Choice of Beer Brewing Water – Analyzing Mineral Constituents in Water for Brewing Purposes
Water constitutes to about 90 percent of your beer. The kind of water you choose to brew beer with makes a difference in the final state of the beer. The minerals present in the water can affect the starch conversion of your grains. The best water for pilsners will typically be the worst water for stouts and vice versa.
Brewing water plays an imperative role in the final flavor of your home-brewed beer. When you know the characteristics of water source and also how to adjust the water properties, you will be able to produce the exact flavor of beer that you want.
How Water Impacts Beer
Water has an impact on beer in three main ways;
– The water ions have a critical role in the overall mashing process to the l grain brewers
– Water affects the resultant bitterness and the hop utilization of the finished beer
– Water adds some flavor into the beer
Analyzing Mineral Constituents in Water for Brewing Purposes
- Carbonate compounds and Bicarbonate (CO3 and HCO3)
Carbonate is considered to be the most vital ion in grain brewing. Carbonate ion determines the acidity in the mash. The ion also acts as the primary determinant of the level of hardness in water. When the carbonate levels get too low in the beer brewing process, then mash becomes too acidic, and if they are too high, the mash efficiency suffers.
- Sodium (Na)
Sodium determines the body and mouth-feel of the beer, and when in excess, it will result into salty seawater flavors. High-sodium water typically comes from the household water softeners, and that is the reason most brewers normally recommend against mashing it with softened water.
- Chloride (Cl)
Low concentrations of chloride enhance the mouth-feel and the beer complexity. Chloride is mostly used in major city water for sanitation purposes. However, heavily chlorinated water result in chlorine-like flavors which are undesired in beer. The desired levels should be 150mg/l and should never exceed the 200mg/l level.
- Sulfate (SO4)
The sulfate’s role in beer is to bring out the hop bitterness by adding a sharp, dry and hoppy profile to the well-hopped beers. It equally plays another role of lowering Ph level of the mash. However, note that high sulfate levels will create undesired astringent profile.
5. Calcium (Ca)
Calcium ion makes the primary element that determines the permanent hardness of water. Its role in the beer brewing process is to lower the Ph level during mashing, enhance the beer stability, help in the precipitation of the proteins during the boiling process and act as a vital yeast nutrient. In beer, it should range between 50mg/l and 150mg/l
- Magnesium (Mg)
If magnesium ions are used in minimal levels, they make a vital yeast nutrient. In beer brewing, its desired levels are 10mg/l up to 30mg/l.
Water Adjustment Techniques
Different levels of beer need different water profiles. Each beer has its water profile and this is the core reason we can’t say which water is best for beer brewing. The choice of water will depend on the intended beer produce.
– Diluting with distilled water
– You can also use additives that increase the concentartion of key ions.
Popular additives include – Table salt (NaCl), Calcium Carbonate (CaCl), Gypsum (CaSO4), Baking Soda (NaHCO3, Epsom salts (MgSO4) and Chalk (CaCO3).