Are the results applicable?

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

Are the results applicable?

Postby aamcle » Sun Aug 09, 2015 07:48

OK so we send off some water and get a water profile and we now know a lot more about the sample of water we sent off.

However its unlikely that we are going to brew with that water, that lot went through our taps days possibly weeks or even months ago!

Result, we don't know much about the water that we have just put into our much loved brewery.

I do an alkalinity test before I brew and I've seen it range from about 180 to 230 demonstrating that there is variation in my supplied water.

This is enough to devalue the results of any spot sample I sent off weeks ago as the water is not the same!!

So it seems to me that unless I can sample the water at the time I brew and analyse it there and then I don't know what I'm brewing with.

In practice I plunk for an alkalinity test and use the water companies averaged test results.

I can't think of any thing better can you?

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Re: Are the results applicable?

Postby pittsy » Sun Aug 09, 2015 07:59

As long as you know your alkalinity and you can even test your calcium then that's the main thing , you have a guide on the others from the lab test which is ok if you're off a little ( not going to make a massive difference if your sulphate is up or down 10 ppm for example ) . If you want to be even more exact then you can send off the lab test 10 ish times and with a home test on brew day you can look at the lab tests and see which one it's closest to .( at our level of brewing this is a little excessive imo ) This can be as simple or as complicated as you want . For me I do an alkalinity and calcium test and round off the other lab results , input info into brun water and adjust slightly until ions balance .
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Re: Are the results applicable?

Postby aamcle » Sun Aug 09, 2015 09:20

Still very fluffy, spot sample that are not taken from the water I'm using are still not representative.
I believe a lot of the biggest commercial brewers use RO water and the build up a known profile, accurate but not something I'm going to do.

I'll stick with my alkalinity test and the average results supplied by United Utilities.


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Re: Are the results applicable?

Postby GrahamT » Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:06

My lab test was extremely close to water board mean averages. Calcium is usually about half of total alkalinity ppm/ppm, so it seems reasonable to me to adjust the calcium figure in line with the alkalinity reading on the day (at least with my water) and trust the rest will be close enough.

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Re: Are the results applicable?

Postby Aleman » Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:14

This is one aspect where the KISS principle applies so much. As I said in my lecture, unless you are looking to take a beer from 45/50 up to 48/50 going into water treatment in all it's complexities is really pointless, and relying on published 'perfect' water/beer profiles, be that on the internet, in books, or in a calculator, is a waste of time, given that the vast majority of them are based on Kohlbachs work, and are sourced from the US, I have concerns over some of the pronouncements made, as long as you ignore the warnings that come out as a result of your additions, then you should be in the ball park. Get the alkalinity correct for the style of beer you are brewing and in 90% of cases you will, all other brewing constraints being equal, produce great, potentially award winning, beer. If you consider that 60-70% of flavour compounds come from the yeast, of the remaining 30-40% the vast majority of flavour comes from the malt, meaning that our water treatment will have an effect of 1-5% at most on the beer flavour. . . . Now where would you think it makes more sense to apply our efforts to produce great beer???

Fundamentally you are correct. No spot test (or even an average result) is going to be an accurate reflection of what the water you receive out of the tap at any given day. For this reason it make the water calculators very much a hit and miss affair, as they cannot represent what is in the water, as you don't know what there was to start with.

It was for this reason that I came up with the simple treatment.

1) Measure and adjust alkalinity with acid / potassium bicarbonate / kalkwasser as required . . I know how much this is going to add / remove from what is there

2) adjust calcium, if required - in my case it always is, use flavour salts as appropriate to the style I'm brewing and the flavours I want to pull out . . . I know how much calcium, sulphate, and chloride I'm adding. . . If I was brewing ion a Hard (*) water area then I would adjust the flavour ions using a blend of hydrochloric and sulphuric acids in step one. No Calcium addition is required.

Job done.

Beer factories use RO water and build their profile, but they want a consistent (bland) product as the end result, so they need this level of control. as home brewers we should perhaps be looking to use our water to retain that unique regional flavour that beers from that region would / do have.

