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Removing CaCO3?

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  • Removing CaCO3?

    Calling all midwest brewers ; )
    I am setting up a brewery from the ground up. I have some concerns about the amount of CaCO3 in the Southeast Ohio water we are using, not for the wort production so much as the effect of scale build-up on equipment. We will have a tankless water heater, and I know we can de-scale it, but I am thinking about what I need to remove the CaCO3 before it gets to the tankless water heater. We will also have a HLT heated by an electric element which it could cause issues with.

    So, how do I get out the CaCO3, or do I just not worry about it? Can certain types of carbon filters, or other filters, remove or reduce it?

    Thanks for the help.

  • #2
    A couple of options

    Firstly - install a reverse osmosis plant to virtually completely demineralise the water and then add salts for mashing in. The advantage of this is that you can then add salts to match the beer style, so can brew lagers and ales with relative ease. Downside - cost of plant, running costs and possibly waste water containing the mineral salts from the usable demin part of the water, that has to go down the drain - so if water / effluent volume costs are high, you need to allow for this in the calculation.

    Secondly, water ion exchange plant for non brewing water primarily - but check suitable kit with a reputable water treatment company. You may be able to use it for brewing water as well. Again, cost of kit, regen costs of resins etc, and possible effluent costs.

    Thirdly, acidification, typically using sulphuric acid dosing to achieve pH 7, followed by degassing and precipitated mineral sludge (calcium sulphate) settlement. Main problems - if you have high carbonate / bicarbonate, then you may ave large amounts of CaSO4 settling out. You must degas before passing through an in-line heater, and finally, the space required for degassing / sludge settlement.

    Not knowing how high the carbonate levels are, simply regular strong acid typically nitric (less likely hydrochloric becase of corrosion, and not sulphuric or phosphoric as this will simply precipitate unremovable solids in the heater tubes) may be an option.


    • #3
      Reference. Hmm. Bit of a problem in that I son't know of commercially available systems. However, I was involved at a major brewery where the brewing water supply had a calcium carbonate content of, from memory, circa 250 ppm but very low in virtually all other ions. After treatment, this was great for producing bitter and pale ale style beers. We simply dosed in food grade sulphuric acid to convert the vast bulk of the carbonate to sulphate. This was proportional dosing, but had pH monitoring to act assure the dosing was working correctly. Target pH, again from memory was 7.1, upper limit 7.2, and lower limit 7.0. It was never allowed to be acidic as such - corrosion risk mainly. After mixing, it was trickled through a packed column with air blast through it to strip out the CO2, the degassed water running into a header tank. We never actually dug out the header tank, but were always aware that it might need doing. We did install a CIP to the degassing column and buffer tank - primarily for micro control, but apart from draining and flushing the tank out with CIP water a couple of times, I don't think the CIP was used.

      Water for lager brewing (+CIP and some boiler feed) came from a different source, not suitable for brewing without extensive treatment. This was RO treated to remove the high levels of calcium, magnesium, and lower (but still high for brewing) levels of potassium and sodium

      Because the product mix changed so much in the following few years, the acid treatment was abandoned, and the water was RO treated as well. Made life much easier for brewing a wide range of different beer brands, each requiring different mineral ion contents.

      I forgot about treating water with slaked lime - the classic method, but requiring mixing and settling tanks etc, all a bit messy compared to the footprint normally low maintenance required for a small RO plant.


      • #4
        Greetings from a former/future midwest brewer! If you have the space and funds for a cold/ambient liquor tank, here's another option:

        -Treat the water with lactic acid to knock its total alkalinity down to about 50 mg/L. This will eliminate carbonates with no precipitation of solids.
        -Fill your hot liquor tank directly with treated water from the cold liquor tank whenever it's needed.
        -Pump treated water from the cold liquor tank through the water side of your heat exchanger to chill your wort. This will eliminate scale in your hot water pipes, which would otherwise require periodic acid CIPs to remove.
        -Pump treated water from the cold liquor tank to the cold water side of your mash water blender. Since your HLT water will also come from the cold liquor tank, your mash water will always have fully treated water regardless of how much hot and cold water you use for any given mash.

        I know you're not looking to treat your brewhouse water, but you can use the treated HLT water for cleaning. Being able to use it in the brewhouse is a bonus because it'll reduce the intensities of your mash and sparge water treatments. Precipitation of calcium carbonate shouldn't be an issue for pipes/tanks/hoses that never see hot water.



        • #5
          Thank you all for the informed posts! I will consider our options. And yes, space and funds are both limited, it's a startup. ; ) I'll see what I can do.