My water treatment journey starts here!

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

My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Gethin79 » Sun Jun 21, 2015 07:40

At The Homebrew Festival, I tasted some stunning beers. Many of them beat my efforts hands down. I did notice that the better ones were brewed with treated water, which stands to reason. So, in my efforts to brew the best beer I can, I have started along the water treatment route.

To date I have solely been using a campden tablet. I have now ordered a Salifert test kit from BrewUK, so will be able to test my water each time I brew. I have also taken the first step towards getting a water sample tested (via Wallybrew on here).

As I live in Kent, I believe my water is sourced from chalk aquafers, and as such is very hard. I have no idea about the alkalinity as yet, but something is wrong in most of my beers, so I wouldn't mind guessing that my alkalinity is far too high, but we'll see.

After speaking to Aleman at the festival, he suggested that in my particular area, due to where the water is sourced from, it tends to remain fairly stable, so a single water test per year should hopefully suffice to keep me in the ball park area of where my water needs to be.

Once I get my water tested, I shall post the results on here for the benefit of any others in my area. And then I'll be asking advice on how to treat it! I followed the water treatment talk as best I could, but with hangover some of it went above my head!!!
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby AltonAnt » Sun Jun 21, 2015 08:12

It looks as though you are in the same situation as I am.
If you are in the high 300-400 range for caco3 it will be difficult to get into the right range using just acid recuction without side affects so it may be worth trying a batch using 60% Tesco Ashbeck with your water which is currently 2 for £2 so £1 for 5l.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby CraftyTim » Sun Jun 21, 2015 08:56

AltonAnt wrote:It looks as though you are in the same situation as I am.
If you are in the high 300-400 range for caco3 it will be difficult to get into the right range using just acid recuction without side affects so it may be worth trying a batch using 60% Tesco Ashbeck with your water which is currently 2 for £2 so £1 for 5l.


I'm in a v. hard water area also and I found that acid reductions needed alot of acid so I blend around 25% Ashbeck and scale back the acid :thumb:

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy :D
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Gethin79 » Sun Jun 21, 2015 09:58

I hadn't even considered that. I'll wait for my report to come through and take it from there, but it's good to know there's a way around it if that is the case, so thanks for that.

I'm guessing that my alkalinity is going to be very high, so will have to use acids. There is a wide array of these available online. I would like to use separate hydrochloric and sulphuric acid rather than CRS. Could somebody post a link to the products to go for, please?

I won't buy until my water report is confirmed, but it would be good to see what I need beforehand.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby GrowlingDog » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:32

I don't think Gethins Alkalinity will be quite as high as that, high but probably not excessively so.

Mine is often around 200, although a bit lower at the moment, that's quite manageable with the right acids for the types of beer I usually brew.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby GrowlingDog » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:35

The challenge with the acids is supply and then testing them.

Murphy's don't sell Sulphuric Acid any more to home brewers, probably as we all complained that it was a lot stronger than advertised. I have found some lab grade sulphuric acid on eBay which should be fine, but you will need to test the strength of it once you get it.

Hydrochloric seems easier to get but I've never needed to buy it, my Chloride levels are plenty high enough already.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Gethin79 » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:45

Thanks GD.

I'll await my sample results and see what I need, and go from there. :thumb:

Another learning curve....safely handling acids!! :electric:
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Dennis King » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:50

I moved to using sulphuric from CRS/AMS several months back and feel the end result is well worth it.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Pjam » Sun Jun 21, 2015 11:02

Gethin79 wrote:As I live in Kent, I believe my water is sourced from chalk aquafers,


I wonder if my Ramsgate water would be from the same source as yours?
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby mark1964 » Sun Jun 21, 2015 11:13

Dennis King wrote:I moved to using sulphuric from CRS/AMS several months back and feel the end result is well worth it.

Maybe a table of some sorts D could be posted up or a link for such a table with the required treatment in easy to understand terms

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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Gethin79 » Sun Jun 21, 2015 11:15

Pjam wrote:
Gethin79 wrote:As I live in Kent, I believe my water is sourced from chalk aquafers,


I wonder if my Ramsgate water would be from the same source as yours?


