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Every soda, beer, or bottle of water that you have enjoyed has most likely been provided to you with the aid of reverse osmosis water technology.

Reverse osmosis water treatment contributes a substantial amount to the beverage production industry. Beverage production industries use reverse osmosis, because it is the most efficient method of purifying water. And, the process of reverse osmosis is effective in the removal of common water impurities, including salt forming ions, harmful bacterium, and just about any other contaminant. Generally, reverse osmosis will decrease the total dissolved solids to nonexistent.

Beverage production businesses must demonstrate consistency in their products in order to protect their brands and satisfy customers. Taste and other characteristics of the beverage are affected by water, because water is a main constituent in the production of beverages.

It is crucial for the water to meet a consistent standard in order to produce consistency of flavor and appearance demanded by quality beverages.

Unfortunately the quality of the primary sources of water, such as lakes, oceans, and city water, is not consistent, and the water is not pure. Total dissolved solids in source waters fluctuate within each source and is different from source to source.

City water is hard and contains large deposits of minerals which can form scale. Sea water is high in salinity. Other sources can be brackish, too acidic, too basic, or high in particulates.

Due to these variables, it is important to have a reliable process for converting water in any condition to quality purified water: Reverse osmosis water treatment is great for this purpose. Purified water — of a consistent quality — can only be produced with standardized treatment processes.

Without consistent water quality, the taste and quality of beverages is affected. Reverse osmosis systems provide the consistency and quality needed for beverage production. And, the durability of reverse osmosis membranes is ideal for treating source water with high levels of total dissolved solids. In addition to their durability, reverse osmosis systems are also flexible and can be adjusted to match the filtration level needed for whatever the feed water. Reverse osmosis water treatment systems can filter all sources of water, including fresh water, brackish water, city water or even sea water.

The membranes of a reverse osmosis system consist of dense polymer matrix layers. These membrane layers are carefully designed to filter out the smallest contaminants, which include bacterium of about 0.2 to 1 micron. The Membranes can actually filter contaminants as small as 1/10,000 of a micron. Particulate that weighs as little as 150 daltons cannot even permeate The reverse osmosis membranes. This eliminates the problem of both bacteria and larger dissolved solids in the water for beverage production.

Water hardness is another issue that arises in beverage production that reverse osmosis can resolve through water softening. Reverse osmosis systems accomplish this by rejecting elements in water that create the properties of hardness. Hardness elements that reverse osmosis systems remove include copper, manganese, iron, calcium and magnesium. In addition to the ability to reduce hardness, reverse osmosis also rejects matter with a strong charge, such as anions, which create salt build up.

Beverage production companies also face water quality challenges in the process of cleaning bottles for beverages. Taking the same concept in the car wash industry, the purer the water, the better it is to wash with. Hardness elements create scaling and react with soap to form troublesome soap curd. Decreased water hardness eliminates scale, spotting and soap curd in the finished cleaned product.

Using reverse osmosis to treat the rinse water provides these solutions, and less rinse water is needed. Producing soft drinks can also be made less costly. Soft drinks are created through mixing concentrated ingredients and sweeteners with water. The more pure the water, the less concentrate is needed to produce soft drink beverages.

The versatility of reverse osmosis systems shows in the production of non-alcoholic beer and wine. Reverse osmosis systems are not limited to filtering salt ions and bacterium; they can filter out alcohol as well, contributing to the growing market for low- and non-alcoholic beers and wines.


Related Markets and Applications

  • Breweries
  • Bottled Water
  • Dairy
  • Food Processing
  • Ice
  • Food Service
  • Microbreweries
  • Vended Water
  • Drinking Water
  • Wine Analysis
  • Beverage Production
  • Maple Sap Refinement
  • Food and Beverage
  • Restaurants
  • Point-of-Entry (POE)
  • Point-of-Use (POU)
  • Water Stores - Bottling Equipment
  • Coffee/Tea Shops
  • Coffee/Tea Kiosks or Bars


American’s love of coffee dates back to the Boston Tea Party in 1773 when the colonists boycotted tea. The colonists united and vowed to only serve coffee in their homes. Ever since, the American taste for coffee has continued to grow.

