Distilled spirits and beers have one common ingredient – water.
Sounds great. Readily available out of the tap, potable, drinkable - job done.
Unfortunately, with the composition of water being variable, and supplies differing geographically, as well as daily, this amazing product isn’t as straightforward as it seems…
It can adversely affect the final product. Iron & manganese from boreholes/wells, chlorine & chloramines from dosed supplies, nitrates & organics from groundwater run-off, salts from chalk streams and many other elements in the water are not desirable for distilling alcohol or brewing beer.
Beer contains approximately 90% water, so the importance of the water to final beer quality cannot be over-estimated, particularly in the following areas:
- The mashing process for all grain brewers, where the composition of the water determines the efficiency and flavour of the extracted wort;
- Water also affects the flavour, the perceived bitterness and hop utilisation of finished beer;
In other words, water has an impact on the final product.
One way of controlling the water quality is to use water purification equipment such as Filtration, Softening, De-Alkalisation, Reverse Osmosis (RO) and/or Deionisation. These technologies will provide a consistent supply of water of the same quality as a basis for further water conditioning, from which key ingredients can be added back into the water downstream.
Distilling whisky involves just three simple ingredients: water, yeast, and barley. It is the purity of these elements that creates the complexity of taste evident in the finest single malts. It is difficult to overstate the importance of water quality in this process. Apart from its direct role as an ingredient, water naturally informs the character of the remaining elements used in distilling. Distilled spirits such as Vodka & Gin are enhanced with clean, clear water.
To properly treat water for brewing and distillation, it is important that all unnecessary contaminants be removed. The most effective method for removing contaminants is Reverse Osmosis (RO) due to the wide spectrum of removal achieved by RO membranes. Prior to the reverse osmosis system, chlorine and other organics should be removed by carbon filtration, and if the water contains iron/manganese or other significant contaminants – typically identified by a water analysis - they must also be removed. Likewise, if the water is hard then a water softener must be installed prior to the RO itself.
The purified water produced by the RO is typically stored in a tank. From here it can be purified further by deionisation and/or UV if required, and then pumped to further locations for use.
Wychwood Water Systems
Wychwood Water Systems has specialised for over twenty years in the design & manufacture of water purification for industries including brewing & spirits companies, including micro-breweries, distillers & larger contract suppliers. Wychwood has a strong experienced after-sales service team providing service maintenance on different makes and models throughout the UK and overseas. For further information please visit www.wychwood-water.com.