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Brewing with hard water

Started by Rathbaner, October 07, 2021, 04:57:54 PM

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Rathbaner

I took up all grain brewing as a hobby a few years ago because I really liked my well water, my well is over 100ft deep, and I thought, hmmmmm, add some malt, hops and yeast to it and it will improve immensely.

But I was wrong. The beer was palatable, but nothing you'd choose over commercial beer. I tried lots of things and, eventually, I got the water tested and it turned out that to make passable beer I'd have to add a range of chemical compounds to remove much of the natural minerals that were there in huge quantities.

I tried that for a bit but it felt bad adding chemicals, and the beer wasn't blowing my socks off either.

SO

I bought a sealed water butt and it collected rain off the roof of a shed. I boiled the rainwater I gathered and I mixed it with my well water and immediately the beer improved. As I mucked around with the ratio of rainwater to well water I struck gold; I found a ratio that allowed me to hit a mash pH of 5.4 straight off the bat every time and really improved the quality of my beer, so that now it's now superior to anything I can buy in the pub or from local craft breweries.

If you're in a hard water area (look at the inside of your kettle), and you're not excited by the quality of your beer, despite paying attention to all the details, then maybe muck around with adding some boiled rainwater to your tap water, I did brews at ratios of 1:1, 1:2, 1:3 & 1:4 until I found what I was looking for.

The added amazing thing, apart from the quality of the beer, is that little experiments I had tried previously but turned out meh! are now paying off with the various improvements I have read about.

Give it a lash folks.

DEMPSEY

Sounds very good. I like what you are doing there. I suggested this once about using rain water and got me head nearly knocked off me by dem that was around me, millennials mostly was they. Getting the mineral content right for each beer style helps to go along way to making a good beer. Where are you based.
Dei miscendarum discipulus
Forgive us our Hangovers as we forgive those who hangover against us

Rathbaner

I'm on the north Mayo coast. There's plenty of rain.

CH

I'm also on a well and getting water tested for brewing was the best thing i ever did.
I'm on soft water with a ph of 5.7 yeah i typed that correctly!
the easiest thing to do is plug your profile into beersmith and mod it that way.
I add tiny grms of ingredients to get my target numbers, avoid the tubs of ph corrector! It was an eye opener as to the difference it made to my ales.

One thing please please please never use rainwater in brewing collected off a roof.
Apart from the bird shit and impurities collected between the sky and your barrel, there are ingredients in PVC gutters that will kill you, older pvc gutters used lead, newer ones have stabilisers which are just not human friendly.
"Ah but shure its never in contact long enough" What happens is these migrate to the surface over time, then the concentrate in pools in your gutters and that concentrate is washed in on the next downpour.

GalwayBIAB

Hi CH,
Mind you tell us where you got your water tested? I'd like to get mine tested.

Thanks!

johnrm

Email Neil here...
enquiries
at
phoenix-analytical.co.uk

(simple anti-spam measures taken)

Neil does (used to) do analysis monthly.


CH

Thanks John just seeing this now.
Fingers crossed Brexit hasn't fecked it!

lkeoghs

Quote from: johnrm on January 27, 2022, 09:16:47 AMEmail Neil here...
enquiries
at
phoenix-analytical.co.uk

(simple anti-spam measures taken)

Neil does (used to) do analysis monthly.



How do you get the water to him? I had bought the Murphy/BrewUK test one time before and couldn't get any company to ship a liquid to Britain.

I ended up getting ALS to do mine, it's very hard (117 bicarbonates) so I can only brew dark stuff with any sort of success.

phildo79


I ended up getting ALS to do mine, it's very hard (117 bicarbonates) so I can only brew dark stuff with any sort of success.
[/quote]
Sounds like you need an RO system to remove the bicarbonate. Unless there is another way that I am not familiar with? I have a bicarbonate (HC03) value of about 100 but I don't have an RO system. I haven't had any real issues brewing the likes of pale ales and IPA's. Although perhaps if I was able to reduce the HC03, they would be a lot nicer.

lkeoghs

Quote from: phildo79 on February 08, 2022, 09:29:55 AMSounds like you need an RO system to remove the bicarbonate. Unless there is another way that I am not familiar with? I have a bicarbonate (HC03) value of about 100 but I don't have an RO system. I haven't had any real issues brewing the likes of pale ales and IPA's. Although perhaps if I was able to reduce the HC03, they would be a lot nicer.

I'm on a private well so an RO system isn't an option. I've already burnt out one motor already. I had heard of pet shops doing RO but I had no success getting any.
I don't mind too much anyway, just have to muck on with what I have and make the best of it with dark stuff, though I would definitely buy it if we were set up like the US and it was widely available. My light coloured ales are always just thin, hard, and "off".

phildo79

Quote from: lkeoghs on February 08, 2022, 10:19:07 AM
Quote from: phildo79 on February 08, 2022, 09:29:55 AMSounds like you need an RO system to remove the bicarbonate. Unless there is another way that I am not familiar with? I have a bicarbonate (HC03) value of about 100 but I don't have an RO system. I haven't had any real issues brewing the likes of pale ales and IPA's. Although perhaps if I was able to reduce the HC03, they would be a lot nicer.

