Water makes up around 95% of beer, so there is huge potential to improve your beer by improving your water.
Your perfect water for kit brewing
When brewing with malt extract, your beer’s flavors and aromas will shine through on a canvas of soft, neutral water.
Think of the difference between a glass of water straight from the tap and one from a water filter. It’s massively different – this will transfer into your beer.
There are a two task to achieve this ideal water.
Remove chlorine and chloramine from tap water
You want to remove chlorine and chloramine from your water. Both are used by councils to kill bacteria and sterilize our drinking water but will affect beer quality.
Potable water on tap is a wonderful thing and has vastly improved our society. However the chemicals used to make this happen can cause some funky flavors in our beer.
Luckily chlorine is easy to remove. You can make this happen through:
Agitating (eg pouring from a height into your fermenter or stirring violently).
Running a sanitized aeration stone in water.
Chloramine is harder to remove however. This needs to be done by either:
Filtering with an activated-charcoal filter.
Treating with a campden tablet. These are used in winemaking and readily available. Crush a quarter of a tablet into your brewing water and leave overnight.
Soften your water
If you are lucky enough to have very soft tap water, you May not need to worry. However most extract brewers will benefit from softening their water.
Filtering your tap water will remove minerals and chemicals to give you delicious brewing water. Use an activated-charcoal filter for the full effect.
If you don’t have access to a filter or can’t convince your household it’s an essential item, use bottled water instead.
You have the advantage of being able to chill the water bottle in the fridge prior to brewday. You can easily hit your pitching temperature when you mix with wort in the fermenter. Even on hot days.
If you cut your brewing water with 50% bottled water, this will still improve the quality of your beer.
The don’ts of extract water treatment
Don’t add salts and minerals
Many homebrewers (and homebrew shops) advocate adding mineral additions to extract brewing water.
The idea is to replicate water from parts of the world famous for particular beer styles. Burton salts are the common example. Various other recipes I’ve seen call for gypsum, table salt and Epsom salt.
The problem here is that the champion brewer who made your malt extract has already added minerals during manufacturing. The kit already has the necessary minerals your beer needs.
Everything you add on top of this has potential to do harm.
The exception is if you are carrying out a partial mash with crushed malt grain. You may want to add a little gypsum to reach the right pH. We’ll cover this later in the guide.
Don’t use rain water (untreated)
Likewise, many homebrewers swear by using rainwater as their water source. Rainwater tastes great, but it is also full of microbes keen to play up in our wort.
I drink rainwater and love it, but it doesn’t get anywhere near my beer.
If you don’t have any other option, you can treat rainwater through either:
Running through a filter fine enough to remove contaminants.
Boiling and letting cool overnight. You will need to aerate to reintroduce oxygen though.
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