It is starting to become an industry standard in the beer world for microbreweries and brewers to use commercial reverse osmosis systems to filter and purify the best water possible to brew beer. The increase in sales of craft beer has become a huge part of beer sales. Craft brewers such as Samuel Adams, Goose Island and Dogfish Head brewery only use the cleanest water to make the best tasting beer.
Behind the Science of Brewing Beer
Taking that sip of your favorite beer and exciting your taste buds is a great feeling. There is actually good amount of chemistry that goes into brewing that beer. It's not just about whether you have soft or hard water, it is also the makeup of the brew water.
So what do these ions and impurities actually do to your brew?
Calcium: One of the main minerals that hard water contains. Calcium can lower your pH during the mashing process. When there is calcium already in the water it is then hard to determine the amount needed for the brew. To much calcium can spell disaster and lower your pH more than needed in your brew.
Magnesium: This is the other main mineral affecting your hard water. It does not affect the pH levels as much as calcium. Both of these minerals are important nutrients for yeast. To much magnesium may cause your brew to have more of a bitter taste.
Carbonate and Bicarbonate: These impact the alkalinity of your brewing water and your mash's acidity level. To low of a level and your mash will be too acidic, too high and your mash will be inefficient. Though certain types of beer do call for higher or lower levels of carbonate, when using an RO you will be able to adjust these levels with ease.
Sodium: Have you ever tasted a brew that had a metallic taste? This is due to the sodium level being to high. There is a lot of controversy on using a water softener and how it affects your brew. Water softeners do add a minute amount of salt back into the water as it is softened, but for home brewers if you have the water softener before your reverse osmosis system, this will help remove the left over sodium from the water.
Chloride: This impacts the mouthfeel and the complexity of your beer. Sodium also can impact these traits of your brew. Chloride can make your recipe have a fuller or sweeter taste. Chlorine on the other hand is an unwanted chemical in your water. This will have a negative impact on the taste of your finished brew.
Sulfates: One of the key ingredients in beer are hops. Sulfates aid in bringing out that hoppy flavor. IPAs contain more sulfates than your lagers or stouts. They also help bring the pH level down. Sulfate has the opposite effect than chloride
Why Brewers Choose Reverse Osmosis
Brewing good wholesome beer is an art. Most artists want to start of with a blank canvas. This is why many brewers are now switching to reverse osmosis water.
The process of reverse Osmosis, also know as RO, removes unwanted contaminants, chlorine, lead, nitrates organic impurities and more. When removing these from the water you are able to have what they call a "baseline" water source. They use this baseline because they are able to add what they want to the beer and do not have to worry about the effects that the impurities have on their recipe.
If you are a home brewer and want to experience the best tasting beer, then you will want to install an in home RO system. They can either be connected to your main water line so that you have your whole house receiving filtered water or they come as compact that the system will fit underneath your kitchen sink.