Water Treatment

A crushed campden tablet...

I mentioned in an earlier blog, that my first two all grain homebrews were tainted, due to me not treating the tap water. I said at the time, that I would reevaluate doing full on water treatment after I’d got a bit more experience.

In my head, I had decided that I would take a look at it all again after my sixth brew, mainly as I would then have used up all my old hops and would hopefully have more of an idea of what I was doing.

Well, I’ve completed my eighth all grain brew, it’s currently conditioning in the brew fridge and should be ready for drinking in a couple of weeks. So it’s probably a good time to take a closer look at adjusting the profile of the water that I use, especially as I’m not going to be brewing again until September due to a family holiday.

My first stop was to contact the local water company, which in my case is Cambridge Water and ask for details of the local water composition. They were very helpful and got back to me promptly with the following information:

Linton (Zone 4) 2012
Parameter Result Unit
Alkalinity 221.67 mg/l CaCO3
Hardness 315 p.p.mas CaCO3 mg/l
Calcium 120.33 mg/l Ca
Magnesium 4.34 mg/l Mg
Sodium 11.07 mg/l Na
Sulphate 29.60 mg/l SO4
Chloride 28.87 mg/l Cl

They also said that the Carbonate readings were only taken at one source and were all below the levels of detection. Also, that since all the water they provide is from groundwater, they don’t expect the Carbonate levels to differ from the different extraction points.

So all that is left, is to buy some litmus paper, so that I can take a PH reading and we should be all set. I did buy some CRS from The Malt Miller in anticipation of having to use it, but most of the profiles on Wheeler’s calculator, indicate that I might not need to use it, so we’ll have to see.

I’ve had good success so far with just campden tablets, but I’m itching to try slightly different water profiles to see how they affect mash efficency and things like that. I also think it’s important for trying to replicate older styles of beer, as I’ll be able to replicate water from Edinburgh or Burton, for example.

One Reply to “Water Treatment”

  1. I would definitely use CRS where needed. 221mg/l should be reduced to about 30-50mg/l (or less) for pale beers for *all water used*. Calcium is reasonably good, though it wouldn’t hurt to add a tsp of CaSO4 / 5G to the mash and boil. 100-150 is OK for stouts and the like, depending a little on the grist.

    Alkalinity is the important figure to get right though – screw up the mash/sparge pH and you’ll have a bigger adverse effect than not quite having the right Cl:SO4 ratio. Mine is about 180-200, and I need to use CRS/AMS or I find I get a harsh astringent finish to anything pale.

    BTW, the Carbonate being low is a little misleading – most CO3 compounds are highly insoluble. But you’ll have a lot of HCO3- ions (which is the temporary hardness that gives rise to the high alkalinity). Just read the “as CaCo3” alkalinity reading and go with it.

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