What all home-brewers need to know about Charlotte’s tap water.
The craft of home-brewing continues to blossom and thrive within the Charlotte community. Periodically, Charlotte Water conducts a mineral analysis on raw and treated water. Home-brewers may find this information especially helpful when crafting their favorite beer styles. After all, of the ingredients required to make beer, water is by far the most abundant component.
Given that the mineral profiles in brewing waters throughout the world are quite variable, understanding the quality and composition of the local water supply is important in helping the home-brewer capture the essence and uniqueness of the beer style they are trying to reproduce. In particular, water hardness, pH and other trace mineral concentrations are important water quality components that influence the taste characteristics of beer.
The pH of our treated water generally ranges from 8.0 to 9.2. Our water is slightly basic due to the application of lime in the treatment process to boost the alkalinity and pH of our drinking water. This provides optimal corrosion control in the water distribution system.
Water hardness is defined by the amount of trace minerals present, such as calcium and magnesium. In particular, calcium is an important yeast nutrient and is critical to the flavor and stability of beer. Water is considered hard if it has more than 125 parts per million (ppm) of trace minerals. Charlotte’s tap water has an average hardness of 32 parts per million, so it is considered soft water. Sulfate, sodium and chloride also contribute to the overall taste of beer. Charlotte Water typically averages less than 10 mg/L sulfate, less than 5 mg/L sodium and chloride of less than 8 mg/L. Home-brew supply shops typically sell mineral salt additives such as gypsum to assist home-brewers in matching the water quality of the region where a particular beer style may have originated from. However, it is very important to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the correct amount of additives are applied to attain the desired hardness concentration.
Charlotte Water has also started posting bi-annual mineral content levels of our water which you can find here. This information can help home brewers understand what is found in our water.
We spoke with Carolina Brew Master’s President Richard lane for his opinion. “Water quality is paramount to brewing, as water is easily 95% of the finished product. At a base level, if the water is good enough to drink, it’s good enough to brew beer.” He went on to say,
“Over 100 years ago, when these local beers were being created, they could not have been developed in the other city, strictly due to the minerals in the water, and how those minerals impact the brewing process. This is also one reason why “drink local” is so meaningful to the craft beer movement. An IPA brewed in Charlotte will be different from the same IPA brewed in Colorado, or even Raleigh, because the water profile is different.”
At Charlotte Water there is a saying that our water is “The Best Pre-Beer in Town.” Our water is your beers best friend. We can raise a glass to that.