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As water is by far the main ingredient of beer, it is important that it is suitable for the purpose. Historically, beers were brewed to suit the water available, e.g. Stouts and Porters were produced primarily in London and Dublin where the water is high in carbonates, Pale Ales and Bitters, however, were far more suited to the gypseous water of Burton-On-Trent.

With the advance of science it is now possible to brew most beer styles with any type of water providing it is correctly treated. To illustrate this we have broken down the procedure into three operations.

1. Filtration

Although most domestic water supplies are perfectly suited to brewing, they usually contain elements that are best removed. Foremost among these is chlorine, added to water for disinfectant purposes, but other substances such as sand, rust, polyphenols etc. also have a deleterious effect on the brewing process. Brewing beer with unfiltered water is leaving too much to chance! Most specialist home brew retailers will be able to offer a suitable water filter to remove these unwanted substances. Simple chlorine and chloramine removal can, however, be effected by the addition of potassium metabisulphite (campden).

2. Adjustment of Carbonate Levels

In order to produce quality pale beers, the brewing liquor must be low in carbonates as they prevent the correct mash pH from being achieved. Quality Pale Ales, Bitters and Lagers cannot be made with such water, so appropriate measures must be taken to correct its composition. Brupaks CRS (Carbonate Reducing Solution) is an acid blend which, when added to brewing liquor, reduces the level of carbonate without the need to boil. Darker beers can tolerate higher levels of carbonates.

3. Adjustment of Calcium Levels

Calcium is a very important mineral in the brewing process for its effect on mash and wort pH. Calcium chloride and calcium sulphate (gypsum) are used to lower the pH (increase the acidity), whereas, when brewing dark beers with soft water, calcium carbonate is sometimes added to balance the inherent acidity of the roasted grains. Brupaks Dry Liquor Salts (DLS) is a carefully controlled blend of inorganic salts designed to increase calcium levels and lower pH. When brewing Pale Ales and Bitters it is usual to use both CRS and DLS to treat the liquor, as most water supplies have an excess of carbonate and insufficient calcium. For Lager it is recommended that CRS be used in the mashing liquor to reduce carbonate, followed by careful additions of lactic acid to the mash tun for lowering the pH. An alternative to lactic acid is to incorporate some German acid malt in the grist. This special malt is used extensively in Germany in the production of high class lagers.


Before you can start to treat your water you should first contact your water supply company and request the total alkalinity of your water in p.p.m. Unfortunately this is not as clear cut as it should be. Water authorities usually express alkalinity as HCO3 (hydrogen carbonate) whereas the brewing industry uses the traditional CaC03 (calcium carbonate). To use the tables below you will need to know the alkalinity expressed as CaC03. As you will probably have only the HC03 value, you can convert it to CaC03 simply by dividing this figure by 1.22. From this figure it is possible to determine the required amounts of CRS and DLS to be added for all styles of beer. An average Bitter or Pale Ale requires the water to have a total alkalinity of 30-50 p.p.m. and a calcium content of 180-220 p.p.m. If the total alkalinity of your water is below 50 p.p.m. you will not need to use CRS but will most probably need to increase the calcium with DLS.

Example: You are brewing a Bitter and the total alkalinity of your water as CaC03 is 195 p.p.m. In order to bring it within the target range of 30-50 p.p.m. you will need to reduce the alkalinity by 145-165 p.p.m. From the following table you can calculate the amount of CRS to be added. N.B. All brewing liquor should be treated with CRS, not just that used for mashing.

CRS in millilitres per litre  





















The table shows that to reduce the alkalinity by 160 p.p.m. CRS should be added at a rate of 0.87ml per litre. Thus for a standard 25 litre brew, which will probably require 30 litres of liquor, 30 x 0.87 = 26mls of CRS should be added. After adding CRS, several minutes standing time should be allowed to release the carbon dioxide produced by the neutralisation of the excess acid.

Now that the carbonate level has been adjusted, you now have to correct the calcium content. Fortunately a close approximation of the amount of calcium present can be obtained by a simple piece of arithmetic:

Original alkalinity in ppm x 0.4 = Calcium in ppm

In the above example you have an original alkalinity of 195 p.p.m. Using the above formula the calcium content can be calculated as follows: 195 x 0.4 = 78 p.p.m.

A typical Bitter requires a calcium content of 180-220 p.p.m. As you already have 78 p.p.m. you will need an extra 102-142 p.p.m. The quantity of DLS required can be ascertained from the table below.

DLS in grams per litre

























The table shows that in order to increase the calcium content by 125 p.p.m you will need to add 0.7 grams of DLS per litre.

When making a full mash brew, DLS should be added in two stages:

Stage 1. Weigh sufficient DLS to treat your mashing liquor (e.g. 10 litres x 0.7 = 7 grams). Mix DLS into the dry grains. This is most important as adding it to raw liquor will not affect the mash pH.

Stage 2. Weigh sufficient DLS to treat the balance of the total brewing liquor (e.g. 20 litres x 0.7 = 14 grams). Add to the wort at the commencement of the boil.

Extract brewers should add the total amount of DLS to the wort at the commencement of the boil.

From the above information you should be able to treat almost any water to brew first class Bitters and Pale Ales. Other styles of beer, however, require different levels of carbonate and calcium. These are the recommended alkalinity and calcium levels for the most common beer styles.

Bitter and Pale Ale. Alkalinity as CaC03 - up to 50 p.p.m. Calcium - 180 to 220 p.p.m.

Mild Ale. Alkalinity as CaC03 - 100 to 150 p.p.m. Calcium - 90 to 110 p.p.m.

Porter and Stout. Alkalinity as CaC03 - 100 to 150 p.p.m. Calcium - 100 to 120 p.p.m.

Pale Lager. Alkalinity as CaC03 - up to 30 p.p.m. Calcium - 100 to 120 p.p.m.


Brupaks supplies the following products for the treatment of brewing water. All of these products are available from good home brew shops throughout the UK.

Calcium Chloride Flakes . For simple calcium additions. Available in 500g packs.

Carbonate Reducing Solution (CRS). An acid blend that neutralises carbonates without the need to boil. Available in 250ml bottles.

Dry Water Treatment Salts . A carefully controlled blend of inorganic salts for precise treatment of brewing liquor. Available in 100g and 250g packs.

Gypsum (calcium sulphate). For simple calcium additions. Available in 250g packs.

Burton Water Crystals . A blend of calcium sulphate and magnesium sulphate intended to 'Burtonise' the liquor. Available in 250g packs.

Lactic Acid (80% solution). Used to acidify the mash and sparge water when brewing Lagers. A pH meter or indicator strips should always be used when adding lactic acid. Available in 100ml and 250ml bottles.

Pocket pH Meter . Accurate and easy to use. Liquid to be measured must first be cooled to around 20°C.

pH Indicator Strips . With built-in colour matching chart.