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The Importance of Water Filtration in Craft Beer

Mar. 11, 2022

The importance of water filtration

1. How does the brewing water affect the taste of the beer?

2. How do the minerals in the water affect the taste of the beer?

2.1 Beneficial ions in brewing water

2.2 Ions that can damage brewing water

2.3 How does pH affect beer brewing?

3. What is the best water for brewing beer?

4. Types of brewery water filters

5. Clean filters for craft beer


Beer is 90% water, the rest is alcohol, hops and yeast. Therefore, the quality of the brewing water is the most important consideration in craft beer. The variety of craft beers is constantly evolving and there are endless brewing recipes online to help you explore a safe and exciting drinking experience. The chemistry of the brewing water determines, in part, the quality, taste and aroma of the beer. Since the origin of beer, the water source has been an important deciding factor in the location of a brewery. Because of the soft water in the Pilsen region, there are no brewing difficulties caused by hard water elsewhere, so the brew is bright and clear in color and refreshingly tasty.

But what you may not know is that the water contains all types of contaminants, including sediment and other solids that you can see, as well as bacteria, viruses, metals and chemicals that you can't. That's why it's important to use properly filtered water for craft beer brewing. With advances in water treatment technology and filtration systems such as reverse osmosis systems, brewers can now control water conditions to meet specific requirements. Not only that, but brewers can now use the same source of water to brew different styles of beer.


1. How does brewing water affect the taste of beer?

Because approximately 90% of beer is water, the quality and composition of the water naturally has a huge impact on the flavor of the beer. The three elements in brewing water that affect the taste of beer are mineral content, pH and alkalinity.

►The hardness and mineral content of the water give the beer its unique flavor and influence the fermentation process.

►pH promotes enzymatic action in the mash and facilitates the growth of yeast during the fermentation stage.

►Alkalinity creates a buffer to protect the pH from fluctuations throughout the brewing process, ensuring that bacteria do not grow and removing excess tannins from the beer.

These three factors are inextricably linked and work together to influence the flavor and color of the beer.

The hot water steeping process, called saccharification, is designed to start the brewing process and prepare the wort for fermentation. During saccharification, ground grains are hydrated with hot water to form a thick mixture and activate enzymes in the malt. The enzymes in the wort, called alpha-amylase and beta-amylase, convert soluble grain starch into fermentable sugars.

This liquid containing fermentable sugars is called wort, and it is a mixture of proteins and carbohydrates that affects the flavor, mouthfeel and body of the beer. The wort is usually prepared and fermented with a moisture content of between 80-90%. Although wort extracts flavor and aroma from hops, this can only be accomplished by boiling it in water. Water is essential for the formation of these flavor profiles, and the non-effects that occur in the mash are fully facilitated by water and the minerals in the water. Water is the basis of the entire beer brewing process.


 The importance of water filtration

2. How do the minerals in the water affect the taste of the beer?

The minerals in the brewing water will determine the flavor profile of the beer. The hardness of water is a measure of the total dissolved calcium and magnesium content. When calcium ions are attached to hops, it gives the beer a strong hoppy flavor. If the water contains chlorides, it will give the beer a strong flavor. Sodium, sulfate and carbonate all affect fermentation, malt pulp and the flavor of the beer. The presence (or absence) of these ions will give a unique flavor profile during the brewing process. However, you do not need to use them deliberately, as too many ions can lead to unpleasant and intense flavors.

Mineral ions also work together with pH and alkalinity throughout the brewing process. Carbonates and bicarbonates play a role in stabilizing the pH during the saccharification process. If there is too much chloride in the brewing water, it can hinder the fermentation process because the chlorine destroys the yeast. Before you start brewing, you need to thoroughly understand the composition of the water.


