Water treatment primer

While Beer is 90-97% water, it is a very tricky subject.

Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Eric » Thu Apr 06, 2017 13:03

Measuring alkalinity on brewday is absolutely essential here. When I didn't have any way of measuring alkalinty it was impossible to predict the outcome of any attempt at a pale beer. Dark beers were good, but again once able to measure alkalinity moved everything into a different league. That was with a kit from an aquatics supplier that enabled measuring alkalinity, total hardness and calcium. A test by Murthphy's didn't give me any confidence, but since then things have moved on a long way.

A series of tests were done by WallyBrew confirming the degree of variability of my supply with respect to each ion to provided an very valuable database. Some very simplistic mathematical analysis showed it was possible to adequately predict the levels of all major ion in an instant using a cheap TDS meter which was later recalibrated.

So all I do on brewday is dip the TDS meter in the tapwater and note the reading. The acid appropriate for the brew is then used to treat the liquor as it goes into the HLT. My acids are diltuted so the 1ml will neutralise 300mg of cacium carbonate so it's just a matter of muliplying the amount of reduction in alkalinity required by the volume in litres and dividing the result by 300. After a good stir and time for the treatment to work, the alkalinity is checked using a Salifer kit and if any adjustment is necessary it is usually very little, a fraction of a ml of acid or a part of a litre of tapwater extra.

Then the quantities of calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulphate, chloride and alkalinity and add any anion increase resulting from the chemical reactions with the acid and alkalinity are recorded, all from one reading and one simple test.
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Dennis King » Thu Apr 06, 2017 19:12

xCamel xSlayer wrote:THIS IS THE MOST FASCINATING SUBJECT I THINK I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED


Water treatment has fascinated and baffled me for many years but slowly getting to grips with it. This is a great thread because in Eric and Tony[aleman] we have two people how know their stuff and explain it well.
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Thu Apr 06, 2017 21:52

If someone made a kit to measure your water on each brewday, along with instructions on treatments for various styles, then I'd imagine that would be very popular with home brewers.

In one of the breweries I worked at, we used tablets to check the brewing liquor and once it turned pink, that determined the amount of AMS we used. Don't even know what we were measuring, but it was a very simple procedure and we got consistent results (i.e. good beer).

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed
Drinking: store-bought beer as my bar is dry
Conditioning: choc-coffee oatmeal wheat stout, various ciders, cherry 'brett' brown ale, imperial Pilsner.
Fermenting: Bock (6.5%), IPA (5.5%), Pale Ale (4.5)
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Thu Apr 06, 2017 22:15

Eric wrote:Measuring alkalinity on brewday is absolutely essential here. When I didn't have any way of measuring alkalinty it was impossible to predict the outcome of any attempt at a pale beer. Dark beers were good, but again once able to measure alkalinity moved everything into a different league. That was with a kit from an aquatics supplier that enabled measuring alkalinity, total hardness and calcium. A test by Murthphy's didn't give me any confidence, but since then things have moved on a long way.

A series of tests were done by WallyBrew confirming the degree of variability of my supply with respect to each ion to provided an very valuable database. Some very simplistic mathematical analysis showed it was possible to adequately predict the levels of all major ion in an instant using a cheap TDS meter which was later recalibrated.

So all I do on brewday is dip the TDS meter in the tapwater and note the reading. The acid appropriate for the brew is then used to treat the liquor as it goes into the HLT. My acids are diltuted so the 1ml will neutralise 300mg of cacium carbonate so it's just a matter of muliplying the amount of reduction in alkalinity required by the volume in litres and dividing the result by 300. After a good stir and time for the treatment to work, the alkalinity is checked using a Salifer kit and if any adjustment is necessary it is usually very little, a fraction of a ml of acid or a part of a litre of tapwater extra.

Then the quantities of calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulphate, chloride and alkalinity and add any anion increase resulting from the chemical reactions with the acid and alkalinity are recorded, all from one reading and one simple test.


Have you got a link for the kits you use? - sounds perfect

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed
Drinking: store-bought beer as my bar is dry
Conditioning: choc-coffee oatmeal wheat stout, various ciders, cherry 'brett' brown ale, imperial Pilsner.
Fermenting: Bock (6.5%), IPA (5.5%), Pale Ale (4.5)
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Eric » Thu Apr 06, 2017 22:57

HTH1975 wrote:If someone made a kit to measure your water on each brewday, along with instructions on treatments for various styles, then I'd imagine that would be very popular with home brewers.

