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Water for brewing

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Water is the main ingredient in many beverages (including beer). Its quality and composition are one of the determining factors of the product’s taste characteristics for both small and large breweries.

Small breweries mostly use available well or tap water to brew all types of beer. Gypsum (CaSO4) is added to the water during the brewing process of IPA (Indian Pale Ale) or STOUT beer, however relatively rarely the water quality is improved during the production process. In this way you can produce an excellent one type of beer but it is almost impossible to brew certain types of beer. Today, thanks to water treatment technologies, brewers can provide themselves with the water for any beer.

Requirements for the water used in brewing

The water used in brewing beer must comply with the regulation Nr. 547 “Dzeramā ūdens obligātās nekaitīguma un kvalitātes prasības, monitoringa un kontroles kārtība which determines the quality parameters of the drinking water. In addition, brewers also have their own internal standards.

Source water composition and quality

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In order to choose the most suitable water treatment technology, detailed information about the quality of the source water is required. This information can be obtained through water analysis.

Water hardness, pH and alkalinity are the basic indicators to consider when choosing a water treatment technology. Water hardness determines the calcium and magnesium content in the water. pH is an indicator that determines the acidity/alkalinity of the environment. Different steps in the brewing process require different pH ranges. For example, the optimum pH for brewing water is between 6 and 7, while the pH for finished beer should be reduced to between 4 and 5. Alkalinity, on the other hand, is the buffering capacity of water, which is determined by the sum of hydroxyl ions, carbonic acids, organic, as well as bicarbonate and carbonate ions present in the water.

The main water impurities that affect the taste characteristics of the obtained beer as well as the extraction and fermentation processes:

Element Permissible content, mg/l (ppm)

Calcium(Ca 2+)

5–200 ppm

Magnesium (Mg 2+ )

2–30 ppm
Sodium (Na+) 2–150 ppm

Potassium (K+)

Iron (Fe 3+ ) 0,01 – 0,3
Manganese (Mn 2+ ) 0,001 – 0,1

Copper(Cu 2+ )

0,001 – 0,1

Zinc(Zn 2+ )

0,01 – 0,2
Ammonia (NH4 + ) 0,01–10


Carbonates and bicarbonates
(CO 3 2- , HCO 3- )


Sulfates (SO 4 2- )

20-150 lpp

Chlorides (Cl – )

200–300 ppm

Nitrates (NO 3 2- )

0–10 ppm

Nitrites(NO 2 2- )

0–10 ppm
Other compounds

Chlorine and chloramines(Cl 2 )

0 – 0,5 ppm
  • Calcium and magnesium carbonates are components of water hardness. They are safe for humans and necessary for brewing. Calcium aids in the extraction of bitter components from hops and can also increase the turbidity and viscosity of the product.
  • Magnesium brings out the smell of beer but in excess it can give bitterness. If the magnesium content exceeds 125 ppm, beer can have a laxative effect.
  • Carbonates and bicarbonates are necessary to ensure the full taste of the malt. Their increased indicators are the basis of the taste of lager beer.
  • Sodium in concentrations up to 75 ppm can cause a sour or salty aftertaste which at higher levels contributes to unpleasant beer bitterness.
  • Potassium is responsible for the saltiness in the taste of the final product.
  • Sulfates in an optimal concentration ensure a full-fledged taste of beer which with a content of more than 500 mg/l acquires a distinctly bitter taste.
  • Chlorides provide a bitter aftertaste that emphasizes the fullness of taste and smell. As the concentration increases, a salty aftertaste occurs.
  • Iron content greater than 0.5 mg/l creates an unpleasant aftertaste in beer.
  • Copper, manganese and zinc have an unpleasant metallic aftertaste.
  • Nitrates spoil the taste of the beer.
  • Ammonia can indicate microbiological contamination of water, so it is not recommended to use it in the brewing process.
  • Silicon does not affect the taste of beer, but it can bind calcium and magnesium and cause turbidity during fermentation.
  • Chlorine and chloramines does not affect the organoleptic properties of the beer but they can interfere with extraction processes.

Water sources for brewing:

  1. Artesian wells and underground springs which can have different salt composition and hardness.
  2. Bottled water purified by reverse osmosis with mineralization. Low level of mineralization suitable for brewing light beer.
  3. Tap water with a rich mineral composition.
  4. Well water. Depending on the depth of the well and the region, both relatively good water and water with an increased content of hardness salts, iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide can be provided. Such water usually needs to be boiled and is suitable for brewing dark beer.
  5. Filtered water can be suitable for different types of beer. This method is most common in commercial water treatment plants.

Water purification technologies for brewing

There are three main techniques for preparing the water: boiling, diluting and filtering.


