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The Brewing Forum • View topic - Water treatment primer

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

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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 (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Thu Apr 06, 2017 22:15


2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Eric » Thu Apr 06, 2017 22:57

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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 (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Eric » Thu Apr 06, 2017 23:47

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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Fri Apr 07, 2017 07:48


2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby HTH1975 » Mon Apr 10, 2017 19:48


2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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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 (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby Eric » Tue Apr 11, 2017 00:34

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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


2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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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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Re: Water treatment primer

Postby MartinSmith » Mon Jul 01, 2019 14:52

xCamel xSlayer Yeah, well said.
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