Brew Days – Water

Welcome to Brew Days

Brew days is us sharing what we do, when and how, but more importantly why!

Today’s Brew Step is Water. Water makes up 98% of Ales, Beer and Larger, so let’s just agree it’s pretty fundamental to producing not only a good brew but its makeup can accentuate particular flavours and aromas you might be trying to highlight.

You can go one of two ways,

  1. Work with what you have.
  2. Learn water chemistry and become a tweaker.

The second not being as hard as it might sound.

The first step is common to both paths and that’s to know what you are working with. A quick google search will surface your water report, here is mine.

The most important thing to understand at the start is your residual alkalinity, mine is 288 ppm and my water is hard. With this information, a quick search of the internet will show I would be better off sticking to Porters, Stouts or Mild Ales. That said there are two things I think you should always do.

  1. Use Campden tablets
  2. Let your water stand overnight

Campden tables will break down the chlorine the water company puts in to serialize the water and is responsible for that funny taste in tap water. You can use a carbon filter and I do, after all, you filter your drinking water at home why not the water that makes up your beer. Just filtering your water and using a campden tablet will get you a long way down the road to improving your brew and embracing the water you have. Standing allows any other off smelling element to evaporate off.

Oh, you might be thinking why porters and stouts. Well, they both have a more acidic grain due to the roasting and therefore work better with hard water.

So if you did that internet search you will have found these water profiles for the common beer, ale and Stout types.

  • Bitter and Pale Ale. Alkalinity as CaC03 – up to 50 p.p.m. Calcium – 180 to 220 p.p.m.
  • Mild Ale. Alkalinity as CaC03 – 100 to 150 p.p.m. Calcium – 90 to 110 p.p.m.
  • Porter and Stout. Alkalinity as CaC03 – 100 to 150 p.p.m. Calcium – 100 to 120 p.p.m.
  • Pale Lager. Alkalinity as CaC03 – up to 30 p.p.m. Calcium – 100 to 120 p.p.m.

If you want to make other kinds of beer, ale or larger you are going to have to learn two things

  1. How to adjust your alkalinity levels (Alkalinity as CaC03)
  2. How to adjust your calcium levels

You can either use your water report as a starting point for the calculations or you can buy a saltwater alkalinity test intended for marine fish tanks and use that. Mine were pretty close, I tested CaC03 as 260 & my water report says 288. Given most banding above are 20 or better you can see water chemistry is quite forgiving within tolerances.

I’m not going to go into detail of how to adjust alkalinity and calcium levels as have a great guide here

Let me just say for 20% work you will get 80% of the way there and make some brews to rival the pros!


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