How Water Quality Affects Brewing Beer
Water quality and how it affects your brew is pretty important to understand. It’s vital information for pros and the hobbyist alike! Many food companies own their individual breweries as an addition to their business. There are even some hobbyist homebrewers out there! We know you exist and want your beer to taste its absolute best! That is why today we are focusing on commercial water filtration, and why it matters for beer brewing.
Is My Water Affecting The Taste Of My Beer?
Beer consists of 90% water. So the water quality used to brew the beer will significantly affect the taste and quality of beer. Water contents affect the beer of alkalinity, pH, and mineral content. These contents will be part of the discussion later in this blog. For now, let us explain how water and minerals are essential in the fermentation process.
When beer begins the brewing process, the first step is mashing. Mashing is when hot water steeps the barley to prepare it for the fermentation process. The hot water hydrates the crushed grains and activates enzymes in the malt. These enzymes convert the grain starches into fermentation liquid. This liquid, also called wort, is what creates the mouthfeel, malt flavor, and body of the final product. The water used in this initial step is vital toward the taste of the final brewed product.
Water Minerals Involved In Brewing Beer
Hard water occurs when there are certain mineral levels within the water. Homeowners’ great concerns with hard water are the damages to their household appliances. They are also concerned about the physical repercussions of hard water. Skin irritation and eczema flare-ups are a couple to note.
But, a brewery business owner’s concern with hard water varies entirely. Breweries do not want to cut all hardness from the water. Instead, they rely on controlling the hardness level. This need for control is due to the flavor profile of the beer they are brewing. As mentioned before, the water used in brewing determines the flavor profile. For instance, for a hoppy flavor, calcium and magnesium must be present. The hops cling to the calcium ions present in the brewing water. For a rich flavor, chloride must be present in the water. The taste profile depends on when one of these mineral ions are present (or absent) from the water. Let’s take a look at some of the mineral ions in water that can make or break the taste of a beer brew.
Ions That Create A Great Tasting Beer
· Calcium is present when tap water originates from groundwater and passes through rocks. Limestone and Gypsum are top contenders of high calcium levels in the water. This mineral in brewing water lowers the pH in the mashing process, which is desirable for brewing. Calcium also contributes to protein precipitate and acts as a yeast nutrient. When within the desired range, this mineral will improve the clarity of your beer. The range is 50mg/L to 150mg/L.
· Magnesium is the second ion present in hard water. This can enhance or ruin the flavor of your beer brew, depending on the amount current. When within range, magnesium will act as a yeast nutrient. Yeast nutrients will promote healthy yeast growth during the fermentation process. This nutrient will significantly enhance the flavor of the beer when the ions are between 10-30 mg/L/
· Sodium can affect the taste of your beer for the better or worse, depending on the amount present. When sodium is within range, it will accentuate the flavor and body of the beer. Between the recommendation of 10-70mg/L sodium can bring the intentional salty sourness. Some brewers state they can achieve the desired sour flavor up to 150mg/L without ruining the taste. Yet, once sodium levels exceed 200mg/L, the taste alteration is unpalatable. Harsh metallic flavor results from high levels of sodium and the beer will taste too harsh.
· Love that malty taste to your beer? Thank chloride! Chloride ions in the water contribute to the rich, sweet, malty finish. Whether home-brewed or factory, chloride amount in water can help perfect the beer. These ions promote bitter hoppiness in beers, opposite of that with sodium present. When used in conjunction with sodium, a balanced sweet and hoppy flavor is present.
· Pro Tip: Never use water softeners for brewing water. Water softeners remove calcium and magnesium and add some sodium ions. When this occurs, your flavor profiles will be off, ruining the final brew product.
Ions That Ruin A Beer Taste Profile
· Iron is a common issue for homeowners and business owners. Its presence in the brewing process can ruin an entire beer batch. It will build up in machines and cause them to break down easier. Iron will also contribute to yellow water that stains brown. These ions will create an aftertaste in the beer that makes it undesirable. As little as 0.05mg/L can interfere with the fermentation process and ruin your beer.
· Like Iron, well owners will have the highest levels present. When these are in your water, pollutants, animal waste, and agriculture runoff are to blame. For those with well water, the levels of nitrates and nitrites can be extremely high. The EPA only regulates levels above 10mg/, but any level above 0 can destroy your beer completely.
· Manganese is typically found simultaneously with Iron. Any amount higher than 0.01mg/L will cause your beer taste to turn metallic. The flavor is not your only concern with manganese ions in your water. The clarity of the beer as well as the health of the yeast during the fermentation process is as well.
Take Control Of Your Brewing Water!
We have shown how minerals that are present in your water can affect the final beer product. Too much or too little can become catastrophic to home or factory brewers. So how do you control the number of minerals in your water? Crystal Clear Water’s Reverse Osmosis Systems!
Reverse osmosis systems allow you to control the recipe of your water’s make-up. With the same base, each batch will create a balanced taste that never varies! You can also change your settings at any time to mimic popular flavor profiles to brew. Want to learn more about what Crystal Clear can offer you? Give us a call today or check out our social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and, YouTube!