Water Analyses and Treatment

(That's water to the rest of us!) Beer is about 95% water, so if you want to discuss water treatment, filtering etc this is the place to do it!
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Carnot
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Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Carnot » Mon Oct 30, 2017 5:02 pm

I have been reading some of the topics on water treatment which has raised a few questions. Understanding water analyses is an art in itself and it is littered with a myriad of traps to the uninitiated.

I have been reading many of the postings and ask myself, " Why make it so complicated?" I accept that the Burton water makes very good pale ale, due mainly to the calcium and sulphate loadings. I accept that certain locations have soft water which is not ideal for brewing beers.Then I read about the use of RO water in the hope of making a "purer" brew liquor with the aid of a Salifert test kit, a low end pH meter, and a bag or two of calcium sulphate, some hydrochrloric acid and some sulphuric acid; hopefully food grade.

Sorry if I sound a bit cynical. An elderly lady down the road went down the same path with water for orchids. Armed with a conductivity meter she set about making the the perfect blend for orchids when all she needed to do was capture some rainwater. Did the brewers in Burton break out the RO plant to produce the best water. No they used what they had. Does the local brewery near to where I live ( Hog's Back Brewery) have an RO plant and pratt abut with adding back salts to the brew liquor. No . Neither did the Bass brewery in Alton, which made a mighty fine ale or two. There might be some adjustment to the salt levels but that is about it.

I have reservations about RO treatment as it will produce a water that is lifeless, highly unbuffered and quite awful to drink. If you must use RO water then think about blending it with the water that you already have. I can think of only few areas where an RO plant might be required. Certainly not in areas of soft water which would nearly always require the addition of calcium and sulphate.

I do not know how qualified many of the forum members are on water treatment, but it is riddled with potential traps. How is the test analysis presented. In many areas of water treatment the results are presented as ppm (mg/L) CaCO3. Water companies tend to report the individual ions in mg/. Follow this link to the water from the Hog's Back reservoir which feeds my house and the Hog's Back Brewery.

http://www.southeastwater.co.uk/media/1 ... gsback.pdf

The salient points in this analysis are - ions reported as mg/L on particular ion.

pH 7.3
Calcium 90
Magnesium 3.8
Sodium 40
Chloride 45
Sulphate 38

No alkalinity determination was given. The actual M Alkalinity is about 180 ppm CaC03, and because of the pH the alkalinity will be almost exclusively bicarbonate, which will provide some buffering to the water. If you wish to measure the alkalinity or hardness then in my opinion the old fashioned burette and casserole is the best way to go. Sadly this equipment and the reagents are not easy to come by these days and drop tests and test strips have taken over. I am not a fan of this equipment as these methods are prone to errors, sometimes big errors. Hardness testing uses 0.02N EDTA solution and alkalinity 0.02N sulphuric acid with the time honoured wet methods..

It is worth mentioning that pH has a temperature dependency. Therefore pH will change with temperature, which is influenced by the solubilities of the substances present and their respective dissociation constants. This is where it gets trickier. All acids are not equal. Strong acids like HCl and sulphuric acid are almost completely dissociated and will contribute strongly to the hydrogen ion concentration. Weak acids such as carbonic acid (effectively dissolved carbon dioxide) are only weakly dissociated. At low pH (4 ish) nearly all the CO2 will exist as gas. In water treatment this is a way of removing alkalinity- a dealkalisation plant using a weak base anion exchange resin to exchange the calcium for hydrogen ions followed by degassing of the CO2.

In the link below is a useful pdf file on alkalinity, produced by Nalco Chemical, a company that I worked for for 10 years. This is aimed at water preparation for industry, but the principles are applicable for brewing.

http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/Almutaz/Docum ... mistry.pdf

Where I would like to draw your attention is to Table 1 which lists pH vs hydrogen ion concentration as CaCO3. A rather unfortunate choice of reporting but easy to understand. At a pH of 4.3 the hydrogen ion concentration is 2-3 ppm CaCO3 or 0.04-0.06 ppm H+ The figure for pH of 3 is 41-50 or 0.82-1.0 respectively. (if using sulphuric acid the mg/L as sulphuric acid are nearly the same as CaCO3for the 96% acid). What does this mean? If you add HCl or sulphuric acid to your brew water then a very small amount can have a dramatic effect on pH, apart from being hazardous to handle. A safer acid that has a much weaker dissociation is phosphoric acid which is often used in the drinks industry (Cola). But as I said at the start I do not get too carried away with the subject. The CO2 liberated in the fermenter will buffer the pH. The mash water can be optimised in most cases with some gypsum, if you want the sulphate bitterness. Once you have a mash liquor with something like 10% sugars then pH determinations are not quite so easy. There will be a lot going on in such a solution and some measurements may not be quite what they seem, such as drifting pH.
Here is another link that goes into more detail on pH and dissociation constants

https://www.morebeer.com/articles/under ... in_brewing

I hope that this casts a little bit of light on the subject. My ethos on anything is "keep it simple". Do not make things unnecessarily complicated.