According to Southern Water, your water is pumped from underground chalk too, so I guess it would be similar :thumb:

Edit: Just checked ... They rate your water as very hard, and mine as hard. Yours is pumped purely from underground chalk sources, whereas mine says it is pumped from Strood and Cuxton chalk and the river Medway...so maybe my water supply won't be as stable as I first thought, depending on which source it is being pumped from...
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Eric » Sun Jun 21, 2015 18:37

Well done on taking that advice at Bosworth and best wishes for your journey. Few are fortunate to have water needing no more than a couple of teaspoons of brewing salts and a particular recipe to brew a high class beer and from what I hear of water in your region, that is unlikely in your case.

Minerals in water are low enough to be quantified in parts per million, yet even small variations can have significant influences on beers. It is not difficult to alter the amounts of these components provided you know what is there to start. A water test ( :thumb: by Wallybrew :thumb: ) overcomes this major obstacle and the Salifert kit lets you monitor your adjustments to alkalinity and also to some degree, monitor the variability or otherwise of your supply.

Water treatment is not complicated, but is confusing for many reasons including having single terms for what to a brewer are several different properties, like hardness. If 2.5g of calcium carbonate (chalk) were dissolved in 25 litres of deionised water (it won't but can be made to with CO2) it's hardness could be said to be 100mg/l CaCO3 or 100ppm CaCO3. The same hardness would apply if 4.3g of gypsum was instead dissolved in 25 litres and the same again with 6.15g of Epsom salts. (I think my sums are near enough right, but if they are not you might still understand my thrust.) The brewer doesn't need to know hardness, but instead that the first has 40ppm calcium and 100ppm alkalinity, the second similarly 40ppm calcium but with zero alkalinity and the third containing no calcium or alkalinity at all. For totally different reasons all three are unsuitable for brewing if untreated, yet with simple and low cost additions, all could be used to make good beer. Once you get your water report you'll forget about the likes of hardness when all else starts to fall in place.

Starting with water of unknown alkalinity can easily lead one to assume commercial brews won't be bettered using basic equipment in a kitchen or garage right up to applying the change that proves it not so. It is difficult to exchange sound detailed advice on water treatment made impossible when initial mineral contents aren't known. The recipient will often chase their tail in those circumstances and also if they have yet to perfect their other processes.

Mineral levels have a substatial impact on the chemistry influencing product quality as well as the flavours produced, so as we each have preferences the consumer can prefer a faulty version of their favourite type to a better quality version of another. The same can apply to some calculators when their developer would appear to find a profile not to their liking and advise against it. There are only a few important rules to learn, mainly to do with levels of alkalinity and calcium after which there is a very large field of open play meaning there can be very few waters that can't be used to make very good beers and they generally exist outside the UK.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Pjam » Sun Jun 21, 2015 20:55

Gethin79 wrote:
Edit: Just checked ... They rate your water as very hard, and mine as hard. Yours is pumped purely from underground chalk sources


Thanks for checking Gethin. I was doing 50/50 Ashbeck , Tap and Campden. My last brew was 100% Ashbeck. The bottled water option makes water the most expensive part of the beer! Tap and treatment would be preferred .... but only if it's right :?
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Gethin79 » Sun Jun 21, 2015 21:19

Thanks for that Eric, that does make sense. :thumb:

I've been suffering for a long time thinking that something isn't right with my beers, but it didn't matter what I did, it came out the same. I since started learning about water treatment, and in particular alkalinity, which I think could be my issue.

Once I've got my water test done, I'll have an informed starting point to begin treating my water, and I get the feeling my issues of taste in my beers will disappear.

Here's hoping, anyway!! :D
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Gethin79 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 16:13

The more I get into this, the more confused I'm getting!

Just took delivery of my salifert test kit, and thought I'd try it out on my water...as you do!

Anyway, the results are confusing me.

I get 0.66 reading in ml's, which equates to 10.2KH value in dKH and 3.64 alkalinity in meq/l. I chucked this into a calculator which tells me that is 182ppm CaCO3. So, hard as I expected.

But now I've just confused myself with it all. As far as I understand it, alkalinity as expressed as CaCO3 is different to the pH. So if I use this kit to measure mash pH it won't do anything for me..or will it...I don't know...arghhhhh!!!!! Respect to anyone who understands all this!! Have I bought the right kit? :scratch:

Sending off my water sample for analysis tomorrow to get a full idea, but this kit just confused the heck out of me.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby wallybrew » Tue Jun 23, 2015 16:57

The salifert kit measures alkalinity.