In one of the breweries I worked at, we used tablets to check the brewing liquor and once it turned pink, that determined the amount of AMS we used. Don't even know what we were measuring, but it was a very simple procedure and we got consistent results (i.e. good beer).


There are such kits, just that the cost is prohibitive for the typical homebrewer, even though those on the market are crude to say the least. Doing it accurately isn't cheap and requires a lot more knowledge and skill than the average brewer has.

Murphy's sell those tablets and they are rough and ready too, but good enough to comply with Murphy's one style fits all advice and, as you say, is simplistic.

However, just getting alkalinity correctly adjusted is the essential starting point for water treatment. Without doing that brewing is at best a lottery ending up chasing one's own tale.

A Salifert kit is a must to have confidence in your treated liquor's alkalinity.

A TDS meter is set to measure saline solutions. The two I bought some time ago could be recalibrated, but those bought by others on my suggestion have been found to not have the adjustment. As they stand they are of little use except to be used to determine whether the water's mineral content has change since taking a previous reading. However, with a good analysis (by WallyBrew) it might be possible to determine the ion levels in water that varies with time by comparison with a TDS meter reading in a sample of the water used for the analysis and that day's water.
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Thu Apr 06, 2017 23:28

I've bought a salifert kit, so I'll have a play with that soon.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed
Drinking: store-bought beer as my bar is dry
Conditioning: choc-coffee oatmeal wheat stout, various ciders, cherry 'brett' brown ale, imperial Pilsner.
Fermenting: Bock (6.5%), IPA (5.5%), Pale Ale (4.5)
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Eric » Thu Apr 06, 2017 23:47

HTH1975 wrote:
I've found that almost regardless of my grain bill, the mash pH falls into the desired 5.2-5.5 range by itself. I've got fairly high alkalinity at approx 140ppm.


Might be wise to buy a new pH meter too. Either that or use your luck to buy one lottery ticket.
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Fri Apr 07, 2017 07:48

Eric wrote:
HTH1975 wrote:
I've found that almost regardless of my grain bill, the mash pH falls into the desired 5.2-5.5 range by itself. I've got fairly high alkalinity at approx 140ppm.


Might be wise to buy a new pH meter too. Either that or use your luck to buy one lottery ticket.


Lmao, my luck for betting stinks.

A better pH meter is certainly on my list of things to get.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed
Drinking: store-bought beer as my bar is dry
Conditioning: choc-coffee oatmeal wheat stout, various ciders, cherry 'brett' brown ale, imperial Pilsner.
Fermenting: Bock (6.5%), IPA (5.5%), Pale Ale (4.5)
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Mon Apr 10, 2017 19:48

Eric wrote:
HTH1975 wrote:If someone made a kit to measure your water on each brewday, along with instructions on treatments for various styles, then I'd imagine that would be very popular with home brewers.

In one of the breweries I worked at, we used tablets to check the brewing liquor and once it turned pink, that determined the amount of AMS we used. Don't even know what we were measuring, but it was a very simple procedure and we got consistent results (i.e. good beer).


There are such kits, just that the cost is prohibitive for the typical homebrewer, even though those on the market are crude to say the least. Doing it accurately isn't cheap and requires a lot more knowledge and skill than the average brewer has.

Murphy's sell those tablets and they are rough and ready too, but good enough to comply with Murphy's one style fits all advice and, as you say, is simplistic.

However, just getting alkalinity correctly adjusted is the essential starting point for water treatment. Without doing that brewing is at best a lottery ending up chasing one's own tale.

A Salifert kit is a must to have confidence in your treated liquor's alkalinity.

A TDS meter is set to measure saline solutions. The two I bought some time ago could be recalibrated, but those bought by others on my suggestion have been found to not have the adjustment. As they stand they are of little use except to be used to determine whether the water's mineral content has change since taking a previous reading. However, with a good analysis (by WallyBrew) it might be possible to determine the ion levels in water that varies with time by comparison with a TDS meter reading in a sample of the water used for the analysis and that day's water.


