Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Water Report for Beacon, NY

Well, it took me forever, but I finally got a water report for Beacon, NY. Learning how to adjust your water profile is one of the first things an all-grain brewer should look into, yet water is one aspect of brewing that many homebrewers procrastinate on — myself included. Partly, this was just simple procrastination, but I also wasted a couple months trying to get the water report out of my local water department, working under the naive assumption that the Beacon Water Department might know something about its water. Hah! Most homebrewers across the country can proceed this way, particularly in larger towns / cities — just call up your water department and ask about the "secondary / aesthetic standards. If you're lucky, they might even have the report online already.

Unfortunately, I'm skeptical that the "Beacon Water Department" even exists at all. I spent about two months trying to contact the department, to no avail. The phone rang and rang no matter what time of day I called — it became clear that no human being was ever meant to answer that phone. I left a few messages that went unreturned. Finally, I was about to just go there in person when another local homebrewer told me that he'd already tried it himself — the department wasn't just ignoring us; they knew nothing about the chemistry of the local water. All the department cared about were levels of contaminates, I was told.

So, Plan B is paying for a water analysis from Ward Labs. It's not expensive, considering how vital this information is to a successful brewing career, but it's not cheap either, considering it should be free. Ward Labs makes it easy, at least, and I wish I had turned to them sooner. My report arrived via email just a few days after I sent it in, despite it being the week of Christmas.

Here is that report:

pH  —  7.3
Sodium, Na — 10 ppm
Potassium, K — < 1 ppm
Calcium, Ca — 21 ppm
Magnesium, Mg — 10 ppm
Total Hardness, CaCO3  —  94
Nitrate, NO3-N  —  0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S  —  9
Chloride, Cl  —  22
Carbonate, CO3  —  < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3  —  68
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3  —  55

The major takeaway from the report is that Beacon's water is very soft. It's fortunate then that I brew mostly paler beers, as they've all come out great, but now I have another reason to question my darker batches, which have almost all been subpar, for various, seemingly-unrelated reasons. Part of this is undoubtedly the soft water I've been using.

Overall, this is good news. I would rather start with soft water and add to it when needed — easier to add to than take away. So my next step is learning more about what sort of additions I need to make to create good malty beers and dark beers — the specifics of that will have to wait for a future blog entry.


  1. We live on Sycamore Drive, across from Sargent Elementary school, and our water has a stronger chlorine smell than freshly chlorinated pool water, so I would advise, at a minimum, to run the water through a Britta filter (or similar), at least once, but better yet, just use Poland Spring, or some other reliable, clean, consistent, water.

    1. Absolutely, I get a lot of chlorine on some days and I think I ruined a few early batches of beer because of it, before I bought a good carbon filter. I think all brewers should take the simple steps to make sure their water is filtered and free of chlorine, but especially in Beacon.

  2. I guess I should mention that I live in Beacon, for those unfamiliar with Sycamore Drive or Sargent Elementary School.


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