2.1 Beneficial ions in brewing water

Calcium (Ca+2)

Calcium is a mineral that is very high in areas where groundwater flows through rocks such as limestone and gypsum. It is also one of the two minerals that make up the hardness of water. While hard water can be a problem for many people, it can be highly desirable for winemakers. Many brewers like to add calcium to their water because it lowers the pH during saccharification, precipitates proteins during boiling, and because calcium is also a yeast nutrient. In addition, calcium improves the clarity of the beer. The recommended range for calcium in water is 50 to 150 mg/L.

The following substances can be added to increase the calcium content.

► gypsum

► calcium sulfate

► Calcium chloride

► slaked lime


Magnesium (Mg+2)

Magnesium is another component of water hardness that is less important to the brewing process, but it is still the key ion present. Magnesium is a substance that affects yeast, and many brewers control magnesium at 10-30 mg/L to promote healthy yeast growth during fermentation. The right amount of magnesium will accentuate the flavor of the beer, but if the magnesium level in the brewing water exceeds 30 mg/L, it will make the beer taste sour.

The following substances can be added to increase the magnesium content.

► laxative salts (magnesium sulfate)


Sodium (Na+1)

Sodium helps to accentuate the body and flavor of the beer and adds the desired acidity to the beer. When too much sodium is present, it makes the beer metallic and irritating, toxic to the yeast and hinders the fermentation process. When sodium levels are too low, there is little to no effect on saccharification and flavor. Normally, the recommended sodium content ranges from 10 to 70 mg/l, but you can also use up to 150 mg/l to achieve a significant salty or sour effect. As with most minerals, the flavor you want in your beer will pre-determine how much sodium you add, but levels above 200 mg/L can produce unpleasant flavors.

Because high sodium levels can have a dramatic effect on the flavor of your beer, Misericordia does not recommend that you use softened water as brewing water. Through a process called ion exchange, water softeners use sodium ions to replace and remove calcium and magnesium from the water. If you use a water softener to protect your home and appliances from limescale, you need to try using a reverse osmosis system to purify the soft water before using it for brewing beer.

The following can be added to increase the sodium content.

► Non-iodized salt or sea salt

► Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)


Chloride (Cl-)

Chloride is used to give your beer a full, sweet flavor and a strong malt flavor. Chlorides are popular because of the complex flavors they can impart to beer. Chloride is usually added to water in the form of calcium chloride or sodium chloride. Chloride can contribute to the stability of the saccharification process and can also be used in combination with sulfate to complement the bitterness that hops impart to a beer. The percentage of chloride used usually depends on the sulfate content, as the two produce opposite properties in the beer. In addition, the right ratio of chloride and sulfate can be used to balance the sweetness and hop flavor in a beer.

The following substances can be added to increase the chloride content.

► Calcium chloride

► sodium chloride


Sulfates (SO4-2)

Sulfates can also give beer the coveted hop flavor and also a dry, crisp texture. Because sulfates are alkaline, they can be used to gently reduce the acidity of the mash. Where bitterness is desired, sulfates can be used to enhance this flavor. The amount of sulfate added varies greatly depending on the desired hop content.

Pilsner beers will strive for sulfate levels between 10-50 mg/l, while the famous Burton-on-Trent style pale ale uses sulfate levels of up to 500 mg/l to achieve its sulfurous smell and richness. Smell. However, if the sulfate content exceeds 500 mg/l, it is not advisable, as too much sulfate in the brewing water can cause a laxative effect on the consumer. If the sulfate concentration is too high, it will react with the yeast to produce hydrogen sulfide, which will make your beer smell like rotten eggs.

The following substances can be added to increase the sulfate content.

► Calcium sulfate

► gypsum

► laxative salts (magnesium sulfate)


Carbonates and bicarbonates (CO3-2/HCO3)

Carbonates and bicarbonates are essential for any brewer because they determine the pH of the malt pulp. Their strong alkalinity buffers the pH so that it does not become too acidic, which can lead to astringent and heavy tannins in the beer. They also contribute to the roundness and maltiness of the beer and can provide the desired bitterness to the dark lager at high strengths. Because dark grains are more acidic, recipes for dark beers and lagers typically require 100-300 mg/L of carbonates. If the carbonate levels are not adjusted during fermentation, they may make the pH of the beer too high.