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Sadfield
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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Sadfield » Mon Oct 30, 2017 6:26 pm

I'm not an RO user, but one observation of this post is that it appears to be based on the assumption all brewers are UK based and brew classic British Ales of similar shades of brown. Also, I often see the argument that our domestic water supplies cannot be trusted to be consistent, and that Utility Company reports are of little use. So, can fully understand why brewers are directed down the RO route.

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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Aleman » Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:35 pm

KISS - Love it been advocating it since 2003

Measure the alkalinity of the brewing water using a salifert kit.
Adjust with either hydrochloric or sulphuric acids (NOT Phosphoric!) or a mix to a desired range for the beer you are brewing (Pale ales ~20, stouts up to 120)
Add up to 100mg/l calcium either as calcium sulphate or calcium chloride or a mix to bias the flavour balance where you want it.

Job done, no need to measure pH or complicate it by thinking about dissociation constants etc. 2M and 1M acids are not particularly hazardous to handle . . . much less so that 75% phosphoric for example. Some areas have exceptionally high alkalinity levels where acid treatment on it's own may lead to inappropriately high chloride or sulphate levels . . . pre treat with slaked lime . . .or (and I personally dislike this) dilute with water of a known lower alkalinity. I really dislike the US approach of staring with RO and building up a profile, it's a silly idea based around the concept that too many minerals in the water produces poor quality beer.

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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Kev888 » Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:44 pm

Indeed; the reality is that it needn't be particularly complicated to achieve decent brewing liquor for most UK brewers and British styles.

There are some international differences in opinion on how to go about water treatment, and what goals to aim for. A lot of opinion and technique seen on forums is from over in the US, propagated here through the net and people's dependence on software without necessarily understanding the different context. There are also various enthusiasts who go into greater depth than many normal home brewers would ever wish to or need to.
Kev

Carnot
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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Carnot » Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:00 pm

Essentially I concur with all the views. My comments might be biased towards the UK waters and beer types but in essence the potable water supply in Europe and North America are broadly similar i.e it is potable and complies with drinking water standards (in the main). Where surface water come into contact with dolomite, gypsum and carbonate rock it will pickup Calcium and Magnesium. My experience was that across Southern England the hardness averaged around 200-250 ppm CaCO3, but there were exceptions. Swindon was over 300 ppm, mainly due to a heavy reliance on borehole water from limestone. Water that has been recycled many times tends to increase in alkalinity, due to the presence of detergents. Adjusting the water composition to suit a particular beer type should in the main not be too challenging.

My preference towards phosphoric acid is purely one of convenience. Food grade is readily available and normally acid additions are not that great, though there are exceptions to everything. I accept that it may precipitate out some Calcium but only if the levels are high. Some of it will also be metabolised by the yeast.

RO seems to have gotten hold in the belief that you can replicate a water profile anywhere in the world. This is what the big brewers ( and soft drink manufacturers) do to make a beer taste the same wherever it is brewed, and some homebrewers are following suit.

Maybe I am lucky but my water supply is pretty predictable. The changes in composition are really not that great, and easily manageable. I do not particularly wish to replicate the big brewers beers. I just want to produce good drinkable beers (and mead and cider).

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Sadfield
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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Sadfield » Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:52 pm

Carnot wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:00 pm
My comments might be biased towards the UK waters and beer types but in essence the potable water supply in Europe and North America are broadly similar i.e it is potable and complies with drinking water standards (in the main). Where surface water come into contact with dolomite, gypsum and carbonate rock it will pickup Calcium and Magnesium.
Water composition might be broadly similar, but the approach to brewing and beer style is vastly different throughout Europe and North America.
Carnot wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:00 pm
RO seems to have gotten hold in the belief that you can replicate a water profile anywhere in the world. This is what the big brewers (and soft drink manufacturers) do to make a beer taste the same wherever it is brewed, and some homebrewers are following suit.
Given that replicating established beers and styles from around the globe is quite popular, this would be a good method would it not? and one that has been proven to work.

Surely, it is all a matter of choice?

