Things this post IS NOT: In depth explanations of water chemistry itself. A full breakdown of everything Bru’n Water has to offer. A guarantee that you will become a master brewer by reading this.
Things this post IS: An easy to follow step by step picture guide of how to get yourself comfortable using Bru’n Water, and hopefully a good next step in making your beers better.
Alright so if you’re like me before I started adjusting my water for brewing, you probably downloaded the free version of Bru’n Water, quickly poked around, and promptly closed the spreadsheet thinking that today wasn’t a great day to educate yourself about…water.
Simply put, adjusting my water for my brewing brought my beers from being just okay to good, to consistently in the good to great range.
My goal is to help anyone who thinks that water chemistry might be out of their league. It’s not, but it does take a little time to learn where to go in Bru’n Water.
That’s where this post comes in to play, hopefully.
If you do decide to use Bru’n Water, please consider donating at least $10 to Martin Brungard for a few reasons.
He gives his basic spreadsheet for free, but allows you to donate any amount over $10 and he will send you the supporter version. The supporter version includes lots more details and the ability to save up to 100 recipes in the data manager tab too.
But also, he created this incredible tool for us homebrewers to use, he deserves a little bit of compensation for it – at least in my opinion.
Before we get into the step by step, keep these following notes in mind to help you navigate the spreadsheet:
Blue Cells: Where you enter values. These values usually go into a formula somewhere and calculate something.
Yellow Cells: Calculations are shown here, usually affected by the inputs you enter in the blue cells.
Red Cells: A drop down of some sort you’ll need to choose from a menu.
Water you plan to use: You should know ahead of time if you’re going to use your tap water, reverse osmosis water, a mix of both. Tap water can work if you have a report analyzing it. RO water is great too – starts from a blank slate – but you need to get it all purchased before brew day.
Things you’ll need for brew day:
Gypsum, Calcium Chloride, Epsom Salt, Canning Salt to adjust the contents of your water.
Lactic or Phosphoric acid to reduce your pH.
And something to raise your pH if you’re using lots of roasty things… I use pickling lime but there are other options.
A pH Meter. But I will be honest, and mention it later in the post. I stopped measuring mash pH because in my experience, Bru’n Water does a great job at getting me dang near spot on. BUT, the meter has its uses elsewhere in the brewery for kettle souring, post boil adjustment, post fermentation adjustment, and more I haven’t mentioned. This is the one I have. Good value for a good piece of equipment.
Okay – let’s get started, enough with the pleasantries.
STEP 1 – Water Report Input
You’ll need to know what you’re working with before we can get started as I mentioned above. Use this page to input the water source you’re using. The important values you are going to want are Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Bicarbonate, Carbonate, Suflate, Chloride. These are located at the top of the input page.
Don’t know what’s in your water? There are a few ways to find out. First contact your local water department and see if they offer a report. If you can’t get a report that has this info, you can send your tap water in for testing. Ward Labs W-501 test is the one you want. Takes a few weeks, but that’s what I did.
You send in your COLD water sample, they test it, and email you the results. Then put them in the spreadsheet. Don’t use hot water for this test or brewing since it’s been sitting in your water heater and could be different from straight out of the cold tap.
STEP 2 – Sparge Acidification
If you see anything on this page that stands out to your specific set up, be sure to change it to make sure it matches what you’re using. I don’t sparge since I typically am always doing a full volume mash these days.
STEP 3 – Grain Bill Input
You’ll need to do this for every brew. Enter the names, choose if it’s a base, crystal, roast, or acid malt, add the quantities, make sure the color (L) is correct, then you should see the totals add up to match your recipes. If you’re unsure about the color of the malt you’re using, or what grain type it is, go to the website of the maltser and find that grain. They usually have spec sheets available that help you out.
Don’t forget to name the beer at the top on this page. There are some other options you can check depending on your batch, what color setting your using, etc.
Step 4 – Adjusting your water
So here’s where we get to the bulk of what we’re trying to accomplish. There’s a lot going on on this page so this section might be a little longer.
Let’s start with some easy fields to fill out. Sorry if we bounce around the page.
Right side, three blue squares for Mash Water volume, Sparge Water volume, and Total Batch Volume. Hover over the field for more info if you need some clarifications.
