I’m constantly arguing with my homebrew buddy over water. He insists on using the delicious water from the tap. Most people don’t even drink straight tap water! It’s interesting though how accepted it is in brewing.
You can use tap water when home brewing beer. It is perfectly safe and since you are boiling it, there is no chance of infection. Flavor is another issue, depending on the style of beer brewed it could impact the flavor.
I’m not sure about you but I hate the taste of tap water. I much prefer water from a brita filter or one that I’ve installed in my fridge. I can’t knock my friend either, because his tap water beer still tastes excellent. So what gives?
Brewing With Tap Water
We have both been brewing beer with tap water for years, but have only recently gotten into brewing mead. There seems to be a difference though, a big one.
Our mead while not beer, seems to have a greater relationship with the water than beer. It might have something to do with the subtlety of mead and lack of other ingredients. Mead only has 2 basic ingredients water and honey.
When we brew beer we generally use tons of different kinds of grains, add hops and even sprinkle in some other interesting ingredients, like fruit or spices. This seems to mask the subtle flavors that the water influences in the beer.
Not all Water is Created Equal
The water in Maine is not the same as the water in California. The mineral composition is entirely different. This gives the recipe that you are using a subtle difference from either location.
You may not even notice the difference depending on the beer you are brewing. If you are brewing a super light beer you might taste the difference, but if you are making a double IPA you probably won’t notice any difference.
Either way this may be one of the reasons beer tastes different when it’s being manufactured in different locations. For some reason Guinness in the United States just does not taste as good as Guinness in Europe. I don’t know whether its the water or not, but it is a potential candidate.
The Guinness distributed in the United States is actually brewed here, while the European Guinness is brewed in London. Again I can’t say whether its the water, but it is interesting.
Filter Your Water to Lesson the Impact
Since you have come to Frugal Homebrew you aren’t exactly looking to break the bank. So I will tell you to absolutely not waste your time and money on using bottled water for brewing.
You could filter you’re water though. While it will be more expensive than tap water, not by much. It’s probably the best compromise you can make. I would highly suggest this if you are working with fruits or lighter beers.
If you are working on thick, heavy or overly hoppy beers then you are definitely fine using tap water.
Brewing mead I will most certainly use filtered tap water as well, You are probably fine not boiling it, just make sure all of the containers you are using are properly sanitized, including the filter you are using. You could probably boil it just to be safe but it’s up to you.
If you want to get really into it, you can figure out the exact ph of your water and even its mineral composition. I have not tried this yet but it is an option if you really want to perfect your beer.
I doubt many micro breweries even do this. So you are probably better off just merrily using filtered or tap water.
Using Distilled Water
Using distilled water is an excellent way to create a blank slate for your beer. Do not use distilled water to brew beer without adding minerals to it first. There is something about distilled water that does not allow it to ferment properly.
If this is all you have left to perfect your recipe than you can play around with the PH of your water using distilled. To be honest its too much for me, unless I’m making Bud Light why bother.
Brew Like a Monk
Humans have been brewing beer for thousands of years. Beer was actually thought to be even safer than water itself. Probably because it was being boiled before consumed, but hey they just used whatever was available.
The water being used back in the day probably tasted foul, might have just been because of the bacteria content though. At any rate they boiled it and cooked the wort. Not sure what the beers tasted like back in the day, but I’m sure they were perfectly fine. Less people died drinking beer than water anyways.
The difference today is the trace amounts of chlorine and other bacteria killing chemicals. If you are boiling your water you need not worry about the bacteria so you can essentially get water that tastes good and is missing those chemicals.
Hard Water Softeners
If you have hard water and are utilizing a water softener this might not be beneficial for your beer. Depending on your water softener it could contribute quite a bit of sodium to your water.
The increase in salt in your beer might give your beer a bit of a salty taste. It’s also not good to have in your water if you want healthy yeast. The salt will compete with the yeast and lead to less alcohol or even inactive yeast.
So if you do have hard water and are using a softener to lengthen the life span of your appliances, you might want to check the salt content or turn of the softener entirely for your brew.
The only beer that I can think of that actually uses salt in its ingredient list is a Gose. This is essentially a sour beer. Most of the ingredients tell you to add the salt during the boil though, so I’m not quite sure how salt would affect a sparge.
Sparging is the process of putting hot water through cracked grains. Adding salt to this process would likely not lead to a very tasty product. It’s best to leave the salt as a fancy high quality ingredient during the boil for a nice Gose.
Temperature of Tap Water and Affect on Yeast
If you are utilizing tap water and also boiling it to get rid of any impurities you need to pay attention to the temperature.
If the water is too hot you could end up killing yeast, while on the other hand if the temperature is too cold you could run the risk of not activating the yeast.
Either way though tap water does not have enough chlorine, fluoride or bleach in it to kill yeast. You will be just fine using tap water for a yeast starter.
Buy a Kit and Test the Water
If you are in any way afraid of whether or not your tap water is good for brewing you might invest in a tap water testing kit. A simple google search for water testing kit would suffice, alternatively you could just go all out and this one.