Besides the almost endless supply of great beer, one of the best things about homebrewing is that there’s always something to learn; some way to improve and take your beer to the next level. As the typical homebrewer masters the mash tun and fine-tunes their recipes, the next step up generally enters into the murky depths of understanding their brewing water.
The first part of this basic guide takes a look inside beer’s main ingredient and examines what your brewing water is made of. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll have a better idea of how to manipulate your water profile in order to create stunning beer.
Water makes up around 95% of beer typically, but is frequently neglected by brewers. While water can have a direct impact on the flavour of the finished beer, it more often helps to accentuate the flavour and character of other ingredients. Each beer style has a corresponding water profile, typically derived from the towns and regions that made them famous.
The soft waters of Plzen in what is now Czechia are responsible for much of the characteristics that define the classic Pilsner. In contrast, Dublin’s harder, mineral rich water has ensured that Irish Dry Stouts have become world-famous.
With a little tinkering, any home brewer can accurately clone any beer style by replicating the water profile that made it famous. But brewing water chemistry goes further than replicating traditional styles, and with a little know how, you can learn to make the most of your water when designing new recipes.
It’s useful to know exactly how much of a role water plays in the production of outstanding beer. A good understanding of brewing water chemistry can help you refine your beer, remove off flavours and get the most out of your malt. The main benefits of adding brewing water treatments include:
In order to understand your brewing water, you will need to obtain a local water report. A water report details the chemical makeup of your brewing water. You can obtain a report from your local water company, test it yourself or send a sample off to a reputable lab. There are six main water ions you need to be aware of when reading your report:
Once you have your report, you can compare it to the typical water profile of the style you wish to brew. In this way, you’ll know if you need to add more ions or dilute your water down. You can also find nomographsonline that will help you to determine which styles your brewing water is most suited to.
If you find many of your beers exhibit any kind of off-flavour, you can check your water report to see if an excess or deficiency of certain ions could be to blame. Simply check that none exceed the levels mentioned above, paying particular attention to magnesium.
Knowing what’s in your water and how it can have an impact on your brewing is just the first step. Part 2 of our brewing water guide will take a look at how you can use brewing water treatments to take your beer to the next level!
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|Vessel Name (Volume)||Height||Diameter||330ml Bottle Equivalent|
|2L Mini Keg||20cm||13.5cm||
|"Insulated Black Keg" (5L)||35cm||17.5 cm||15|
|4L Mini Keg||33cm||13.5cm||12|
|"Insulated Black Keg" (4L)||29.5cm||17.5cm||
|5L Mini Keg||26cm||17.5cm||15|
|10L Mini Keg||50cm||17.5cm||30|
|19L Corny Keg||63cm||22cm||57|
|"UniTank" (35L)||90cm||38cm||Up to 90|