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daveflintstone

hard water--good or bad?

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I've got hard water, up to 16 grains per gallon. The RO system recommends softening water more than 9 grains per gallon; without softening the filters will have to be replaced more often.

The question is, is the hard water, with all the attendant natural minerals, better for using for vodka dilution? Or should I just soften it to RO specs? Alcohol producers seem to dwell upon their fresh, clean water from natural springs or creeks or rivers or moon rocks or whatever. I wouldn't mind paying for extra filters if the water hardness made the product better.

thoughts?

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I say bad.

my wife really is the expert on the specifics with our water here, but can say that hard water is going to make for a cloudy vodka when you blend. Up here in N. Maine, we have great quality water but it is very very hard. We soften before using an RO system to remove all dissolved solids. We tried making our vodka without this soften and RO step, and the results are 1000x better with the minerals removed. We also carbon filter our water and then chill filter the vodka through carbon.

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We soften before using an RO system to remove all dissolved solids. We tried making our vodka without this soften and RO step, and the results are 1000x better with the minerals removed. We also carbon filter our water and then chill filter the vodka through carbon.

At what point in the process do you carbon filter the water? That is an interesting technique. CFry

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I've got hard water, up to 16 grains per gallon. The RO system recommends softening water more than 9 grains per gallon; without softening the filters will have to be replaced more often.

The question is, is the hard water, with all the attendant natural minerals, better for using for vodka dilution? Or should I just soften it to RO specs? Alcohol producers seem to dwell upon their fresh, clean water from natural springs or creeks or rivers or moon rocks or whatever. I wouldn't mind paying for extra filters if the water hardness made the product better.

thoughts?

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Since water is the the largest portion of any product you must have clean clear water. A lot of places use or make their own distilled water to make their cuts. Coop

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hard water is okay for fermentation - minerals are required trace nutrients for yeast.

for cutting spirits, you will find that the minerals are less soluble in ethanol than water, so they will come out of solution making the haze or precipitate mentioned above.

there are numerous methods for reducing the mineral content of water used for proof reduction in spirits:

(1) de-ionization systems - a resin bed removes minerals

(2) reverse osmosis - sub-micron filters allow water to pass, but trap larger mineral molecules - requires a carbon pre-filter to remove chlorine which harms the filter membrane.

(3) distillation - more energy intensive, but effective.

(4) ion-exchange water softeners - trap ions in resin or zeolites and re-generate using salt - illegal in some areas due to sodium discharge, and they may not work as well as the other methods mentioned.

there are other methods for removing dissolved solids from water, but these are the most appropriate for industrial use.

the term "sweetwater" was used in one or more old books i've read. it refers to the sweet distilled water that appears after the tails have come over. this water has been used by moonshiners to dilute their spirit, but this technique may not be appropriate for vodka.

the usual installation uses these elements:

(1) particulate filter - 5 micron - traps sediment, sand, rust particles, etc.

(2) carbon filter or equiv - removes chlorine

(3) softener - RO, or DI system

(4) final filter .1 to .5 micron - esp for DI, traps any resin particles.

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Will's right, as usual. His set up is precisely what you need, assuming (assuming) a pretty normal water spec range.

I recall the head brewer at Kona mentioning (ok, this was back in 1996) that sodium can be a problem in the water supply of some of the islands (that's where you're located, right?). If this is the case, I'd go with RO instead of a deionizer

When the large producers boast about their water supply, it's marketing BS. Everyone treats their water. You don't have a choice....whether it's stripping salts out of your dilution water, or stripping all the salts out of your mash water so that you can add a consistent amount of calcium, magnesium, and zinc for healthy yeast and consistent fermentations....or, most importantly, guarding against water quality spikes.

Edit to add: if you're making a liqueur or any spirit that you add sugar or any other similar liquid, you don't have to DI or RO your dilution water, as the salts will have something to hold on to, so to speak.

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Ok, thanks for the informed info. It seems I can use an RO system without softening first. I'm going to try the GE Merlin, since it's rather inexpensive, and 700 gallons a day is plenty for me.

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Personally I'd not do anything until you have your water tested to see what's in it.

Then you design the water treatment around your water.

Your water might be perfect for mashing but poor for diluting final spirits but you don't know this without having your water tested.  If you can use your water as is for mashing then you can get by with a much smaller water treatment system (less ongoing costs as well) as you will need far less of it "pure".

Far too many people run everything through water treatment which calls for a bigger/more expensive systems, more ongoing costs for it PLUS then have to add back minerals to the water for fermenting which is another cost.  RO system waste water to make water so your water bill will be higher as well with this type of system. So you don't want to use RO water for mashing if you don't have to.  An RO system can easily waste 3 gallons of water for every gallon it makes.

Depending on your water testing results you might be able to use part of it from the tap and part from the treated water for a nice balance of minerals that won't require additions.  You don't know until it's tested. :)

Test your water so you know what you are starting with.  Report back your water analysis and we can help you from there.

PS you can pick up a cheap TDS meter which will give you a one shot number of total dissolved solids in your water which will give you a mile high view of your water.  No substitute for a proper test but you'll want one anyway as it's good to test your water to see when the TDS start to rise (change filters).

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On 12/11/2009 at 8:48 PM, will said:

there are numerous methods for reducing the mineral content of water used for proof reduction in spirits:

(1) de-ionization systems - a resin bed removes minerals

(2) reverse osmosis - sub-micron filters allow water to pass, but trap larger mineral molecules - requires a carbon pre-filter to remove chlorine which harms the filter membrane.

