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Thread: Making mead with hard water

  1. Default Making mead with hard water

    I am pretty lucky to have tap water that tastes pretty good. My water has a low mineral content. I tend to end up with fine-tasting meads.

    I taught a mead class a couple years ago in Las Vegas using some local water which was very hard. The sweet mead turned out to be very nice. I was surprised to see how well it came out.

    Anyone else have similar experiences brewing with hard water?

    Brian K

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
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    The OC
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    7,874

    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    I have very hard water where I live, and it really adds to the flavor of the mead. All that mineral content is a big plus for the yeasts. Some people add epsom salt in low doses to their water before they add the honey and yeast to bring the mineral content to a level that mimics hard water. You'll get to see how it tastes on the twenty-fifth.

    Downside of hard water is de-liming the faucets and shower heads a couple times a year.

    Cheers,

    Oskaar
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Grand Rapids, MI
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    860

    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    We have fairly hard water, but it is mostly calcium carbonate. It nicely buffers the mead as it ferments.

    I do run it through a charcoal filter or boil it to drive off the chlorine before I use it in my mead.


    David
    David Baldwin
    Michigan Meadery LLC

    www.michiganmeadery.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Columbia, MD
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    593

    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    I boil mine.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    One of the best meadmakers I know is Chuck Wettergreen, an all natural meadmaker who throws in nothing more than a bit of grape tannin to help clear the mead. No nutrients, nothing at all to help the yeasties along. His meads are of consistently high quality and many of them are truly excellent. They are easily drinkable within a month or so, showing a healthy yeast fermentation.

    Among the different factors he works with to make this happen is the tap water from the local water supply. Turns out that the water in Chuck's local area is fairly hard. It certainly helped his meads.

    Brother Adam's 1953 article in Bee World strongly recommended "the softest rainwater" for meadmaking, and many meadmakers followed that advice. On the other hand, Acton & Duncan's book "Making Mead," published in 1965, warned against English water that was too soft, pointing out that many English meadmakers had learned to compensate for the softness of the water by throwing in a pinch of Epsom salts.

    Water quality is known to strongly affecting brewing, and the same follows in many ways in meadmaking. Best thing to do is taste the water. If it is palatable, has no strong chemical tastes, it should be good for meadmaking.


    <><><><><><><><><><>
    <><><><><><><><>
    Dan McFeeley

    "Meon an phobail a thogail trid an chultur"
    (The people's spirit is raised through culture)

  6. #6
    Fedelm Dub Gotmead Visitor

    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    I used tap water, it's excellent for drinking and it's pretty hard. When I tried the sample from the hydrometer, the mead tasted pretty good even though it's a long way from being finished. The first thing I brewed was a brown ale using the tap water, and it turned out pretty good, so I think the mead will be good once it's cleared and aged.

  7. Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    I have nothing to really compare it to, but my mead so far has come out fantastic. My water is VERY hard - I can't even drink it unless it's been run through the softener, iron remover, and then a brita filter. So I use softened and de-ironed water for my mead. Mostly to get rid of all the iron. It's still hard after the softener. I don't know how much this contributes to the mead being great, but it's probably a factor.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    Oskaar and several other people have mentioned that they've had great results with using hard water. My water is very hard too, and I've had nothing but strong fermentations. There are likely nutrient and mineral considerations here. Distilled water is notorious for causing stuck fermentations. Funny that so many historical recipes dictated the use of rainwater. Another contributing factor in the perception that meads take a looooooong time to make...?

    -David

    -

  9. Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    I use a small amount of energizer and that's it. Like 1/2 tbsp for 5 gallons. My fermentations have taken off with a vengeance within hours, but I also make a starter that's very happily fermenting when I add it to my must. There are a lot of factors to consider and I think for me the only way to know the effect of water is to do a side-by-side test comparing hard well water with distilled water.

  10. Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    Wow - you mean there might actually be a BENEFIT to having hard water *grins* I think I am going to add meadmaking to the list of reasons why I always want to have hard water on tap . . . that and being able to walk out of a shower feeling "clean" without taking two hours to rinse the soap off. *grins*

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    Milwaukee, WI
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    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    During my chlorine check-up, I found a bit of information about hard water and the effects it has on flavor on About.com. Has anyone noticed any flavor changes to their Mead from using hard water?

    "Though the water itself may not have any adverse flavour, the minerals can effect your coffee or your tea. Coffee can develop a bitter undertone when brewed with hard water, and delicate green teas can end up with a completely different flavour altogether."

    Also, Milwaukee was chosen by a number of German brewers (most notably Miller) as an excellent location to open a brewery due to the water quality. The average CaCO3 content from the lake water used is 134 mg/L, which places it squarely in the Hard water range. The extremely high quality of the local micro-brews seems to also attest to the benefits of using a water source with a higher mineral content.

    For any milwaukee home brewers out there, here is a nice bit of info: http://www.mpw.net/Pages/water/docs/2005GP.pdf
    Chan fhíach cuírm gun a còmhradh

    A feast is no use without good talk.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Boulder County, CO
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    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    Indeed, water quality undoubtedly played a role in the European settlement patterns of early America. There was a large migration of Germans to Central Texas in the 1850s-60s (I'm 5th generation German-Texan). They probably chose the region for a variety of reasons, but as brewing is such an integral part of the culture the quality of the water undoubtedly had something to do with it. The hill country is famed for its limestone aquifers and high quality water.

  13. Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    The post from Angus1 got me thinking about something that I have noted...When I lived in town, the water was very hard and made excellent tea and coffee but was only marginal for use in brewing. I now live in the country and have well water. This water has a very high iron content and is very hard. Even after softening and de-ironing, the well water tastes pretty bad straight up. However, it does make excellent tea and coffee. I have never even tried to brew with the stuff because of the smell and taste.

    I now only brew with artesian water sourced from a nearby spring. This stuff is absolute magic for brewing beers and meads and it tastes wonderful straight. However, it makes a really nasty cuppa (tea or coffee). My point is that there is no one water source/type that works well for all uses and the factors that make for good brewing water go beyond what is typically analyzed (hardness, mineral content).

    I plan to do some pro bono work for the county extension office this fall. Part of the work will involve water quality testing for local waterways. If possible, I will be submitting samples from the artesian well, my own well and city water. Hopefully, the analysis will be detailed enough that a good comparison can be made and contributing factors identified.

    Peace.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Milwaukee, WI
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    908

    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    Now this is interesting. Apart from building an incredible tunning system for homebrew beer, Ken Powers (www.powersbrewey.com) has a very nice water mineral calculator.

    http://powersbrewery.home.comcast.net/watercalc.html

    It allows you to recreate the particular water characteristics of a region to better recreate the flavor of a brew you like. One down side: you cannot change the destination source to what you want, but have to use the values already in there. I will email Mr. Powers to see if the blank option can be added.

    Angus
    Chan fhíach cuírm gun a còmhradh

    A feast is no use without good talk.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    Milwaukee, WI
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    908

    Default Re: Making mead with hard water

    Ken Powers has kindly changed the calculator to allow the user to enter custom numbers as well as use those already set for a specific region. The Blank option can have the city added so that the user can print the data.

    Thanks Ken,

    Angus
    Chan fhíach cuírm gun a còmhradh

    A feast is no use without good talk.

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