Calcium (Ca+2)
Brewing Range: 50-150 ppm.
Calcium is the principal ion that determines water hardness.  Like in our bodies, calcium plays an important role in many yeast, enzyme and protein interactions, both in the mash and in the boil.  It helps with clarity, flavor, and stabilizes the beer.  Additions of calcium may be necessary to assist with enzyme activity for some mashes in water that is low in calcium.  Calcium that is matched by bicarbonates (bicarbonates are addressed below) in water is referred to as temporary hardness. Temporary hardness can be removed by boiling.  Calcium that is left behind after the temporary hardness has been removed is referred to as permanent hardness.

Magnesium (Mg+2)
Brewing Range: 10-30 ppm.
This ion is similar to Calcium in water, but is less potent.  It contributes to water hardness.  Magnesium is an important yeast nutrient in small amounts (10 -20 ppm), but amounts greater than 50 ppm tend to give a sour-bitter taste to the beer. Levels higher than 125 ppm have a laxative affect (never desirable)!

Bicarbonate (HCO3-1) 
Brewing Range:
0-50 ppm for pale or base-malt only beers.
50-150 ppm for amber colored toasted malt beers.
50-250 ppm for dark roasted malt beers.

Carbonate (CO3-2)
Brewing Range: 50 – 150 ppm.

Carbonates determine brewing water chemistry.  It has an alkaline ion which raising the pH.  Higher pH levels neutralize dark malt acidity.  Bicarbonate (HCO3-1) dominates the chemistry of most brewing water because it is the primary form for carbonates in water with a pH of less than 8.4.  Carbonates exist as less than 1% of the total carbonate/bicarbonate/carbonic acid interaction until the pH exceeds 8.4.

There are two ways homebrewers can bring the bicarbonate level down to the correct range (or lower for light lagers). These methods are boiling and dilution.  Dilution is the easiest method of lowering the carbonate in water.  Using distilled water from the grocery store in a 1:1 ratio will cut the bicarbonate levels in half.

​​Sulfate (SO4-2)
Brewing Range:
50-150 ppm for normally bitter beers.
150-350 ppm for very bitter beers.

Sulfate ions combine with calcium and magnesium to contribute to permanent hardness.  Sulphates interacts with hop oils and amplify hop bitterness which in turn makes the bitterness seem drier and crisper.  If concentrations go over 400 ppm the bitterness can cause an astringent flavor (like sucking on a tea bag).  Concentrations over 750 ppm can cause diarrhea.

Sodium (Na+1) 
Brewing Range: 0-150 ppm.
Sodium can occur in very high levels, especially if you use a salt-based water softening system.  Never use softened water for mashing.  Levels of 70 – 150 ppm it rounds out the beer flavors and amplifies the sweetness of malt.  Above 200 ppm the beer will start to taste salty. Combine high sodium with high concentrations of sulfate and what you get is a very harsh bitterness.  Keep at least one as low as possible, preferably sodium.

Chloride (Cl-1)
Brewing Range = 0-250 ppm.
Chloride also accentuates flavor and fullness of beer. Concentrations above 300 ppm (from either heavily chlorinated water or residue from bleach sanitizers) can lead to chlorophenols, leaving you with beer tasting like band-aids or medicinal flavors.

So now you know what you are looking for in a water report.  You can also get your water tested if you are on a well.

Water pH
Most homebrewers think that pH of the water is important.  Actually it is the pH of the mash that is important.  That number is dependent on all of the factors I have referred to above.  It is not until the water is combined with a specific grains that overall pH is determined.

There are various products out there to change your water chemistry, such as water treatments.

Please refer to this article for more information:

Water Treatments

BB link2

Water 101

The best 


can be Made BY you!

Brewing water chemistry is determined by minerals in the water.  Minerals are naturally found in soil. Soft rainwater makes it down through the soil, through underground caverns, over rocks in streams or aquifers it picks up some of the following dissolved minerals along the way:








Trace metals such as iron and copper.

Each mineral has it’s own characteristic and flavor and they all interplay with malts, yeast and hops differently.

The next time you get a chance, get a water report from your local municipal water source (usually available online).  These are the things you are looking for to determine how the water you use  affects your beer flavor.

​This book was my source and is highly recommended (linked)