Most attention of course is given to the type of coffee bean and where it is grown. After all it is the coffee bean that provides the caffeine. Yet the coffee bean alone does not constitute the flavor of coffee. Remember better than 98% of coffee is water. Water is the solvent responsible for leaching all those flavors and oils out of the coffee bean and into the coffee drink.

Drinking water from the tap contains varying amounts of total dissolved solids (TDS). TDS is composed of a variety of salts and minerals such as sodium chloride (table salt) and hardness (calcium and magnesium). Without controlling the consistency of the TDS, the coffee can swing from very bitter to weak. Too low TDS will result in a very bitter taste while high of TDS will result in a weak taste due to less than sufficient extraction of the coffee bean organics. Generally speaking, 150 ppm is often considered the target TDS level.

The individual salts and minerals of the TDS can affect the flavor of coffee. Chlorides will impart a sweet taste; however, at higher levels the taste turns sour. Sulfates on the other hand accentuate the bitterness. Softening the water by removing the hardness is not necessarily the ideal. Hardness (such as calcium and magnesium) is actually preferable for extracting the organic flavor from the coffee bean. Without the proper amount of mineral hardness, the coffee will be very bitter.

Municipal tap water also contains either chlorine or chloramines as a method of disinfecting the water supply. Chlorine and chloramine alters the taste by imparting medicinal odors.

To perfect the taste of coffee, coffee shops often turn to reverse osmosis filtration to design a water profile that best suits the extraction of flavor from the coffee bean. Brewers opt to blend the permeate water from the reverse osmosis with pretreated water that is bypassed around the reverse osmosis unit. Changing the ratio of this blend allows the coffee brewer the flexibility to modify the total dissolved minerals in the water as needed.

AXEON offers pre-engineered Reverse Osmosis systems with a range of water production capacities for coffee brewing establishments. The AXEON L1-Series is the most common choice amongst coffee brewers for treating tap water.

347_L1_withTank_MedResThe L1 is available in capacities of 200 and 300 gallons per day and can easily be wall-mounted (a convenient floor stand is also available as an option). The L1 features an AXEON sediment pre-RO filter to remove any undissolved suspended solids followed by an AXEON carbon block to remove chlorine from the tap water.

Standard in the L1 is AXEON’s HF4 extra low energy RO membrane and an Aquatec high flow booster pump for enhancing the production rate of water in a compact unit while minimizing energy usage. A post-RO carbon block filter removes any residual organics as a final polishing step. For strength and integrity, the L1 houses the RO membrane in a reinforced fiberglass vessel.

The L1 is equipped with an auto flush timer valve for extending the health of the RO membrane by flushing impurities off the surface of the membrane. The three pressure gauges along the front panel provide the user with ease of operation and maintenance providing indication when the filters or membrane should be replaced.

As America’s taste for coffee has grown beyond the standard cup of “Joe”, so has the knowledge and art of perfecting that first cup of the morning including the water that goes in it.


The Reinheitsgebot (aka German Beer Purity Law) is perhaps the oldest food-quality regulation in the world. Dating back to 1516, the Reinheitsgebot decreed that only water, barley and hops can be used as ingredients in beer. Centuries later, yeast was added as the fourth ingredient (after it was recognized as the fermenting agent). Although beer is primarily composed of water, the impact of water on its flavor profile is often overlooked. The recent explosive growth in the craft beer industry particularly in the United States is due in part to the fraternal atmosphere of home brewers (turned commercial brewers) sharing recipes of their creative combination of malt, hops and yeast strains. Yet water is seldom mentioned in these recipes as the brewer relies on the chemical makeup of the municipal tap water.

Historically, the influence of local water supply on the brewing of beer had been known well before the chemistry of water composition was understood. The classic styles of beer known today have evolved around the regional differences in water quality. The soft water in Pilsen led to the light pilsner lager. The high concentration of calcium and alkalinity in Dublin water on the other hand is well suited to dark beers such as stouts. With very high sulfate concentrations in its well waters, Burton on Trent, north of London, became known for its pale ales (and the IPA’s exported by the East India Company).

