Guide to Water
Yes, your brewing water is important. Most water is suitable for brewing beer, and many brewers never consider its contribution to their beer. However, water is one of the major factors that distinguishes regional beers from one another. Some beer styles are better suited to soft water (pilsners, light lagers), while others are more suited to hard. (dark lagers, stouts, porters) Differing mineral contents such as the amount of calcium sulfate, sodium chloride and carbonate all contribute to your beer's flavor, and even to how it ferments.
The first step in controlling your brewing water is knowing its exact composition. If you are using a city or town water source, call and ask them for an analysis. If you have well or spring water, mail a sample to an independent laboratory for a full analysis. Only by knowing the composition of your own water can you begin to match the brewing water of the classic beer styles of the world.
If your brewing water is too hard for the style you're trying to mimic, you'll have to work a little harder to correct it than if the water was too soft. To remove carbonate from your too hard water, add gypsum (You need the calcium in gypsum to combine with the carbonates in order to precipitate them from the water.) and bring the water to a boil. Then draw the water from the vessel leaving the mineral deposits behind.
If your brewing water is too soft for the intended beer style, you can add mineral salts to increase the water hardness to the desired level. Add gypsum to the water to increase its calcium sulfate content, Epsom salts to increase its magnesium sulfate content or table salt to increase its sodium chloride content.
In addition to the relative hardness of your brewing water, you should be concerned with the its chlorine content. Chlorine is added to city water supplies to control bacteria and living organisms. Unfortunately, chlorine also adds off flavors to your beer. You can remove chlorine from your water either by letting the water stand in a pot over night, pre-boiling the water or running it through a charcoal filter. Using a charcoal filter is the recommended method.
For more in depth information on water as it pertains to brewing please refer to "Brewing Lager Beer" by Gregory J. Noonan.
December 21, 1997 22:18:48
Copyright © 1996 by [Lee's Brewery].
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