Homebrew Water Filter

Assemble a carbon filter for first-level home water treatments
Carbon Water Filtration System
Build a carbon filtration system with quick disconnects and a shutoff valve for easy access to purified water.

The subject of water is a voluminous topic within the home brewing world and so important that a new book, Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers, is being written on the topic by well known homebrewers John Palmer and Colin Kaminski.

For beginner brewers, water is often the last explored component of the home brewing process due to its seemly unlimited supply and, in most cases, is already treated by a city municipality. Grain, hops and yeast usually get all the attention, but take a closer look at what is really coming out of those pipes.

As home brewers we strive for perfection in our brews. There is a lot going on to get that water flowing into your home and more that a homebrewer can do to control the quality of the largest ingredient in the brewing process.

Mineral content, particulate matter, PH, hardness, alkalinity levels, salts, chlorine, microbes and temperature levels. Water can seem overwhelming if you try and address everything at once, so start with the basics and work your way up into more advanced chemistry constructs.

Most public drinking water undergoes a fascinating journey through a maze of treatments and pipes before it's pushed out to homes in the surrounding area. A basic water treatment system uses a multi-step system including coagulation, sedimentation, filtration and disinfection and storage phases. Within these treatments your water is hit with chemicals to help purify and disinfect the water before it is delivered to customers.

Once the water reaches the home the brewer has a choice, trust the water from the magical source, or add some insurance to the next batch of brew with a simple DIY filtration system.

A simple filter can help remove contaminants (scale, sediment, and rust particulate) that your water picked up in the pipes from the treatment plant to the home brewery. Filtration is also recommended for those using well water.

Chlorine, chloramines and pollutants have also got to go. When brewing beer with treated water, chlorine and chloramines can combine with malt phenols in the wort to create a compound called chlorophenol, which can give the beer a medicinal taste. Also, cleaning your brewing gear with unfiltered water and not allowing it to dry properly will leave chlorine on the surface and lead to the same production of chlorophenols. So, cleaning with filtered water is suggested.

Using carbon filters with a 5 micron rating will assist is removing dissolved solids (TDS) present in tap water which can give your beer a cloudy, hazy look. Activated carbon filtration will remove chlorinated compounds including THMs (Trihalomethanes) and organic pollutants such as pesticides.

Cartridge carbon filtration is inexpensive and requires no presoaking, sterilization or backwashing. The filters can be replaced quickly once the flow rates start to diminish due to accumulation of suspended solids on the filter.

Filters, filter housings and copper, brass or stainless fittings can be found at your local big box hardware store. You may need a dual filtration or a reverse osmosis system in extreme cases of ion imbalance or contaminants in your water. [Strainers & Filters]

You are the best water judge for your homebrew, so use your senses to smell and taste your water before brewing.

Parts, equipment & tool list
• GE Household Pre-Filtration System - Model # GXWH20S
• GE FXWTC Carbon Water Filter
• ¾" MPT to ½" FPT bushings
• ½" MPT to ½" FPT elbow
• ½" MPT adaptor
• Copper pipe
• ¾" MPT to ¾" FPT Shutoff valve
• ¾" MPT Quick disconnect
• Filter wrench
• Teflon tape
• Adjustable wrench
• Welding Torch, tinning flux & lead-free solder
• Propane striker

Incorporating a standard hose quick disconnect, shutoff valve and bent elbow on the water outlet can help shave time off the brew day, so think about your filter design and modify it to fit your specific needs. There are many different materials and fittings you can choose for the water outlet. I have seen PVC and silicone tube setups, but on this design I chose a copper pipe elbow. To make this fitting you can either use instant push fittings which do not require any welding, but check to make sure it is food grade and safe for drinkable water sources. Another component of the filter that you can modify to you needs is the cutoff valve. You can go for extreme control using automated ball valves. These can be controlled by a computer system or float sensor, but manual quick cutoff valves work great too.

Clean and Teflon wrap all MPT fittings. Make a clean, burr-free cut on your copper pipe with a pipe cutter. Brush the joints with a pipe brush before fluxing.  Assemble pipe and adaptor, apply heat and solder the joint together. If you are going to weld please use caution when operating the torch. Read up on safety standards and precautions when doing any welding or plumbing. Put on your safety glasses and high heat resistant gloves. Keep a bucket of water within reach and have a fire extinguisher on hand.

Once you have decided on your elbow and cutoff valve designs gather up all the parts and lay them out. Thoroughly clean the water filter housing. On the inlet side of the filter screw on your cutoff valve and quick disconnect. On the outlet side add the ¾" MPT to ½" FPT bushing and the elbow and copper pipe fitting. You can cut your copper pipe to fit the length of your kettle. The copper pipe will also act as a hanging arm and allow you to add water to a HLT or boil kettle hands free.

To install the filter unscrew the housing and wash inside the housing with warm soapy water and lubricate o-ring gasket. Remove the shrink wrap and install the new filter. Reassemble the housing and turn on your water supply. Run water through the filter for 5 minutes to flush the system. The filter will remove particulate from 1-5 micron and will last around 3 months (15,000 gallons) depending on usage. The filter has a spiral wound carbon paper construction and reduces chlorine taste and odor, sand, soil, silt, sediment and rust.

Click in your water source/hose and you are ready to dispense some purified water. You can easily hang the filter on the side of a hot liquor tank and fill to the desired level. This design adds another level of safety with its cutoff valve by allowing the operator to cut the water off locally instead of from a distant wall faucet. Leaving any brew system unattended is never advised especially if you are using open flames.

Final upgrade for this filter was an added automated ball valve with float sensor which could be set to a certain water level allowing me to be away from the kettle during fills and sparges.

Christian Lavender Christian Lavender is a homebrewer in Austin, TX and founder of Kegerators.com and HomeBrewing.com

Related Homebrew Projects :
Setting Up a Force Carbonation Manifold -- A force carbonation system for multiple kegs.
Hop Filter Build -- Inline hop filter
Make a Keg Kettle -- A full keg conversion to a fully functional (keggle) brew kettle/ mashing vessel.