Published: October 5, 2017

    How Water Affects the Taste of Your Seasonal Home Brews

    As we discussed last year, the most important ingredient in your home-brewed beer isn’t the hops, or the yeast, or the malt – it’s the water. When beers were first coming into prominence the water quality and content of the geographical area largely determined the type of beer that was developed. Water was the ingredient that caused darker beers to gain prominence in Ireland while pale ales found a home in Britain.

    There are two facets of this profound effect on your favorite home brews: first, and perhaps most obviously, water that has a foul stench or any kind of noticeable taste will affect the aroma and taste of your home brew. Organic compounds that create a swampy smell in your water, for example, will transform your favorite amber ale from a malty delight to a curdled monstrosity.

    Chlorine is often to blame for water with a specific taste. Ideal water for home brewing should be as pure and taste-free as possible. The level of chlorine in your water supply at home is largely dependent on the treatment methods of your local municipality. In order to ensure the chlorine levels in your brewing water are near zero consider installing a whole house water filter that also reduces several common contaminants.

    However, the cleanliness of your water is just part of the equation. Even if multiple breweries use the purest, cleanest water available some noticeable taste and brew varieties will develop. The mineral content in the water you use to brew beer at home is the most important factor in determining the taste of your beer throughout the development process.

    According to All About Beer Magazine an elevated calcium and magnesium concentration in the tap water creates a stronger, more complex flavor profile for your brews. For frequent readers you’ll notice this means that “hard” water creates a hoppy, nutty flavor that is more desirable for the darker and maltier home-brewed beers we prefer in the fall.

    If you’re trying to concoct the perfect autumnal brown ale or pumpkin ale you’ll want to look at the mineral profile of your water. A high calcium count will increase the bittering qualities of hops. Plenty of magnesium will make the beer flavor more pronounced, similar to how salt works with food.

    Seasonal fall brews will actually benefit from some water hardness if you’re a fan of the popular dark fall beers that pack a punch in the taste department.

    Another aspect of water hardness, bicarbonate, also has an effect on the taste of your home brew. If your water is rich in bicarbonate this will increase the pH during the brewing process, and the water will be too alkaline for the yeast to properly function. In order to counteract this, roast your grains until they are rather dark to lower the pH and keep your darker brew tasty.

    For a more in-depth look at how water affects your fall home-brewed beer check out this beginning brewer’s water guide. The dynamism and hoppiness you’re seeking for your favorite fall beer flavors can be integrated into your water with a reverse osmosis filter. The filter adds magnesium and calcium to your water for more flavor while reducing contaminants to keep your brew smoother and crisper.