Bottled Water vs. (Hard) Tap Water

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by bossfan23, Dec 8, 2012.

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  1. bossfan23

    bossfan23 Initiate (0) Mar 26, 2012 Iowa
    Beer Trader

    Do you use bottled water or tap water when brewing?

    We have very hard water in the area I live, so I have been debating using bottled water. I have not yet made my first batch of beer, as I am just getting into homebrewing, so that is why I ask.

    Any advice on this front?
  2. nathanjohnson

    nathanjohnson Initiate (0) Aug 5, 2007 Vermont

    Are you planning on using extract? If so, use bottled water, preferably RO water, or distilled. The extract already contains minerals, so when you rehydrate the extract, you are adding even more minerals. The mineral content of bottled water can vary significantly, so it's better to use reverse osmosis or distilled water, which have near zero, and zero minerals, respectively.
    inchrisin likes this.
  3. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (315) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    water is absolutely one of the most important ingredients in brewing. most all of the beer styles we have today are due to the local water the brewer had available. certain water profiles make certain beers. your hard water (a very general description for a brewer) will likely work well with an IPA or assertive ale. not so good for lagers (and you'll want to stick with ales for the first few beers for a variety of reasons).

    first and foremost though, especially for a new brewer, if the water you have available is good to drink, then it is good for brewing. i suggest you use your tap water for the first few batches, pay attention to the process, get your fermentation regime settled, understand wort boil and chilling, get racking and bottling down and figuring out how all the ingredients make a difference.

    then you will be in a better place to begin messing around with your water, perhaps incoprorating RO or distilled water as needed. water chemistry does not need to be overly complex, but the learning curve is kind of steep. you need to know a fair bit about brewing before any of it is useful.

    good luck with your brew.
  4. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Is it that complex when using RO or distilled? I find that when starting with my water (which is soft to begin with) that once I get calcium and the debated CaSO4/CaCl2 ratio right that I have some high additions of something else that I'm not sure how it will effect my beer. While it might not be the best I find that the "EZ Water Calculator Spreadsheet" is very easy to understand.

    So with RO/distilled could one of the more knowledgeable posters just come up with some canned formulas to match typical recipes?

    Possible drawback would be the access to cheap water. I'm see a lot of stores with the RO units that sell water very cheap. But then I live in a metro-area.
  5. TheHomebrewerSD

    TheHomebrewerSD Initiate (0) Mar 26, 2012 California

    For the OP: I always recommend spring water. Also use yeast nutrient, especially one with FAN. There are some nutrients in extracts, but it's not perfect. I have heard that RO can work, but to stay away from distilled. Not sure why to be honest, just passing that on.

    Re: other water concerns. There is a lot out there regarding water. I have a lot to learn, but I have learned this. Keep it simple. 1/2 RO 1/2 filtered tap (for the magnesium, zinc etc...). 1 tblspn Calcium Carbonate for malty profiles, 1 tblspn Calcium Sulfate for hoppy profiles, or one of each. This is the approach that Gordon Strong advocates.
  6. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,353) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Spring Water can be just about anything, and as a general term it tells you very little about mineral content. Anyone using a particular spring water, without modifications, for a broad range of styles in All Grain brewing is likely to be disappointed with the results at some point. But if you know the profile of your spring water, you can build whatever water profiles you want/need from it.

    Both RO and Distilled water are fine for extract brewing. The idea that Distilled water is bad is BS. Someone gave you bad information to pass on. For extract brewing, it's fine as is. For all grain brewing, it would require recipe-dependent additions, just as RO would. (And just as Spring Water would.)

    I'm willing to bet Gordon Strong never advocated adding minerals to an unknown water profile.
  7. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    i just brewed two different belgian styles this weekend. 1 was a flanders red. the other was a Achel Brun Extra clone.
    i have the Brew Like a Monk book, which states the (apparent) water profile of Achel. their calcium level is half that of Toronto's. i was very tempted to use a 50:50 mix of distilled water and tap water to try to get the same calcium level. is my first attempt at the recipe. while i think that water definitely matters, there are many other factors in the brewing process that i'd rank ahead of water that matter more. like, how you mill your grains, strike temp, sparge temp, boil time, cooling time, sanitation, yeast health, fermentation temp, racking to secondary, etc.
    so when there are so many areas to fuck up for the first time that i'm attempting a recipe, i don't really care much about my water. unless your water is wacky or tastes like a swimming pool or is brown, then just use good ol' tap water. toss in a half a camden tablet and brew away.
    at least, that's my n00b philosophy.
    but...if i was great at a certain recipe and wanted to win a competition, i'd totally play with the water profile.
  8. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,318) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    RO water and adjust for the beer you are brewing.

    You need to know the starting point in the water to get to the destination profile for the beer.

