Major Water Adjustments in Home Brewing

Making a good beer is more than just boiling the grains and adding the hops. There are so many options and variables you can do that will make a great difference to the taste. Not to mention that will improve your beer every single time. One of those important things is the quality of the water we use for brewing. We have already discussed the easy and simple steps you can make to improve your water quality. Now we are going a little deeper. After a simple process of filtering your water from chlorine, we are planning to make it so much better.

Water adjustments are not something that should be taken easily. Any adjustment done to the water for brewing should be taken seriously and with care. If you are doing it for the first time we strongly suggest dealing with a small amount of beer first to check the final taste. Later is easy to calculate on a bigger scale.

Glass of beer and Glass of Water
Credit: https://www.brewer-world.com/the-importance-of-water-quality-management-in-brewing-beer/

Its All About the Ions

Once you have obtained your area’s water report, it’s about time to read it. For home brewers that don’t really like chemistry, we have got you covered. We are looking at the mineral content of the water and we will give you some basic ranges for you to make a comparison.

ElementMin PPMMax PPM
Calcium (Ca)50150
Magnesium (Mg)1030
Sodium (Na)0150
Carbonate (CO3)0250
Bicarbonate (HCO3)0250
Sulfate (SO4)50350
Chloride (Cl)0250
Breakdown of desired ranges for good quality brewing water.

Calcium and Magnesium in your water

Higher calcium levels in your water mean the water for brewing will be harder. Calcium plays an important part in the fermentation process. It is one of the nutrients that yeast will be feeding on. So it is very important that levels of calcium are under control.

Magnesium is also vital in creating a great beer. If your water is lacking this element you can easily add it by using Epsom Salt. Just make sure to review our list and not add too much. Then your beer will get a sour and bitter taste. So please be careful.

Carbonates and Bicarbonates

Glass of drinking water
Credit: http://www.severyanka.org/hydrogen-carbonates-in-drinking-water/

Recommended water levels vary on the type of beer you are planning to brew. So you need to take it into consideration. They promote a round, malty taste in beer. If you are brewing dark beer levels will be higher, If you desire a light beer need to make sure they are under control.

Sulfate and Chloride

Sulfates can add to that crispy and dry taste to the beer. Since they are alkaline they can be used in small amounts to reduce the acidity of the mash. But if the amount of sulfates is too high your beer will get the smell of rotten eggs.

Chloride has been used for a very long time in the brewing process. Brewers like to add it to contribute and boost the creaminess of the beer. It can enhance the beer character and that is why it’s an all-time favorite. Good proportions of both chloride and sulfate can create an amazing balance in your beer.

Good to know about water adjustments

Before you do anything to your water, taste your beer. What is it missing? What type of flavor do you wish to enhance? After asking yourself these questions think about what kind of beer you want to make. Any future adjustments will depend on the other ingredients of the beer. Are you using all grains? What kind of malt are you planning for the next batch? Each type of beer requires different adjustments to be made prior to brewing.

Another thing you need to be aware of. Trying to recreate some of the most famous beers in the world has a hidden secret. Their brewers also have adjusted the water prior to brewing. So it’s not going to be enough to get your water to resemble German to get a great beer. You need to consider that the art of water filtration and purification has been a long one. Breweries have a long tradition with water manipulations and they don’t make it simple and easy for others to do the same. So here is some advice from us.

  • Start small and simple. Check what you want to enhance and do it one by one.
  • Always check the desired range of the PPM you are trying to obtain. Any additions to the water need to be made little by little.
  • Be ready to for mistakes. This is a normal learning process. Learn from them.
  • It will take you time and experience but the overall result will be amazing.

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