Adding Water to Wine Kits - What Type of Water Should You Use?
Why We Add Water to Wine Kits
| Types of Water | Conclusion
Does It Really Matter?
If you've ever made wine from a grape concentrate kit before, you
know that you must add a bit of water - the actual amount to add
varies from kit to kit - before you can pitch the yeast and start
making wine. It is necessary to add water to the juice concentrate
because you must reconstitute (or replace) the water that was lost
during the evaporation process*
at the manufacturer.
grapestompers.com believes the type of water added to your
wine kit can have a huge impact on the finished product. Using the
wrong kind of water can adversely affect the taste of your wine,
so we'd like to offer our opinion of the types of water to avoid.
My Own Experience
Growing up on the family farm in the mountains of North Carolina
certainly had its advantages... among them, the access to lots of
cool, clear spring water. I must have taken the quality of our water
for granted - that is, until I moved away from home to the "big
city". One sip of that city water, and my first reaction was
My second thought was even darker: Would I be able to make good
wine with this awful tasting stuff? Luckily, through research
and trial and error, I worked out a solution to my "city water"
dilemma, and thought I'd pass along what I've learned.
Types of Water
What follows is a short list of the most common types of water available
to the home winemaker. We'll discuss each one in turn in the following
- Tap water (city, or municipal water)
- Well water
- Distilled water
- Bottled or purified (non-distilled) water
- Spring water
We'll define tap water as potable "city water" that is
delivered to your faucet by your local municipality. Typically,
tap water is chlorinated to keep bacteria levels down. Ironically,
the very thing (chloride ion) that protects the water from carrying
disease-causing germs can actually ruin your wine, or at least affect
the taste. The point is, if you can smell or taste chlorine in a
glass of lukewarm tap water, then you'll also smell or taste it
in your wine. If that's the case, you'll want to filter (or boil)
the water to remove the chlorine**
or find a substitute water for winemaking.
Activated charcoal filters offer an easy way to remove chlorine
and particulates (colored and aromatic components) and sediment
from tap water; just be sure to change filters regularly, so bacteria
doesn't have a chance to grow in the cartridge. Some folks recommend
using an activated charcoal filter impregnated with silver so that
the bacteria and fluoride is removed from the water at the same
time. The silver-impregnated filters should be changed often too.
Outside of filtering, boiling tap water will also remove the chlorine
(but not chloramines**,
see below), since the free chlorine is removed during the boiling
process - just remember to let the water cool before using it to
avoid burning yourself or breaking your favorite glass vessel.
Well water (water drawn from a deep hole dug into the ground), especially
water from private wells, contains all sorts of potential contaminants
and trace minerals. The most common bandits found in well water
that can hurt your wine are bacteria, iron and other
hard minerals. To know for sure what trace elements are in your
well water, you should get the water tested so you may take any
If you want to use well water to make wine, we'd first recommend
the use of an activated charcoal filter to remove most of the particulates
(colored and aromatic components). Bacteria can be removed by using
the silver-impregnated version of the activated charcoal filter
To combat the hardness of well water, many families employ the
use of water softening systems. These systems "soften"
the water by replacing the ions that cause hardness with sodium
ions. The result is a water that is extremely high in sodium ions,
which is probably high enough to negatively affect the flavor of
If you have a water softening system installed on your source of
water, you may be able to avoid the sodium problem... look closely,
and you should be able to find a spigot that allows you to bypass
the system and get water straight from the well. If so, draw off
some of this water and mix it with some distilled water (see description
below) to lessen the hardness effect.
Distilled water is water from which all the minerals have been removed,
either by a distillation or reverse osmosis process. We don't recommend
using distilled water alone when reconstituting your concentrated
grape juice, because the wine yeast depends upon a small amount
of minerals for "food" in order to live and convert the
sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
If you choose to use distilled water when making wine from a kit,
we recommend adding a little yeast nutrient to ensure the yeast
can get a good start.
We'll define bottled water as water that has been purified, but
is not distilled. This type of water is good for making wine, but
not as good as spring water. It is generally more expensive to buy
than spring water.
To us, you can't get a better source of water for making wine than
pure spring water. It has just enough trace minerals to give yeast
the food it needs to thrive, and no chlorine, fluoride, or other
contaminants to give an "off" taste.
Spring water that is purchased in a grocery store has been tested
for purity, and is a lot less expensive to buy than the designer
bottled waters. Be careful when buying spring water, though... in
many cases, what is called "spring water" is merely someone
else's tap water masquerading as something "pure and natural".
The problem is, there is no standard for defining spring water,
so you should read the packaging carefully. Look on the label for
the source of the water, and if it has been treated. If it has been
ozonated, you're good to go.
As another alternative to tap water, Dave Burley (longtime winemaker
and contributor to the Stomper newsletter; see his info below) recommends
using the low-sodium water used by cardiac patients because it is
low in minerals and low in taste.
Fresh spring water from the source, due to its purity and scant
amount of trace elements, is the best water to use when making wine
from a kit; apart from that, bottled spring water, low-sodium or
bottled (not distilled) water from the grocery store is your next
In a pinch, tap or well water may be used with success, provided
activated charcoal filters are used (or other methods such as boiling
are employed to remove the chlorine) and any water softening systems
Therefore, grapestompers.com recommends using spring or
ozonated water for making homemade wine from grape concentrate.
Our thanks to Dave Burley
for his help with this article. Dave has been making wine since
1960 (he's won several awards) and enjoys digging into the more
technical aspects of winemaking. Currently, Dave is in South Carolina
studying Pierce's Disease (a disease affecting grapes that are indigenous
to this area), where he is beginning a program of grape breeding
for P.D. resistant grapes from local grapes. Good luck, Dave!
process usually involves removing water from pure varietal grape
juice through the use of vacuum (not boiling!) technology. The main
reason manufacturers of grape juice concentrate evaporate excess
water from pure varietal grape juice is simple - less water means
the grape juice takes up less space and weight and is easier (and
thus less expensive) to ship. Back to top
municipalities chlorinate their water with chloramines, which are
not removed by simple boiling. Just filter with activated charcoal,
and treat with 10 PPM sulfites to negate the chloramines. To be
sure, we recommend calling your city water plant to see if your
water is treated with chlorine or chloramines. Back
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