I’ve been a home brewer for going on seven years. That’s my wife and I (and the back end of our dog) to the left. In that time, I’ve spoken with dozens of other home brewers about controlling what we can control, from external temperature (see photo), to fermentation temperature to airtight hop storage. So why is it that water filtration has never made it into our discussions?
Earlier today, environmental news site Grist had a great article discussing the lack of transparency in regards to contract brewing. For instance, Hawaii’s Kona Brewing is in an alternating proprietorship with Widmer Brothers in Portland, meaning some ‘Hawaiian’ beer is actually brewed in the lower 48. The same holds true for 21st Amendment, a San Francisco based brewery with canning operations in Cold Spring, Minnesota – my home state. <!–more–>
Contract brewing is by no means evil. As Grist states, it can help the little guy get a leg up and get more great beer in the bellies of great beer drinkers. But the little nag on the back of my neck comes down to the difference in water. If a brewery changes the source of its water it is changing a primary ingredient, meaning it may not be a true replication of a recipe. As a home brewer, you need to know this: to create a replicatable recipe – water filters and filtration absolutely needs to be part of your equipment, plan and budget.
Living in Minnesota, we celebrate water quality just about everywhere. But we have very different types of water in Minneapolis, which pours city water, versus a small town like Montgomery, Minnesota which pours water from a deep well. The carboy to your left is filled with a brew we made in Montgomery that may taste just a bit different if we followed the same recipe in Minneapolis.
As a home brewer, you may run across different types of seasonal sediment if you are pulling from well water, rust if you are running water through older pipes and differing levels of chlorine/chloramines if you’ve just set-up shop in a sparkling new town home. (Note – chlorine especially can be problematic as it can mix with malt phenols and give beer a metallic taste. And if you just made the financial leap from extract to all grain, the last thing you want is a reminder of that copper ting that is never quite filtered from syrup.)
Water filtration will eliminate a significant number of the variables that will undoubtedly – even if subtly – impact the taste and quality of your beer. We actually sell several water filtration systems ideal for brewing and food service environments, including the EverPure H-1200 Water Filtration System below, available at the medium to high price point of around $700. Plus the cost of the water filters, of course.
In terms of needs – don’t buy any water filtration system until you first have your water tested – and have a clear idea of what qualities your water should impart on your final product. As much as I would love for our company to sell you a $700+ water filtration system, no one here would feel right about it if you didn’t first purchase a water test kit from either WaterSafe or ProLab, topping out at just about $30. This goes double if you are brewing with well water, as there may be some mineral properties inherent in your water that are not worth removing, as they could add more flavor. This is information you need to know before investing in any water filtration system – and especially before filtering anything.
Once you know your water, your water filtration budget should be based on your specific needs and scope of your production. But in general, your investment is going to be anywhere from $200 to $1,000, whether it’s the higher price point product above or the Big Blue Whole House Water Filters (shown below) available at a much lower price point. Remember that price will be based on what the water filtration system can do – and you may not need a system that can do everything.
At the end of the day whether you are making a pale, a pilsner – or a chili pepper porter – if you can’t control the consistency of your water, you can’t create a replicatable recipe – meaning you won’t move past the level of hobbyist. And for those home brewers looking to evolve – water filtration and control may just be your last and greatest step forward.
If you are a home brewer considering a water filtration system, I would highly encourage you to call our customer service department at 1-888-801-PURE so they can ensure you select the right system for your needs.
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