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Adjusting Water Profile.

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by MrLupulos, Jun 26, 2013.

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  1. MrLupulos

    MrLupulos Initiate (138) Jul 28, 2007 Texas

    Is there a simple way to approach water profile? I've been brewing close to seven years now but I've never messed with the water chemistry. For those seven years I've used Ozarka spring and drinking water with good results. What has brought me to water chemistry is homebrewing competitions, Ive taken some 2nd and 3rd in various competitions but I feel that for me to improve my beer I will have to dable in water chemistry. I live in Austin so Ive been thinking of using our local tap water and treat for chlorine with campden tablets and possibly dilute a bit with Distilled water since we have hard water. I haven't sent out a sample of my water to get analyzed so if anyone has water profile for Travis County you be doing me a great favor. Also any good advice or tips on water profile will be very helpful and much appreciated. Thanks!
  2. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,229) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

  3. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (270) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    'Simple' is sending a water sample to Ward Labs (W-6 Household Mineral Test) and downloading a free copy of Brun'nWater.

    Having home-beered for six years w/out the benefit of tending to my water chemistry...adding brewing salts and minerals 'according to Hoyle' here and there has made all the difference in the world.
  4. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,229) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I've noticed a massive difference once I got some sort of handle in working with my RO water and changing it up for every style I brew.

    Well.. that and adding O2, controlling pitch rate and fermentation temp... but water was a start. :wink:
  5. scurvy311

    scurvy311 Disciple (346) Dec 3, 2005 Louisiana

    Brew Strong has 4 podcasts on water chemistry. "Brew Strong: Water Part I 04-12-09" is the name of the first. It starts off simple and the next 3 podcasts really dig deep into the practical use of building water profiles. I would say that water, unless you are using ditch water, is probably the last thing you need to delve into, unless temp control, fermentation process, yeast health, and sanitation are truly sound. If they are, it may be the factor that pushes your comp beer over the top. Give yourself time to play and a couple batches to nail it down. Palmer said in one of the brew casts that water treatment for Homebrewing to emulate famous water profiles like Burton or Munich was "arm waiving at it's finest".
  6. jncastillo87

    jncastillo87 Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2013 Texas

    From the Stone brewing book .... ( sorry long read )


    “The claim can be made that water quality historically drove the development of different beer styles. These days, technically advanced analytical tools allow us to make adjustments to emulate any water profile, so we can brew any style of beer. However, there are two qualities any water used for brewing should have: it must be clean and potable, and it should have a neutral flavor. We taste our water every day to make sure it fits our requirements for brewing.” --MITCH

    Chemistry?! But This Is a Beer Book!
    Of the four basic beer ingredients (malt, hops, water, and yeast), it might seem like water would have the least impact on the flavor of the final product, but ask any brewer and you’ll hear a very different story. Mineral content, pH levels, dissolved solids, and all sorts of other terminology come into play. So even though this is a beer book, we need to discuss some chemistry.

    Did you dread high school chemistry class? Maybe you had a terrible teacher who was so deluded by overblown visions of his own self-importance that he didn’t realize that his students just weren’t getting it? (Little did he know that one of those confused pupils would someday co-author a book and subliminally call him out on it.) But hey, I’m not bitter! (Except when it comes to beer, and then I’m very, very bitter!)

    Anyway, fret not! We’ll make it through this basic chemistry lesson together, and I promise to present the material in a clear, friendly, and interesting manner--the way we all should have learned it in the first place.

    H2O Yeah!
    Pure H2O, with a completely neutral pH of 7 and devoid of minerals, doesn’t exist in nature. It can be manufactured, as in the case of distilled water, but it isn’t of much use to the brewer. Water’s properties in the brewing process are influenced by the amount of minerals the water has picked up as it travels through soil or rock. The mineral profile adds subtle flavor nuances and gives the great beers of the world much of their character.

    Have you ever foolishly paid extra for bottled water from some exotic island because your tap water tastes chalky? Have you ever had trouble getting soap to lather, or had that darn white buildup on your showerhead? These problems can be explained by high levels of minerals in your water, which can easily be filtered out. (Get an under-the-counter filter or one of those pitcher systems for your fridge already and stop buying all those wasteful plastic bottles!)

    I’ve Got My Ion You
    Many minerals exist in water, but only six are of major concern to our friend at the brew kettle. They occur in the form of ions--atoms or molecules with a positive or negative charge--that form once the mineral is dissolved. Monitoring levels of these ions is crucial to a successful batch of beer. Water with a higher mineral content is referred to as hard water, whereas water with a lower mineral content is called soft water. Neither soft water nor hard water is universally advantageous for making beer; it is just another factor that brewers must take into account and adjust for depending on the style of beer being brewed.

    Brewers must also filter or boil out the chlorine that’s added by most municipal water facilities. Chlorine reacts with the grains to create off-flavors described as “medicinal” or bearing a strong resemblance to the smell of bandages.

    Think Globally, Act Locally
    Historically, long-established brewing cities have adapted to their water supplies, since, until the advent of reverse osmosis filtration, they really didn’t have much of a choice. Plzen, birthplace of the Pilsner, is home to remarkably soft water, which naturally lends itself to the style.

    Conversely, Dublin’s water is quite high in bicarbonates, which are alkaline, so it takes a heavy hand with high-acid dark, roasted malts to balance them out, which explains Dubliners’ affinity for making opaque dry stouts. Munich’s darker dunkel and bock beers also owe a nod to the bicarbonate levels of their water. The sharply bitter India Pale Ale owes its success to the high-sulfate well water of Britain’s Burton-on-Trent.

    Modern brewers, empowered with this knowledge and special equipment, are able to filter out much of what they deem undesirable and add in minerals as they wish, making it possible to brew a very diverse range of styles of beer at the same location.
    Bearded_beer_guy_ likes this.
  7. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,337) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    If you don't want to get very technical, there's a very simple approach (a sticky I think) over on homebrewtalk. If that doesn't scratch the itch, I'd read everything at the Bru'nWater site and then either use the Bru'nWater spreadsheet or the EZWater spreadsheet (I like the latter, but both are great and free).
  8. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (308) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Simple? No way. Probably the most involved aspect of homebrewing you are going to tackle. But that does not mean working your water profile is some sort of magic or impossible for someone with an average IQ.

    I have found that unlike many other areas of homebrewing, water chemistry is best understood without a homebrew in hand. You really do need a clear mind. As others have said, download and read bru'nwater, then read read read everything else. And ask questions along the way. Most people really only need to know just enough to be in the ballpark. We don't need to become chemists for this to work.
  9. Boonedog

    Boonedog Initiate (0) Apr 10, 2013 Illinois

    Sorry. As much as Palmer is a God he really was more confusing than he needed to be on those podcasts. Its not as complicated as 4 hours of podcasts made it out to be.

    I have just started water adjustment but keeping it simple. Get a water report (may be available online somewhere for your area for free) Download the Brun water or EZ water spreadsheet. Plug in the numbers and the malt bill.
    make your adjustments to the mash.
  10. scurvy311

    scurvy311 Disciple (346) Dec 3, 2005 Louisiana

    Ha. I can't disagree. I just rather audio than reading. I listened to those 4 podcasts after reading bruin water and some other internet info and it was a little over complicated at points. There are some great nuggets of practical application and "whys" in them that I learned though.
  11. jamescain

    jamescain Meyvn (1,002) Jul 14, 2009 Texas
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    You should be able to find a profile estimation by who ever provides the water in Austin. That's what I did for the water in San Antonio. I would assume our profile is pretty similar since we both tap from the aquifer.
    Boonedog likes this.
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