I'm on a private well so an RO system isn't an option. I've already burnt out one motor already. I had heard of pet shops doing RO but I had no success getting any.
I don't mind too much anyway, just have to muck on with what I have and make the best of it with dark stuff, though I would definitely buy it if we were set up like the US and it was widely available. My light coloured ales are always just thin, hard, and "off".
You can get them online but as someone with no experience of them, it seems like a bit of a minefield. I do the odd swap with a fella that has one. Says it only cost him £50 and does the job rightly.

Adding lactic acid seems to reduce bicarbonate, according to Brewer's Friend water calculator. But you need to be careful. It can impart an unpleasant flavour in large quantities. I have read a maximum of 0.3 ml/L should be used. I would really do my research on lactic acid before using it. You could easily end up with too low a pH.

lkeoghs

Quote from: phildo79 on February 08, 2022, 10:43:57 AM
Quote from: lkeoghs on February 08, 2022, 10:19:07 AM
Quote from: phildo79 on February 08, 2022, 09:29:55 AMSounds like you need an RO system to remove the bicarbonate. Unless there is another way that I am not familiar with? I have a bicarbonate (HC03) value of about 100 but I don't have an RO system. I haven't had any real issues brewing the likes of pale ales and IPA's. Although perhaps if I was able to reduce the HC03, they would be a lot nicer.

I'm on a private well so an RO system isn't an option. I've already burnt out one motor already. I had heard of pet shops doing RO but I had no success getting any.
I don't mind too much anyway, just have to muck on with what I have and make the best of it with dark stuff, though I would definitely buy it if we were set up like the US and it was widely available. My light coloured ales are always just thin, hard, and "off".
You can get them online but as someone with no experience of them, it seems like a bit of a minefield. I do the odd swap with a fella that has one. Says it only cost him £50 and does the job rightly.

Adding lactic acid seems to reduce bicarbonate, according to Brewer's Friend water calculator. But you need to be careful. It can impart an unpleasant flavour in large quantities. I have read a maximum of 0.3 ml/L should be used. I would really do my research on lactic acid before using it. You could easily end up with too low a pH.

I have an RO filter setup from my days of living on mains water but it's sitting redundant now beside the well pump that I burnt out in the garage. There's the waste to consider too - it's fine putting 180 or so litres of waste water down the public sewer for a 30 litre fill, but not what you want going into your own septic tank. They're not really an option in the sticks.

I'd adjust all brews with lactic and be getting a ph of around 5.3-5.4, I'd say 6ml is as much as I've ever had to put in a 23l batch and that's good enough to get me to 'meh' levels on a pale beer but it's stuff I'm happy to drink. Some styles like pilsners I wouldn't waste my time even attempting though with 117 bicarbonates as you can't mask with hops or body.

Tom

Quote from: lkeoghs on February 08, 2022, 10:19:07 AMI'm on a private well so an RO system isn't an option. I've already burnt out one motor already. I had heard of pet shops doing RO but I had no success getting any.
I don't mind too much anyway, just have to muck on with what I have and make the best of it with dark stuff, ... My light coloured ales are always just thin, hard, and "off".

117 alkalinity is not terribly high, really (CH's water is the DREAM though). CRS (carbonate reducing solution) reduces the alkalinity whilst adding some sulphates and chlorides (a known quantity per ml) so would help you brew everything shy of pilsners. For that, use sulphuric acid. Again, that reduces alkalinity by a known quantity and at your low levels, won't knock out your calcium.

There's calculations for all of this, all you need is to know what they are, a decent calculator, and decent scales. Drop me a PM and I'll walk you through getting your water up to scratch for a lighter beer, from a rice adjunct lager to a rich red ale. Or put it up here and everyone can workshop it.

lkeoghs

I do add some additions but I'm only really starting to delve deeper into the calculators now and it's a bit of a minefield as they're all so different. Like for example on Brewfather for a brew recently it calculated additions and a mash ph of 5.3. If I put the identical source and target profiles and my additions into brewersfriend it throws me back a mash ph of 4.8 (the former was closest as I ended up measuring 5.4). For my next brew Brewfather calls for 6.8ml of lactic in the mash but brun'water says 4.1ml will do, so I'll probably lean toward the former again.
The biggest issue is me though as I haven't done chemistry since junior cert so I don't really understand what's happening or why it's happening. The real goal would be not to rely on an auto calculator at all.
I'm doing a few additional things lately to try and counter the hardness though (removing WP hops completely  before chilling, reducing my sparge water  by 0.5ph and 10°C, and aiming very low on the bu/gu scale so the astringency can just be some of the bitterness) so I'm waiting to see what the results are with a couple of light coloured beers.