The following substances can be added to increase the carbonate and bicarbonate content.

► baking soda (calcium bicarbonate)

► Chalk


2.2 Ions that can destroy brewing water

Chlorine and chloramine (Cl2)

Chlorine is often used extensively by municipalities as a chemical disinfectant to protect municipal water supplies from bacterial contamination. Unfortunately, chlorine is harmful to the brewing process. Detectable levels of chlorine in beer can be as low as 5 parts per billion, giving the beer a flavor-destroying plastic taste. When chlorine reacts with ammonia, chloramines are formed, a contaminant that is much harder to remove from water. Chloramines not only ruin the taste of beer, they also prevent yeast from properly fermenting the beer.

Iron (Fe+2 & Fe+3)

Iron has never been the ideal ion for the beer brewing process. Since iron is the most common mineral found on earth, many brewers experience adverse effects from iron-rich water. A major iron content of 0.05 mg/L in brewing water can ruin your beer and give your beer a rusty taste. Also, if the iron ion content in the water is greater than 0.3 mg/L, it can also cause damage to your brewing equipment, fermentation tanks, and other equipment.

Manganese (Mn+2)

Manganese ions, which are usually combined with iron ions, not only affect the flavor of beer, but also the clarity of beer and threaten the healthy growth of yeast during the fermentation process. If a beer contains 0.01 mg/L of manganese ions, it can give your beer an unpleasant metallic taste.

Nitrates/Nitrites (NO3- & NO2-2)

Nitrates and nitrites can enter water through agricultural runoff, animal waste and pollution. Excessive intake of nitrates and nitrites can lead to serious health problems. You need to remember that any level above zero risks ruining the flavor of your beer.


2.3 How does pH affect beer brewing?

The pH of the brewing water ensures that enzymatic reactions occur in the mash and therefore has a significant impact on the flavor of the beer. beta-Amylase requires an acidic environment to properly convert grain starch into fermentable sugars. Yeast can thrive at a lower pH, which means healthier fermentation of the wort and a more thorough fermentation process. If the pH of the mash is too high, the beer will taste astringent and lose all the complex beer flavors. When the pH is too high, bacteria may also affect the wort during fermentation.

Most brewing waters are neutral to alkaline, so the proper mineral content is needed to activate acidity. Calcium plays the most important role in promoting an acidic environment because it overcomes the alkaline buffering of malt phosphate. Carbonate and bicarbonate buffer the alkalinity of the mash to ensure that the pH does not fluctuate too much in either direction. The grain itself is also acidic, which helps the enzymes break down the starch. You need to monitor the pH of the mash closely throughout the beer brewing process. You can add additives to achieve the right pH range depending on the type of beer to be brewed.

Additives that can be used to adjust pH.

► Lactic acid: Lactic acid is an organic by-product of milk fermentation and is typically used to lower the pH of the mash. Lactic acid does not impart an unpleasant taste to the mash and will significantly lower the pH value.

► Phosphoric acid: Phosphoric acid is an inorganic acid that is found in many commercial beverage products. It has the advantage of not imparting any flavor to the beer. Phosphoric acid is less acidic than lactic acid, so it is a more forgiving product when trying to adjust pH.

► Buffers and stabilizers: They react with the phosphates in the malt to achieve the target pH. However, their use can increase the amount of calcium and magnesium in the beer.

The importance of water filtration


3. What is the best water for brewing beer?

Because each type of beer requires different levels of hardness, bicarbonate and sulfate, the best water for brewing beer is the one that gives you complete control over the flavor profile. Water that is high in minerals and metals can greatly limit the range of styles of your beer.

