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Brewer’s Friend Is Looking For Writers!

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Brewer’s Friend is looking for passionate homebrewers who are interested in sharing their knowledge with the community in the form of articles for our blog section. The topics we’re looking to cover span a wide range of skill levels and subject matter. They will be technical in nature. Writers will be able to choose from a list of available topics or even pitch their own ideas

If this seems interesting to you, but you don’t have much experience with writing, don’t hesitate to reach out as well. You can email the editor directly via email at [email protected] or fill out the survey in the link below for more information.

» Start Here «

We’re excited to offer brewers a chance to share their love and passion for brewing with the community. 

Cheers and happy brewing,
Dave

Check out our New Features on our Changelog!

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

April 2019 brings updates, new features, and support for more wireless hydrometers.

https://docs.brewersfriend.com/changelog

2019-04-02
Added

  • Fermentation chart BPM for Plaato.
  • Additional API stream fields for MyBrewBot and Fermentrack.

2019-04-01
Fixed

  • Recipe Builder pH prediction showing with no water profile selected.
  • Recipe Builder, Inventory & Shopping custom brands now showing up prior to being approved.
  • Recipe View can now show fermentation chart from multiple brew sessions.
  • Recipe Builder water calc sometimes missing acid additions from the recipe.
  • Inventory & Shopping can now enter yeast temp in °F or °C.

Added

Check it out today, and let us know what you think!

Pre-Order Your Brewer’s Friend T-Shirt – First T-Shirt Ever!

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

For the first time ever we will be offering a run of BrewersFriend.com t-shirts!

Pre-order now!

We will accept pre-orders until March 31st, 2019, then print the t-shirts and ship in the weeks after that.

These shirts are awesome! Next Level brand, 60% cotton/40% polyester.
They are incredibly comfortable and very soft with a solid amount of stretch to them.
We have gotten these brand t-shirts from other companies in the industry and they are our absolute favorite.
The photo above is a general mock-up. The logo/design will be the same but the t-shirt color might be a bit lighter.

Pre-Order Now:

Size:

CUSTOMERS IN THE UNITED STATES ONLY!We will refund any orders outside the US. If you are interested in a t-shirt outside the US please e-mail us for pricing at [email protected].

Import your Brewtoad files into Brewer’s Friend- Quickly and Easily!

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Exporting recipes from Brewtoad, or any type of *.xml file, and into Brewer’s Friend is simple and straightforward.   When you are on the Brewtoad website, you can export the recipes one at a time easily.   However, that could be very tedious,  so you could try using this technique for exporting all of them found on here:   https://www.reddit.com/r/Homebrewing/comments/a4lx1v/brewtoadcom_is_shutting_down_at_the_end_of_the/ebg48iu/?sort=new

Please be advised that we did not write that script, so please be cautious in trying it.

Brewer’s Friend accepts both *.bsmx (Beersmith) and the *.xml file formats, so you can import ANY .xml files into Brewer’s Friend from other software programs or from recipes on the internet that have an .xml or *bsmx file type.   Once you export your recipes,  save to your computer or in a dropbox if you have a very large number of recipes.  It’s a good idea to save it to your desktop, for ease in finding it again.

Then, to import your recipes into Brewer’s Friend, just open your internet browser, and go to Brewersfriend.com. 

Log into your account, and choose “Tools” in the orange tool bar.

Then choose “Import Recipes” in the dropdown.

 

A screen will appear, telling you to choose a file, or to drag it into the box.

You also have a choice about what to do with ingredients in the recipe that may not have an exact match in Brewer’s Friend.   When importing from Beersmith or Brewtoad (or many other programs), the bottom box should be checked, as this will allow those unmatched items to be listed in your recipe:

 

When you have made your selection here, scroll back up a little and once you have chosen the file(s) to import, click “import”.

When the import is finished, the new recipes will be listed in your dashboard under “My Recipes”.

You’ll see that a notice will say:  “! Recipe just imported, Edit and Save to fill in stats.

 

 

Click on the title of the first recipe you wish to save in Brewer’s Friend.   Then, click “edit” on the right side near the top of the screen.

 

That will bring up the full recipe and here you can save it.   You can also choose whether to make this recipe public (shared) or private by moving the slider (see below).

 

Once you click save, this recipe will be in “My Recipes” in Brewer’s Friend as one of your regular recipes.

 

That’s all there is to it!  It’s quick, easy, and enables you to keep your entire collection of recipe files on our cloud.  Cheers!

Migrating Your Recipes from Beersmith To Brewer’s Friend

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Exporting recipes from Beersmith and into Brewer’s Friend is simple and straightforward.   When you are in the Beersmith program, you will have two options for exporting your recipe files.    The “Export All” command exports all of the items in the current view or folder to a file which you can save to your computer or email to other brewers.

The “Export Selected Items” choice exports only the items you have selected in the current view.  You can select multiple items by holding the Ctrl key while you click on the items you are choosing.  The blue highlights in the view above show the chosen recipes.