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The advantage of the boiling method is that it does not require the installation of additional equipment. Water is poured into a metal container where it boils for a certain time. It is then cooled and decanted to prevent sediment from entering the vessel. However, the boiling process does not remove most of the minerals, organic and organochlorine compounds found in tap water as well as the spores of microorganisms. In addition, this method is energy-intensive, the amount of water obtained is limited by the power and time of lowering the temperature of the water, so it is not suitable for large-scale beer production.


The dilution method involves proportionally diluting the source water with distillate or reverse osmosis water. The method ensures reduction of the total concentration of substances in the water. In domestic conditions it is convenient to boil part of the water to be diluted and add an appropriate amount of distillate to it. The advantage of the method is the simplicity of its implementation, however, the non-removal of toxic substances has its drawbacks.


Filtration is a water treatment technology suitable for both domestic water treatment and craft breweries.

  1. Mechanical filters are used to remove mechanical particles (e.g. sludge, oxidized iron).
  2. Ion exchange allows to reduce the content of calcium and magnesium cations, heavy metals (cations) and anions – sulfates and/or chlorides (anions).
  3. Sorption is a process that takes place using activated carbon and is intended for the separation of organics, organochlorines and active chlorine. This process reduces the color and odor of the water.
  4. Catalytic fouling removal is a process that provides accelerated oxidation followed by mechanical retention of particles. This method is effective for removing iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide and some organic contaminants.
  5. Membrane technologies:
  • Reverse osmosis: the smallest pores of the membrane element retain 96 – 99.8% of impurities, including ions and molecular pollutants, ensure water disinfection even from the smallest viruses. In brewing technology such water requires demineralization. Before purifying water with reverse osmosis it must first be purified from chlorine and organic substances using a carbon filter.
  • Ultrafiltration: in this case the pores of the membrane are slightly larger, so it retains colloids, most organic matter and bacteria. Before ultrafiltration it is recommended to purify water from large mechanical particles larger than 20 microns.
    1. Disinfection is a process aimed to remove microorganisms, i.e. viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc. from the water. Depending on the water treatment technology chosen, this step may include ultraviolet disinfection (used for sterile water with low hardness) or the addition of reagents (mainly chlorine oxide).

Water filters for brewing


The question of water purification is often discussed in the forums of beer producers and the opinion is expressed that the tap water has a negative effect on the quality of the product.

To improve water quality at home, filter cups, triple and reverse osmosis filters can be used.

  1. Filter cup: ensures sufficient purification of tap water from the main impurities that can negatively affect human health and beer quality. It is suitable for small brews as it takes some time to filter the required amount of the water.
  2. The triple filter is a good water purification solution for home brewing. It consists of three consecutively installed flasks containing different cartridges.

A standard set of cartridges consists of:

  • mechanical cartridge to reduce water turbidity;
  • cartridge with Ecomix D material for removing iron, manganese, hardness salts and heavy metals;
  • carbon block for sorption of chlorine and organic substances.

The filter is suitable for well and tap water. With the right combination of cartridges, the system will ensure a high level of removal of harmful impurities, maintaining the balance of minerals. Thanks to the low cost of cartridges, it is possible to prepare water that is optimal for any type of beer. The filtration rate in such a filter is 1 l/min.

  1. Reverse osmosis filter: removes 99% of impurities from water. Completely demineralized water may not be suitable for all types of beer, so to obtain the optimal mineral composition, it is necessary to choose filters with mineralization or use special remineralizing salts. Therefore, you can make water suitable for any beer. In addition, this type of water does not require disinfection.


The amount of water used by commercial breweries will be much higher. In addition to the water used directly for brewing, there is a significant additional cost of water for washing dishes and equipment.

A budget solution for relatively high-quality well or tap water can be the AquaPoint system with an optimal set of cartridges with an ultraviolet lamp. If you choose a softener with ion exchange resin or the complex filtering material Ecocomix, you can ensure a high level of water purification for both brewing and domestic use.

Company Ecosoft also manufactures commercial reverse osmosis filters which are a convenient solution for the small food industry. According to the principle of operation, they are similar to domestic systems, but at the same time provide water from 50 to 75 l/h. With the help of such a filter it is possible to obtain clean mineralized water from any source.


Breweries install water purification systems with high productivity. In this case, water dilution in several streams is a fairly common practice. These flows typically include:

  • water for brewing;
  • dish and equipment washing water;
  • technical water of steam boilers installed in production, etc.

Deionization technologies using reverse osmosis or ion exchange are also widely used.


Nowdays brewers can provide themselves with the water for any beer thanks to water treatment technologies. Water hardness, pH and alkalinity are the main indicators to consider when choosing water treatment technology/s. Water purification equipment for beer production is selected depending on the quality of the source water (through water analysis), the specifics of the source water as well as the needs of the brewery. Today there is a wide range of water purification equipment suitable for both home brewing and commercial and industrial use.

Read also: Water for coffee.


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