To determine the ionic composition of the water in your area, you can obtain a water quality report from your city or test the water yourself. City water will inevitably contain chlorine and chloramines, both of which can make your beer taste bad and disrupt your fermentation process. If the water is hard, you will be limited in the range of beers you can explore. This is because you will not be able to brew beer when the calcium ion content exceeds 50 mg/L.

If you want to improve the flavor of your beer, then installing a water filtration system would be a smart choice. Not only will it improve the flavor of your beer, but it will also give your beer a better overall consistency. Perhaps the most important thing for you is to create the perfect recipe from water that has had all the minerals and chemicals removed. Of course, this is much easier than fixing the existing water situation.


4. Types of brewery water filters

The water used to brew craft beer can determine the quality and success of the final product. In order to get the best flavor out of beer, breweries must ensure that the water is free of odors, chlorine and other aforementioned contaminants. This is critical to the brewing of craft beer.

Many craft brewers use a water filtration system to clean the water before brewing. They then add the desired minerals to the water again. Some effective filtration solutions used by craft breweries include.

► Particulate filters: Particulate filters use a filter element or filter disc to capture larger particles in the water while allowing smaller liquids to flow through. This type of filtration removes solids, sediment, dirt and other larger particles from the water.

► Carbon filters: Carbon filters are usually used in combination with particulate filters. Carbon filters can be used to remove chlorine and other impurities from the water. This type of filtration is critical for craft beer. Most municipal water systems use chlorine to disinfect the water. If chlorine remains in the brewing water, it reacts with the malt and hops to produce chlorophenols, which give the beer a plastic-like flavor. These produced chlorophenols can be detected in very small amounts, so when using municipal water for brewing, it is important to use filtration methods to remove this chlorine precursor.

► Granular activated carbon (GAC) filters: These filters are ideal for removing odors, pesticides, chlorine, chloramines and other similar impurities from brewing water.

► Reverse osmosis filtration systems: Reverse osmosis (RO) filtration is often considered the most effective filtration method, but is also very expensive. RO uses a porous membrane to remove molecules, ions and larger particles from the water, allowing only water molecules to pass through.


5. Clean filters for craft beer

One of the most important aspects of the filtration process is making sure you use clean filters and equipment. Sanitation and cleanliness are very important to craft breweries, and so are filters. When cleaning the water filter, it is best to clean both the hose and the tank to ensure a clean brewing system is used when starting the next batch of brew.

The cleaning process needs to be done under pressure just like the brewing process. While this can be a very time consuming task, it is essential. Filters must be cleaned and sanitized before you can start filtering the next batch of beer, ensuring that no residual microorganisms spoil the next batch.

Depending on the size of the brewery's operation, you may only need to use the filtration system once a week or even less. In this case, it becomes very important for you to clean and store the filter between uses. This is because it affects how they are cleaned before starting the next filtration.

You may want to use a filter with a mild disinfectant in it to reduce the risk of bacteria growth between uses. You may also want to store the filter in a dry place after cleaning. How you store your filter and how you clean it depends on your filtration schedule.

Many professionals recommend repeating the cleaning process immediately before starting a new filter, even if you have cleaned it after the last filter. This is especially important if you have long intervals between runs.

Craft beer brewing involves a lot of work, not the least of which is making sure you start with good quality, clean, safe water. Filtering out contaminants, chemicals and impurities from the water and how you determine the desired mineral content will allow you to control the style of the finished beer. With a water filtration system that removes unwanted or unsafe particles and microorganisms from your brewing water, you can brew the best tasting craft beer. Remember, the better the quality of water you use, the better the beer will be.


Get a turnkey solution for your beer equipment

If you are planning to open or expand a brewery, you can contact ZYBREW directly and our engineers will design and build beer equipment to suit your brewing process. Of course, we will also provide you with a complete turnkey solution. In addition, if you are planning to expand your brewery, we will provide you with a customized solution.

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