Basic Water Treatment

OK, you're at this page because you want to improve your water but you don't want to go to the far end of all the chemistry. So what is a good basic water treatment regime for the beginning and intermediate brewer?

Chlorine Removal

This is the bare minimum treatment you should give your water, whether brewing from a kit or from grain. Chlorine can be removed from water just by standing in an open vessel overnight or subjecting it to a short boil, but unfortunately water companies almost invariably add a more recalcitrant chemical called chloramine as well, which is more difficult to remove (though it is possible with a boil of an hour or so, that's obviously expensive and inconvenient). Fortunately there are a couple of easy and reliable ways to remove both chlorine and chloramine. If you're brewing from kits, this is all the water treatment you really need to do.

Carbon Filter

In my view this is the best way to remove chlorine and chloramines from your brewing water. Just buy an under-sink in-line water filter and use the water from it for brewing. A carbon filter will also remove other taints that might be in your water (such as organic material) and is the method most often used by commercial brewers.

Campden Tablet

Adding half a campden tablet per 5 gallons of brewing water will remove both chlorine and chloramines. Although some compounds will be added to the water as a result, they are not harmful to brewing.

Additional Treatment for Extract/Grain Brewers

Carbonate Reduction

You only need to do this if your water is hard; you will probably already know if you have hard water, as you will get fur in your kettle.

You can either use carbonate reduction salts (CRS) available via home brew suppliers or else boil your water (about 15 minutes should do it) then rack off from the sediment when cool.

Calcium Additions

A certain amount of calcium is required in brewing water to ensure the mash and boil reactions proceed as they should.

The easiest way to add calcium is to add Gypsum (a.k.a. Calcium Sulphate) to your brewing water (available from home brew suppliers). You can just chuck a couple of teaspoons into 5 gallons or, if you want to be more scientific, measure the alkalinity of your water and use one of the many available water treatment calculators (e.g. Graham Wheeler's) to work out the exact amount to add.

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