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Anyone build their own water for IPA's?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Finn, May 2, 2013.

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  1. Finn

    Finn Nov 20, 2003 Pennsylvania

    Hey folks, I'm planning an IPA for a beer of the month club that I submit homebrews to, while the other members usually submit storebought beers.

    I really wanna make a superb IPA here, and was wondering if anyone has a good formula for building IPA water. My IPA's in the past have been decent, but nothing to write home about, since the hops don't really POP....I thought maybe my water was a culprit, as most other not-hoppy styles I make turn out very good.

    Thoughts, suggestions? I'm thinking of starting with distilled water and go from there.

  2. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    When you say the hops don't "pop," are you talking about bitterness or flavor/aroma?

    If bitterness, I'd make sure there are plenty of Sulfates in the water, as well as making sure you are using enough hops to get the IBUs you are looking for.
    If aroma/flavor, it may be a case of amounts and/or timing and/or hop selection.

    But that's just shooting in the dark.
    It would probably help if you posted the recipe recipe/process for one of the 'nothing to write home about' IPAs.
  3. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Here's my water profile from a recent IPA (built from distilled). You may need to cut/paste/line up the columns to read it...
    Calcium Magnesium Sodium Chloride Sulfate Chloride / Sulfate
    (Ca ppm) (Mg ppm) (Na ppm) (Cl ppm) (SO4 ppm) Ratio
    Mash Water Profile: 150 0 0 76 262 0.29
    Mash + Sparge Water Profile: 135 0 0 69 236 0.29

    Edit: Many people would go even further tilted toward sulfates in the Chloride/Sulfate ratio, and I would not say that they are necessarily wrong.
    ghostinthemachine likes this.
  4. jlpred55

    jlpred55 Jul 26, 2006 Iowa

    I like 9:1 sulfate to Cloride ratio like SN does it. My water is around 30ppm CL so you can see where 9:1 puts me. The rest is similar to Vikeman.
  5. Finn

    Finn Nov 20, 2003 Pennsylvania

    Cool, thanks for the info guys!
  6. Finn

    Finn Nov 20, 2003 Pennsylvania

    I think it's more of a flavor/aroma issue. It just doesn't have that cohesive, defined flavor that some of my favorites have, (Stone, two-hearted) and I thought maybe the water chemistry was pushing the flavor profile into the "blurry" land of taste. That's a little vague but I have heard that water can help your beer to taste more or less cohesive and "sharp".

    Well, you might be onto something with the addition timing. My standard has been this: Flavoring hops at 15 min left, aroma at 2 or sometimes at flameout. I was thinking of experimenting with more late-hopping and skimping on the bittering addition.

    Thanks for the info
  7. mattbk

    mattbk Dec 12, 2011 New York

    If your mash pH is not right for your malt bill/base water profile, you could get a mash pH outside of target that dullens your flavor a bit. What's your grain bill? Do you know your local water profile?

    Also, late hopping will definitely improve your hop flavor. Try to keep some balance though; too much late hopping vs early hopping might have you wondering "I like the flavor of my IPAs, but the bitterness is just weak!"
  8. mattsander

    mattsander Feb 3, 2010 Alberta (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    For hoppy beers, I always start with RODI and build my water up from there. There are good spreadsheets available that will help you calculate mineral salt additions.
  9. pweis909

    pweis909 Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    Wow! You guys have given me new perspective. I usually keep my Ca between 50-100 ppm (closer to 50, I think), and I was thinking a 2:1 ratio of sulfate to chloride is high. I may need to up my game as my next batch is the APA IPA.
  10. kscaldef

    kscaldef Jun 11, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    I don't know...

    1) What's your hop bill / schedule? Too many varieties might make it "blurry"

    2) Are you dry-hopping?

    Pre-dry-hopping, my IPA tastes and smells like a boring east-coast IPA. Post-dry-hopping, it's got awesome hop flavor and aroma.
  11. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    In Steele's IPA there are waters with higher levels of SO4, don't know the ratio. I have been using 325 ppm SO4 and about 24 ppm Cl, so that is more like a ratio of 14. See the Headhunter IPA recipe in Steele's book.
    pweis909 likes this.
  12. pweis909

    pweis909 Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    So it looks like you are just adding gypsum and calcium chloride. No epsom, chalk, NaCl, or bicarb. Yes? What about acid adjustment?
  13. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Correct. I'm pretty sure I didn't need to add acid for this one. But I'll check when I get home.
  14. KS1297

    KS1297 Apr 14, 2013 Wisconsin

    dont a lot of craft breweries just use local city water? If anybody else in your area is making a good ipa and using straight city water could you conclude that the water is not the issue?
  15. jlpred55

    jlpred55 Jul 26, 2006 Iowa

    No you can't conclude that unless they told you they don't treat the water by filtering or adding other salts. Which I find hard to believe as even the smallest brewries and brewpubs located here treat water, usually filter and then salts and/or acids for adjustment. Local water reports are usually just a starting point as it is really difficult to say what a brewer does once it comes out of the tap.
  16. KS1297

    KS1297 Apr 14, 2013 Wisconsin

    so like when lakefront says they use tap water they likely mean that start out with tap water and then add stuff?
  17. jlpred55

    jlpred55 Jul 26, 2006 Iowa

    Exactly. I've been on the Lakefront tour a few times and I asked that question once and IIRC (lot of beer usually consumed prior) they filter and modify. I asked that question when you could still go down Bernie Brewers old slide, so it has been a few years!
  18. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Okay. Consulted the spreadsheet/brewlog. No acid addition.
    pweis909 likes this.
  19. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    The water isn't an issue unless it gets in the way (too hard). In my area, both the Alchemist and Hill Farmstead like their water because it is pretty soft, i.e. a blank slate that they can modify to suit their wishes. My well water is similar to theirs and I like it. Of course, there is the possibility that some water sources have 'special' constituents that brewing science hasn't quantified yet... this might be the case with HF.
  20. KS1297

    KS1297 Apr 14, 2013 Wisconsin

    so some places like hill farmstead still dont do anything to their water? I was under the impression that only the big breweries chemically altered their water since they try to make the same beer in different places, but micros just use whatever they can get. From the other replies though, it's sounding like making beer styles based on the local water is a thing of the past.
  21. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Most breweries of all sizes do some water treatment. Otherwise, at best, they'd be restricted to brewing 1 or 2 styles that fit their water (e.g. stout in Dublin, pilsener in Pilsen). John Kimmich of the Alchemist has been quoted in the past as saying he adds sulfate to IPA's. My water is soft so I need to add calcium salts (or do the Urquell style triple decoction) to get proper mash and yeast behavior. That's what I meant by 'blank slate'; water that can easily be modified to produce any style.
  22. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I have not seen any stats, but the impression I get from reading about and talking with craft brewers is that more of them modify their water than not, at least for some styles.
  23. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Hope that there will be information in Palmers new book concerning what the pros do.
    wspscott likes this.
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