How to measure & improve water quality in beer production

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One of the most important components for beer production is water. It represents the largest share in beer (85-95%). According to the Ordinance on basic requirements for beer and beer-like products, technological water used for the production of beer must be in physical, chemical and in the microbiological sense, correspond to the quality of drinking water, the characteristics of which are prescribed from EU regulative on conformity parameters and methods of analysis of water for human consumption.
The chemical composition of water for beer production can be different, because the water differs according to total, permanent and temporary hardness, alkalinity and content of individual salts.
Water quality in beer production is essential for good beer. Breweries usually use water from municipal water supply or water from nearby sources or wells.
Water types according to water hardness
Water type has low content of neutral salts, which enables the production of light beer with a strong but pleasant hop bitterness.
Type of water has equal carbonate and total hardness, but it has pronounced total alkalinity. (Focke et al., 2007).
Type of water is water with extreme hardness pronounced non-carbonated hardness that gives a beer with reddish color and sharp bitterness with a high alcohol content.
Water has a medium pronounced carbonate hardness with low non-carbonate hardness suitable for producing less overheated dark beers with a sweet taste.
Parameter Pilsen Munich Dortmund Vienna
Total hardness, °dH
Carbonate hardness, °dH
Non-carbonate hardness, °dH
Ca hardness, °dH
Mg hardness, °dH
Sulfates, mg/L
Chloride, mg/L
Alkalinity, mmol/L
water hardness with HANNA Instruments
There are several methods available, from fast checking test kits, photometers to titration systems.


Total Hardness
Portable Photometer
The HI97735 Total Hardness Photometer combines accuracy and ease of use in a simple, portable design. The advanced optical system provides lab-quality accuracy while its user-friendly design is easy for any user, making it the perfect photometer for your water quality testing needs.
The HI97735 meter measures total hardness in water samples up to 750 mg/L (ppm) CaCO3.
  • No warm up time needed before taking a measurement.
  • Tutorial mode for easy step-by-step instructions.
  • CAL Check for performance verification and calibration
Easy navigation between chemical forms with a press-of- a-button:
  • mg/L (ppm)
  • French degrees (°f)
  • German degrees (°dH)
  • English degrees (°E)
Classification hardness in mg-CaCO3/L hardness in mmol/L hardness in dGH/°dH hardness in ppm
0 - 60
0 - 0.60
0 - 3.37
0 - 60
Moderately hard
61 - 120
0.61 - 1.20
3.38 - 6.74
61 - 120
121 - 180
1.21 - 1.80
6.75 - 10.11
121 - 180
Very hard
≥ 181
≥ 1.81
≥ 10.12
≥ 181


Total Hardness Low Range Checker
– Checker®HC
Our Total Hardness Low Range hand held checker offers you a middle ground between advanced instrumentation and your typical chemical test kit. Standard test kits have limited accuracy since they rely upon the human eye to match colors. Our handheld colorimeter eliminates the hassle of matching to a color chart by providing a direct Total Hardness Low Range result digitally.
  • Range: 0 to 350 ppm (mg/L) as CaCO₃
  • Get simple results with easy one-button operation.
  • Don’t waste time matching to a color chart anymore, get direct results quickly.
of ions in water
Certain ions in the water can significantly affect the quality of beer.
Sulfate ions
Certain ions in the water can significantly affect the quality of beer.
Chloride ions
Chloride ions will give beer fullness and sweetness taste, so it is desirable that the water contains 50 – 200 mg/L.
Silicate ions
Silicate ions in larger quantity adversely affect the course of fermentation because they are absorbed on the surface of the yeast, and can cause colloidal turbidity of beer due to protein coagulation and thus cause problems with beer stability.
Magnesium chloride
Magnesium chloride (MgCl2), magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) and sodium sulfate(Na2SO4) cause harsh and unpleasant bitterness in beer, so the upper limit is around 100 mg/L.
Nitrates at higher concentrations can give beer a bad taste, reminiscent of garlic. During boiling are reduced to nitrites, which have a harmful effect on yeast, that is why the upper limit is 50 mg/L.
Iron ions in a concentration higher than 1 mg/L have a degenerative effect on yeast.
Magnesium ion is an important coenzyme and must be present at least in an amount of 10 mg/L (Kunze, 1994; Focke et al., 2007).
Measuring ions in water with HANNA Instruments


