90 to 95% of your beer is made up of water… and if your water tastes like pond water, then your beer is likely to taste like pond water…

So assuming your water tastes good, then let’s look at how you can adjust your water to brew better beers…

There are many things you can do with water, but the most important reason why you want to adjust your water (if at all) is to keep your mash pH between 5.1 and 5.4…

Extract brewers don’t have to worry about adjusting their water, since no mashing is taking place and dry or liquid malt extract has all the minerals and nutrients yeast need for fermentation…

… but for all grain brewers, playing with water is half the fun…

So, the question ‘how do I adjust my water?’ is different for every brewer depending on a)the water source and b) the beer being brewed…

To make this easy to understand I’ll start with distilled water as an example and then give you harder examples using other sources of water…

Distilled water has essentially zero minerals and it’s about as pure H2O as you can get… and it should have a neutral pH of 7…

The pH of water itself doesn’t matter as much as the pH of the mash… that’s what we are worried about… when you add water to your grains, the natural acidity of the grains brings the pH down below 7…

Here’s where we need to start paying attention… pale malts, lager malts or light colored malts don’t have much acidity… toasted malts or roasted malts on the other hand tend to have too much acidity…

What that means is that if you tried to brew a light beer using nothing but distilled water and a pale or lager malt, then your mash pH will probably be around the high 5’s… if you were to brew a dark colored beer using distilled water and dark malts then your mash pH will probably end up in the high 4’s… either way you’d be above or below the range you want to be, which is in the 5.1 to 5.4…

That’s where adjusting your water comes into play…

For light colored beers you want to adjust your pH down and for dark beers you want to adjust your pH up…

 

To adjust your pH down, the easiest way is to add Calcium or Magnesium to your mash… these minerals bring the pH down… and they are usually found in the form of Gypsum salt (Calcium Sulfate), Calcium Chloride or Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate)… alternatively lactic acid can be used, but I prefer to stick to salts…

To adjust you pH up what you want to use is carbonates… carbonates make your water alkaline, which means they raise the pH of your mash… and you can add carbonates to your mash in the form of baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) or chalk (Calcium Carbonate)…

Easy enough?

So you’d think that if you brewed using medium malts like caramel 60 – 120 L or similar colored malts, then you don’t have to adjust your water to hit your pH… and you’d be right, but you still have to adjust your water because you need to have at least 50 ppm of calcium…

Not only does calcium help during the mash, but it’s critical to have good fermentation…

Again, extract brewers don’t have to worry about that, because extract has the minerals needed…

Now, this was if you were to use distilled or reverse osmosis water… which has no minerals or carbonates… but what if your water does have minerals or carbonates?

Well, now you know what minerals to look for and why you are adjusting your water to begin with… so let’s look at a couple examples… check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jJYrx5JCP4

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Hope that helps you brew better beer…

Cheers!

PS You can download the excel sheet I used here: http://ezwatercalculator.com


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