(3) distillation - more energy intensive, but effective.

(4) ion-exchange water softeners - trap ions in resin or zeolites and re-generate using salt - illegal in some areas due to sodium discharge, and they may not work as well as the other methods mentioned.

Will, if you will... you quote 4 methods for obtaining water that is appropriate for proofing or, proof reduction. 

 

Other than their production costs differences, is any more appropriate for and/or less likely to create the dreaded haze in the finished product?

 

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Distilled, RODI, RO, in that order.  You should be able to pick up a gallon or few of distilled water at the grocery store just for testing.

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Old thread back to life - time machine.

In terms of haze formation - RODI and Distilled are likely equivalent.  However, distillation not always better than RO/DI - like you said, devil is always in the details.  Distillation not always effective when we're talking about volatile compounds in the source water:

http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/html/g1493/build/g1493.htm

Quote

 

No one piece of treatment equipment manages all contaminants. All treatment methods have limitations, and, often, situations require a combination of treatment processes to effectively treat the water. Distilled water may still contain trace amounts of the original water impurities after distillation.

Removal of organic compounds by distillation can vary depending on chemical properties of the contaminant. Certain pesticides, volatile solvents, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene and toluene, with boiling points close to or below that of water will vaporize along with the water as it is boiled in the distiller. Such compounds will not be completely removed unless another process is used prior to condensation. See the section in this NebGuide on treatment principles for further discussion of ways distillers may remove VOCs. 

 

 

 

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The thing about salt softened water is it DOES contain extra free Sodium ions which some people do not realize. Its not great to drink or for other critical uses that require the right kind of purity.

This is one reason why coffee made with softened water tastes so bad. Take note that many of the expresso machine makers insist that their rigs be run on strictly " soft " water. This helps with scale build up and makes terrible coffee. A high volume distillation rig would seem to be a good choice if you can spend the power.

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On 4/21/2020 at 5:16 AM, DrDistillation said:

Distilled, RODI, RO, in that order.  You should be able to pick up a gallon or few of distilled water at the grocery store just for testing.

At the store I saw, in fact, distilled water that showed in the "ingredients" list Ozone... Any idea, anyone,  how THAT would affect diluting/proofing-down?...

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Ozone (O3) is used only as a purifying agent. Any ozone that was in the water is long gone and therefore you don't need to worry about it.

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Because RO, RODI, and Distilled Water no longer contain antimicrobials, often times it's necessary to add something back to prevent growth of microbes.

You ever wonder why the distilled water in the household section of the grocery store usually has a red cap, and a warning to not drink?  It's because it's not been treated with any kind of antimicrobial - chlorine, bromine, etc - and could contain some kind of hazardous nasty.

It would be OK if these things were packed sterile, but that's not the case.

Usually, you'll see recommendations about not storing this kind of ultra-pure water for long durations without taking some kind of precaution.

Algae loves this stuff.  

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Does that mean that, after all, commercially available distilled water in bulk is risky to use in spirit dilution? Or... would the spirit content kill minor microbial presence?  And... would the same considerations apply to commercially available RO water in bulk?...  Never read in the forum any references to such issues and challenges...

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Still wondering re. whether commercially available in bulk  distilled water, and, to my understanding RO water that may face the same challenge, could contain risky organic presence and, if so, assuming almost negligible presence (?)would not be mitigate for by the strength of the spirit... Remember--fortified wines were invented for such reason...

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Realistically you won't "buy" water but produce it yourself.  You can obviously distill your own water or more commonly install and run a RO unit.  What you need depends on your water source and what your water report shows.

Have you had your water tested yet?  Otherwise it's all speculation and guessing.

From the standpoint of "testing" you can use a gallon of distilled water, gallon of RO or RO/DI water, Spring water, mineral water and your tap water.  Take your neutral and mix each down to 80 proof and let rest a couple of days and then taste each.  This is a simple exercise that will show you how well (or not), each type of water source works for your spirit.

You could even experiment to see if you might like 5% mineral water in your spirit.  Chances are you'll like the "pure" waters best but never hurts to experiment a slight bit since it's so easy.  Use your TDS & pH meters to see rough difference in the different waters.

Get your water tested. :)

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On 5/2/2020 at 7:19 AM, DrDistillation said:

Realistically you won't "buy" water but produce it yourself.  You can obviously distill your own water or more commonly install and run a RO unit.  What you need depends on your water source and what your water report shows.

 

Well, the setting at the moment is such that I work on a small batch trial c/o a co-packer  that has all the facilities needed but he does not produce his own treated water.

Being a small batch of some 100 gallon or less to be diluted, the solution is to purchase and use bulk, commercially available  treated water.

Given Silk City's  claim that such water is "not been treated with any kind of antimicrobial - chlorine, bromine, etc - and could contain some kind of hazardous nasty... Algae loves this stuff"--the question remains ( whether such contamination is realistic or just hypothetical) as to whether or not such (in all likelihood-) minute contamination will or will not be 'taken care of' by the, say, 40% alcohol content in the product...  I am sure some small and/or experimental batch producers face a similar issue...
  

 

 "

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If your question is if the "water" is fine after mixing with your alcohol mixed to 40% solution then yes, no problem. 

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