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Thread: Brewing with rain water?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Taos, NM
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    15

    Brewing with rain water?

    We are running into some water usage limitations with our well. We are considering rainwater catchment tanks. Anyone know of any medium size (7 - 20 bbl) breweries using rain water catchment for brewing?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Palau
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    1,632
    Rain water is foul. It is full of atmospheric pollutants that you'll need to scrub out. Not to mention bird crap and leaf litter from the rooftops. Used to know Jamie at Bermuda Triangle brewery who RO'd his rain water before use. Pain in the butt according to him. But according to a leading beer website, that brewery was closed in 2002. Still, I recall other folks using rainwater with lots of hardware & precautions. I'm sure you can do it, but it's not a free ride.
    If you're tapping out your well, is it possible to run it into tanks during off-peak usage for later use? We have four 2,000 liter tanks we use as a buffer for our (unreliable) municipal service. Gets us by a day or two when they have no water for us. Good luck!
    Last edited by gitchegumee; 02-04-2009 at 05:37 PM.
    Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--
    Worldwide Brewery Installations
    www.GitcheGumeeBreweryServices.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Homer, Alaska
    Posts
    93

    Really?

    Quote Originally Posted by gitchegumee
    Rain water is foul.
    I appreciate all the great experience you share on this forum but I must question this statement. I don't think this statement can blanket the planet. There are lots of areas in the world where rainwater is not foul. It can also be the best water around with the least amount of treatment necessary and it gets delivered to your eaves for free with enough gravity left to run through a rough filter before entering a settling cistern. The expensive part is the huge amount of storage that you need. I haven't been commercially brewing with rainwater but I have been brewing double digit yearly barrels with the excellent rain water we have in my location.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Tokyo Japan
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    209
    I don't live in China, but the crap from the air there still gets us in Japan. Sometimes the air is a foul yellow they call 'yellow dust', which is factory waste which has made its way across the Sea of Japan.
    www.devilcraft.jp
    www.japanbeertimes.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Palau
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    OK, maybe I was a bit harsh with the word "foul", but I wouldn't drink rainwater here, and we are a thousand miles of big, blue, Pacific Ocean from anywhere. I doesn't get much cleaner than that. First, you will have to be scrupulously clean with your catchment area. Bird crap and rat piss are known to carry potentially fatal fungi/bacteria. Strain out the big chunks before storage. Clean your cisterns regularly and dose sodium hypochlorite at 1-2 ppm to keep bacteria and algae at bay. Pump out and rough filter the brewery's incoming water, then charcoal filter out the hypochlorite, then fine filter out the charcoal dust. Routinely check your free chlorine in both the cistern and out of the filters. Of course, rain water will have no dissolved solids, so you'll have to add all the minerals you require. And rain water contains more dissolved gases than well water, so you may wish to boil it before use as brewing liquor.

    Another option you may have is to use catchment for cleaning and washing, while using well water for brewing and sanitizing. That should cut your well water usage in half while still gaining maximum benefit from catchment. You wouldn't even need to carbon filter your water this way.

    BTW, we had an unusual wind pattern two years ago this March that had our pristine air and crystal air visibility contaminated with this yellow dust from China. And we're thousands of miles away from the source. I'm all in favor of grabbing free anything, but rain water isn't the same as well water. All the same, breweries use water for many things and not all of them require perfect brewing liquor. Best of luck and I hope you can make this work!
    Last edited by gitchegumee; 02-06-2009 at 07:30 PM.
    Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--
    Worldwide Brewery Installations
    www.GitcheGumeeBreweryServices.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    354
    Quote Originally Posted by gitchegumee
    Another option you may have is to use catchment for cleaning and washing, while using well water for brewing and sanitizing. That should cut your well water usage in half while still gaining maximum benefit from catchment. You wouldn't even need to carbon filter your water this way.
    That sounds like a very good idea!

    Cheers, Tim

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Santa Rosa CA USA
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    962
    Might be more cost-effective to spend this money on reducing current water usage.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Florence, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    350
    Quote Originally Posted by jayraywylie
    We are running into some water usage limitations with our well. We are considering rainwater catchment tanks. Anyone know of any medium size (7 - 20 bbl) breweries using rain water catchment for brewing?
    You shouldn't have much of a problem in New Mexico with gross pollutants in the rain water. Although I don't know of anyone doing it, filtration and water analysis would be necessary if you choose to brew with it. You really don't know from one Storm to another what might be washed into your catch basin. Using it for wash down is a perfect solution to reducing water usage as well as performing good water management in the brewing process seems to be your answer.

    Happy Brewing!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    WA, Australia
    Posts
    38
    lots of microbreweries in SW Australia use rainwater.
    They catch it off the roof in tanks and then filter (sediment and activated carbon) and sterilise with UV light.
    Some use small RO plants, but they tend to waste more than they produce.
    Last edited by big_al; 02-21-2009 at 08:56 PM.

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