Friday, February 20, 2015

Water Adjustment: What and Where

Before I start about water I want to say that I use the Bru'n Water spreadsheet and the Brewer's Friend mash and water calculator for all my water adjustments. This gives me some piece of mind that I'm not blindly following one suggestion without considering other options. It's also rather pointless to treat your water with salts without knowing what you're starting with so look up your cities water report or send a sample in to have tested independently.


Water is usually the last aspect of brewing tackled by most home brewers and that is the case for me as well. I'm going to start this blog by talking about water because it's the most recent aspect I've learned and therefore the freshest in my mind.It's also the first ingredient you deal with when making beer and the ingredient that makes up the majority of your beer. I won't go over everything in this post because there is just to much and frankly I don't know everything. I'll start with an applied overview that is a very important base to understanding the rest of water treatments. This will also allow someone to think about how to treat the water for themselves rather than just mimicking what someone else has done or says needs to be done.

All Water Pre-Treatment:

The first step in treating your brewing water, whether you're going to utilize salts to mimic a historic region's brewing water, is to rid your water of Chlorine and Chloramine. You can get rid of chlorine by boiling your water or letting it sit overnight but this will not get rid of Chloramine. The easiest way to eliminate both from your water  is to drop one Campden tablet in per 20 gallons of water.

If you are brewing a pale beer you may also want to consider treating all your water to remove carbonate/bicarbonate to hit your target pH and residual alkalinity or RA. You can use lactic acid, hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid. Any of these will be a good choice but Hydrochloric acid may be hard to find and lactic acid can change the flavor of your beer if using more than a few mLs / gal. I use phosphoric acid because it's easy to find and doesn't affect the flavor or your beer. For more information on this see Gordon Strong's Brewing Better Beer. I like to adjust all my brewing water down to a pH of 5.5 when brewing a pale ale and below a pH of 6 for all beers so I'm not extracting tannins from the grain during sparge. My water is high in Alkalinity so I treat it with 120 mLs of a 10% solution of phosphoric acid per 9 gallons of water. This eliminates the carbonates in my waer and brings the pH into range. You would't want to do this step for all your water if you're brewing a dark beer because dark grains assist in lowering mash pH.

The Mash:

You should treat the mash for the amount of water going into the mash and take into account any acidulated malts the will affect the pH and RA of your mash. Using Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum) and Calcium Chloride will drive the pH down while Calcium Carbonate will drive the pH up and add to hardness. A little off topic for this post but your goal when adding salts, besides adjusting the RA and pH should also be to have a specific Sulfate to Chloride ratio because this is more important to the resulting taste of the beer than nailing the 800ppm Sulfate of historic Burton on Trent water.

The Kettle:

You should subtract the amount of treated mash water from your total pre-boil volume and calculate kettle additions based on the difference. The reason for this is because you've already treated the 3-4 gallons of the mash water now you only have to worry about the additional 3-4 gallons matching the water profile for the type of beer you want to brew. This will give you a matching water profile to the region you're trying to mimic.