Water is one of the most important ingredients in beer and has a major impact on the final batch. It is also one of the more complex aspects of brewing, so much so that a whole book could be written on the subject so what I want to do here is give you an introduction without being too technical and give you a few tips that will make you better beer without much extra work.
I could start by saying about breweries like Burton are famous because of their water or that Pilsner being made from soft water is why you get crisp, pale lager but we know this already. What most people don’t consider is the water they home brew their beer with.
I am not going to go deep into the chemistry of water and talk about the different elements here but I will do in the future. All I want to do here is give you one or two things you can do straight away and end up brewing better beer.
Tip 1: If you don’t drink your tap water, don’t brew beer with it. This goes without saying to be honest. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water on it’s own then it’s going to make your beer worse. I have, on many occasions bought bottled water and I’m not advising you go an buy 25 litres of Evian here, I mean the super saver supermarket own brand stuff. Just try it once and see if it works for you.
Tip 2: If you are using tap water then make sure you get rid of the chlorine. The thing with chlorine is it makes your tap water safe to drink because bacteria cannot survive alongside it. However your bacteria won’t survive in your beer either, one because everything is sanitized and boiled and two because of the alcohol. The chlorine in tap water will react with phenols (aromatic compounds) in the malt to make chlorophenols and give you a taste reminiscent of band-aids or plasters.
To get rid of chlorine in your tap water there are a couple of easy solutions. The easiest is to use a carbon block water filter that filters water through the tap (rather than by the jug). This will remove any chlorine present in the water. The other thing you could do is to add a campden tablet. 1 tablet will remove any chlorine in 20 gallons of water so is a fairly cost effective way to go about it. Lastly you can boil water to remove chlorine which is simple, but in my eyes the most effort.