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Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers (Book Review)

Cover of Water by John Palmer and Colin Kaminski

As a home brewer with a couple of University degrees (BComp MBAS) and neither of them in chemistry my first comment about this book is “Holy fuck!”. This book being Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers by John Palmer and Colin Kaminski. No, seriously, this actually is as advertised… a comprehensive guide to the chemistry of water at all stages of the brewing process from the tap to the disposal of waste. It’s also a book that you can take from stage one of your brewing career through to building and running your own brewery on a commercial scale. So, I’m impressed. And I learned a lot… but it’s a tough read for the non-chemist.

So, from a home brewer’s perspective, I’m not sure exactly if you have to take the time to read Palmer’s book about water. But at the same time I know you’ll get a lot out of it if you can only wade through the highly complex explanations. I’d love to read another version – an edited university text book with side notes and diagrams. Not quite the Dummies Guide… but a graduates step into the concepts that build into the knowledge that makes water chemistry make sense.

The next thing I would say about this book is that Water is one that you will probably go back to over and over in your career as either a home or commercial brewer and as your general knowledge builds and problems need to be understood and confronted. In that regard, even if you don’t get the chemistry, it’s a book worth keeping. It’s just complicated. And it’s not a book that you’ll read to toss aside saying “I understand that problem space now. Done!”

I’ll give this book a couple of months to settle and then reread it from end to end. It reminds me of the Chemistry of Beer course from the University of Oklahoma. Again, chemistry. The simple fact of life about brewing is that you’re involved in complex ongoing chemistry experiments with extremely attractive outcomes. But the more you understand and control those chemical experiments, the better the beer in your glass at the end of the day.

So don’t be put off by my review. But don’t expect a spoon fed easily digestible speed read, either. This one is hard work. How bad do you want to make good beer?

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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