R/O Water Alternatives due to stores not selling R/O

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by kkleu357, Jul 30, 2020.

  1. kkleu357

    kkleu357 Crusader (785) Apr 2, 2014 Wisconsin

    I'm just curious, what is everyone using for water to brew with? We have extremely hard water where I live, so have always used R/O water. Now that we are not allowed to buy R/O from the stores due to Covid, We've done a few batches with Distilled water, but I'm not sure I like using that. We do add our own brewing salts, but I feel like something was slightly off still.

    Would people recommend adding more salts than normal to distilled, or maybe throwing in some tap water with the distilled?
  2. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,659) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Is there something specific that is 'off' here?

    Distilled water should in theory be the ultimate 'blank slate' for building up brewing water since it will absolutely contain zero minerals. RO water should be very low in water but due to the process never actually be at zero for the minerals. I personally do not purchase RO water but I have noticed that at my local Walmart at the RO 'station' there is a chart were they indicate their periodic (daily?) measurements of TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) of the station.

    MrOH likes this.
  3. kkleu357

    kkleu357 Crusader (785) Apr 2, 2014 Wisconsin

    I would say the hop presence. We brewed both a German Pilsner and an IPA using distilled water and I think the perceived bitterness was lower than we wanted. Might be as easy as just adding more early addition hops.

    I've also heard that brewing with distilled water is not ideal, but not sure if that means brewing with it, without adding brewing salts.
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,659) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You mean distilled water with added mineral salts, right?
    Or you could try building your brewing water in a differing manner (maybe more sulfate?)? Your choice here.
    FWIW that is how I understood it. I have never heard that using distilled water with salts is 'bad'.

    The other aspect to keep in mind is that malt will add minerals to the mix as well if you are an all grain brewer.

    If you ever brew extract batches using distilled water without mineral additions is OK (and maybe even preferred) since the extracts contain minerals from the extract production process.

  5. kkleu357

    kkleu357 Crusader (785) Apr 2, 2014 Wisconsin

  6. Supergenious

    Supergenious Disciple (381) May 9, 2011 Michigan

    You’re not going to notice a difference between distilled and RO. For brewing purposes, they are the essentially the same thing. If something seems off in your recent batches, then l would look elsewhere. Good luck.
    warchez, billandsuz, Soneast and 2 others like this.
  7. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,911) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    I started buying water because my well water has started coming in high in iron. One of the stores in my area does RO water refills, so I got a 5 gallon jug (I do 2.5 gallon batches, typically). However, they had closed down the refill station due to COVID concerns (incongruously, now that COVID is actually impacting my area, they started allowing refills again). While it was closed down, I switched to distilled. I see no differences in my brewing. As suggested by Jack, I treat each as though they are blank slates and add brewing salts.
  8. wasatchback

    wasatchback Disciple (372) Jan 12, 2014 Bahamas

    How bad is your water? Ever had it tested?

    There are a few methods where you can reduce alkalinity at home, preboiling and treating with slaked lime. My well water is horrific but I can manipulate it to produce pretty darn good beer. It’s a bit of a pain and I tend to use RO or blend in RO but it can be done successfully.

    My water is 650+ TDS, 249ish Alkalinity for reference
  9. Ten_SeventySix_Brewhouse

    Ten_SeventySix_Brewhouse Initiate (161) Jul 20, 2016 Indiana

    Kroger stores here have allowed me to refill mine through this entire pandemic. Meijer did not, at least early on, so I haven’t been back since. Shame, because I do like shopping there. Maybe just try different grocery stores?
  10. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (547) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Chlorinating your well water will cause the iron to precipitate out; then you can dechlorinate. This is what Ommegang does with their well water. Their dechlorination is probably pretty sophisticated but metabisulfite should work for homebrewing. Yes, iron chlorides are water soluble but bleach or other chlorination raise the pH enough to make them insoluble. Pour the treated water off the sediment and dechlorinate. Shocking your well with bleach may hold the iron down for awhile.
  11. barleyhead

    barleyhead Initiate (101) Jun 5, 2008 New Jersey

    You may want to test the distilled water to get a profile and make adjustments to the salts. Could be a quality issue or it isn't totally distilled?

    I use a LaMotte BrewLab test kit for water testing. This way I know what I'm starting with.
    Plug the numbers into a water chemistry spreadsheet like EZ_Water or Bruin Water and make salt adjustments.

    I also purchased a 6-stage RO filter system and was one of the best investments resulting in a great improvement in my brews. The filter stages are:
    Sediment -> ground activated carbon -> coconut carbon -> RO membrane -> Alkaline filter -> granular activated carbon -> brew kettle.
    The Alkaline adds mineral and brings the pH up to around 8 if I recall correctly. Sometimes I bypass the last two stages if I want pure RO.

    I hope you figure it out.
  12. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,911) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    I had my well treated my well (aka shocked) a year and a half ago, but the iron crept up pretty quickly. For brewing, I'll continue to buy water, but really need to come up with a whole household solution. I have let it slide too long.
  13. beershrine

    beershrine Aspirant (244) May 29, 2004 California

    Invest in a under counter Ro system in your kitchen. Under $200 online. It will solve your problem long term. You might need some pre-filters depending on your water quality.
    pweis909 and hopfenunmaltz like this.