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If you've finally decided to begin brewing your own beer at home rather than paying high prices for others' craft brews, you're not alone -- according to a recent survey, an estimated 1.2 million Americans brew their own beer at home. While doing so can save you money over time if you're able to cultivate your own hops and oats, it's important to make sure you're brewing with pure, clean water to avoid wasting your expensive ingredients. Read on to learn more about the water testing and treatment options you'll need to ensure a high quality brew every time.
What testing should you do to ensure ideal water quality for brewing?
Before brewing your first batch, you'll want to have the pH and mineral levels of your water tested. Many parts of the country have aquifers that are prone to very hard water, and high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, or magnesium can cause your beer to be cloudy and bitter, even if you're otherwise following a brewing recipe to the letter. By getting a report that will tell you your basic water profile, you'll have all the data you need to begin making adjustments.
What water conditioning treatments may you need?
If your water testing turns up some issues with your pH or mineral balance, you'll have the information you need to begin treating your brewing water.
For home brewing, water with a pH level of between 6 and 7 is ideal. If your pH is out of balance with these levels, you'll need to either add some acidity or alkalinity to get it to the perfect level. Most at home-water conditioners or water softeners can adjust the pH of your water to a pre-programmed level, making it fairly easy to get your water into brewing condition.
Water softeners can also help filter out many of the minerals that can make beer cloudy or earthy-tasting. You'll want to continue to test your water after installing a water softener to ensure that the sodium and potassium levels remain stable. In many cases, it can be less labor-intensive to simply compensate for the variance in these levels rather than to try to reduce them by altering your water softener's performance.
If you're planning to regularly brew beer for your own uses or to give away to family or friends, you'll probably want to keep a water testing kit on hand to periodically test your tap water and ensure that it's still within the ideal ranges. Keeping an eye on your water profile can prevent you from sinking time and money into expensive brewing ingredients only to end up with a sour or bitter mess.
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