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What sets apart a great beer from a good beer? As much as it may sound surprising, the answer is WATER!
Water constitutes 90-95% of beer and undoubtedly, a key ingredient in the brewing process. The quality of water plays a significant role in the quality, taste, and flavor profile of the beer. Hence, it becomes imperative for brewers to conduct routine water quality checks and manipulate the properties of water through appropriate industrial treatment to craft the type of beer they want.
Let’s look at the three factors that determine the water quality:
Water hardness is the measure of the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium ions in the water. It ascertains the degree of hardness or softness of the water. There are two types of water hardness. Permanent hardness is the part of total hardness that can’t be eliminated by boiling the water. Temporary hardness is the hardness that can be removed completely by boiling the water.
Calcium and magnesium affect protein, yeast, and enzyme reactions during mashing, boiling and fermentation stages. Excessively soft water will make the mash very acidic while excessively hard water will be detrimental to the efficiency of mash. You need to achieve the right amount of hardness for yeast health, clarity, stability, and shelf life of the beer.
pH is the measure of hydrogen ion present in water. It determines water’s acidity or alkalinity. The pH value decreases if the hydrogen ion level is higher – this makes the water more acidic. Conversely, the pH value increases if the hydrogen ion level is lower – this makes the water more alkaline. Basically, pH affects the bitterness of the beer.
From mashing and boiling to fermentation and final production, pH impacts chemical, physical, and biochemical reactions of every stage of the beer-making process. You need to monitor pH ranges for optimality and accuracy at all stages to get the perfect balance for the finished beer.
Alkalinity is the opposite of hardness. It is the ability of water to cushion or resist the change in its pH value on the addition of acids. Bicarbonate present in the water acts as a strong buffer or acidity reducer.
If bicarbonates increase the mash pH by an intolerable level, then it can adversely influence the flavor of the beer. Highly alkaline water is unsuitable for brewing. You need to reduce or dilute the alkalinity to get the right mash chemistry.
It is a tedious process to understand the complexity of water. Every brewery requires effective treatment of its source water to produce great beer. In fact, water treatment also ensures continued efficiency and preventive maintenance of boilers and other brewing equipment. Get in touch with NCH Chem-Aqua to know more and get customized water treatment solutions for your brewery.