Most amateurs start with RO water for their brewing and are pleasantly surprised with their experiments. Calcium Carbonate/acid blend to alter the pH is good enough for 90% of the brewers.
It’s only after you get into the zest of perfection, do you realize the importance of water chemistry. Which is a subtle but powerful tool for any brewery arsenal.
Common issues faced:
1. IPAs are not hoppy enough. (add sulfate)
2. Your light beers are great but dark beers not so much. (need to use hard water—- Ca, MG salts)
3. pH to be regulated (which most people realize after their 2nd batch or so)
That being said, be mindful of a couple of aspects when using chemicals:
- Keep them away from kids & pets. Always label and airtight.
- Be sure of the molarity (strength) of the salts before you add. Calcium chloride will soon turn into an aqua solution once opened. So I dilute it to a known strength the moment I open the packet. Similarly, some salts hydrates lose water during storage and hence become stronger. Check the storage instructions and if needed make a solution of known strength when fresh.
- Some salts have varying degrees of hydration. Google for adjustments in the ratios (molar weight) to tweak your recipe.
- Keep logs records and notes.
- Although recipes call for de-ionized water/distilled water. I found that RO water is typically good enough. But do your experiments beforehand.
- Most chemicals are available in four different grades. Technical grade (cheapest), food-grade, Laboratory-grade, and Pharmaceutical grade (called IP which is the most expensive). Understand the difference between % purity, permissible levels of impurities, and nature of impurities between the four before you go on a scavenger hunt to find your missing reagent.
- Most chemicals have a simple titration based method to test purity. But unless you have a chemistry background or you are planning to pursue this commercially, it will be an overkill.