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The Basics

If the water is fit to drink it is probably suitable for brewing. But if you are trying to duplicate certain styles you will have make to some adjustments.

Chlorine

For all brewing it is best to remove as much chlorine as possible. Once in solution, chlorine may be present as chloride ions or hypochlorous acid. Chlorine will react with other compounds in the wort to form chlorophenols. If the chlorine in your water exists as free chlorine, you may boil the water. You can also let it sit in an uncovered container for at least 24 hours or you may use a carbon filter. Unfortunately, a lot water treatment plants now use a process called chloramination in which ammonia and chlorine are added to the water to produce chloramines. Chloramines are longer lasting than chlorine and may react with components in your beer much like chlorophenols. If your water is chloraminated, you will need a carbon filter to remove the chloramines because boiling does not work well.

Hardness

Hardness is a measure of the cations (positively charged ions) dissolved in the water. These are usually calcium and magnesium. The anion (negatively charged ions) associated with these cations determines if the hardness is permanent or temporary. If the anion is a bicarbonate, the hardness is temporary and can be removed. Boil the water and allow it to cool. If the predominant anion in your water is sulfate, the hardness is permanent and cannot be removed by boiling. If the calcium level is less than 100 ppm and the magnesium level is less than 30 ppm, you are okay. If calcium and/or magnesium levels are high, you may want to consider diluting your water with deionized or distilled water.

Water pH

pH is a numerical measurement of acidity or alkalinity determined by the presence of hydrogen ions. This scale runs from 0 to 14, with 0 the most acidic and 14 the most basic or alkaline. To optimize enzyme activity and reduce extraction of husk tannins, a pH of 5.2 to 5.4 is recommended.

Homebrewing Water Treatment

Boiling - Bring water to a boil. Allow to cool and decant water off sediment. Removes bicarbonates and free chlorine.

Charcoal filter - Slowly run water through a activated charcoal filter. Removes organic impurites and free chlorine.

Standing - Allow water to stand uncovered for at least 24 hours. Only removes free chlorine.

Adjustment - Add specific acids and salts to alter water composition. To adjust pH to optimize the mash or to mimic the water of some other geographical location to reproduce a particular style of beer. pH may be adjusted directly by adding acid. Phosphoric and lactic acids are most commonly used.

Common Water Profiles for Brewing Regions and Some Common Styles

By RegionCa++Mg++Na+HCO3- -SO4- -Cl -
Burton268623014163836
London90424123588
Edinburgh140369227023160
Dortmund225406018012060
Dublin521699156771
Munich75182150102
Pilsen72215 55
Yorkshire10517231536630
Vienna20060812012512
 
By StyleCa++Mg++Na+HCO3- -SO4- -Cl -
Pale Ale11018176035050
Mild Ale751235100120100
Stout/Porter50126015046175
Pale Lager2252455515
Dark Lager51235100120100

 

Common Salts For Homebrewing Water Adjustments

 1 gram per gallon adds
___________________
Salt
Name
Common
Name
cations
in ppm
anions
in ppm
calcium sulfalegypsum55 Ca++132 SO4- -
calcium carbanatechalk105 Ca++158 CO3- -
calcium chloride71 Ca++126 Cl -
magnesium sulfateEpsom salts26 Mg++103 SO4- -
non-iodized saltnon-iodized
table salt
103 Na+160 Cl -

Ground Water Hardness as CaCO3

Over 350Very Hard
240-349Hard
180-230Moderately Hard
120-179Slightly Hard
60-119Soft
Under 60Very Soft

Water hardness is a common measurement of mineral levels in the water supply, expressed as parts-per-million CaCO3.

Temporary hardness is determined by the concentration of carbonate and bicarbonate. The hardness that carbonate and bicarbonate ions contribute is temporary because carbonate and bicarbonate are precipitated when water is boiled.

Permanent hardness is determined by the amount of calcium and magnesium ions present in the water.


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