Town Water Report

We did some searching around and our local water district posts a water “confidence” report for our area. We get our water from a combination of 4 deep wells in the area apparently.

They are fed by a major local river and replenished by two other regional streams, at least that’s how the report puts it.  While the water report lists things like benzene, arsenic, and chlorodibromo-methane (all below levels of detection -thank you); it does indeed list a couple of useful brewing related minerals.

In short, our town water report mentions these minerals:

  • Calcium- 26 ppm
  • Sulfate – 17 ppm
  • Potassium- 29 ppm
  • Alkalinity (CaCO3) – 51 ppm

Our town does use a little chlorine, but it was listed as parts per billion. Our water out of the tap has no detectable chlorine taste. What little there is likely off gases fairly quickly.

The nice thing is that there is no mention of Chloramines in the water.

So, at first pass, these few minerals seem to tell me a few things.

Our water is pretty soft, meaning low overall mineral content.  This is good news because its always easier to add to your water salts you don’t have, than take away excess of minerals you don’t want.

The other thing that is striking to me is that our Calcium is fairly low.  A general brewing guideline for Calcium is 50ppm to 150ppm.  Calcium is interesting to me because while my beers aren’t overly hazy, they are generally cloudier than they could be, but they get better with time.

Calcium is critical to yeast metabolism but also yeast flocculation which produces a slightly cloudier profile that goes away with extended “lagering”.

Another potential result of our water is that I often feel that when I brew hoppier beers from established recipes the hops don’t seem as exciting as the recipe or the original brewer seemed to intend.  This is likely directly correlated to the low sulfates in the water too.  Sulfate tends to accentuate hop bitterness and creates a crisper presentation in the final beer’s hop to malt balance.

That’s the first pass look at our water. We are actively looking into and preparing to compare this to a sample sent to Ward Labs for a water analysis.
Comments are always welcome especially on this new and challenging topic.

Comments

  1. brewella deville says:

    Palmer’s book gives a conversion table for ion concentrations, and according to your alkalinity as CaCO3 your HCO3 level should be at about 62ppm (divide alkalinity as CaCO3 by 50 and multiply by 61). City water reports are averages, but at least that gets you a little closer. Now you just need sodium, magnesium, and chloride levels.

    I’m just starting to wrap my head around water adjustments, but here are a few of the things I’ve taken away from my reading that have already proved valuable to me:

    Don’t worry too much about residual alkalinity, pay attention instead to sulfate : chloride ratios
    1 : 2 Malt is forward and beer is softer and rounder
    2 : 1 Hop bitterness is forward and beer is drier

    Bicarbonate/HCO3 levels
    0-50 for pale beers
    50-150 for amber beers
    150-250 for dark beers

    I haven’t bothered with adjusting magnesium, because yeast nutrient contains magnesium and high levels are supposed to leave a metallic taste in beer.

    I also haven’t adjusted sodium levels other than to make sure they’re low in hoppy beers, because excessive sodium in beers high in sulfate can cause unpleasant bitterness apart from the hop bitterness you want.

  2. Herb Meowing says:

    Get a copy of the Bru’nWater Excel spreadsheet @
    https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/

    May appear a bit intimidating at first but it’s fairly straightforward to use and understand.

  3. If your town draws from different sources you should check if there are significant seasonal changes to your water profile.

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