Review: Water from Greater Cincinnati Water Works

We lovers of better beer have become rather obsessed with grain-bills, hop schedules, and designer yeasts.  As a well-seasoned homebrewer, though, I’ve become quite sensitive to the fact that beer is – mostly – water.  However, it is easily the ingredient most ignored.

I’ve noted that water sommeliers are highly respected and sought after, so I am undertaking an intensive training program on the topic.  I am fortunate that my job allows me to travel, and international travel affords me to try waters all over the globe.  So with thoughts of spring rain showers on my mind, I turned my finely tuned palate to a familiar subject: Greater Cincinnati Municipal Tap Water.

I was dead serious about making sure that the product was evaluated properly.  The tasting glass was a specially made, never used Swarovski tasting flute.  It was flushed for 30 minutes with distilled water, dried at precisely 213 degrees Fahrenheit, and then stored in a vacuum chamber until the test commenced.

The water was poured directly from a Hansgrohe Metris S Single-Hole Faucet (from the Euroaktiv series), which is widely accepted as providing superior aeration to municipally-sourced waters.  With the sample poured, I began the evaluation.

Appearance: 2/3
Crystal clear, with a nice shimmer. Limited haze since the water lines were flushed last year, but I still detected some turbidity.  Due to it being an overcast day I unfortunately had to evaluate it against fluorescent light, which was less than preferable.

Aroma: 2/3
Quite a weak nose, likely due to the limited mineral content.  However, I did not detect any chlorine funk, which usually plagues most Midwestern varietals.  I actually like a little sulfur to liven up the bouquet, as is the character of many Polynesian waters (although I realize I’m in the minority on this!).

Taste/Balance: 4/4
It was OBVIOUS that this water came from the Richard Miller Treatment Plant, rather than the Bolton Wellfield.  I’ve always considered the Bolton water a bit too self-aware, so I was pleased that the sample came from the far more balanced Miller plant.  The use of Granular Activated Carbon is absolutely worth it, keeping the limestone notes from overpowering the overall profile.  And the notable sodium content transported me to a faraway place…somewhere by the river on Kellogg Avenue.

Aftertaste: 3/3
Incredibly crisp as it cascades across my palate.  The lingering suggestion of iodine confirms the initial taste, but without being cloying or distracting.  There’s nothing worse than an overly “hot” water.

Mouthfeel: 2/3
While the mouthfeel is soft and smooth, it lacks a staying power on the tongue.  But I can’t help but compare any water I taste to the subliminal effervescence I got from a superb water in Eastern Europe.  My local guide said it was trace amounts of Strontium-90, but I can’t be sure.

Overall: 3/4
This is the first water I ever drank, so it has a special place in my heart.  Once it has a chance to warm up in the glass a bit, it becomes clear why this water has won 4 Gold EPA Stars and a Gold Medal at the World WaterFest for Best Non-Spring American Hard Water.  And at 27 cents per cubic foot, it’s a steal.

Final Grade: 16/20 (B).  WaterAdvocate.com gives it a A- rating, but certain elements fall a little too short to consider this a truly great water.  Still, I’m happy to have it in my home as an everyday session water.

-John (#13), with expert connoisseur contributions from Tom (null) and JROD (#14)

6 Replies to “Review: Water from Greater Cincinnati Water Works”

  1. great post! here’s some further info gathered from when I became interested in the local water’s specs for brewing use. You can plug these into your brewing software (I used the average) to get a better idea of how to adjust for a specific water profile.

    There are two main plants which process drinking water for the surrounding areas: the Richard Miller Treatment Plant (RMTP) and the Charles M. Bolton Plant (CMBP). RMTP is the larger plant and serves approximately 88% of GCWW’s customers. CMBP services the remaining 12%, mainly in the Northwestern part of Hamilton County. There is also an interface zone that could receive water from either plant depending on pumpage and usage patterns. Where you live will determine which plant, or possibly both, supplies water to your location. The neighborhoods served by both plants are shown in the Safe Drinking Water Report. (http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/water/downloads/water_pdf13570.pdf)

    The numbers we homebrewers would care about are listed here in mg/L. These numbers are from the 2005 Annual Report.

    Robert Miller Treatment Plant – Average Max Min
    Total Alkalinity (as CaCO3) 75 99 51
    Total Hardness (as CaCO3) 138 182 99
    Calcium (as Ca) 38 48 30
    Magnesium (as Mg) 10.4 15.3 3.2
    pH (Units) 8.6 8.9 8.4
    Chloride 31 42 24
    Sulfate 89 136 57
    Sodium 24 36 15

    Charles M. Bolton Treatment Plant – Average Max Min
    Total Alkalinity (as CaCO3) 75 97 63
    Total Hardness (as CaCO3) 148 173 137
    Calcium (as Ca) 23 27 18
    Magnesium (as Mg) 22 24 20
    pH (Units) 9.1 9.5 8.5
    Chloride 63 68 58
    Sulfate 63 71 58
    Sodium 32 42 36

    Happy Brewing!
    Hark

  2. Good teamwork gents, but wouldn’t the bag [chamber] on your vacuum cleaner give it a “dusty” taste?

  3. Love it. Thank you for this!

    In news entirely unrelated to beer consumptions, I think I will use this to make the case to my bottled water-loving, planet-hating parents for why they should just drink tap when they come to stay at my abode this weekend. Any way I can get one up on my parents is a win!

  4. Nice one, John…I’ve been quite happy with the water quality for brewing and baking, and don’t find the need to filter during the cooler months. It’s interesting to note the seasonal change to the water–I find the chlorine taste is much more prominent in the warmer months. I’m assuming this is for antimicrobial purposes…

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