Fill these out according to how you’re brewing. I typically full volume mash and don’t sparge and my total batch volume is 4.75 gallons because fermenting in corny kegs is so easy to do. Just a note, the volumes you see in my pictures are fudged and this brew was never actually a real thing. It was all filled in for this hypothetical brew day we’re setting up.
Next, scroll down. Underneath all the additions, there’s tons of existing profiles provided that can get you on your way to a profile you want. For example, if you’re brewing a Sweet Stout, then finding the Black Full might be a good profile for your beer.
You can also add more of your own profiles you find externally in here. I added my NEIPA profile in on mine. Just type in the user custom field the name of your profile, and the desired mineral contents across the row.
Here’s what mine looks like:
Once you’ve chosen your desired water profile scroll back up to the very top. Find the red drop box under Desired Water Profile. Click the red drop down, and find the one you chose from the list below. You should see the profile populate horizontally.
If you’re diluting your tap water the next red box down under Dilution Water Profile comes into play. I don’t dilute, but you need to scroll all the way back to the bottom, make sure the water you’re using matches the profile in the Dilution Water Profile section. If it doesn’t… Add it or add your own.
Step 5 – Onwards to the actual adjustments!
Skip back down to where is has all the minerals and acids. Also keep an eye on that estimated mash pH. It’s going to move slightly as we adjust.
The blue boxes are all at 0 to the right of the mineral name, in the Addition Column. This is where you start tinkering with how much of each you use. Don’t worry, it will make sense soon.
The yellow boxes horizontal across the row associate with what you’re working with. For example, Gypsum has a yellow box in the Calcium and Sulfate column. This means by adding some gypsum, we are increasing our Calcium and Sulfates in the water profile.
Now you play the game of adding and subtracting a little. The two most used additions in my own experience is Gypsum and Calcium Chloride.
As you add a little bit, you’ll want to keep your eye on the Overall Finished Water Profile line. This is what we are trying to match with our Desired Water Profile at the top.
I ignore magnesium and bicarbonate for my profiles.
If you add too much of something in the mineral column, the blue field might turn red. Back it off a little, and find a different combo of minerals to get close to what you need.
I brew to get close. I don’t worry about exacts. Don’t worry if you can’t figure out how to get exact to your desired profile. Just go for getting close.
Here is what mine looks like after I get it where I want. If you tinker it enough, you can get close. I try my best to use as little of epsom and canning salt as possible and keep most of the adjustments with gypsum and calcium chloride.
Step 6 – Mash pH is Next – Once you’re close to what you want, you’ll notice the estimated mash pH might have changed depending on your mineral additions.
Here is are the guidelines from the Grain Bill input page of where you want your Mash pH.
5.3 to 5.4 for a lighter colored beer.
5.4 to 5.6 for a darker beer.
5.2 to 5.3 for a tart or crisp beer.
Now, how do we change it? I hope you ordered some lactic acid or phosphoric acid in your last supply order! I use lactic acid.
Just like our minerals, add a little bit at a time into the blue box for whichever acid you’re using till your estimated mash pH is in the range you want. I am shooting for a 5.25 mash pH on this one. Tinker with the acid adjustment till you get where you need.
I bought a pH meter to monitor mash pH, and have always found Bru’n Water gets damn near perfect almost every time, so I stopped measuring. Now my pH meter only gets whipped out during kettle souring and post boil pH adjustments on my hazy ipas.
Step 7 – THE CLIMAX!
Click on the adjustment summary tab. You should see all your hard work summarized in your two columns. Mash and sparge (or just mash if you’re like me!). Don’t forget the acid at the bottom.
Boom. Print it out. Or look at it from your phone or computer if it’s nearby during brew day. And also, don’t forget to add a campden tablet to your water before you do any of this.
Now all you need is a small scale and measure these bad boys out. Then add them to your mash water before doughing in. Or your sparge water before sparging.
Saving in the data manager
You can now go to the data manager tab and hit save. It will save this data set on the right.
I hope this helps some people who have been too intimidated to start learning water chemistry. This spreadsheet makes it super simple, you just gotta take the time to learn, and I hope my pictures help.