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Water Is not just water – A Brewer’s Perspective. Ken Richter Quality Assurance Manager Coors Brewing Co. www.coors.com. …it’s Brewing Water. …it’s Brewing Water. What is water?. …it’s Brewing Water. What is water?. H 2 O and Contaminants!. …it’s Brewing Water.

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Is not just water

– A Brewer’s Perspective

Ken Richter

Quality Assurance Manager

Coors Brewing Co.


…it’s Brewing Water

…it’s Brewing Water

What is water?

…it’s Brewing Water

What is water?




…it’s Brewing Water

Water is a solvent

It will readily absorb dust, gases, fumes & smoke particles

…it’s Brewing Water

The atmosphere is polluted by man, nature and industry





…it’s Brewing Water

Common uses of Water…

  • Washing Cars

  • Watering the lawn

  • Washing hands

  • Putting out fires

  • Flushing toilets

…it’s Brewing Water

What do you want in your Brewing water (Liquor)?

…it’s Brewing Water

Water Source Factors


Purity (Potable standards)

Consistency of ionic composition

Cost of water

Cost of any additional treatment

Cost of effluent disposal

…it’s Brewing Water

Water Sources

  • Ground water from wells (Boreholes)

  • Surface water from rivers or lakes

  • Water from the municipal supply treated to potable standards


Bore hole

Top soil

Sub soil

Water bearing rock

Impervious rock

…it’s Brewing Water

Borehole Water


Supply to Brewery


…it’s Brewing Water

Surface Water

…it’s Brewing Water

Municipal Water

  • Treated to meet EPA, State, Local standards for safety, (not brewing minerals)

  • Must meet “potable” water requirements

  • Mineral contents vary greatly from area to area and month to month

  • pH range 6.5 – 9.0, target 8.0 to avoid Cu

  • Chlorine 1.0 mg/l at plant, > .02 mg/l at tap

…it’s Brewing Water

Rapid Mix

Alum. Hydroxide

Ferric Chloride



Bore holes








Soda Ash


Solids Drawoff







Anti-tooth decay


Distribution to

homes & breweries

…it’s Brewing Water

…it’s Brewing Water

Water Usage in Brewing

FunctionWater / bbl

Beer Production 1.60

Filtration / Packaging 1.70

CIP Systems .80

Utilities 1.10

Cleaning 1.10 ______

Overall Usage per bbl 6.30

…it’s Brewing Water


  • Free Chlorine from water chlorination

    • Can have direct flavor effect

    • Reacts with organic components to form chlorophenolic compounds with low flavor thresholds

    • Phenolic or medicinal taint – intensely flavor active at very low concentrations (< 1 ppm)

    • Risk of chlorine contamination from steam (keg washing / sanitizing)

    • Not easily volatile, best removed by carbon filtration

…it’s Brewing Water


Chlorinated Hydrocarbons

  • Formed by chlorination in the presence of hydrocarbons

  • Can be the result of industrial pollution

  • May be toxic / carcinogenic

  • Examples: Trichloroethene, Carbon tetrachloride

  • Recommended MAC is 10 ppb

  • Removed by gas stripping or carbon filtration

…it’s Brewing Water

Quality Monitoring of Water Supply

  • Simple test first – Taste, aroma, clarity

  • Chemical composition

    • Hardness \ Alkalinity

    • Ionic Spectrum

    • Phenols, Chlorophenols

  • Microbiological Tests

…it’s Brewing Water

Water Quality Terms

  • Temporary Hardness

    • Alkalinity

  • Permanent Hardness

    • Calcium Hardness

    • Magnesium Hardness

  • Total Hardness

…it’s Brewing Water

Hard Water

  • Hardness is the property of water which enables it to “collapse” soap lather by forming insoluble salts of fatty acids which precipitate

  • Hardness causes scaling in boilers and hot water installations

  • In brewing, calcium hardness causes limestone scaling, which reduces heat transfer, and adjusts wort pH

…it’s Brewing Water


Caused by the following mineral salts:

  • Calcium Bicarbonate Ca(HCO3)2

  • Magnesium Bicarbonate Mg(HCO3)2

  • Calcium Carbonate CaCO3

  • Magnesium Carbonate MgCO3

  • Calcium Sulphate CaSO4

  • Magnesium Sulphate MgSO4



…it’s Brewing Water

Permanent Hardness

  • Permanent hardness is the fraction of hardness remaining after boiling

  • Permanent hardness consists of calcium and magnesium associated with anions other than bicarbonate

…it’s Brewing Water

Total Hardness

  • Total hardness is equal to temporary hardness plus the permanent hardness

  • Total hardness is expressed as mg CaCO3

  • Typically > 50 ppm = “Hard”

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Boiling on Hardness

  • Boiling drives CO2 from solution :

    Ca(HCO3)2 CaCO3 + CO2 + H2O

  • If the steam is allowed to condense back into the water the CO2 is reabsorbed forming Carbonic acid

  • Aeration drives off CO2 preventing the carbonate redissolving as bicarbonate

…it’s Brewing Water

Water Softening Techniques

  • Boiling

  • Acid addition

  • Lime addition

  • Soda ash addition

…it’s Brewing Water

Important Ions in Brewing Water

Cations (+)

  • Calcium

  • Magnesium

  • Sodium

  • Potassium

  • Iron

  • Copper

  • Manganese

  • Zinc

Anions (-)

