Leigh Erwin: A Beginner's Wine Making Journey: Part 19

Boiling Tap Water For WinemakingHi everyone!  Is winter over yet?  I don’t know how it is where you are, but Mother Nature sure seems confused this winter!  I’m ready for spring, for sure!
Lately I’ve been pondering the idea of water.  Specifically, when it comes to home winemaking, what’s the best kind of water to use?
The first two batches of wine I made (the Pinot Grigio and also the Pinot Chardonnay), I utilized bottled spring water.  I really didn’t want to keep buying gallons upon gallons of water from the store for many different reasons, including 1) extra costs and 2) adding to the pile of plastic in our landfills.  While I try to control what gets recycled in my house and what doesn’t, I really can’t control where the plastic actually goes once it leaves my hands.  But I digress…
For my next batch of wine, I want to see if I can just use my tap water.  Doing a search on the ECKraus blog, I found question that was posed from a beginning winemaker regarding using tap water in winemaking.  Specifically, the reader asked: “Is it OK to use tap water to make this wine kit?”.  The folks at ECKraus responded that for most urban areas, the tap water is fine to use.  Basically, the biggest issue with using tap water in winemaking is the chlorine that is added during the treatment process in order to control for bacterial growth.  If there is too much chlorine in the water, that is bad news bears for your wine.
How am I supposed to know how much is too much?  Another resource I stumbled upon said that if you can smell chlorine, there is too much.  If you can’t smell it, it’s probably fine.  I wasn’t sure how accurate this actually was, so I decided to dig a little deeper and look into the water quality reports for the water in my city.  You can do this for your own city/town as well, as I believe water quality reports are in the public domain and anyone can have free access to this information.  For my town, last year’s water quality report was just a click away online.  According to these data, chlorine levels in my tap water are within the recommended limits put in place by the EPA.  Just because the chlorine levels in the water are safe to drink, are they low enough to be OK to use in my wine?
Since I’m not 100% convinced that it’s OK to use tap water in winemaking, even though I can’t smell chlorine and water quality reports suggest levels are within the acceptable range, I decided I’m going to boil the water first, just to be extra sure.  The ECKraus blog post that I mentioned previously mentioned that leaving the water out overnight would get rid of any excess chlorine, though I am too lazy to wait that long and I worry about other things getting into the water as it sits there (the pets may get curious….).  So, since the instructions for my next batch of wine indicate that I need to add warm water anyway, I’m going to sterilize a big pan, boil a bunch of water, then once it’s cool enough to be at the appropriate temperature listed in the instructions, I’ll knock out Day 1 and get this new batch of wine started!
Wish me luck!

Leigh ErwinMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

0 thoughts on “Leigh Erwin: A Beginner's Wine Making Journey: Part 19

  1. The wine kits contain metabisulfite (don’t know how much), but it might be enough to neutralize the few ppms of ‘chlorine’ in the water supply. You could treat your water with metabisulfite if you are worried about it, though you’d have to be careful to not add too much so as not to stupify your yeast after you pitch it. I personally don’t worry about the low levels of ‘chlorine’ when making batches and have seen no problem.

  2. When I began making wine many years ago,we purchased 5Gal bottled water. But the cost was about $1.50 per gallon for the water alone however you do get a sterilized 5Gal carboy out of the deal which we use later for bulk aging ( I make 25gal to 50gal batches ) Even using the bottled water it was still treated with Campden for each batch. Looking to keep costs down i now use tap water, still treat it with campden powder and wait a day before adding the yeast
    to begin primary fermentation. The chlorine in the water will dissipate into the air just like the sulfur dioxide does to sterilize the must. I would not worry about tap water at all for your winemaking, however if your home or neighborhood relies on Well Water for water service I would be more concerned with that. As long as proper sanitizing steps are taken with each batch you should have no worries. Good Luck, we enjoy your blog very much,your confidence will continue to grow with each batch made in the years to come.

  3. What I usually do is to fill 5 ! gallon jugs with my city water and let then sit for a few days with the lids very loose. any chlorine will dissipate, like adding the campden tablet and waiting for it to dissipate for 24 hours.

  4. The local water supply has a high mineral content and is treated with chlorine. I use approximately 1/3 tap water, 1/3 soft water using potassium chloride and 1/3 RO water. The balance seems to work reasonably well.

  5. I only use distilled water when adding water to wine or juice. It is 100% water molecules. No chlorines, florides, salts, iron, sulfur, etc. that might impart any flavors to the finished wine. When you have spent big bucks for a kit or grapes, the extra couple of dollars for the distilled water is extra insurance. I find a gallon of distilled water is under a dollar at most stores. The plastic container goes in the recycle bin, not the land fill.