Water - benefit and costs of RO

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Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby bwarbiany on Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:54 am

RO Water... Is that equipment? (Need RO system.) Techniques? (Mineral adjustments.) Or, Ingredients? Oh well, I posted it here...

I've noticed that my competition success has been waning from where it was several years ago. In the years I've been brewing, I've brewed at 4 locations in 2 states, and while I believe my brew processes have only been improving during this time, my competition results since moving into my house have not been stellar. I'm thinking I might have water issues. In fact, the best competition results I've had lately have been with my Apfelwein, which doesn't use any of my own water.

So I've been thinking of going the RO route. Right now I use water straight from the hose or the water heater, treated with Campden to neutralize chloramine and occasionally gypsum for very light-colored beers. I think consistency and control can be better achieved if I go RO.

Questions:

  • For those of you who have done both, especially here in SoCal, have you believed it to be a worthwhile improvement?
  • What type of installation is most cost-effective? Bear in mind that it will be used primarily for brewing, and for 11-gallon batches I should never need more than 20-25 gallons of water or so. I'd think tankless is most cost-effective, but I worry that I'll have to start filling my mash tun and HLT 2 days prior to brewing if I go that route. But it will most likely go into my garage, so it doesn't have to be a pretty under-sink system.
  • How in-depth is the install process? Can I do this myself or do I need a professional?

Thoughts?
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby brianc on Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:24 am

I can't offer any practical knowledge yet as I am just getting my RO filter going. I'll be using it on the next brewday, whenever that ends up being. Hopefully within the next couple of weekends.

I ended up getting a 100 GPD unit (upgradeable to 200 GPD) off Amazon. I'll pre-fill one of my old plastic fermenters the day before brewing.

I started getting my water tested through Ward Labs, but quickly realized that by the time I would be done sending in enough samples in to get an idea of where my water was throughout the year, it was cheaper to get the RO filter. With the RO filter, I would know exactly where I stood with my water. Even with the lab results, there would still be some variation as who knows when water sources are actually changed. After talking to Jon Palmer after the water presentation, my bicarbonates are still really high and at a minimum cutting my water with RO was recommended. Might as well just go all the way.

The plan is to use all RO water (mash and sparge) and add Gypsum and Calcium Chloride. I've worked up a couple of theoretical water profiles based on styles, but until I actually taste what the results are, I have no idea. Right now I just don't know what to expect from a beer with 50 ppm sulfate and 50 ppm chloride vs one with 200 or 300 ppm sulfate and 50 ppm chloride beer, or whatever combination of salts one come up with.

That will all come in time and it sounds like a lot of us are making the trek together.
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby jward on Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:45 am

I have been going to do the mix in RO water thing to but when I stopped brewing for 1.5 years lots of stuff never got tested. I have a long unused RO unit you can borrow. If you are interested I can inspect it and test it a bit here. It is an under the sink model and you would have to collect for days ahead of time. I have a ~40gallon tall acrylic aquarium I have kept to use as a storage tank. You can borrow that too. Some where I even have plastic float valve to stop the RO water once the tank is full.

RO water is 25 cents a gallon at the market. I have been buying it for drinking at home and mixing with tap water for coffee. At 25 cents a gallon an RO filter can be a lot to monkey with.
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby bwarbiany on Fri May 16, 2014 10:00 am

jward wrote:RO water is 25 cents a gallon at the market. I have been buying it for drinking at home and mixing with tap water for coffee. At 25 cents a gallon an RO filter can be a lot to monkey with.


I've been thinking more and more about doing this... I think given that price, I'll have to give it a try... I'll bet I'll look a bit strange trying to collect 20+ gallons of RO water for brewing ;-)

Is that $0.25/gal for it to be sold in their own jugs, or do I need my own receptacle?
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby brianc on Fri May 16, 2014 10:25 am

I'm loving the RO water. It has made a huge difference in my beers and solved an astringency issue I started having. I've been running water for Sam as well and I think he feels the same way. I'd be more than happy to run some water off for you to try a batch with, but as far away from you as I am, it probably wouldn't be worth the gas.
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby brahn on Fri May 16, 2014 11:06 am

bwarbiany wrote:
jward wrote:RO water is 25 cents a gallon at the market. I have been buying it for drinking at home and mixing with tap water for coffee. At 25 cents a gallon an RO filter can be a lot to monkey with.


