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Water test results (long play edition)

So, after spending some time online reading Palmer’s How to Brew water section and discussing the topic on homebrewtalk.com, I know more, but the waters are just as muddied.

Ward Labs brewers' water test results

Ward Labs brewers’ water test results

If I could rely on my well water not fluctuating much, it appears my issues are mostly aligned with the high alkalinity (144 ppm) shown in my report from Ward Labs. Overall, the ionic content in my water is not very high, which is a good thing. It’s relatively soft, and therefore I could brew beers known for their soft water profiles (like a Pils) with just a little modification. And for hoppier ales, adding compounds like gypsum could help my hops “pop” more. However, the alkalinity fights everything. High alkalinity is not good for brewing.

Given the feedback I’ve received so far, along with what I’ve read, the most foolproof way to avoid these issues is to use Reverse Osmosis water for all my brewing. RO water is highly filtered, (as opposed to distilled water, which is collected from the vapor of boiling water), and basically starts one off at zero. For compounds helpful to brewing, one would need to add those to the RO water. Denny Conn was kind enough to point me to Bru’n Water, where I found helpful info as well as a great Excel spreadsheet in which I can enter all my water report data, and it then make adjustments (diluting with distilled or RO water, adding compounds, etc) to achieve desired profiles provided.

If I choose to use my well water, with the info from my water report, I can attack the high alkalinity issue with acid. Adding Lactic or Phosphoric acid to my brewing water can help lower the alkalinity greatly. This is also in the spreadsheet, so it’s results are calculated, shown me what that acid addition would do to all my water numbers. Another method would be to use a percentage of RO (or distilled) water when brewing, thus cutting down the alkalinity as well as the ionic content, some of which would need to be built back up with other compound additions. The third way is to go with all RO water, and build up my profile with compound additions.

I was thinking about the first option, using my water and modifying with phosphoric acid and adding gypsum. However, as someone pointed out, their well water fluctuates quite a bit, and my Ward Labs water report results may differ week to week. This would require getting a water testing kit like this, or just going all RO water.

I was hoping to avoid having to buy water every time I brew, but the RO option may make the most sense, and would be the most consistent. It appears I can go to my local Walmart and fill 5 gallon bottles at a “Primo” water system, which is supposedly RO water. I will need to visit the Walmart to see if they in fact have these, and stock the 5 gallon jugs. If so, I can fill two 5-gallon jugs for around $5. I typically use about 9-10 gallons per brew (losing 1.5 gallons to absorption, a gallon plus boils off, and then more is lost to sediment in the fermenter). Likely less hassle than constantly worrying about my water profile fluctuating and having to buy a test kit  which costs over $100.

So like I said at the beginning of this post, I’ve learned a lot… but muddied the waters at the same time.

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2 comments on “Water test results (long play edition)

    • yeah, I’ve looked at some systems too. Of course, in this household, changing the kitchen faucet is an aesthetic thing to the boss, which we did last year. I honestly would like a sink in the basement, so maybe I could put one in down there. 😉

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