Got my salifert kit, measured alkalinity as CaCO3 at 79.5ppm. Murphys had it at 142ppm.

So I don't need quite so much AMS to soften the water - that's easy enough to calculate.

What about calcium, chloride and sulphate levels? - how do they change with the change in alkalinity?

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed
Drinking: store-bought beer as my bar is dry
Conditioning: choc-coffee oatmeal wheat stout, various ciders, cherry 'brett' brown ale, imperial Pilsner.
Fermenting: Bock (6.5%), IPA (5.5%), Pale Ale (4.5)
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby pittsy » Mon Apr 10, 2017 20:29

In an ideal world you'd have your water lab tested every brew or maybe 10 times but as it's not ideal then once or twice is what you have . But you can test calcium and alkalinity each time and you can have a rough guess using lab results what the rest are . You won't notice if you're 20 ppm wrong in chloride or sulphate really .
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Mon Apr 10, 2017 22:34

Thanks for the input pittsy. I'd planned on getting a water report every six months, but it ended up being a year apart (ish) from April '16 to Feb '17. I'm planning on getting another sample tested by Murphys in August '17. By getting my water lab-tested six monthly and also keeping my own database monthly with the salifert kit, I should hopefully build up a good picture of how my water varies throughout the year (if indeed it does to any significant degree).

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed
Drinking: store-bought beer as my bar is dry
Conditioning: choc-coffee oatmeal wheat stout, various ciders, cherry 'brett' brown ale, imperial Pilsner.
Fermenting: Bock (6.5%), IPA (5.5%), Pale Ale (4.5)
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Eric » Tue Apr 11, 2017 00:34

HTH1975 wrote:Thanks for the input pittsy. I'd planned on getting a water report every six months, but it ended up being a year apart (ish) from April '16 to Feb '17. I'm planning on getting another sample tested by Murphys in August '17. By getting my water lab-tested six monthly and also keeping my own database monthly with the salifert kit, I should hopefully build up a good picture of how my water varies throughout the year (if indeed it does to any significant degree).


Buy a TDS meter, it's cheaper and quicker. Put it in the bathroom that when those eyes stare back early morning you are reminded to take a reading and record it. Then measure alkalinity with the same water at the highest, lowest and median readings to find if there is any correlation with TDS.

Get your testing done not by date but by level. There's little point getting several readings when the water is similar. You might want to consider getting another analyser.

Welcome to the world of brewing liquor.
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Good Ed » Wed Apr 12, 2017 22:59

You may also wish to add a Calcium Test Kit to your tool bag, made by the same company as the Salifert kit and used for aquatics. I use it every few brews to just check, and find it reasonably accurate when compared to the test results from Wallybrew.

Here's to the man who drinks strong ale,
and goes to bed quite mellow.
Lives as he ought to live,
and dies a jolly good fellow.
- Old English folk song
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Thu Apr 13, 2017 00:32

Good Ed wrote:You may also wish to add a Calcium Test Kit to your tool bag, made by the same company as the Salifert kit and used for aquatics. I use it every few brews to just check, and find it reasonably accurate when compared to the test results from Wallybrew.


Thanks for the tip - I'll check that out

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed
Drinking: store-bought beer as my bar is dry
Conditioning: choc-coffee oatmeal wheat stout, various ciders, cherry 'brett' brown ale, imperial Pilsner.
Fermenting: Bock (6.5%), IPA (5.5%), Pale Ale (4.5)
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Kev888 » Sat Apr 15, 2017 17:51

I will also support the usefulness of the Salifert kits - the alkalinity one in particular, but the calcium one is a useful addition too.

General water supplier reports are often quite vague - compiled some time in the past from limited number of samples and are often missing values we want. Professional lab reports (such as from WallyBrew) cover what we need and these include values we can't usually test ourselves, but they are rarely of the actual water being used on brew day, and peoples water can vary (mine does especially in summer).

The kits can be used to check these two most important characteristics of the actual water being used on the day, and if wished also to verify that any acid and calcium treatments achieved the expected levels. If your water does vary significantly from expectations then they will tell you. And in fact if you were keen enough to want professional analysis of it at different states, then the kits can help to identify when these are occurring.

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