One particular area that causes much heartache for the budding all-grain brewer is water treatment; just having the right starting water profile can gain you a few points of gravity in your wort, or simply make the beer more truer to style.
If you are interested in brewing to style, you might like to check out the Beer Judge Certification Program’s style guide – available in many exciting formats. I have the PDF on my kindle, which is desperately sad…or so my wife says:
For adjusting my water (or liquor if you want to sound vaguely geeky about it), I tend to use Carbonate Reducing Solution (CRS) and Dry Liquor Salts (DLS). CRS and DLS are available from all good home brew shops; CRS helps to reduce the hardness in your water, and DLS helps to add the minerals needed to adjust it to style.
If you want a quick overview on how it all works you should take a look at the Brupaks website as they have quite a nice explanation, it’s a bit of a head scratcher to start with, but it makes sense after some reading:
Before you start with that you’ll need to test your water to see how hard it is, and for that I recommend the API aquarium kit below, it was only a tenner from the local garden centre…I reckon it’s better than getting a water report from the water company as you’ll be testing the water that comes out of your tap and not learning about the state of the water in your general area:
Once I’d got my results I found it to be a bit of a faff to get pen and paper out and then work out what I needed to add to the water and the mash by referring to the Brupaks website alone.
I took a lot of inspiration – and half-inched, modded and re-jigged some of the formulas – from the Brau Kaiser website, here:
Braukaiser have some legendary spreadsheets, which are great for the hardcore brewer/beer scientist. Kudos to them. Visit and learn…
I decided to get together a smaller, easier to use, spreadsheet that would to make things quicker and simpler. All you need to do is to enter in the results of your water test, and then select the style of beer you want to make.
I now use it every time I brew and it saves me a ton of time:
My spreadsheet is linked here, so feel free to have a look, check it out and see what you think. It’s pretty simple and straightforward so have a play, download it and give it a whirl (you might have to select “Download”):
(Tedious legal bit: I take no responsibility for you either poisoning yourself while adjusting your brewing water or getting your computer all riddled with viruses after you download this. It was clean when I put it up there, but once these things are out in the wild who knows what can happen to them…a bit like cats I guess.)