Chapter 5

Brewing Water

(book excerpts)

Malt, hops, and yeast are the three ingredients that often get the most attention in brewing beer, but water (liquor) can also impact a beer’s flavor, appearance, aroma, and mouthfeel. After all, it makes up about 90 percent of beer! Water impacts beer in three ways. Water ions are critical in the mashing process for all grain brewers, where the character of the water determines the efficiency and flavor of the extracted wort. Water also affects the perceived bitterness and hop utilization of finished beer. Finally, water adds flavor directly to the beer itself—as water is the largest single component in finished beer. Basically, water comes from two sources: surface water from lakes, rivers, and streams; and groundwater, which comes from aquifers underground. Surface water tends to be low in dissolved minerals but higher in organic matter, such as leaves and algae, which need to be filtered and disinfected with chlorine treatment. Groundwater is generally low in organic matter but higher in dissolved minerals. Generally, it takes between 4 and 6 liters of water to produce one liter of beer. The primary uses of water for brewing include mashing, sparging liquors, and high-gravity brewing, if employed. Process water is used for washing and sterilizing of vessels and pipework and for container cleaning and sanitation as well as used for used for pasteurization and refrigeration. Service water includes water for boiler feed, offices, etc. The water may require on-site treatment before use (e.g., softened).


The first step in the production of beer is malting. Malt contains a range of carbohydrates, composed of insoluble cellulose and soluble hemicellulose, dextrin, starch, and sugars. Starch, which accounts for about 50 to 60 percent of the weight of malt. To harvest that starch and convert it into sugars, the barley undergoes a process known as malting. The barley is soaked in water and the “germ” part of the seed begins to grow into the acrospire, i.e., germinate. This process activates, and develops diastatic enzymes inside the seed and also starts the process of unlocking starches from the endosperm, i.e., converting its stored starch into sugars. Plain, pale malt accounts for up to 100 percent of a brewer’s grain bill depending on beer style.

Click on the following topics for more information on brewing water.

Topics Within This Chapter:

  • Water Sources
  • Municipal Water
  • Ground Water
  • Surface Water
  • Water Quality Parameters
  • Total Suspended Solids
  • Total Dissolved Solids
  • Electrical Conductivity
  • pH
  • Alkalinity
  • Water Hardness
  • Minerals in Brewing Water
  • Historical Background
  • Principal Ions
  • Minor Ions
  • Water Treatment
  • Removal of Suspended Solids
  • Dechlorination
  • Reduction in Alkalinity
  • Reduction of Total Dissolved Solids
  • Mineral Salt Adjustment
  • Water Sterilization
  • Calculations
  • Calculating Acid Addition