View Full Version : Water - what to use....

Kurt S
01-26-2009, 02:09 AM
I'm on a well and the water is hard (I know that's not a problem by itself) and has some serious iron in it and some sulphur.

The tap water is softened and I also have an RO system.

As I type this, I think the answer has become clearer :) to me.

I don't think the RO is a great idea and I assume the softened water isn't either.
Not sure how fast the sulfur would gas off from the raw hard water, but it's not amazing tasting water.
So I think none of those three are great options, right?


Medsen Fey
01-26-2009, 10:34 AM
I generally brew with water that I think tastes good. Usually I use spring water.

I don't know about water with a lot of sulfur. The softened water may be fine. If you want to have some fun, test the tap water against the hard water in two small batches and see which turn out the best.


01-26-2009, 03:37 PM
My worry about the softened water is that the sodium content is going to be really high. It might not be high enough to cause trouble, but I've never used softened water myself so it's all speculation from this end. ;)

Best way is to try it, like Medsen said. Try raw well water, soft water, RO water, maybe some combinations (RO + raw 50:50, 70:30, etc). Try spring water from the supermarket. It will be an adventure but you'll find out what water works best for you and then you'll never have to second-guess yourself about later batches. Gives you a good chance to work out all the kinks in the system too.

01-26-2009, 07:03 PM
It is possible to charge your softener with potassium chloride rather than sodium chloride, salts. It costs more, and you end up using more to obtain the same effective ion exchange as with sodium, but if you don't have access to bottled spring water I'd suggest that as an alternative. The bottled spring water is probably your best bet if you can swing the expense. Given the cost of honey, obtaining spring water for your meads will only add about 10% to the total batch cost, and it is probably a better alternative than using your own softened water. That sulfur content would be a concern to me. If you can smell it, then you already have a H2S issue to deal with even before your fermentation begins -- that isn't a good thing.

Kurt S
01-27-2009, 01:56 AM
Thanks guys!
I do a lot of cysers and ciders and really haven't done a regular mead since changing water supplies (aka houses).
I'm in Ann Arbor and friends only 1/2 mile away are on city water and it's pretty good water. I think I might just swing by and fill up a carboy, let if off-gas, and be done with it....

Thanks for helping me think this thru.

01-27-2009, 09:50 AM
How does it taste? Have you measured the hardness? My well water is very hard but tastes good, I think all the hardness here is calcium hardness. So, I use it in preference to the other 2. I also found my water was comparable to that suggested by Lalvin for yeast re-hydration.

I like the idea of charging the softener with potassium chloride. Problem is, potassium can be bitter. You may charge it with a mix of NaCl and KCl. That would save $ and avoid having either too much Na or K.


Iron is often at lower concentrations deeper in the aquifer. So you could drill a deeper well ;)

If I read things right, iron can shorten the life of a resin exchange filter. There may be something in the line prior to the softener to remove the iron. You might be able yo have a tap installed between the 2 filters and get some good water there. If you are the owner, you could install a filter to remove the iron and sulfur. I bet the company that installed the water softener would be glad to suggest/install solutions for you.

Before that, I would suggest doing a taste test of each. If none is satisfactory, try a mixture. For brewing coffee, I use a mix of tap and RO water. My well water is 25 hardness.

Americans get sooo much sodium in their food, the amount of sodium in softened water scarcely compares. Your average human worldwide consumes 2 grams of Na daily. Your average American consumes about 12 grams. On a no added salt diet (avoiding foods to which salt is added - pickles, bacon, ham, canned vegetables, etc.) you can get down to 4 grams/day. So, most Americans aren't going to come close to tasting the levels of Na we are discussing here.

You could use a mix of RO and tap water. Most of the time a high Na isn't going to be a problem unless it affects the solubility of flavor components. I would combine you RO and tap water in a ratio that would get the hardness of the original water to about 2-5. For my water I dilute 1 part well water (hardness 25) with 7 parts tap water. In your case, I would use the tap water because your original water has the iron and sulfur.

01-27-2009, 01:47 PM
My parents are on a well and they have a softener and an iron capture system. My understanding is that the iron thing comes first in the line and uses an exchange resin or something similar to collect the iron. Then the softener appears to swap out the Ca/Mg. The iron system is rediculously loud though, since it has to flush out every day. (it's right next to the guest bedroom, thanks mom & dad!)