Brewing 101: Water

Water is the essence of life and is one of the overlooked, yet most important ingredients in beer by new brewers. It typically makes up about 80–95% of your beer.

In this article, we’ll cover the topic of water at a very high level—just the basics. You can click here to take a deeper dive into the water chemistry of beer.


Water is the secret to turning good beer into great beer. And what’s in the water can make or break a beer.

Water comes from a few sources, including:

  • Private wells
  • Municipal water sources
    • This water can come from aquifers, reservoirs, rivers, or lakes.

Water coming from these sources often has dissolved minerals containing calcium, magnesium, chloride, and sulfate. In the case of municipal water sources, these waters are disinfected by chlorination.

Some water is purified through distillation or reverse osmosis to remove any dissolved minerals.

Water Treatment

Chlorine Removal

It is important to remove chlorine from brewing water, since residual chlorine can cause off-flavors that are reminiscent of band-aids.

Chlorine is not to be confused with chloride. Chloride is an important ion in beer flavor.

For a deeper look at chlorine removal, go here.

What is pH?

pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of a solution. pH is an important factor in beer that impacts1:

  • how well enzymes work in the mash
  • how proteins will precipitate, or fall out of solution, during wort cooling
  • how bright hop flavor and aroma are perceived in the finished beer

Want to learn more about adjusting pH? Read this!


Calcium is an important ion that impacts1:

  • enzyme activity in the mash
  • how proteins will precipitate during wort cooling
  • how well yeast flocculates, or settles out of solution, after fermentation

What is the Chloride:Sulfate Ratio?

The chloride:sulfate ratio is a comparison of the chloride and sulfate ion amounts. This ratio impacts the feeling of balance in the beer.

Chloride can bring out sweetness from the malt. Chloride also makes a beer feel more “full”—which is a highlight of hazy IPAs—chloride makes them “juicy”!

Sulfate brings out bitterness and crispness in beer—high sulfate concentrations are trademarks of the West Coast IPA.

When the chloride and sulfate concentrations are equal, the beer is more balanced–neither the hop character nor the malt character outshines the other.

When chloride is higher than sulfate, the beer is perceived as more full-bodied. When sulfate is higher than chloride, the beer is perceived as more dry, or light-bodied.2


1Dave Green. “Brewing Water Adjustments”. Accessed 02 August 2023.

2Martin Brungard. “Is the sulfate/chloride ratio important?” Accessed 02 August 2023.

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