Skip to content


Water for Beer Brewing

by Mark Timmons December 18, 2015 4 Comments

"What is the best way to treat water to brew beer?"

One of the fastest-growing segments of the beverage industry is the Craft Beer category. Consider these statistics from the Brewers Association (which is the voice of Craft Brewers):

  • The overall beer market is worth an estimated $115.4 billion as of 2022.
  • As of 2022, the Brewers Association is aware of  9 709 brewery U.S breweries including 2, 035 microbreweries and 3,418 brewpubs.
  • The production of craft beer has grown from around 4 million barrels in 2005 to over 15 million in 2022 regionally. 

It's an exciting growth business, and most brewers know that specialized mixtures of hops, yeast, wheat, barley, and other ingredients are essential for a good brew, but water is arguably the most critical and least understood of the foundation elements in brewing beer. This blog is not going to try to tell you how to brew your beer, as the mixtures of hops, yeast, barley, and wheat are endless in possibilities. The purpose of this post is simply to emphasize that the best beer starts with the best water.

Water quality varies dramatically across the country. Some areas of the country have high levels of hardness (calcium and magnesium) in the water, while other areas have extremely low levels of these hardness minerals. Other areas have high levels of iron, manganese, tannin, or sulfur while most areas are plagued by varying levels of chlorine, chlorine, polyphosphates, nitrate, arsenic, TCE, PCB, THM, MTBE, PFAS, and a plethora of bad tastes and odors. In summary, this is stuff that you don't want in your beer and, in fact, is detrimental to the brewing process.

Most successful brewers realize the essential role that water plays in their brewing process and are incorporating sophisticated water treatment systems into their processes. Don't think that just because a treatment system is sophisticated, it is cost-prohibitive. In the scheme of things, including packaging, storage, tanks, and controls, the water treatment system may be one of the biggest bargains for the craft brewer.

Here is what a typical craft beer brewing water treatment system might look like:

The above photo is one of our most popular configurations for Micro Breweries and Craft Brewers. It consists of the following:

Backwashing Carbon Filter - The first step to having quality water is to have a backwashing carbon filter that removes chlorine, chemicals, tastes, and odors.

Anti-Scalant System - If you live in a part of the county where the water is below 110 mg/l of hardness, then you will not need this or a water softener, but if you are like 85% of the USA, you will likely want to use an anti-scalant ahead of the Reverse Osmosis system so as not to foul the membranes and increase longevity.

Reverse Osmosis System - This actually separates the water and the dissolved solids in it as well as a multitude of other contaminants. The fact is - reverse osmosis (commonly called RO) removes the largest spectrum of contaminants of any water treatment process. No brewery should be without it.

Atmospheric Storage Tank - This tank consists of the NSF-certified tank itself, as well as a liquid-level control float assembly. There is a variety of sizes and capacities available, from 100 gallons to 2,000 gallons and more.

Re-Pressurization Pump - Typically, a Grundfos variable speed pump is utilized to repressurize the high-purity water to the processes.

Ultraviolet disinfection system - The final step of the process is the UV light which assures absolute bacterial purity of the water for the brewing process.

In some cases, a Re-Mineralization Filter is used to add a predetermined amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) back to the water and/or adjust the pH of the water for the beer brewing. Water is the main ingredient of beer. It only stands to reason that the best beer starts with the best water. 

Ten years ago, reverse osmosis systems comprised less than 50% of all craft brewery systems we sold, now, it is well over 80%, as Craft Beer Brewers see that only the breweries with the best, consistent products... day after day, week-after-week, month-after-month and year-over-year survive. If you strip out all the chlorine, chloramine, chemicals, pesticides, fluoride, total dissolved solids, and all the unwanted contaminants, you end up being able to build the same water profile every single time.

There are hundreds of craft breweries that open every year, and we get more than our share of those (it's in the hundreds), but about 200 close every year as well, and I know for a certainty that a high percentage of them do not have adequate water treatment.

  • Water is Life
  • Beer is 90% Water
  • Therefore, Beer is Life!

Put some life in your beer with the best quality water you can. We can help you with all your needs and determine if Reverse Osmosis is right for you.

Questions & Answers

Q. "What is the best way to treat water to brew beer?"

  • It depends upon a number of factors, such as:

    (1) where you are geographically located;

    (2) whether you have well or city water;

    (3) whether your water source uses chloramine or chlorine; and

    (4) what type of beer do you want to brew?

    Let me elaborate on these four factors: GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION - Water quality varies dramatically depending on where you are located. In some parts of the country, the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) levels are low, and in other areas, they are high. Depending upon your TDS level and what type of beer you are trying to brew would lead you to choose different technologies to treat your water. For example, if your TDS level was over 300 to 500 ppm, and depending upon what type of beer you were trying to brew, you might want to choose reverse osmosis to lower your TDS levels. 
  • There are exceptional beers brewed with both High and Low TDS levels, but the TDS levels cannot be considered in a vacuum. pH and other contaminants also need to be considered. Consider this: RO removes about 97 percent of sodium nitrate from the water. Nitrates reduce to nitrites in solution, which are toxic to yeast. Also, pH, in conjunction with TDS levels, has to be considered, as "mash pH" is critical to the brewing process.

