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Thread: Water Analysis, send it out or test in-house?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    57

    Water Analysis, send it out or test in-house?

    Just doing the preliminaries on setting up water analysis and deciding if and when to adjust our beers. This is for a brewpub, and our upcoming production brewery setting in Ohio.

    I have obtained a city water report, but we would like to back this up with some on-site sampling.

    What makes more sense financially and realistically, if we are going to be sampling, say, once a quarter to track changes: sending it out for lab analysis, or buying a test kit?

    And any specific recommendations on labs, or test kits, with your suggestions would be great.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    57
    Further question, is it possible to calculate the Calcium and Magnesium concentrations from the hardness and alkalinity values? I don't think so, but just checking. These are not tested individually by our local water treatment plant.

    We will be tracking all of our mash and wort pH's of course, in addition to looking into the basic mineral makeup of the water. I know that is the most important part.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Avon, OH
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    55
    The cost would depend on what you are looking at and what it costs to set up to do the analysis. Working in a brewery and in the past having worked in an environmental testing lab, it is probably way cheaper sending it out.

    Like the hardness number you got from the city. They had a titration performed on the water for hardness, and it gives you a combined hardness, most of which would come from the calcium. To perform an individual analysis you will need thousands in equipment and some training to operate it. Just to do the titration, it takes at least a half hour to set up and standardize, not to mention a $100 or so in equipment and standards.

    Getting a hardness, calcium and magnesium should be under $30 from a lab.

    Jim Lieb
    RRBC Brewer

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    57
    Thanks, and yes, looking into some of the equipment prices, it definitely looks like we'll just send it out for lab reports every once in a while, other than that we'll just keep an eye on mash pH for every brew to make sure no problems come up.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    158
    Quote Originally Posted by Sean W.
    Further question, is it possible to calculate the Calcium and Magnesium concentrations from the hardness and alkalinity values? I don't think so, but just checking. These are not tested individually by our local water treatment plant.

    We will be tracking all of our mash and wort pH's of course, in addition to looking into the basic mineral makeup of the water. I know that is the most important part.
    The alkalinity value won't directly help you decipher the calcium and magnesium makeup of the water and the hardness value can't either. Hardness is primarily computed from the calcium and magnesium concentrations, but their relative amounts are not determinable from the raw hardness value. There are separate calcium and magnesium test kits available. But considering that the cost of water testing is low, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have your own test kits unless your water source quality varies. You only need a lab test suite that provides: calcium, magnesium, sodium, bicarbonate, sulfate, and chloride. Those are the primary constituents in most potable waters and these are the prime interest to brewing. I've seen lab testing services for under $20 per sample.

    If your water source is known to vary, then you should have a calcium test kit and an alkalinity test kit on hand since those are the primary contributors to mash pH performance. Reputable firms such as Hach or Lamotte are preferred testing kit providers. If your cities water supply comes from a consistent groundwater source or a large lake, there is probably little variability in the water quality. If a river is the source, then there may be more variability. If the city has several sources, then variability is likely and on-site testing is mandatory.
    WaterEng
    Engineering Consultant

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    158
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Lieb
    To perform an individual analysis you will need thousands in equipment and some training to operate it. Just to do the titration, it takes at least a half hour to set up and standardize, not to mention a $100 or so in equipment and standards.
    Whereas there are parameters and testing methods that do require relatively expensive equipment and reagents, hardness and alkalinity testing are both low-tech tests that don't require much investment or training.
    WaterEng
    Engineering Consultant

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Anchorage, AK
    Posts
    90
    I haven't worked with these guys but their W-6 test at $16.50 looks like it might make a good quarterly test.

    http://www.wardlab.com/FeeSchedule/WaterAnalysis.aspx

    We're on a great municipal system so I wouldn't expect to see much change or feel the need to look for anything exotic.
    Clarke Pelz
    Cynosure Brewing

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Posts
    59
    I've used Ward Labs a bunch of times and it has been very easy and the turnaround is pretty quick. Our water varies a bit over the course of the year, so we test quarterly.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    57
    Yep, I think we're going to go with ward labs and get at least the W-6 analysis, maybe the W-5.
    Thanks for the help!

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