Water Help

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by DeutschesBier, Mar 21, 2012.

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  1. DeutschesBier

    DeutschesBier Devotee (465) Feb 8, 2009 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    I obviously know that everyone probably gets sick of water-related questions polluting the forum, but that's not going to stop me. Some people get it right away. Unfortunately, some of us (me!) need to have their hand held.

    I really want to focus on my water chemistry. I got a water report, and by all accounts it seems terrible for brewing (unless I make beers with a lot of Crystal and/or Roasted malts). My town's water report also sucks (they don't even test for Mg), so it is difficult to use online calculators. The water profile is as follows (ppm):


    Ca: 7.7
    Mg: N/A
    Na: 170
    Cl: 13.5
    Sulfates: 12
    Alkalinity: 437

    I want to brew a Roggenbier. The recipe is 5lbs Rye, 4lbs Munich, 2 lbs 2-row, 0.25lb Caramel Wheat, 0.25lb Chocolate Wheat

    Do you have any recommendations as to how I should adjust my water? Using online calculators, it seems like I'd have to add a bunch of additions in order to get my pH down. Should I use some Acidulated Malt?

    I also saw a thread on a different site, where it recommended using 100% RO water, with nothing but a Calcium Chloride addition. This seems easy to me, but I also don't want to get into the habit of buying 9+ gallons of RO water every time I want to brew.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Please keep in mind that when it comes to anything Chemistry-related, I am, in fact, and idiot.

  2. cracker

    cracker Disciple (300) May 2, 2004 Pennsylvania

    That's pretty crappy water. Not to mention the sodium level is creeping up there. You could use it but you'd have to add some acid to the mash (phosphoric or lactic acid). Another option is to cut it with some RO water and add calcium sulfate and/or calcium chloride (which one and how much depends on the beer style). You need to use an online water calculator to know exact amounts.
  3. DeutschesBier

    DeutschesBier Devotee (465) Feb 8, 2009 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    I've used the EZ Water Calculator that a bunch of people seem to use. If I cut the mash water with 50% RO water (2.25 gallons tap, 2.25 of RO), then I need to do the following to get the pH and all of the other stuff in line:

    Use 5 oz of Acidulated Malt (2.7% of total weight)
    Add 3 grams of Gypsum (CaSO4)
    Add 5 grams of Calc. Chloride (CaCl2)
    Add 3.5 grams of Epsom Salt (MgSO4)

    Doing that gives me an estimated Room-Temp Mash pH of 5.44.

    With the additions (ppm):
    Ca: 69
    Mg: 10 (assuming no Magnesium in my water, which is not tested for Mg)
    Na: 125
    Cl: 85
    SO4: 103

    Do any of these jump out in the wrong way for a Roggenbier?

    Also, should I cut my sparge water and treat that the same way? On the brewing calculator, I just adjusted the Mash water.
  4. cracker

    cracker Disciple (300) May 2, 2004 Pennsylvania

    I'd be careful with epsom. I've never found the need to add it. Your water likely has Mg in it already.

    I've never brewed a roggenbier so keep that in mind. Other than the espom (which I would not add), it seems reasonable to me. If you are batch sparging, there is really no need to treat the sparge water IMO.
  5. DeutschesBier

    DeutschesBier Devotee (465) Feb 8, 2009 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    Thanks for the help! I am batch sparging.

    There is too much out there on the proper water profile for a Roggenbier, so I've been sort of flying blind. The EZ Water Calculator doesn't have a "Base Malt - Rye" option, either.

    I figure that even if it isn't perfect, it should still be a million times better than if I just used 100% tap water like I have for all my other beers!
  6. aficionado

    aficionado Initiate (0) Jan 6, 2011 New Jersey

    Whoa sodium and alkalinity! You got some mild ocean water coming out of your tap. I would either dilute this with distilled water, or use a different water altogether before making amendments. Afterward, get yourself some calcium chloride and calcium sulfate. Since your hardness is currently 28, and your calcium is only 7.7ppm, this suggests your magnesium levels are definitely below 20ppm. If diluted, you may want to look into boosting the mag as well.

