Take the 2-minute tour ×
Homebrewing Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for dedicated home brewers and serious enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The tap water where I live is filled with chlorine, flouride, some pretty bad elements such as arsenic, chromium, barium, etc. So I would like to purify my water with either reverse osmosis or distillation. This will remove all contaminates, but also any minerals the water had as well.

I have been told that beer needs minerals, the lady at the brew store wasn't exactly clear as to why or what minerals. Several articles I have read, talk about adding gypsum when brewing or re-adding some tap water.

What minerals do I need in my water? How can I add them?

share|improve this question
1  
In further research, I found this article. beer-brewing.com/beer-brewing/brewing_water/… But it doesn't say how to readd the ones I desire. –  Wulfhart Aug 24 '11 at 22:55
    
Another brew shop that doesn't know what its talking about once some "graduates" beyond simple mix and boil kits? –  brewchez Aug 25 '11 at 11:46
    
@brewchez I wouldn't say that I have "graduated" beyond simple mix and boil kits, I just can't stand the taste of my city water. :p –  Wulfhart Aug 25 '11 at 17:43

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Since you intend to build your water from scratch, I recommend you take a look at Martin Brungard's excellent (and free!) water spreadsheet at https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/ . Not only will it help you to figure out what minerals you need for each beer style, there's a great water tutorial section in it.

share|improve this answer

There is a new product on the web (you can for sure get it on Amazon.com) called SafeTASTE. It is a concentrated product that adds the tasty minerals back to distilled or reverse osmosis water - only a few drops are need in each cup of water. 1 mL will flavor an entire liter. It has the same minerals, in the same forms and the same concentrations relative to each other as fine mineral waters. Here is the link below to Amazon for this product:

http://www.amazon.com/SafeTASTE/dp/B00C4G50S0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366588583&sr=8-1&keywords=safetaste

share|improve this answer
    
While the minerals added for beer production can have an affect on taste, their primary function is to regulate pH, accentuate malt/hop flavors and provide sufficient calcium levels for the yeast. –  mdma Apr 22 '13 at 9:42

You're right - you need minerals! Different minerals in the brewing water perform a number of roles througout the brewing process:

  • mashing: during the mash, minerals are used to adjust the pH - around 5.2 is considered a comprimise between the pH ranges favored by alpha and beta amylase. Chalk (Calcium Carbonate) and Baking soda (Calcium Hydrogen Carbonate/Calcium bicarbonate) increase pH, while Gypsum (Calcium Sulphate), Calcium Chloride and Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulphate) reduce pH.
  • yeast nutrients: various metals, such as calcium, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, copper and iron are used by the yeast.
  • flavour: Sulphates accentuate hop bitterness, while Chlorides accentuate the maltiness, while too much of both gives a harsh bitterness.
  • stability: calcium adds stability to the beer, helping produce clearer beers.

The references give the information in much more detail, including recommended amounts in parts per million (ppm.)

When brewing from extract or steeping grains, there is no mash, so of course mash pH is not a concern. The primary concern then is ensuring required minerals are available to the yeast. Wyeast make a nutrient blend that contains all of these minterals, so you could put that in the last 5 mins of the boil to make up for any deficiencies in the RO water. (In this case, avoid ammonium phopsphate, since that contributes few of the minerals required.) The extract brewer whose got all the variables nailed down and looking for more refinement can look to secondary concerns such as adding chlorides and sulphates to adjust the balance between maltiness and hoppiness. This also adds calcium - good for the yeast and good for colloidal stability.

The partial mash/all grain brewer also needs to feed the yeast and strike a flavour balance, so he will use all of the above, but will also add minerals to control mash pH. When controlling the mash and flavour, each salt performs multiple functions. For eample, Calcium Chloride reduces mash pH and accentuates the malt, so it's quite an art to finding the correct proportion of all the salts to give the desired effect. Brewing softwawre makes this process much simpler.

The quantities of salts added to a 5 or 10 gallon brew are measured in grams. A digital jewellers scale that measures 0-100g with a precision of 0.01g typically costs less than $10 and is perfect for weighing these small amounts.

To get started, you might pick up some yeast nutrient and these salts from your LHBS:

  • Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum)
  • Calcium Carbonate (Chalk)
  • Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts)
  • Calcium Chloride

And from your kitchen

  • Sodium Chloride (Table salt)
  • Calcium Bicarbonate (Baking soda)

References

share|improve this answer
    
not a good idea to add sulphates as they trigger the same allergies as sulfites and can add a rotten egg aftertaste. digital scales that are mentioned in this post are much more expensive (more like $50-70 for 0.01 g precision scales). This precision is really not needed in brewing, so standard food scales are a better choice (0.1 g precision and under $10). –  drj Aug 27 '11 at 22:55
1  
@drj - I got a new 0.01g scale from ebay, and a 10g calibration weight for $14. Many brewers add sulphates when brewing a hoppy beer such as an IPA. Sulphates are naturally present in many brewing water profiles, for example Burton on Trent water has 750ppm sulphates. Of course, adding too much of anything will cause problems, but but in moderation (<300ppm) I've not had any of the problems you mention. –  mdma Aug 27 '11 at 23:07
1  
If you have a scale with precision to 0.1g that will be fine. The food scale that I had availalbe had only 1g precision, so I needed something more precise. 0.01g scales on ebay start around $6 with shipping. ebay.com/itm/… –  mdma Aug 27 '11 at 23:15
    
Thanks for the link. I teach online chemistry courses and am always looking for cheap sources for my students to buy their scales. –  drj Sep 8 '11 at 7:58

As a chemist, I've tested various filtering systems and when it the dust settles, so to speak, filters such as the Pur or Brita work as efficiently as expensive RO or Ion exchange systems. I leave the "minerals" to those that are added that are inherent to the brewing process and avoid adding other salts unless instructed. BTW - epsom salt sold here in the US in stores is NOT for internal consumption and should not be added to food and beverages. Magnesium can be added in the chloride form. Adding sulphates is not recommended as the same allergies are triggered as in the case of sulfites.

share|improve this answer
    
The instructions on the epsom salts I got at the drug store include internal consumption as one use. The question is about adding minerals back, so suggesting just filtering is not aligned. RO water is not expensive ($.30/gal at the Glacier machine) –  Dale Nov 11 '12 at 14:41

The minerals that we care about are: calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, sulfate, sodium and chloride. Different styles want different quantities. You can adjust your distilled water to a particular mineral profile by adding various salts.

You're best to read Chapter 15 of How To Brew by John Palmer. On older version is online here: http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15.html

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.