  • Bicarbonate

  • Sulphate

  • Chloride

  • Nitrate

  • Nitrite

  • Silicate

  • Fluoride

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of pH in Brewing

Reduction in pH gives rise to:

  • Improved stability of -amylase and proteases

  • Better saccharification

    • Increased wort fermentability

    • Improved extract yield

  • Improved shelf life

  • Resistance to spoilage

  • Reduced extraction of silica and polyphenols

  • Reduced astringency flavours

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of pH in Brewing

Increase in pH results in:

  • Reduced wort fermentability

  • Reduced proteolysis

  • Poor break formation

  • Reduced shelf life

  • Decreased resistance to spoilage

  • More colour

  • More harsh, astringent, grainy flavours

…it’s Brewing Water

Effects of Ions in Brewing

  • Effects on pH buffer systems

  • Effects on colloidal systems

    • Break and haze formation

    • Flocculation

    • Fining action

  • Direct contribution to flavour

  • Nutritional requirement of yeast

…it’s Brewing Water

Ionic Effects in Different Beer Styles

  • Lager

    • Soft water low in mineral content

    • Low carbonates to bring out delicate flavours

    • Quite low in calcium

  • Bitter

    • Sulphates > chlorides to bring out bitter flavours

    • Low carbonates (<30ppm) for required pH

    • Higher calcium (>135ppm) for flavour and pH

  • Mild & Stouts

    • Chlorides > sulphates for fullness and sweetness

    • Carbonates medium (<70ppm)

    • Calcium levels lower around 75 / 30 for Mild / Stouts, resp.

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Calcium in Brewing

Reduces pH by reacting with phosphate from malt. 60% of mash Ca lost in boiling

Gives a thin, harsh flavor

Improves protein precipitation and break formation during boil

Aids yeast flocculation

Precipitates oxylates preventing hazes and gushing

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Magnesium in Brewing

Majority of Mg comes from malt

Similar to calcium but effect is less due to higher solubility of Mg salts

Important co-factor in fermentation metabolism

Excess causes bitter flavor

Studies indicate increasing MG : Ca ratio improves Ferm rate, ethanol production and yeast vitality

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Sodium in Brewing

Na+ contributes to a full and sweet palate at low (<150ppm) concentrations

At higher concentrations NA+ may cause a sweet and salty perception

Na+ as NACl at low concentrations gives the best balance

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Potassium in Brewing

K+ mainly derived from malt

Has a pure saline effect and salty taste at high concentrations

K+ may have an inhibitory effect on barley germination

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Iron in Brewing

Maximum concentration of 0.2 ppm

Causes greyish discoloration to malt

Prevents complete sccharification

Hazy worts, discolors foam

Inhibits yeast activity

Impairs beer flavor, color and colloidal stability

Fe2+ enhances beer oxidation

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Copper in Brewing

Low levels stimulate yeast performance and reduce H2S

High concentrations (>10ppm) toxic to yeast

Cu2+ can act as a catalyst for oxidation leading to colloidal and flavor instability

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Manganese in Brewing

Manganese has a positive effect on protein solubilisation during mashing

Important co-factor for yeast enzymes below 0.2 ppm

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Zinc in Brewing

Zn2+ is mainly derived from malt but a major part is lost in spent grains and trub

Required as a trace element (0.1 -0.2 ppm) for yeast

Stimulates fermentation, inhibits H2S formation

High concentrations may be toxic to yeast and create very thick, heavy yeast

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Bicarbonate in Brewing

Bicarbonate raises the pH by removing hydrogen ions

Reduces wort fermentability

Reduces proteolysis

Poor break formation

Decreased resistance to spoilage

Harsh, astringent, grainy flavors

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Sulphate in Brewing

Sulphate gives beer a drier, more bitter palate

Sulphate ions acts as precursors for SO2 and H2S synthesis during yeast metabolism

Burton water is high in sulphates, resulting in product with H2S aroma

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Chloride in Brewing

Chloride gives beer fullness and sweetness

Chloride ions can inhibit yeast flocculation and fermentation at higher concentrations

Presence of chloride increases the risk of stress corrosion cracking of stainless steel!

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Chloride : Sulphate Balance

Cl- > SO42- Full, Sweet Mild, Ales

Cl- = SO42- Balanced Lagers

Cl- < SO42- Dry, Bitter Bitters

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Phosphate in Brewing

Mainly derived from malt

Has a major role in buffering during mashing and fermentation

Phosphate is required by yeast (ATP)

High phosphate levels in water can indicate contamination

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Silicates in Brewing

Silicates may cause hazes in combination with calcium

Silica can form hard scale in high to medium pressure boilers

Beer is an important source of bio-available silicon which can prevent osteoporosis

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Nitrate/Nitrite in Brewing

  • Main sources of nitrate in beer are water and hops

  • Nitrate in water indicates nitrate fertiliser run off or wastewater contamination

  • Nitrite is toxic to yeast

  • Can cause formation of nitrosamines

…it’s Brewing Water

Effect of Nitrate/Nitrite in Brewing


From water and hops

Altered enzymically by beer spoilage

bacteria and certain yeast strains


Nitrite reacts chemically with

nitrogenous components in wort or beer

Apparent Total N-Nitroso Compounds (ATNC)

…it’s Brewing Water

…it’s Brewing Water

So What?

…it’s Brewing Water

























…it’s Brewing Water

What do you want in your Brewing water ?