The New England IPA (NEIPA) is a delicate style of beer with a fragile aroma. The water profile and brewing method need to be as precise and untainted as possible in order to achieve the proper result.
The water profile for NEIPA homebrew beers depends heavily on the ratio of chloride and sulfate. A 3:1 ratio of chloride helps promote a fuller flavor and aroma, while a 2:1 ratio of sulfate provides the ideal level of bitterness – too much sulfate will result in the bitterness overwhelming your delicate NEIPA and negatively impact the appearance.
To learn more about the ideal water profile and minerals levels for NEIPAs, keep reading. I will break down each aspect of water profile – mineral levels, how to find your water’s profile, how to adjust it, and the best type of water to start with for NEIPAs.
What is the ideal water profile for NEIPAs (New England IPA)?
New England IPAs are a very delicate style of beer.
It’s important that the fragile aroma and taste are not tainted by anything that shouldn’t be in your beer. The water profile for your NEIPA should be as close to perfect as it can be.
The ideal water profile for NEIPAs includes a heavy focus on chloride and sulfate with a recommended ratio of 3:1 or 2:1, respectively. Chloride promotes a fuller flavor and aroma in beer, perfect for NEIPAs. Sulfate can help adjust the bitterness of a beer; too much sulfate, however, can result in an overwhelming amount of bitterness.
Keep reading for all the specifics about the best water profile for your NEIPA, plus how to achieve it when homebrewing this style.
Should you use a certain city’s water profile for NEIPAs?
If you’re having trouble deciding on a water profile for your NEIPA, an alternative can be to use a city’s water profile from where the beer originated from.
The Alchemist Brewing Company was the first to brew the style with its Heady Topper; if you can use a water profile that emulates what this brewery uses, your NEIPA will have an ideal profile. However, this brewery likely adjusts the water profile, though, so using an initial profile from this area might hurt you more than it helps you.
If you’re interested, you can even search for water profiles by zip code.
What is the ideal pH?
The pH for your wort will be a little bit different than the pH of your final beer.
The ideal mash pH for a NEIPA is 5.2, while the ideal pH for the final product is around 4.5. Using lactic acid can help adjust the pH levels in your water before you start the brewing process. More or less might be needed depending on your initial water profile and if you use reverse osmosis.
Too high of a pH could impart harsher, undesired flavors. A low pH could also induce unwanted flavors, this time as sourness. Low pH could cause spoilage of the beer even before it reaches its final stage.
Use this waterproof 3-in-1 pH meter to check the acidity of your brewing water. Automatic temperature control corrects hot water samples during brew day!
What’s the ideal mineral content?
It can be difficult to reach the ideal mineral content in your brewing water. The contents differ from area to area and getting the best mix from the jump is unlikely. Fortunately, you can add the ions painlessly.
The common ions in tap water are:
NEIPAs do best with around 100-120ppm calcium and 200ppm chloride, about 35ppm sodium, and around 70ppm sulfate. The most impactful minerals in a NEIPA are chloride and sulfates.
Too much sulfate will negatively impact the style’s ‘haze.’ Other contaminants will also hurt the beer’s taste, aroma, head, and other important characteristics of the style.
How do you find your water profile?
Finding your water profile is easy. Often, your town’s water profile is available in the public domain or upon request. If you can’t find that, there are alternatives.
Options for finding your water profile include:
- Asking your town’s water department for the most recent water quality report.
- Sending a sample to a professional to have it tested and sent back to you with a full report.
- Using an at-home testing kit, like this one from LaMotte BrewLab.
How important is the water profile in brewing?
A beer’s water profile heavily impacts the final product.
Since beer is 90% water, the minerals in it have serious implications on the beer’s flavor, mouthfeel, aroma, and appearance.
Let’s reiterate why the pH and mineral content in your water profile is important in brewing.
The pH level affects the overall flavors and spoilage of the beer. A high pH could mean harsh flavors, and a low pH suggests an infection of the beer, leading to sourness.
Mineral content can do justice to some characteristics of your beer, but it can also harm it. Too much of one ion can leave your beer too bitter, hazy, thin, or sour.
How do you adjust your brew water profile?
If you got your water profile report and found that it needs some tweaking, where do you begin? How do you adjust your water profile?
The easiest way to adjust your brew water profile is to add the minerals needed to get the desired profile. All you have to do is add them directly to your water before the brewing process.
For NEIPAs, common additions to the water profile are calcium chloride and table salt. These heighten the overall chloride amount and lead to a fuller mouthfeel in your end product – perfect for the New England IPA.
What is the best water to start with for NEIPAs?
The NEIPA requires a fairly strict water composition for brewing. Particularly, it requires a certain sulfate level – too much will hinder the beer’s haziness.
This style favors softer water – high alkalinity will hurt this delicate beer.
For NEIPAs, the best water to start with is RO water. This gives you a clean slate and makes it easy to add the ions and minerals needed. Since you cannot take ions out of the water, it’s better to add them where needed. Adding minerals and ions is easy and affordable.
A home filtration system is sufficient, but an optimal water profile is achievable through reverse osmosis. Though not required, it’s the best way to get the desired water profile for this style.
The pH level for your beer will be at a good level, too, through RO.
What to add to RO or distilled water to make a NEIPA
If you start with RO or distilled water to make a NEIPA, what should you add to it?
Your goal should be to reach these levels (per 5-gallon batch):
- Chloride – 180ppm
- Sulfate – 50-100ppm
- Sodium – 35-45ppm
- Magnesium – 25ppm
- Calcium – 100ppm
- pH – 5.2 (mash)
You should add calcium chloride and gypsum to your RO or distilled water to make a NEIPA. The ratio should be at least 2:1 for each. Other additions to your RO water can include lactic acid to adjust pH, Epsom salt for magnesium levels, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and chalk (calcium).
What makes a good NEIPA?
What makes a NEIPA a good NEIPA?
A good NEIPA is thick, hazy, and creamy. It has a very full mouthfeel and is bursting with flavor and aromas from both hops and other additions. They’re pale in color with low to medium bitterness.
These beers range in ABV from around 5.5-7.5%. Double and Triple NEIPAs can get to upwards of 10% ABV.
The hop profile for these beers includes any type of hops from any region. The aroma and taste are described as ‘juicy’ and are a result of these hops’ characteristics. The grains are considered neutral and biscuity. NEIPAs use Ale yeast with medium to high attenuation.