Author Topic: Rainwater Cleaning and Brewing - looking for ideas  (Read 7876 times)

Offline RobInPort

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Rainwater Cleaning and Brewing - looking for ideas
« on: October 05, 2012, 08:02:44 PM »
Rainwater use - water conservation, cleaning, and brewing ideas welcome.  :)

I am just getting back into brewing after many years. In the previous brew life, I had access to treated water from a municipal water supply. So, no real issues with cleaning and adding my top off water to the fermentation tank. The water was City of Austin in Texas and you could see the minerals floating around in it - very hard water.

Things are a little different now. I am in rural Australia on untreated rainwater. What goes in the tank comes out. There isn't anything wrong with the water - we drink it all the time. However, since we don't treat the water at all, there may be some things in the water that will fall in love with my wort.

Some things I have already considered:
  • boil all water that will end up in the beer for my top off water into the fermentation tank (boiled in advance and allowed to cool);
  • wort chiller with a submerged pump in an esky with ice water to recirculate the chill water (I used to tie into the house and run tap water through my old chiller - water was cheap and plentiful in the other life);
  • cleaning with cleaner and hot water (we have solar hot water - it gets HOT; hot enough to kill the little bugs from the tanks); and
  • no rinse sanitiser - reduces water usage and less reason to rinse with the untreated water
Any other ideas for conserving water and using the rainwater are appreciated.

For now I am not planning to treat the rain water to build a custom water profile for brewing. I thought for the first few batches I would use what comes out of the tap and see how the brew goes.

Cheers,
Rob
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Offline Slurk

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Re: Rainwater Cleaning and Brewing - looking for ideas
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2012, 04:08:37 AM »
Hi RobInPort,

In my former life I've been several times in Australia (nineties). I was in contact with someone who used untreated rainwater for his brews. What I remember is that he found out for his set up at home is that using the untreated rainwater in the kitchen was no problem since you boil it and use it immediately in combination with food preparation etc. However, the water gave (still after a boil) an off flavor after some weeks in a glass container. So he not only focused on having control on germs, bacterial flora but also on:
-  algae and fungi that could produce some nasty byproducts that influences taste, flavor and colour
-  particles floating around and sediment that could give some off flavors/taste
-  tubing/containers that could give some off flavors/taste (especially plastics exposed to high temperatures/UV/direct sunlight).

Regards,
Slurk
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Offline RobInPort

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Re: Rainwater Cleaning and Brewing - looking for ideas
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2012, 01:34:36 PM »
Hi Slurk,

Thank you for the input. I haven't noticed too much in the way of flavour in our drinking water but your comments on algae etc. are well taken and reminds me its probably time to get the rainwater tanks cleaned / treated. We don't have too much sediment in the tanks right now (the house is only 2.5 years old).

The tanks are all plastic and are (supposed to be) treated for UV to keep the plastic stable. The rest of my home brew plastic gear is all pretty new so should be ok for now.

Cheers,
Rob
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Offline Beer_Tigger

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Re: Rainwater Cleaning and Brewing - looking for ideas
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2012, 06:37:57 AM »
Couldn't you just run it through a Brita filter?  We have a shallow well at our cottage and drinking the water straight from the tap is not all that pleasant tasting and has a little color to it.  We filter it and it is so clear and pure tasting.  Maybe a simple solution to get started.
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Offline RobInPort

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Re: Rainwater Cleaning and Brewing - looking for ideas
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2012, 03:30:24 PM »
If I'm going to filter then will probably need something more substantial than a Brita filter into a jug (if that's what you are thinking). 20+ litres for the boil and top off water plus getting everything clean = lots of jugs of filtered water. Right now our rainwater doesn't have any bad flavours or smells. If the day comes where it does, then we'll go the whole house filter route. My concern is more around the little bugs that might be living in the rain water that don't effect the drinking water but might go crazy in the wort.

Boiled the wort and all the top off water yesterday (I had my top off water all set to go and somehow some bugs got into it).

Its an American Style Pale Ale. SG worked out to 1.051 and colour looks about right. Had to let it cool overnight in the fermentation tank (just couldn't get it cooled down enough last night). Pitched yeast this morning and into its hidy hole to stay dark and cool.

Rob
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Offline Beer_Tigger

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Re: Rainwater Cleaning and Brewing - looking for ideas
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2012, 03:39:18 PM »
Boiling will kill everything.  Relax, have a homebrew.
"Let's see if this here beer will help me to stop procrastinating." - my cousin

Offline jomebrew

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Re: Rainwater Cleaning and Brewing - looking for ideas
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2012, 09:22:42 AM »
A lot depends on three things.  How the rainwater is collected, how it is stored and sludge buildup in the water storage tank.  There can be contaminants that have settled on the collection material such as fecal matter, dead animals or insects, pesticides and metals in dust.    If the storage tank is not sealed well, microorganisms will enter the water.  When there is sludge buildup, bacteria and other colonies thrive in breaking down this gunk.

Except for E. Coli, the stuff i the water is generally harmless but can give it weird flavors and funky smells.   This can be mitigated by using an appropriate inline filter such as a Culligan D-10, D-20 or my favorite, D-28.   The yeast will consume metals and many of the organisms left over from the boil.  The alcohol tends to kill of the rest.

Keep in mind, E. Coli will survive in common mast temps so you want to avoid no-boil process.  It is advisable to heat mash and sparge water to 170F to ensure it is dead before you mash it in.  Who wants live E. Coli in their mash?

A good sanitation regime is necessary regardless of rainwater.  Sanitize everything that comes into contact with wort after the boil is done.  Everything!

Cheers!