When people first start brewing beer, they want everything to be absolutely perfect and it’s totally understandable. I mean, if you’re not careful with things like proper sanitation and water temperature, a lot of things can go wrong and spoil your hard work. But one question that comes up often is about the most basic ingredient: water.
Which kind of water is best? Do I need to use filtered or bottled water? Should I boil the water before brewing with it?
These are questions we get all the time so I thought it would be good to clear the air and get a few things about water and brewing beer straight.
Tap Water For Brewing Beer
The good news is this: If you are new to brewing beer and already bogged down with 15 other details, rest assured, you can still brew great beer with water from the tap. We have been using tap water for years and the beer we brew can satisfy our pickiest beer-loving friends. If you’re concerned about it, you can boil it first but we don’t find this step to be necessary. At the end of the day, if it’s ok for drinking it’s ok for brewing. But homebrewers tend to be tinkerers and we like to make sure that we have accounted for and fine-tuned every detail, and this includes the water. So I just described the way you like to brew, read on because you can certainly go deeper than “just brew with tap water.”
Bottled Water for Brewing Beer
While it might seem logical that using bottled spring water would make sense for brewing, there are a few things to consider. We want to emphasize that if you do brew with bottled water, make sure you buy spring, not distilled, which has all of the minerals removed from it.
Just like tap, spring water should be good to go right out of the bottle. That is unless you are making a type of beer that demands a specific water chemical profile like a British Ale. If you are brewing extract you won’t need to do much of anything, maybe add some gypsum of CaCl2 for taste but that’s it. If you are brewing all-grain you should test the water so you have a sense of its profile.
Fair warning, some people don’t like brewing with bottled water at all. They feel that it’s hard to know what’s in them so they stay away entirely. Out of convenience, we don’t share this opinion but it’s out there. This leads us to the next option: reverse osmosis (RO) water.
Reverse Osmosis Water for Brewing Beer
Some brewers prefer reverse osmosis water because it’s considered a clean slate and is relatively inexpensive. Lately, what we have been doing is thinning out our tap water with reverse osmosis water. Probably about a 50:50 ratio. When blending water like this, you’ll need to experiment and build up your water profile over time to discover what works best for your local area. Having your tap water tested can be helpful for this. Ward labs does a tap water test for about $30 and it’s very accurate. Just remember that your tap water profile will change over as the weather changes and can vary depending on how your city treats it to make it safe for drinking.
Our Final Thoughts
As you can see, you have a lot of options and it really depends on how detailed you want to be about it. If money and time are at a premium, don’t sweat it and just use tap water. You can still make awesome beer. The fact of the matter is that unless you are trying to replicate a certain water profile for a specific beer, or have discovered some problem with your domestic supply (and brewing all-grain) then you just don’t need to worry about it.