Save Water… Drink More Beer?
Water is by far the most important component in beer. It is used in almost every step of the brewing process. However, many times it’s the one ingredient that is most often ignored by brewers. The composition of your water can drastically change the way your beer tastes and your brewing efficiency.
Water can be varied with parameters like pH levels, hardness, and alkalinity.
pH is a measure of acidity or basicity. By measuring the pH of water, you can determine whether it is acidic, basic, or neutral. pH values between 1 and 7 are acidic, values between 7 and 14 are basic, and 7 is considered neutral. Brewing water is best kept at a pH range of 6-7. The mash should be kept within 5.2 and 5.5. The finish pH of beer should normally fall between 4 and 5.
According to the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency, all municipal water should fall between a range of 6.5 and 8.5.
To check pH levels, use pH test strips or litmus paper. If the pH level of the water needs to be adjusted, add compounds such as phosphoric acid, lactic acid, or gypsum.
Alkalinity is a measure of the water’s buffering capacity. Alkalinity is primarily caused by the presence of bicarbonates and carbonates in water. An alkalinity measurement shows the water’s ability to neutralize acids.
Water with high alkalinity maintains a stable pH during the boil as the organic acids extracted are neutralized, which can cause the flavors to be weakened. Water with low alkalinity may have large swings in pH, mostly due to acids from the grain; this can potentially give beer a taste much like wine.
The alkalinity can be altered to the desired levels by the addition of chalk, baking soda, or gypsum to raise the alkalinity or addition of an acid to reduce the alkalinity.
Alkalinity can be measured by a number of different methods including test kits, colorimeters, and pH electrodes and meters.
Hardness is a measure of the total calcium and magnesium ions in the water. Water with high concentrations of these ions is considered hard, while water with low concentrations of these ions is considered soft.
Hard water may occur naturally depending on the location and geology of the source water. For example, Dublin has hard water that is well-suited to making stouts like Guinness.
Water hardness can be increased or decreased before using the water for brewing. Testing water hardness can be performed several different ways including test kits and test strips.
You can obtain important information about your local water by calling your local water utility and asking for a copy of their most recent water quality report. Most of these reports will contain all the necessary information you need.
If you’d like to learn more about how ClearBlu can help you with your water treatment, contact us at (831) 724-1377 or fill out our contact form.