I've gone down the extreme route that Mark has suggested, and that involves taking a sample every month (or so) and getting it analysed by Neil. So far I haven't seen a hugely wild swing in the results, but then it is varying by 30% min to max, I consider than to be a significant swing, but then is an additional 10/20 mg/l calcium / chloride / sulphate actually going to make a massive difference . . . probably not. I am hoping that with this cryptosporidium contamination, will mean that they change to the borehole source they used a couple of years ago, which had an alkalinity of 135mg/l instead of the usual 25-35. That will have a significant impact

Your variation of 50 mg/l in alkalinity will not be accompanied by such a wide variation in the other ions (calcium and magnesium primarily), and as you are measuring and treating you alkalinity you will not need to worry about the other ions that much anyway.

So for me I have gone through the complex build a 'perfect' profile, and yes it works, but its over complex and requires a decent recent water profile. here in the UK we don't have that option easily (I suspect they do not in the US either) Without that you are groping blind and adding and praying. It is much simpler now to measure alkalinity, measure calcium, and measure TDS (Total Dissolved Solids). That would give me more than enough information to hazard an appropriate guess as to the water composition (Especially with my monthly analysis), to tailor it accurately . . .

I still just reduce alkalinity to X with acid (s) . . . What does that do to the flavour ions> . . . add 50-75mg of calcium using appropriate salts to put the sulphate / chloride ratio where I want it . . . certainly in regard to added sulphate / chloride . . yes I have a good idea where the total levels are, but 15/20/30 mg/l isn't really going to make a huge amount of difference.

(*) I'm using hard water in it's correct usage here :) , as the concentration of calcium and magnesium ions in the water, hard water = lots of calcium = good for brewing

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Re: Are the results applicable?

Postby Eric » Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:56

GrahamT wrote:My lab test was extremely close to water board mean averages. Calcium is usually about half of total alkalinity ppm/ppm, so it seems reasonable to me to adjust the calcium figure in line with the alkalinity reading on the day (at least with my water) and trust the rest will be close enough.


There are areas of the UK where the water is for all intents and purposes consistent, such as most of Devon and Cornwall, certain areas of Northwest England, and most places in the west of Scotland north from Glasgow, with very little mineral content as well as places in Southeast England with water from a mass of underlying chalk providing typically 100ppm calcium mostly as alkalinity. There are some however some areas with water from several sources via a ring main where it might not be possible to predict within practical limits what it contains, but such areas are still in the minority.

My water's mineral content varies significantly, dependent upon rainfall levels. In dry periods calcium levels will be around 100 ppm and alkalinity slightly in excess of 250ppm and when very wet will have alkalinity 100ppm or less with calcium just into the 40's. With a few tests done by a reputable source it is possible, after measuring alkalinity and TDS, to determine what my water contains with as good accuracy as I need, and probably a lot more accurate than assumptions for the minerals contained inf the salt additions used to make beers. How many brewers check the amount of water their gypsum, Epsom salts or calcium chloride flake has absorbed?
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Re: Are the results applicable?

Postby aamcle » Sun Aug 09, 2015 12:53

I'm going to keep it simple, the rest of my skills aren't good enough to hunt the last 2 points.


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Re: Are the results applicable?

Postby Mr Squiffy » Sun Aug 09, 2015 16:44

pittsy wrote:For me I do an alkalinity and calcium test and round off the other lab results , input info into brun water and adjust slightly until ions balance .

Salifert kit for alkalinity, what do you test calcium with?

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Re: Are the results applicable?

Postby Aleman » Sun Aug 09, 2015 22:34

Salifert ;)

please note:The use of punctuation, bold, underlining, italics, and different sized type, follows the convention used in writing, for many years, to place emphasis on the point being made, and to highlight the importance of that point in the opinion of the author. It is not the intention of the author to shout, if that was the case the author would adopt the, much more recent, convention of using all capital letters.
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