Spectrophotometer iris
The HI-801 Iris is a sleek and intuitive spectrophotometer that allows for measurement of all wavelengths of visible light. You can customize your methods, take a wide range of measurements, and feel very confident in your testing accuracy with Iris. This compact meter incorporates a number of features that facilitate both fantastic performance and exceptional usability such as:
  • Advanced split beam optical system
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • User customizable methods
  • Step–by–step method creation
  • Capacitive touchpad
  • Advanced split–beam optical system
  • Intuitive menu design
  • Universal cuvette holder
Iris features precise wavelength selection between 340 nm to 900 nm for complete method compliance and accuracy that is necessary in industries like professional laboratories, food industries, water treatment facilities, and more.
Customization options include multiple cuvette shapes and sizes, custom calibration curves, and methods. Iris can be used for measurement: alkalinity, ammonia, bromine, calcium, free and total chlorine, COD, color of water, copper, total hardness, iron, magnesium, nitrate, nitrite, ozone, phosphate, potassium, silica, sulfate and many more.
Preparation of
water for
beer production
The concentration of various dissolved mineral substances in water can be lower or higher.
Mineral substances from water represent only an insignificant part of the beer extract (0.3-0.5 g/l), but they significantly affect the taste of the beer. The mineral substances of the water do not directly affect the taste of beer, but indirectly by influencing enzymatic and colloid-chemical reactions, which occur during the process beer production. The quality of the brewing water is one of the most important factors of good quality beer. Preparation of water for beer production includes processes such as deferization and demanganization by aeration on sand filters, adsorption on activated carbon, decarbonization, demineralization of water with an ion exchanger, reverse osmosis, neutralization of bicarbonate acids, membrane procedures, removal of arsenic from water, degaussing and disinfection water.
Water disinfection
When you are producing your beer you have to control the microbiological composition of the water used for washing the internal surfaces of the technological plant. If the water contains harmful microorganisms (wild yeasts, lactic acid bacteria and pediococci) it cannot be further used for the production of beer. For water that is microbiologically inadequate for use, it is necessary to process or remove the microorganisms present in it. Mostly, chlorination is used as chemical procedures for water disinfection. For water chlorination, gaseous chlorine or sodium hypochlorite is used. Chlorine consumption is 0.2 – 0.3 g/L water. The mechanism of action of chlorine is based on the fact that when chlorine is introduced into the water, it creates hypochlorous acid (HClO), from which an oxygen atom is then separated with the formation of hydrochloric acid Hypochlorous acid has a bactericidal effect due to the released oxygen. The amount of chlorine needed for disinfection depends on pH, water hardness and the content of organic substances in the water. Residual chlorine 30 minutes after the end of chlorine should be within 0.1 – 0.15 mg/L of chlorine (Zyara et al., 2016). Chlorinated water can be introduced into clean pipelines for wort and beer and left in them overnight so that they are also disinfected. The disadvantage of chlorination is that chlorine reacts with organic substances and produce chlorophenol, and water with a phenolic smell is not suitable for beer production. It is recommended that chlorinated water be filtered through activated carbon so that it does not have a negative effect beer quality.
Measuring free and total chlorine with HANNA Instruments


Free and Total Chlorine Portable Photometer
The HI97711 Free and Total Chlorine Photometer combines accuracy and ease of use in a simple, portable design.
The advanced optical system provides lab-quality accuracy while its user-friendly design is easy for any user making it the perfect photometer for your water quality testing needs. The HI97711 meter measures free and total chlorine in water samples from 0.00 to 5.00 mg/L (ppm).
  • No warm up time needed before taking a measurement.
  • Tutorial mode for easy step-by-step instructions.
  • Uses either powder or cost saving liquid reagents.
Tajana Mokrović, mag.nutr.
Focke, K., Brandt, D., Jentsch, M., Paich, C. C., Romeis, P., Schmittnagel, I., Sies, A. (2007): Brewing liquor and its relevance for beer production. Brauwelt International 25(1), 20-22.
Kunze, W. (1994): Technologie Brauer und Mälzer, Berlin: Westkreux-Druckerei Ahrens KG Berlin/Bonn, pp 87.
Lončarić, A., Kovač, T., Nujić, M., Habuda-Stanić, M. (2017): Priprema tehnološke vode za industrijsku proizvodnju piva. 7th International Scientific and Professional Conference, Water for all
Zyara A. M., Torvinen E., Veijalainen A., Heinonen-Tanski H. (2016): The effect of chlorine and combined chlorine/UV treatment on coliphages in drinking water disinfection. J. Water Health 14 (4), 640-649.
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