Getting Salty with Club Soda

Water Building

If you read anything about homebrewing, which I think you probably do, you learn that a water profile can be the difference between best of flight and best of show at a competition. Although perhaps not as important as hops, malt, or yeast; water, being the cheapest ingredient, is likely the one most overlooked when people talk about their recipes. Most of the process I utilize here is the way I make any water profile I want for brewing, and as a lucky side effect, the same process can make some fancy drinking water, which is what is happening today.

So, lets make some Gerolsteiner, a German sparkling water from the Volcanic Eifel. Pretty much any brewing profile from anywhere in the world can be made the same way… if you can find the right water profile, and you know the water profile of the water you will be using to make it. Treat yourself to a little water vacation now and then. Reverse osmosis water or distilled water is the easiest to use as it comes with zero minerals, and you can target your profile a bit closer than with tap water (depending on the salts you have and the calculator you are using). You can skip the carbonation step for brewing, obviously, although I have carbonated brewing water before, just to see if it made any impact on my Munich Helles. Calcium carbonate dissolves better in carbonated water. As tasty as it was, with no control subject to compare against, the jury is still out.

Lets press on.


Desired Water Profile: Gerolsteiner, as from their “mineral calculator”

  • Calcium: 348 mg/L
  • Magnesium: 108 mg/L
  • Bicarbonate: 1.816 mg/L
  • Potassium:11
  • Sodium:118
  • Chloride: 40
  • Sulphate:38

Things you need:

  • 5 gallons (19L) water with a profile on it, or distilled/RO water
  • kettle that can hold 5 gallons (19L)
  • mash spoon/rake
  • scale that measures in grams
  • keg & kegging supplies

Process:

  1. Lets heat 5 gallons (19L) of water to 160F (71C) for 30 minutes. If you want to, skip this step, but I do this for the following reasons. First, it helps remove chlorine or smells that may be lingering from the water source, which can happen from time to time. Second, it pasteurizes the water, which isn’t that necessary if you are using water with chlorine or chloramine. Third, if you are making beer from this, it deoxygenates the water, which lowers the total dissolved oxygen in packaged beer making it more shelf stable.water
  2. While the water is heating, fire up BeerSmith or any other water profile calculator of your choice, and calculate the amount of salts you need to add. Using my Leesburg water profile as purchased from Ward labs, for 5 gallons, I see I need 3.6 g of gypsum, 4.1 g calcium chloride, and 1.2 g of Chalk (Calcium Carbonate). As you can see, the differences from my target water and the Gerolsteiner I want are quite off. As the calculator is operating under the limitations of what would be considered good brewing water (suitable for mash and yeast health), as well assuming that brewers only require the listed salts (there are many more) this is not exactly the best method to make drinking water, but for now, it will be good enough. I might revisit better methods in the future.beersmith
  3. Measure your salts with a nifty gram scale. This goes in increments of 0.1 g, so it’s pretty much spot on.salts
  4. When the water is up to 160F (71C), stir in your salts gently to avoid oxygenation. You may see the water fizz up. Add 1/20th of a campden tablet if your water source uses chloramine (chloramine does not evaporate like chlorine). Let it sit for an hour or two to cool down.temperatureadding
  5. When its cool enough for a racking cane, rack into keg. A racking cane is not crucial, you can pour it in like me today, perhaps negating the deoxygenation step, but I’d probably rack if I were making beer. Make sure you get the salts that may be on the bottom so it pours/racks right into the keg.bottom
  6. Keg as usual. I prefer to carbonate to 3.0 vols or higher, depending on the water profile you targeted and your preference. Carbonating makes carbonic acid, so higher mineral additions (higher alkalinity) may benefit from more carbonation.

Thats it, enjoy!

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