I've been thinking more and more about doing this... I think given that price, I'll have to give it a try... I'll bet I'll look a bit strange trying to collect 20+ gallons of RO water for brewing ;-)

Is that $0.25/gal for it to be sold in their own jugs, or do I need my own receptacle?


I'm curious about this too. What kind of receptacle does one use for 20 gallons of RO water from the store?
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby brianc on Fri May 16, 2014 11:19 am

brahn wrote:I'm curious about this too. What kind of receptacle does one use for 20 gallons of RO water from the store?

When my brother fills his, he uses something like this: http://www.beveragefactory.com/water/accessories/screw-top.shtml

They usually fit right into the store systems for filling. For the cost of the containers for 20+ gallons though, you might just be better off buying your own RO filter.

If anyone wants though, the offer stands for water. Give me a heads up and bring your cornies.
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby bwarbiany on Fri May 16, 2014 1:55 pm

brianc wrote:
brahn wrote:I'm curious about this too. What kind of receptacle does one use for 20 gallons of RO water from the store?

When my brother fills his, he uses something like this: http://www.beveragefactory.com/water/accessories/screw-top.shtml

They usually fit right into the store systems for filling. For the cost of the containers for 20+ gallons though, you might just be better off buying your own RO filter.

If anyone wants though, the offer stands for water. Give me a heads up and bring your cornies.


That's what I'm thinking... I'm not buying 4-5 of those things at $16/ea to fill up...

What RO system did you buy from Amazon? Do you have a link?

Wait... Cornies! That's a great idea. I wonder if I could just fill 4 of those... I haven't been brewing enough to have run out of cornies lately!
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby brianc on Fri May 16, 2014 2:03 pm

bwarbiany wrote:What RO system did you buy from Amazon? Do you have a link?

This is the one I have: Hydro-Logic StealthRO 100
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby jward on Fri May 16, 2014 2:58 pm

I bring a better bottle and 2 cornies. The cornies are too tall to fit the local machine. I do get lots of questions and odd looks. RO is $0.35/gallon now.
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby gromitdj on Sat May 17, 2014 5:41 pm

I have 4 or 5 water bottles that are "on loan" from the Sparkletts truck that comes to my office weekly. I use those to fill at the water store. At 35 cents a gallon it would take a lot of batches to make up the cost of the RO system. Then you have to change the filters regularly, and the RO membrane once in a while if your water is anything like mine.

I use one of the Costco under counter units for drinking water and the Ice Maker.
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby bwarbiany on Tue May 27, 2014 9:52 am

brianc wrote:
bwarbiany wrote:What RO system did you buy from Amazon? Do you have a link?

This is the one I have: Hydro-Logic StealthRO 100


I ordered this yesterday, and it will be arriving tomorrow. Gotta love Amazon Prime!

Unfortunately I can't test it out until next weekend, as I'll be overseas for a week starting Friday.

What's a good mineral addition mix for RO for a Kolsch? Do I still need campden tablets to deal with Chloramine?
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby dhempy on Tue May 27, 2014 7:05 pm

The description says it'll remove 98% of chlorine and contaminents ... if you have some way of getting it through a carbon filter of some sort prior to the RO you'd be golden I think.

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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby brianc on Tue May 27, 2014 7:38 pm

I believe you need the optional KDF filter upgrade to completely remove chloramine. Out of the box the Green filter specs say it "partially" removes chloramine. I don't know to what level that means. I wouldn't stress about it though. I bet most is taken care of.

That said I still run the water through my previous filter before it hits the RO filter as it removes chorine & chloramine. I do it mostly because I have the filter around and hope by doing that it increases the life of the pre-filters (the sediment and carbon) that came with the RO filter. I can't image much hits the Stealth pre-filters after going through my carbon filter, leaving the membrane to just strip the minerals.

As for mineral additions, I would probably lean toward using just calcium chloride to around 50-75ppm to start.
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Re: Water - benefit and costs of RO

Postby bwarbiany on Wed May 28, 2014 4:33 pm

Would it be bad to perhaps split 1/2 campden tablet between mash and sparge water (~20 gal) to knock out any residual chloramine? I'm not sure the extent that little amount of sodium metabisulfite that doesn't get taken up knocking out the chloramine will be enough to cause any issues with the beer...

Or better to just skip it and hope for the best?
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