Pints for Prostates

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Water Quality Test Kit

The biggest ingredient in any beer is water. Having the right water chemistry is important. Until now I have not focused on it. I know it's important, but I have focused on other, more basic aspects. I wasn't quite ready to geek out on this so very science-oriented aspect. Remember, at heart, I'm that English major in the corner of the coffee shop reading Kerouac's Dharma Bums.

I had thought that John Palmer's book on water was going to come out soon, but I heard that it has been pushed back to this fall. I figured that book would be the perfect guide for diving deep into water matters. As it is, I can't wait until fall. Now that I am all-grain brewing, water pH is important. I need to figure out what I'm dealing with. Up until now I have purchased spring water at the grocery store to supplement my own well water. Reverse osmosis (RO) water does not have the minerals that the yeast need, but the gallons of spring water are fine.

Our well water runs through a filter that removes any debris, and then into a water softener. Our water tastes good. And for extract brewing, that may be enough. But for all-grain brewing, I need a better understanding.

Even though John Palmer's book on water is not out yet, his book, How To Brew is still considered the best source for information on brewing water. I'm using that for now.

This last weekend I was at the hardware store I found this water quality kit from Whetk. I knew it would not give me all the data I want, but for $10, it' a start. 
Whetk Water Quality Test Kit
Eventually, I'll send a sample to Ward Laboratories. They provide a home brewers test package. They send you a water bottle and return packaging. You take a sample and mail it back. They make it simple and it costs $33.
Kit Contents
The kit I bought comes with various strips, tablets for the iron test, and a sample vial. I just had to fill the vial with water from the tap, stick the various test strips and compare the strips to the charts.

The results are as follows (to the extent that I could match the test strips and the colors on the charts):
  • chlorine: 0 ppm
  • alkalinity: 120 ppm?
  • pH: 6.5 or 7
  • hardness: 0 ppm
  • nitrate: 0 ppm
  • copper: 0 ppm
  • iron: 0 ppm
Those results appear to be good. For general everyday cooking use and drinking water in the home those results are great. 

I'll want to bring the water pH down for my mash. Palmer's book says that you want between 5.1 and 5.5 (when measured at mash temperature). His book has more to say about other compounds like Magnesium, Calcium, and Bicarbonate, but I don't have that information yet.
Squint and Guess
Now how can I bring my pH down in time to brew this next week? ...I'm planning on brewing an American Brown Ale, btw. : )

1 comment:

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