Homebrewing can be as involving as you want it to be. It is fair to say after my last post on water chemistry, and specifically how it relates to our local water supply, I’ve gone a little deeper down the wormhole.
I shared the post on the North Shore Brewers Facebook page because I thought it might be interesting to a group of local homebrewers. I got an interesting and detailed response:
I had always ascribed to the axiom that if your water is good enough to drink it is good enough to brew with. Honestly, I remember drinking tap water as a kid, not dying as a result, and figuring it was good enough. As an adult I filter my drinking water like I am sure most people do. After reading Paul’s comments I did a side-by-side taste comparison of water fresh out of the tap and filtered water. Sure enough the water straight out of the tap had a slight, but noticeable chlorine taste. That hasn’t stopped me from brewing good beer that I have enjoyed in the past, but if I can eliminate the chlorine taste in the water and make my beer even slightly better it’s something I want to do.
I could use all distilled water like Paul. The only real downside is the added cost and having to carry all those jugs of water up to the third floor. Depending on what style of beer and how long the boil is, using all bottled water could increase your cost of ingredients 15%-20% per batch. Another option is to purchase a filter like this. That’s another $45 out of my pocket, and more bulky equipment I don’t have room for. After doing some additional research, and consulting the homebrewer’s bible: John Palmer’s How to Brew, I found the easiest solution. One campden tablet will remove chlorine or chloramine from up to 20 gallons of water by converting them to negligible amounts of sulfates and chlorides. At $3.49 for 100 tablets I can save my water that I run through my wort chiller, keep it in a sanitized and closed fermenter, throw in half or even a full tablet, and use that water on my next brew day.
Another chemical in our water that is present at slightly higher than ideal levels is sodium. According to the water report the source of the sodium is:
Natural sources; runoff from use of salt on roadways; bi-product of treatment process
Some of it is naturally there, some of it is road salts finding there way in our water supply. The only way I can find to reduce sodium levels is to dilute the water with distilled water.
Brewersfriend.com has an excellent and easy to use water calculator that has helped me apply everything I have learned the past few weeks about water. All you have to do is enter the mineral levels of your source water, put in what your target levels are or use one of their pre-loaded water profiles, and then play around with adding water salts and dilution percentages until you hit your target. I used it in finalizing the water profile for an upcoming IPA I have been working on for over a month.
I will have enough sulfate to compensate the naturally high chloride levels in our water supply. Diluting the tap water with a couple gallons of distilled water will reduce the sodium levels. Those steps along with de-chlorinating the water will hopefully make my upcoming IPA my best beer yet. The IPA developed because I thought trying to clone a sought after commercial beer would be a fun blog post, and I had never tried to come up with my own clone recipe before. In the end I probably ended up spending more time developing this recipe than I ever imagined.
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