Hey all! I finally got my results from the pre-water-softener sample I sent to Ward Labs. The first container they sent must have gotten lost in the mail so there was a big delay.
This sample is straight from the pipe where the water from the well comes into the house. Here are the results:
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 259
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.43
Cations / Anions, me/L 5.2 / 5.1 ppm
Sodium, Na 3
Potassium, K < 1
Calcium, Ca 84
Magnesium, Mg 10
Total Hardness, CaCO3 252
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.5 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 4
Chloride, Cl 8
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 278
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 228
Total Phosphorus, P 0.54
Total Iron, Fe < 0.01
As opposed to the earlier sample, the sodium level is low as expected, which is fine. The pH and Alkalinity is high. The Sulfate and Carbonate is low.
One of the brewers on the HomeBrewTalk forum suggested lime softening the water. I don't doubt that it would be helpful, but for me to do that it would require more research, number crunching, and equipment (costs) on my part. It's interesting, but probably a project to try sometime later. I did find the following two links useful for understanding something about the science and methodology:
Alkalinity reduction with slaked lime
Using slaked lime to reduce water alkalinity
Instead, I plan to use Reverse Osmosis (RO) water to dilute half of my mash water; I'll only need 2 gallons. Doing that will address my alkalinity issue. I'll add (~3 ml of ) lactic acid to bring the pH down. I'll add Calcium Chloride and Epsom Salts to get my Calcium, Chloride, and Sulfate levels where they need to be.
The EZ Water Calculator helped me play with additions and see what the affects are on the chemistry. Highly recommended.