    WATER SOURCE - Water typically comes from a municipality, a well, or a surface source. How you treat each one varies depending on the contaminants found. Therefore, a water test is paramount when considering what type of treatment to apply because the treatment regimens for surface water, well water, and municipal water can be dramatically different. Total alkalinity, bicarbonate levels, and other contaminants will also affect the brewing process.

    CHLORINE OR CHLORAMINE - If you have municipal water, it may be high or low in TDS. Still, it also may have chlorine, which is toxic to yeast, or chloramine, which is like "chlorine on steroids" because it is like the Energizer Bunny in that it keeps going and going and going. Chloramine is made with chlorine and ammonia, which results in the chlorine lasting almost forever. Chlorine is bad enough for brewing beer but can be overcome with intense heat, which causes the chemical to evaporate. Chloramine is very resistant to evaporation, which means that it will kill your yeast... or at least maim it! Chlorine and Chloramine are both removed by "prolonged contact carbon filtration," but chloramine requires "catalytic carbon" to remove it. Should you use granular activated carbon (GAC) or Catalytic Carbon? Let me answer that question by saying that even if your municipality does not use chloramine today, the likelihood is that it will "tomorrow." Use Catalytic Granular Activate Carbon or CGAC! 

    TYPE OF BEER - If you are brewing a stout, an IPA, or a lager, you will likely need different levels of pH, bicarbonate, alkalinity, and/or TDS. We don't try and tell you what mixture works the best - we just supply equipment that enables you to achieve any level of water quality you desire.

    So, what type of water treatment is best for brewing beer? There is no pat answer. In some cases, it may involve micron filtration followed by catalytic granular activated carbon prolonged contact filtration and ultraviolet (UV) disinfection. In other cases, it may involve reverse osmosis with the addition of pH acids and brewing salts, such as calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, calcium chloride, magnesium sulfate, and sodium bicarbonate. These are often called "Brewing Salts" and are essential to brewers who want the best possible product. In conclusion, a 5-micron filter and a catalytic carbon filter are ideal in many areas, but the most sophisticated brewers use that followed by reverse osmosis and pH adjustment followed by the introduction of "brewing salts." At any rate, US Water Systems offers a number of options for the Home Beer Brewer as well as the Professional Business Brewer.


    Prev Post
    Next Post


    December 20, 2015 Bob Keeran

    I live in a well area. We have very hard water coming from our well. We have had and RO unit for 25 years for all drinking water and are looking into using the water for more of our home so I have the following questions:

    1. Can RO water be plumed to all our fixtures in the home. We have a large and accessible area under the home and can install PEX to everything but the risers leading to the Showers wherein we have Copper behind tile or Granite. Would these short Copper runs of pipe or the shower fixtures themselves preclude us re piping the majority of our homes piping with PEX and using RO in everything for our home.

    2. We have a small lap pool that is currently filled with our hard water. Evaporation causes calcium buildup on the tile and over time concentrates the minerals in the pool. It occurred to me that if the pool was filled with regular well water but the level of the pool was maintained with RO water evaporation would not concentrate the minerals and dramatically reduce the deposits on our tile.

    3. We also use swamp coolers for part of our summer cooling. These coolers also build up minerals and get large deposits on cooling surfaces. Can RO water be used in swamp coolers?

    Lastly, is there any problem using RO water in our water heaters or washing machine.

    Thank you for

    December 21, 2015 terry ostrander

    How do I store my water filter between uses? I have read that you dry them and store in a fridge, and i have also read that you leave them wet in a fridge.

    December 24, 2015 Mark Timmons


    Before I can tell you for sure, we would need to see a detailed water analysis of your water. If you are considering whole house RO, this is the test we would need:

    I can attempt to answer the questions based upon my current knowledge of your water.

    - You should be fine with that and the short runs of copper should be no problem. & #3 – RO Water will be great there, but my only question is how much make-up water is required on the hottest day? That is important so that the system is sized properly.
    December 25, 2015 Mark Timmons

    How often do you use them? If it were me, I would never store a filter in any manner and re-use it. Now, if you are just talking about connecting and disconnecting a system, then that is OK. I just would not remove them from the housing. If you are talking about this system:

    then they do not have to be removed.

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

    Someone recently bought a
    [time] ago, from [location]

    Thanks for subscribing!

    This email has been registered!

    Shop the look

    Choose Options

    Edit Option
    Back In Stock Notification
    this is just a warning
    Shopping Cart
    0 items