Beer is essentially 90 percent water, with the rest being alcohol and flavorings. Thus, the quality of brewing water is the most significant factor to consider in craft beer brewing.
Craft beer making provides you with a range of alcoholic varieties to choose from, and thankfully, there is an endless stream of recipes online to help you explore safe and exciting drinking experiences. The chemistry of the brewing water essentially determines the quality, taste, and aroma of the beer. Over the years, water sources have been an essential determinant for siting breweries. The notion of best ales in the Empire from Burton on Trent and the clearest pale lagers from Pilsen is inextricably linkable to the chemistry of the water.
With the advancement of water treatment and filtration systems, such as reverse osmosis, brewers can now manipulate water conditions to meet specific requirements and deliver varying unique flavor profiles with water from the same source.
What Type of Water is Best for Your Home Brew?
Your immediate supply of water may deliver an excellent quality of taste and absence of foul odor, but when it comes to craft beer making, we tend to consider more than just flavor or smell. The mineral make-up of the brewing water largely determines the outcome of the entire brewing process. Besides causing sour taste in craft beer, poor brewing water quality interferes with the brewing process and consequently inflates the production costs.
Generally, good brewing water should be clean and odorless. It has to contain only the right minerals and in moderate amounts. The slightest trails of chloramine ions, pond smells, deficit, or excess mineral elements and compounds can ruin an entire brew. So if the description matches your immediate water source, you should consider having your brewing water treated with filtration systems.
Two features of water will affect the taste of the beer; they are mineral composition and pH.
This feature accounts for elements like calcium, magnesium, other non-metallic compounds like phosphates, nitrates, and more. These elements are to be present in specific quantities during mashing, to control pH levels or regulate enzymatic activities.
Calcium and magnesium ions, for example, have an affinity for hops and are responsible for giving the beer its hoppy flavor. Carbonates and bicarbonates, on the other hand, stabilize the pH level during mashing.
Chlorine richens the beer flavor and gives it some sort of completeness, but an excess of it will be lethal to the yeast used in fermentation. Iron is something you wouldn’t like to have in your water. Trace amounts of iron in water, even as little as 0.05mg/l, will give the beer an inky aftertaste and also inhibit fermentation.
The pH value of water is the measure of acidity or alkalinity it expresses. It plays an essential role in the fermentation stage of beer making. The beta-amylase enzyme, for instance, needs acidic conditions to convert the starches to sugars effectively. Similarly, fermentation yeast thrives when the solution is acidic.
Water is mostly in a slightly alkaline state, so to improve its acidic properties, it must contain the right amounts of minerals. Calcium has the most crucial role when it comes to fostering acidic conditions. At the same time, bicarbonates and carbonates act as buffers, stabilizing the pH, so it does not fluctuate haphazardly in either direction.
Throughout the entire brewing process, you will have to keep watch on the pH levels of your brew, so keep a pH meter handy. A steady acidic range between 5.2-5.5 will yield a perfect homemade beer.
Best Type of Water Filtration Systems for Craft Beer Brewing?
Now that you understand how mineral elements and water pH affects the quality of your craft beer, it becomes more of a necessity than a luxury that you make provisions for pure water supply before you start brewing. The following are alternative methods to purify your brewing water.
So far, so good, reverse osmosis (RO) remains the best water for craft beer. Given the increasing popularity of craft beer brewing, reverse osmosis water has proven to be a prime preference for beer brewing. RO is much in use in commercial brewing as it is in homebrewing. Everyone loves it!
RO water systems get rid of over 96% of dissolved salts, minerals, and solids from the water. That way, you’re left with a solvent that feels soft, sufficiently acidic, and free of distasteful contaminants like iron, nitrites, chlorine, and chloramines.
Catalytic carbon can eliminate chloramines from water, and enhance the taste of your brewing water. They are covered in pores that trap impurities flowing through the water. Activated carbon filters soak up the contaminants from the water.
To maximize the achievable results with carbon filters, increase your water’s contact time with the filter and reduce the water flow rate to ensure that the adsorption process is thorough.
Water deionization and distillation produce water of remarkable purity as well. Deionization systems get rid of the mineral content of water through a process called ion exchange. An improvement in the function of modern water softeners and deionization systems provides that you can now acquire for yourself, premium models with a top-class performance at reasonable prices.