, but different water profiles. 1 very good.  1 almost not drinkable (almost lol).  I would suggest working on both at the same time, honestly.  My plan is to get my local water tested when I move and then build water profiles to fit all of my current recipes to make them even better. Looking forward to that, but that is a ways off.  Until then, its the local water for me :)

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What's the thought on a Reverse osmosis system for brew water? I have a small system sitting in the garage that wasn't needed on a steam humidifier install that the customer said I could keep.... My city water is fine (taste is clean and they do soften it some... not alot though) and as I prepare to try an all grain at some point I want to be prepaired properly.

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I don't trust my tap water. I always buy gallon water at the store for 99 cents. I have often wondered which one is best?

Most stores I go to carry:
Distilled water

Spring water

Drinking water

Purified water

I usually buy distilled water. Not sure if it is the best option or not. 

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16 minutes ago, hotrod3539 said:

What's the thought on a Reverse osmosis system for brew water? I have a small system sitting in the garage that wasn't needed on a steam humidifier install that the customer said I could keep.... My city water is fine (taste is clean and they do soften it some... not alot though) and as I prepare to try an all grain at some point I want to be prepaired properly.

I believe that RO is what Screwy uses (or did at least).  He would be a better one to answer that, however, since RO is about as close to distilled as you are going to get, its a very, very clean starting base.

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Ok. I appreciate all the feedback! I'm not looking the get into the fine details of water, just looking for a better option than buying gallons of water. I think my tap water is fine and like Ricky said I could fill my plastic gallons with my tap water and let them sit for 24 hours? Is that fine? Otherwise I could go the Pur water device as well? 

 

Thanks guys!

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45 minutes ago, Steve-Oh said:

I have often wondered which one is best?

Best?  That all depends on what you are wanting to do and what your taste buds tell you.  If you like what you are doing, keep it up.  If you want to start adding minerals  to get better flavors, especially if you are or start to do AG, then distilled is a great baseline to start with.  :)

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Distilled or RO need things added to be used. Minerals are needed for the mash.

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