How Much Water Is Required to Make Beer?

Check out this graph from the Economist showing the ratio of water use to drink/food produced. According to this data, taken from the new book The World’s Water 2008-2009 by Peter Gleick et al. (Island Press, 2009), coffee requires an astounding 1,120 liters of water per liter of coffee produced. Compared to that, 300 liters seems like a paltry amount for making a liter of beer. (Keep in mind this includes upstream inputs too, not just the water used in production at the brewery.)

water-use

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67 Responses to How Much Water Is Required to Make Beer?

  1. Matt says:

    I think you might have a typo in your story. I believe it takes 300 liters to make a liter of beer. Am I reading the chart correctly? While 30 liters might not be so bad, 300 liters is a bit alarming. Also, I think I am going to stop drinking coffee.

  2. beeractivist says:

    Righto! Sorry for the mistake, I’ll fix it right now.

    Chris

  3. […] of water? Monday, March 2, 2009 at 20:14 | In Environment | Tags: water I happened to see Beer Activist’s post yesterday about the amount of water needed to produce one liter of beer resp. one liter of coffee. […]

  4. Ed says:

    Thanks for the link (and reading The Economist for us).

  5. Josh Kidd says:

    It would be interesting to know where most of this water is used with an eye on how to lower the number. For example, can you significantly lower the amount of water needed for beer by homebrewing? My guess is no, actually. That most of these inputs are upstream. Still it would be good to know.

    It looks like there is a paper, available at waterfootprint.org, that explains the methodology for determining how much water is required for coffee and tea. I’m hoping that will give me a better idea of what is going on.

  6. DH says:

    Great Blog, we linked it from http://www.jibeer.com…Love to share links! Check us out for good beer in Japan!

  7. […] we have a very interesting graph that Chris over at Beer Activist links us to showing us how much water is used to produce varrious beverages we consume. I’m […]

  8. WOW! I really had no idea that much water was used to make these products, especially the coffee!

    Going to have to switch to some mocha-brew in the mornings instead of the ‘ol cup of Joe!

  9. nice! i’m gonna make my own journal

  10. Sheena tascan says:

    300 liters is how much u need to produce a pint of beer!!! peace!!!

  11. Marvin says:

    Ha Ha Haaa – the beer number just makes me laugh

    300 or 30 Litres of water to 1 of beer is PLAIN WRONG.
    The correct ratio is 3:1

    i.e. 3 Litres water to 1 of Beer, note that nearly 1 of those litres of water is contained within the beer.

    Modern breweries are much more efficient than you think (and yes I do work in the indistry so I do know!)

    • beeractivist says:

      Hi Marvin, I’ve brewed professionally myself so I understand that you are referring to the ratio of water to beer during brewing (although even that is closer to 5-1). In any case, the number in this posting refers to all water consumed throughout the lifecycle of the product, from growing barley and hops all the way through cleaning and disposal of consumed goods. Hope that explains it better.

      • BeerBongAndRocknRoll says:

        I work for a large brewerie as well, and I can tell you this number (300 L Water to 1L lager) does not show reality. Adding the water used throughout the lifecycle of the product and everything you seem to include gives an industry average of 3.5 L of water to 1 L of beer , nothing near 300 L. I am curious about how this calculations were made, as i work closely with sustainable development area and we have water saving programmes working in every operation. If we would spend 300 L of water to produce 1 liter of beer, it would simply make no sense, wouldn´t be business ….. hope it helps. Be sure to check AB-Inbev SD report, SABMiller SD report, Heineken SD Report or Carlsberg, etc… to confirm what i am saying,
        Regards.

  12. Harshad says:

    hi!
    i saw the graph. there it’s mentioned that bottled water ‘consumes’ zero water.
    my argument is that when you are quoting all the water consumed during the product life cycle, this implies that even bottled water requires to expend some water in not few but various forms?
    e.g. factory requirements, cleaning & maintenance etc., water lost during treatment, wastage/spillage etc..?

  13. Harshad says:

    hi again!!
    also, i would like to obtain a quantitative account of water expended at various steps of brewing. 😛
    (pls dont ignore my previous query. answer both of them 😀 )

  14. Leone Manger says:

    I’m thinking about spending some money on a coffee bean grinder, but there are so many different things to consider, many of which I have never even heard of before, things like: How long does it take to grind the coffee beans? Can I grind a lot of beans at one time? Is the coffee bean grinder electric or manual? Is the grinder a space saver? How many coarness levels does the grinder have, ie; fine, ultrafine or coarse, medium coarseness. How was the cost of a grinder? What is difference in the most expensive grinder to the less expensive grinders? Can you use any flavor of coffee to grind? Does the coffee bean grinder come attached to a coffee maker? Does the coffee grinder have a preset timer- along with a automatic shut off?

  15. Leon Corban says:

    Coffee grinding is just such a natural tast for me. It is like something I just do for the moment, and i sure do make a tasty cup of joe.

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