Brewing Water Basics - Society of Barley Engineers

Brewing Water Basics
Society of Barley Engineers
Guy Shobe
Opening this summer!
Must be the water!
• San Diego has great water for brewing???
– Differs in every part of the county, but in general, it is
relatively hard water (high mineral content), high ph,
with high amount of sulfate
– Disclaimer: SD water also varies by season (OMWD as
high as 8.9 ph in the summer, 8.2 in the winter)
– Most water districts in SD disinfect with chloramines,
which is bad in any style
– In general, it’s great for hoppy Ambers, and even
Cascadian IPAs
Historical View
Why should you care about your water
• You can make good beer with very little
• However, water adjustments can help fine
tune your beers and make them even better
• Understand how your mash works and how
the ph of your water impacts mash and sparge
• Brewing beers at both ends of the color
Extract Brewing
• Water chemistry is not as important – extract
already contains concentrated ions
• Try to use RO (Reverse Osmosis) water, if
• Trial and error, and using same extract brand,
is your best way forward
• At the very least, use a carbon filter or
Campden tablets to get rid of chloramines
All-Grain Brewers
• First step is finding out your brewing water ion
– Water report from your MWD
– Ward Labs ($17 or so)
• Without knowing your water, it is hard to prescribe
anything more than generic recommendations (i.e
add 1 tsp of Gypsum for an IPA)
• Also know that your tap water will likely change over
the year
Key Ions and Info in water report
Ph (not an ion but a measure of your water’s
• Ph of mash is more important than ph of the
water – should be in the 5.2-5.6 range
• Malted barley is a GREAT buffering source (BMB)
• Darker malts are acidic, thus lower mash ph
• However, ph of the sparge water is important –
should be 7 or less
• Higher ph sparge water could extract tannins and
result in astringent beers
• Can use acids to lower mash and/or sparge ph –
(most commonly lactic, hydrochloric, phosphoric)
• Principal ion that determines, and contributes,
to water hardness
• Instrumental to yeast health and growth
• Promotes clarity, flavor, and stability in the
finished beer
• Brewing range is 50-150ppm
Ion behaves similar to calcium
Important yeast nutrient
Brewing range is 10-30ppm
Amount greater than 50ppm tend to give
sour-bitter taste
• Levels higher than 125ppm have a laxative
• Combines with Ca and Mg ion to contribute to
permanent hardness
• Does not really contribute to overall alkalinity
• Accentuates hop bitterness, making bitterness
seem drier, more crisp
• Brewing range is 50-150ppm for normal
bitterness, 150-350ppm for very bitter,
diarrhea over 750ppm (Burton water?)
• Accentuates fullness and flavor of beer,
particularly malt
• Brewing range is from 0-250ppm
• Concentrations above 300ppm can lead to
mediciney flavors
• Common ion in softened water
• Water softeners use sodium to precipitate out
calcium, so should never be used for brewing
water (unless calcium salt added)
• Rounds out beer flavor, accentuates
sweetness of the malt
• Brewing range is 70-150ppm
• Above 300ppm makes beers too salty
Brewing Salts
• Adjust brewing water with brewing salts:
– Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum) – good when water is low in
calcium and want to accentuate hops
– Calcium Chloride – good when water is low in calcium
and want to accentuate malt
– Calcium Carbonate (Chalk) – good for adding hardness
to soft water in dark beers (not needed often)
– Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom) – good when water is low
on magnesium
– Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) – good for adding
sodium and hardness (not needed often)
Chloride to Sulfate Ratio
• Ratio of chloride to sulfate is important in the creation of
the flavor profile
• Ratio of 1.5-2 promotes very malty profile
• Ratio of 1.25-1.5 will favor maltiness
• Ratio of .75-1.25 will be fairly balanced
• Ratio of .5-.75 will be moderately bitter
• Ratio of 0-.5 promotes drier, more bitter, hoppier character
(SD water)
• Examples:
– 100ppm chloride, 300ppm sulfate would promote bitterness,
– 100pp, chloride, 50ppm sulfate would promote maltiness
• Carbon filter or Campden tablets at the very
minimum (get rid of chloramines)
• Use RO or distilled water for extract, if
• Keep mash ph in 5.2-5.6 range (malt buffer)
• Acidify sparge water, if needed (probably) to
keep in the 6.0-7.0 ph range
• Pay attention to your chloride to sulfate ratio –
more chloride = malty, more sulfate = bitter
Additional Resources
• Palmer’s How to Brew – Chapter 15
• Palmer’s water worksheet (and multiple other
water worksheets)
• Brew Strong’s series on understanding water
• Experience!!!!! Water chemistry is not an
absolute, most of this is rule of thumb,
nothing replaces experience.

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