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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by london_lhr » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:40 pm

RO seems to have gotten hold in the belief that you can replicate a water profile anywhere in the world.
You do not really want to replicate a specific water profile!
You need to decide what beer you want to brew and the style of beer will determine malt forward or hop forward.
This in turn determines your water profile to be chloride biased or sulphate biased.
The alkalinity of the water acts as a buffer and can prevent the ideal mash pH of 5.2 - 5.6.
Once again, the style of beer would give an indication of the ideal alkalinity for that style.
So, all you really need to know is 1. Alkalinity of the water and treat according to the style of beer you want to brew.
2. Style of beer you are going to brew which will determine a chloride or sulphate bias in your water. Add salts accordingly based on your initial chloride and sulphates amounts as per your water test.
3. Calcium. Very important and the amount of preferred Calcium is also determined by the style of beer you are going to brew. Add salts to increase Calcium as per your initial water test. The amount of Calcium chloride or Calcium sulphate is determined by your beer style, chloride or sulphate biased!!

This is a very good read and gives an excellent insight into water treatment :

http://forum.craftbrewing.org.uk/viewto ... f=44&t=907

It is really not complicated..................................................
The Dengie

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Sadfield
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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Sadfield » Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:11 am

Which is what RO users do, except instead of reducing alkalinity chemically and adjust salts, they strip and build from the ground up. It's quite a simple concept. Different approach to the same end result.

The question is whether you prefer all the extra water components in your beer, that have no relevance to the brewing process.

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IPA
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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by IPA » Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:43 am

Jim. Where is the can of worms smiley =D>
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Jim
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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Jim » Tue Oct 31, 2017 9:28 am

IPA wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:43 am
Jim. Where is the can of worms smiley =D>
Must get one of those. It would be soooo useful. :lol:
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Aleman
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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Aleman » Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:20 am

Sadfield wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:11 am
Which is what RO users do, except instead of reducing alkalinity chemically and adjust salts, they strip and build from the ground up. It's quite a simple concept. Different approach to the same end result.

The question is whether you prefer all the extra water components in your beer, that have no relevance to the brewing process.
You mean all the ones that act as micro 'nutrients' (for want of a better word) and can be detrimental to yeast health if they are not present? :-k :-k :-k
Then there is the issue of RO maintenance, and the fact that depending on temperature, pressure and age of membrane the 'selectivity' of the membrane changes . . . so RO water is not necessarily as stable as it is made out to be. ... It is a different approach and a personal choice as to what approach to use, but it is not necessarily the 'simple' solution it is made out to be.

There is a very good reason why the mega brewers employ small cadres of 'water' chemists ;) :D

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Sadfield
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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by Sadfield » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:19 pm

Aleman wrote:
Sadfield wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:11 am
Which is what RO users do, except instead of reducing alkalinity chemically and adjust salts, they strip and build from the ground up. It's quite a simple concept. Different approach to the same end result.

The question is whether you prefer all the extra water components in your beer, that have no relevance to the brewing process.
You mean all the ones that act as micro 'nutrients' (for want of a better word) and can be detrimental to yeast health if they are not present? :-k :-k :-k
Then there is the issue of RO maintenance, and the fact that depending on temperature, pressure and age of membrane the 'selectivity' of the membrane changes . . . so RO water is not necessarily as stable as it is made out to be. ... It is a different approach and a personal choice as to what approach to use, but it is not necessarily the 'simple' solution it is made out to be.

There is a very good reason why the mega brewers employ small cadres of 'water' chemists ;) :D

Image
Yep, although simple enough and more than adequate enough to produce great beer. Same can be applied to other methods. Other than alkalinity, how many brewers measure and adjust for the fluctuating ion content of their tap water?

As mentioned before, 'There are also various enthusiasts who go into greater depth than many normal home brewers would ever wish to or need to.'

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Re: Water Analyses and Treatment

Post by mabrungard » Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:53 pm

There is nothing wrong with keeping your water treatment uncomplicated. The problem is that its difficult to understand and alter your brewing liquor if you don't know or understand what's in it. Add to that, the fact that some brewer's water quality varies. Now its hair-pulling time! For those with variable water quality, RO can be a moderator in producing liquor that's fairly consistent. Rainwater is another option and its usually clean enough for brewing (as long as you aren't downwind of some belching factory).

Using water that is nearly devoid of ionic content is nice since its easy to add, but hard to remove ionic content. While there is no reason or need to try and duplicate some famous brewing city's water, I can tell you that most beer is better with some ionic content. Brewing with straight rainwater or RO water can be bland. But just adding a teaspoon of this mineral or another can be fine. Just avoid overdosing your liquor and you'll probably be happy. No need to be complicated.

The other thing to recognize is that you might be somewhat limited in your brewing success with brewing a wide range of beer styles if you don't learn to treat your water. Often, that means that you'll need to deal with some form of acid. While you can learn what works best with your water and the particular beer style you're brewing by trial and error, you'll probably be happier with using some sort of calculation to predict what a proper mineral or acid dose should be to give you an acceptable beer result. Unfortunately, it does mean that you'll need to get a little more into water treatment. But you don't need to get carried away with it. Close enough is probably good enough for many brewers. If you're looking for great results, it might need to get a little more complicated.
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