Chicago Water Analysis

One good thing about living in the city is that you can easily find the water report on line.  So with that and the help from how to brew I did an analysis and determined that I’m not quite where I need to be to do a stout, but I am learning what I need to do to get there.  I never really paid much attention to the water content when I was brewing before.  Information was not as easy to get as it is now so I really don’t have an excuse :).

Chicago Water Analysis
Name Ideal Range Chicago Water 2008 Notes
Bicarbonate; 0 – 250 ppm 121 ppm 0 – 50ppm for pale, base malt beers

50 – 150 ppm amber colored, toasted malt

150 – 250 ppm for dark, roasted malt

Sulfate < 150 ppm 28.6 ppm 50-150 ppm for normally bitter beers, 150-350 ppm for very bitter beers
The sulfate ion also combines with Ca and Mg to contribute to permanent hardness. It accentuates hop bitterness, making the bitterness seem drier, more crisp. At concentrations over 400 ppm however, the resulting bitterness can become astringent and unpleasant, and at concentrations over 750 ppm, it can cause diarrhea
Chloride < 200 ppm 13.1 ppm The chloride ion also accentuates the flavor and fullness of beer. Concentrations above 300 ppm (from heavily chlorinated water or residual bleach sanitizer) can lead to medicine flavors due to chlorophenol compounds.
Sodium < 150 ppm 8.1 ppm At levels of 70 – 150 ppm it rounds out the beer flavors, accentuating the sweetness of the malt. But above 200 ppm the beer will start to taste salty. The combination of sodium with a high concentration of sulfate ions will generate a very harsh bitterness. Therefore keep at least one or the other as low as possible, preferably the sodium
Magnesium 10-20 ppm 12.5 ppm important yeast nutrient in small amounts but amounts greater than 50 ppm tend to give a sour-bitter taste to the beer. Levels higher than 125 ppm have a laxative and diuretic affect
Calcium 50 – 100 ppm 35.1 ppm Required for mash enzyme stabilization and a yeast nutrient. Higher levels increase hot break of boil and clarity of finished beer

By determining the residual alkalinity (RA) and pH shift I can determine the beer styles that best suit the Chicago water.  My RA was 69.542 which comes out to ~ 5.9 assuming that a 100% pale malt with distilled water results in a mash pH of 5.8

5.9 corrleates to a SRM value of 15 – 20.  Not quite enough for my stout yet, but I will get there


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