110_R1-6140_Main_LowResFrom a technical standpoint, the most important effect of brewing water is establishing proper pH when mashing the malt. The performance of the enzymes that breakdown the malt (into the sugars digestible by the yeast) greatly depends on both pH and temperature. The differing styles of beer result in part from balancing the acidity of the malt and the alkalinity of the water. The flavor profile of beer is also directly related to the mineral levels in the water. For example, chlorides and sulfates impact strong flavors but do not affect pH the same way as calcium and alkalinity. Chloride adds sweetness and fullness to malty beers; whereas, sulfate accentuates the bitterness of hoppy beers.

Modern craft brewers enjoy brewing a broad range of beer styles using a single water supply. The advancement of source water treatment technologies such as the availability of affordable reverse osmosis filtration allows the brewer to design a water profile that best suits each of these beer styles. Reverse osmosis removes the minerals in the water providing the brewer with an empty canvas to compose the desired mineral profile from scratch by adding brewing salts such as calcium chloride, gypsum (calcium sulfate) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

Reverse osmosis systems filter water through semi-permeable membrane elements that employ thin-film technology to separate the salts from the water. These systems are designed to use RO membranes which can vary from high rejection elements such as the AXEON HR3-Series Membranes, which are capable of removing up to 99.5% of the salts and minerals in the water to ultra low energy elements such as AXEON HF5-Series Membranes, which can operate at lower pressures.

131_ZeoliteFiltration_Grouping_LowResAXEON manufactures a range of pre-engineered Reverse Osmosis Systems with water production capacities of 50 gallons per day for home brewer use, up to 100,000 gallons per day for commercial brewer use and 500,000 gallons per day for industrial beer processing plants.

A standard pre-treatment setup prior to reverse osmosis includes the removal of suspended solids, iron and chlorine. Suspended solids are removed using media filtration such as an AXEON Zeolite System or AXEON Sediment Filter. AXEON Filox Systems are typically used for iron, manganese and hydrogen removal. The AXEON media filter systems are available in various size media tanks and have easy to program electronic control valves.

Municipal water supplies use free chlorine or chloramine to disinfect the water supply; however, they impart an off-flavor in beer. In addition, removal of chlorine and chloramines is an important pre-treatment step to prolong the life of RO membranes. AXEON Carbon Systems or AXEON Carbon Block Filter Cartridges are an effective choice in removing chlorine. The removal of chloramines, however, requires longer contact time with carbon compared with the removal of chlorine. Catalytic carbon is specially-treated carbon used for chloramine removal.

Since chlorination of the water is unacceptable, ultraviolet (UV) light is becoming a popular alternative method of disinfection. UV light is capable of killing 99.99% of bacteria and viruses and completely breaking down total organic carbon (TOC).

133_HF1_Main_MedResSome commercial brewers opt to blend the permeate water from the reverse osmosis with pre-treated water that is bypassed around the reverse osmosis unit. Changing the ratio of this blend allows the brewer the flexibility to modify the total dissolved minerals in the water as needed. Another increasingly popular option is the use of nanofiltration. Nanofiltration is also known as “membrane softening” as its greater permeability reduces hardness and alkalinity while allowing some sodium chloride to remain in the water. AXEON Nanofiltration Systems reject 75% to 80% of the salts and minerals in the water (compared to the 95% to 99% rejection achieved by reverse osmosis). AXEON Nanofiltration Membranes fit within the same commercial equipment manufactured for reverse osmosis.

With reverse osmosis and nanofiltration, the craft brewer has the advantage of custom designing water suitable to any beer style of choice instead of troubleshooting a water supply that is either inconsistent or unsuitable.

A micro-brewery is classified by the number of beer barrels it produces in a year, which is a limit of 15,000 beer barrels a year or 460,000 US gallons and at least 75 percent of that beer must be sold outside of the brewery. There are no strict guidelines set on the techniques or ingredients a micro-brewery uses to produce their beer

A craft brewery brews no more than 2 million gallons of beer per year and is owned independently. Unlike a micro-brewery, a craft brewery has set limitations on the techniques of their beer production. A craft brewery's beer must contain at least 50 percent traditional malt, rather than adjuncts such as oats, barley and wheat and there lies one distinction

For an in depth read on the subject, the John Palmer and Colin Kaminski book “Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers” is highly recommended. The title was recently added to the Brewers Publications’ Brewing Elements series. John Palmer is also the author of “How to Brew”, the top selling book on home brewing.