Forget hardness just banish it form you thoughts and think about alkalinity. So yes you have bought the right kit for checking the alkalinity of water and from that you can adjust the alkalinity of your water to suit what you are brewing.

Forget pH for the moment as the kit does not measure pH

Get your alkalinity in the range required for the beer you are brewing and the mash pH should fall into an acceptable range.

Mash pH at start and end of mash are not constant and do not relate to wort at collection and it may be for this reason that Kolbach only measured pH at "knockout"

Certain spreadsheets are obsessed with pH.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby mark1964 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 16:59

the kit is just for alkalinity when you depress the small thin syringe and the water in the test vial turns just pink take a reading of the syringe. X that reading by 50 to get the figure you need> Salifert alkililinty testing kit is what we use. It cant be used on mash ph. A ph meter can be used though for testing mash

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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Gethin79 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 17:10

Cheers for that.

So am I right in saying that the alkalinity of my water is (according to this kit) 182ppm?

I think I'm getting confused from the old days in science where we just measured pH...which was what we measured as acidic or alkaline....must get this out of my head!!!
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Dennis King » Tue Jun 23, 2015 17:18

mark1964 wrote:the kit is just for alkalinity when you depress the small thin syringe and the water in the test vial turns just pink take a reading of the syringe. X that reading by 50 to get the figure you need> Salifert alkililinty testing kit is what we use. It cant be used on mash ph. A ph meter can be used though for testing mash


You need to cross reference the reading on the table they provide in the alkalinity column and multiply that number by 50
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Eric » Tue Jun 23, 2015 17:22

Slow down please. I'll repeat what I wrote before....
Water treatment is not complicated, but is confusing for many reasons including having single terms for what to a brewer are several different properties, like hardness.

You said you got 0.66ml on the syringe. Was that amount what it read or what you used, the figure in dKH you gave was what on my chart suggested you used. This is important.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Gethin79 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 17:25

The reading is what I read on the syringe, not what I used.

I then doubled the reading as I was using 2ml of sample instead of 4ml.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby GrahamT » Tue Jun 23, 2015 17:26

0.66 on the syringe is around 97ppm edit 91ppm alkalinity as CAC03 I think (edit - with a 4ml sample, so yes, 182)

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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Eric » Tue Jun 23, 2015 17:34

Gethin79 wrote:The reading is what I read on the syringe, not what I used.

I then doubled the reading as I was using 2ml of sample instead of 4ml.


OK, you're on target. As said, forget hardness, dKH is a German scale of hardness, that's all you ever need to know for brewing, EVER.
So your alkalinity is 2 x 1.82 meq/L and you bneed to multiply that by 50 to convert it to mg/L CaCO3 which as you will instantly see is 182.

To brew a pale beer all you need to do is add some acid, such as CRS, to get that alkalinity down by about 150mg/L CaCO3.

You now know the reason for astringent beers.

Last edited by Eric on Tue Jun 23, 2015 17:46, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby Gethin79 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 17:40

Eric wrote:
Gethin79 wrote:The reading is what I read on the syringe, not what I used.

I then doubled the reading as I was using 2ml of sample instead of 4ml.


OK, your on target. As said, forget hardness, dKH is a German scale of hardness, that's all you ever need to know for brewing, EVER.
So your alkalinity is 2 x 1.82 meq/L and you bneed to multiply that by 50 to convert it to mg/L CaCO3 which as you will instantly see is 182.

To brew a pale beer all you need to do is add some acid, such as CRS, to get that alkalinity down by about 150mg/L CaCO3.

You now know the reason for astringent beers.

That is a great explanation. Thanks very much...it's a lot clearer now. As you say, it gives a reason why my beers always have something "not quite right"! :thumb:
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Re: My water treatment journey starts here!

Postby GrahamT » Tue Jun 23, 2015 17:58

And I would suggest adding the CRS progressively and retesting, before adding the grains. My CRS appeared about 15% more effective than the calcs would suggest this weekend. In the past, I reckon I may have reduced the alkalinity more than I realised. [Sorry if someone has suggested that already above - to much to reread!]

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