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Inspired by this question. How do I test my water?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A city water report is the first place to look, but given where your city gets it's water, the values can fluctuate pretty significantly. For example, my city gets water from a few sources; sometimes they'll mix in well water, and thus the water has higher hardness, or they might be taking surface water shortly after a fresh rain.

The question to also ask is "why" should you test your water. To answer that, a good starting point are sections 15.0 though 15.4 in Palmer's How to Brew: http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-1.html

Water chemistry does have a significant affect on beer flavor. Often water chemistry is the last bit of tweaking needed to make a good beer great. Having said that, it's also an easy way to muck up a beer. Water chemistry (aside from proper filtration) should be your last concern in making beer. Sanitation, yeast handling, temperature control, recipe formulation and brewing process should all come first.

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If you have city water, they usually sent out a water profile a couple of times a year. It will be an average of the whole city, but it'll give you a general idea of what you're dealing with.

You can also send your water away to a lab to get tested. I've never bothered, so you'll need to find a reputable lab.

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I mentioned this over at the other question, but it bears repeating. If you have a private well, read this.. There are links to the bottom for state certified testing agencies. If you've never had your water tested, I highly recommend doing so immediately, beer brewing notwithstanding - it's potentially a serious safety issue.

If you are on city water, then it's probably safe, but I'd be tempted to test what's coming out of your individual tap just to be sure.

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The best place I've found for water testing is www.wardlab.com. Get test W-6. It runs about $16 and gives you all the info yo need for brewing. If you tell them you're a homebrewer, they have special info available.

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