Monday, March 9, 2009

Choosing the Water to Use

Whether your are home brewing or making wine from one of the WinExpert wine kits you are using water for the boil when beer brewing or you are adding water to the juice concentrate that is in your winemaking kit. How important is the choice of the water you use? The home winemaking and home beer brewing folks at BlueStem Winery believe your choice of which water to use can have a huge impact on the quality of your final product. You have made a significant investment in either your brewing ingredients or in one of our WinExpert or Cellar Craft wine kits and you do not want to put the quality of your home brew or wine at risk because you do not use quality water.

So what are your choices? If you live in a community of any size you most likely have access to municipal water. If you live in a rural area your water may very well come from a well. Distilled water can be purchased at most every grocery store and from many other sources. Bottled water (not distilled) is also available at grocery stores and many other places and in some areas you might also have access to spring water. Which should you use?

Municipal water (tap water) has typically been treated with chlorine tor chloramines to depress bacteria levels. If you can smell chlorine in a glass of warm city water you should not use the water without first boiling or filtering the water to remove the chlorine. Boiling water removes the free chlorine but not chloramines (call the city water folks and ask them whether they treat your city's water with chlorine or chloramines). Chloramines can be removed by filtering your water with an activated charcoal filter and then treating the water with 10 parts per million of sulfites. The fact that your brewing ingredients are boiled takes care of the chlorine (not chloramine) problem for any water used in the boil. Remember that water added after the boil could still have chlorine in it. An activated charcoal filter which has been impregnated with silver will remove bacteria and also flouride from your water. If using a water filtration system remember to change your filters often to prevent bacteria growth within the filters.

Well water has a whole host of problems associated with it including bacteria, iron, trace minerals, and in agricultural areas nitrates. Rural water is typically very hard and many people use a water softener and this infuses the water with sodium which creates another source for bad tasting wine or beer. Use an activated charcoal filter to remove particulates and a silver impregnated one will also remove bacteria. Our first recommendation if considering the use of well water is . . . don't.

The distillation process (or a reverse osmosis water filter) removes virtually everything from your water that can impact your wine or beer . . . both negatively and positively. Wine and beer needs some mineral content in the water to provide food for the yeast. If using distilled water use a small amount of yeast nutrient to provide food for your yeast.

Bottled water is typically water which has been purified but not distilled. Perfectly good for making wine or beer but not as good as using spring water (and usually more expensive!).

Spring water is an excellent water to use for either beer brewing or wine making. Spring water has the trace minerals necessary to provide food for your yeast but it does not have the flouride, chlorine or other contaminants. Purchased spring water has been tested for purity but not all water sold as spring water is really spring water. Some spring water is just tap water being passed off as spring water. Read the bottle label and look for the source of the water. Sometimes the bottler will use a code such as PWS as the source (Public Water Source). Actual spring waters will list where the water actually came from.

BlueStem Winery is a licensed and bonded winery located in Parkersburg, Iowa. In addition to marketing its own label wines, BlueStem carries a complete inventory of beer brewing equipment and supplies for wine making at home plus wine kits from both Cellar Craft and WinExpert and our own line of home brewing kits known as BlueStems Best. We would love to hear from you!

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