    If you know the profile for the bottled water or spring water you might be able to get to the destination. If not you may get lucky for the beer you are brewing.
  9. TheHomebrewerSD

    TheHomebrewerSD Initiate (0) Mar 26, 2012 California

    Allow me to emphasize that anyone who says that doing it a certain way is wrong... is probably wrong. Many great breweries are only filtering their municipal tap water (including Ballast Point from a recent conversation), and that is it. Some make mineral additions over time based on results of previous batches.

    Bottom line, no one on a forum has the right answer for you... including me. Here is the closest I can get you: with the info presented pick a method that seems cost effective and repeatable for you. Take notes, try minor adjustment, take more notes.

    That goes for every aspect of brewing. Just have fun with it. Train your palate to discern off-flavors, and do what's best for your brewhouse.
  10. TheHomebrewerSD

    TheHomebrewerSD Initiate (0) Mar 26, 2012 California

    Perhaps you can expand on the conversation about what the pro/con arguments for distilled water are, so that we can do a better job of spreading the word instead of once again just repeating that "some guy on a forum said it's BS, there's my proof," which is exactly what I was trying to avoid when I was being honest about not knowing exactly why.

    Would love to have explanations when the topic comes up again, and would much appreciate your insight.

    Also, I can't pretend to know what Strong advocates exactly, but I should have made it clear that he goes out of his way to emphasize the keep it simple and don't be a dick part of it in his Brewing Better Beer Book.
  11. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,353) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Distilled water is simply water from which the minerals have been removed through distillation. For extract brewing, it's fine to use without modifications, because the mash has already been done by the extract manufacturer using appropriate water, and the minerals from that mash are in the extract. For All Grain brewing, it's dead easy to add minerals to distilled water get a profile appropriate for the style (both mash pH and flavorwise), or whatever profile you want. The important point is that mineral content affects flavor and it affects mash pH. There is no one water profile that is ideal for all beers.

    BTW, in Gordon's book, he says that he builds his water from RO water. For practical purposes, RO and distilled are the same thing. Unmodified Distilled water and unmodified RO water are not good for All Grain brewing, because even if the mash PH happened to work out, minerals important to flavor and (in the case of calcium) to yeast flocculation would be largely absent.
  12. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,318) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    had a Pils from them when I was in SD. Thought it could use work on the water. You confirmed that.

    Stone blends tap and RO. They also have bags of gypsum and Calcium chloride for adjustment.

    There are many breweries that adjust water.
  13. MysteryWest

    MysteryWest Initiate (0) Sep 1, 2010 Oregon

    I used to work for Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, and I can tell you that their products do come from a natural spring in Northern California. The other garbage--Aquafina from Pepsi, and Dasani from Coca Cola--is treated tap water.

    You can figure out who makes what & where it comes from by studying labels & contacting the companies. It's not easy but it's worth it.[/quote]
  14. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,122) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Anheuser-Busch does not get a lot of love on BA but if you define the word “quality” to mean producing a consistent product, than Anheuser-Busch is a quality brewery.

    Anheuser-Busch has numerous breweries throughout the US (and overseas). One aspect that Anheuser-Busch takes measures on is brewing their beers with a consistent water profile. They take steps to ensure that the regional Anheuser-Busch breweries brew with a water profile that matches the ‘standard’ of the St. Louis brewery water. This is a step that they make so that a Budweiser brewed at the Newark, NJ brewery tastes the same as the Budweiser brewed at St. Louis or any of the other regional breweries. I would image that for a light colored and very light tasting beer (like Budweiser) that a varying water profile would result is a beer of varying tastes.

    I personally do not drink Anheuser-Busch beers but I do recognize what they do in order to make consistent (quality?) products.

  15. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    i'd use a blend vs just distilled. if i'm reading BRew Like A Monk and they are correct about their water profiles, i'd either blend or build up from distilled water
  16. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Well I can assure you though that if their beer tastes great, then the water profile is correct for the beer style. If they are haphazardly using water profile and they are getting good beer they are lucky. But I'd surprised that they never looked at their water profile. All that the people here are trying to do is trying to help people understand the basics.
  17. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,318) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Blending may not get the pfofile you want. I find it easier to just use RO and build (all grain).
  18. TheHomebrewerSD

    TheHomebrewerSD Initiate (0) Mar 26, 2012 California

    Thanks for the expanded explanation.
  19. TheHomebrewerSD

    TheHomebrewerSD Initiate (0) Mar 26, 2012 California

    Likewise, don't want people to over think it. Start with a simple/repeatable method, and slowly experiment from there. Have been hopefully been making that point from the beginning.
  20. marquis

    marquis Crusader (744) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    The presence of minerals isn't just of benefit to the mashing process, it has a profound impact on the hop utilisation in the final boil.It does make a difference regardless of whether you use extract or AG. In particular the presence of sulphate ions leads to greater hop "crispness"
    We used to have a lovely local brew noted for being exceptionally bitter and astringent and also a reputation for its laxative properties.When I mentioned this to the ex brewer he replied "If you knew how much Epsom Salt we used in the final boil you wouldn't be surprised"
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