    Palmer suggests the following ranges for Ca, Mg, SO4 and Cl in brewing water [Palmer, 2005]:

    Calcium: 50 - 150 ppm
    Magnesium: 10 - 30 ppm (high levels taste sour/bitter)
    Sulfate: 50 - 150 ppm (accentuates hop bitterness, but high concentrations
    Chloride: 0 - 250 ppm (concentrations should generally be limited to less than 100 ppm)

    Sodium should be like 10-15ppm... not well beyond 100ppm.
  7. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,263) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    That looks like they soften the water, I have never seen ground water with that high of alkalinity, low/no Ca and Mg, and high sodium. You are correct that the water is not very good for brewing.
  8. aficionado

    aficionado Initiate (0) Jan 6, 2011 New Jersey

    Also, I did not see 12 ppm sulfates on the attached report, however I did see sulfides 20 ppb (billion).

    Here are a few important topics discussed in that report:

    Should our water be softened?

    Water hardness is a measure of calcium
    and magnesium in water. Easton’s water
    is less than 50 ppm and is considered
    soft. The most dramatic effect of soft
    water is that it lathers easily. If you are
    considering additional water treatment,
    softening should not be necessary.

    What about sodium levels?

    There is no known health impact from the
    ingestion of sodium. However, many people
    are given sodium-restricted diets. If
    you are on a sodium-restricted diet,
    please advise your physician that the
    water supply in Easton has a sodium
    content exceeding 20 parts per million.

    Of the contaminants detected, none are at levels that exceed EPA standards and only one exceeds EPA goals.
  9. cracker

    cracker Disciple (300) May 2, 2004 Pennsylvania

    Also after looking at the report more closely they give a wide range for many of the minerals. Personally if you really want to know what's in your water take a sample from your tap and send it to Ward lab.
    You want W-6 Household Mineral test. I've used them twice and after both times being nearly identical have not tested it again.
  10. DeutschesBier

    DeutschesBier Devotee (465) Feb 8, 2009 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    I contacted them directly and asked about Magnesium and Sulfates. No tests for Mg, and Sulfates were 12 mg/l, which I understand is interchangeable with ppm.

    Is that correct?
  11. DeutschesBier

    DeutschesBier Devotee (465) Feb 8, 2009 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    Thank you for that link. That seems like money well spent. I will certainly be doing that.
  12. Tebuken

    Tebuken Disciple (324) Jun 6, 2009 Argentina

    You have a water similar to mine but mine has 400ppm of Na,so i was doomed to by a RO water system.Besides the using it for brewing we use it to ´make´ our drinkable home water.
    To simplify things i just use 70 % RO water 30 % tap water for pale beers plus 6 grams cacl2, 4 grams gypsum, 1 gram Epsom salt for 13 gals total water for brewing 5 gals of beer.For pilsens 90% RO water 10% tap water plus the same salts amount as for pales.For weizens 50% -50% without salts addition and for dark beers 35% RO water 65% tap without salts addition.I always(even for dark beers) need to add something around 4 - 5 % of acid malt in my grain bill, otherwise Ph of mash doesn`t go any lower than 5,8.Maybe this problem could be due to live close to the shores.
  13. bulletrain76

    bulletrain76 Zealot (579) Nov 6, 2007 California

    I would get some RO (cheap and easy to get from the store) and then just add CaCl to get at least 50ppm of calcium in your water. You don't need any sulphate for the style, so gypsum isn't needed. Calcium is really all you need, but you can't get it alone, so chloride is the best option as it will round out the flavor and add some fullness. I'm a fan of using the softest water possible and very selectively adding minerals to achieve specific goals. For any beer, the 50ppm calcium base is where I would recommend starting, as it works out to about 80ppm in your mash (grains will add about 30ppm) which is sufficient to optimize enzyme performance and then break formation in the boil and beer stone precipitation.
  14. DeutschesBier

    DeutschesBier Devotee (465) Feb 8, 2009 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    Yep. I live in between the Bay and the Ocean. That'll do it.
  15. DeutschesBier

    DeutschesBier Devotee (465) Feb 8, 2009 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    That sounds like it might be the best way for me this time. I mentioned seeing this method on another site (homebrewtalk), but I wanted to see what everyone thought.
  16. aficionado

    aficionado Initiate (0) Jan 6, 2011 New Jersey

    Sea water is slightly alkaline and high in sodium chloride, but your high alkalinity is not because of NaCl since sea salt has no effect on alkalinity. However, bicarbonate or HC03, can drastically raise alkalinity.
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