Beersmith files have a *bsmx file extension which can be directly imported into Brewer’s Friend, or you can import those files as BeerXML files (with a .xml extension) as well.   Brewer’s Friend accepts either one of those file formats, so you can also import ANY .xml files into Brewer’s Friend from other software programs or from recipes on the internet that have an .xml file type.

After you choose the “export all” or “export selected”, the following screen will appear: 

 

Choose the file type that you would like to use for importing.   Either *.bsmx or *.xml will work in Brewer’s Friend.   Save to your computer or the cloud as in a dropbox if you have a very large number of recipes.  In this case, this file was saved to the desktop for ease in finding it again.

 

Open your internet browser, and go to Brewersfriend.com. 

Log into your account, and choose “Tools” in the orange tool bar.

Then choose “Import Recipes” in the dropdown.

 

 

A screen will appear, telling you to choose a file, or to drag it into the box.

You also have a choice about what to do with ingredients in the recipe that may not have an exact match in Brewer’s Friend.   When importing from Beersmith, the bottom box should be checked, as this will allow those unmatched items to be listed in your recipe:

 

When you have made your selection here, scroll back up a little and once you have chosen the file(s) to import, click “import”.

When the import is finished, the new recipes will be listed in your dashboard under “My Recipes”.

You’ll see that a notice will say:  “! Recipe just imported, Edit and Save to fill in stats.

 

 

Click on the title of the first recipe you wish to save in Brewer’s Friend.   Then, click “edit” on the right side near the top of the screen.

 

That will bring up the full recipe and here you can save it.   You can also choose whether to make this recipe public (shared) or private by moving the slider (see below).

 

Once you click save, this recipe will be in “My Recipes” in Brewer’s Friend as one of your regular recipes.

 

That’s all there is to it!  It’s quick, easy, and enables you to keep your entire Beersmith recipe files on our cloud.  Cheers!

New Brewing for Beginners Tutorial Available Now!

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

Have you wanted to homebrew, but never knew where to start?  Or have a friend who does?

Designed for beginners, this illustrated article can help you, from choosing the equipment you will need as well as give you step-by-step directions through the brewing and fermenting process.

Check it out now!

A Brief History and Look at Future Trends in US Craft Beer

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

craft beer anchor steam

“Beer is more important than armies when it comes to understanding people.” – Alexei Vranich

An Early History of Craft Beer

Early American beer started with ales from the British settlers; porters, stouts, and pale ales (once kilning took hold as general practice in 1703). It is common knowledge that most of the founding fathers were homebrewers, with George Washington being one of the most famous of them. One thing that many people don’t talk much about is the role of women in early American brewing. These brewing maidens many times managed their own operations, brought communities together, and many were also typically bakers as well. They kept cats as house pets, and hung their brooms outside their houses to signify that beer was flowing. Recognize anything familiar? These women were demonized by Puritan settlers to promote staunch temperance, and thus the “witch” was born.

Once German settlers started arriving in the later 1700s and 1800s, lager beers came into the forefront. What we saw after that was a hybridization of style—basically a blend of the lager and pale ale (especially in the warmer climates)—this is where the California and Kentucky common came from, as well as the cream ale. These were the standard beer menu items almost any domestic brewery carried. Locality had a lot to do with it. Just as it always has been in brewing, you use what’s fresh and what you can get your hands on. This is the reason the American adjunct lager became the popular method for brewing lager in the US, because local American 6-row Barley didn’t have the same gravity potential as European 2-row, so corn and rice were added to increase the available sugar content in the beer without changing the flavor too much. There are various research papers from the time that praised this innovation, which allowed everyone to continue drinking their favorite bubbly beverage. Around this time also (pre-18th amendment America), there were just a couple hundred breweries less than there are today. You could say it was in its own hey-day. Macro breweries had been at a disadvantage during this period, as the local brew pubs were the ones with the freshest selection and lower price that the larger players couldn’t compete with. Prohibition is what allowed for the large breweries to take over, they were the ones that invested in canning lines, distribution (trucks, etc.), and large facilities. They also brewed low alcohol/zero alcohol beers to stay afloat during that time or did things like selling malted milk to candy companies. I don’t really need to spend much time on what happened after that. One thing that is quite notable, however, is that even through this time, there were pub and brewery owners truly honoring the craft. This helped to create an underground community that eventually assembled the American Brewer’s Association which helped establish specific protections for independent breweries, and today is the driving force in beating back the macros of the world, creating a niche for these brands that are truly “craft.”

There really was a shift when the Cold War ended. The early 1990s saw people like the pioneers from Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head come along and helped to truly reshape what American beer is, basically by saying, “this can’t be all there is…” They doubled down on their beliefs, and decided that the way to make it was not to do a better version of the American Light Lager, but to do something completely different. They followed the Henry Ford methodology, giving people something that they had no real expectation for nor basis of judgement- “If I had asked the customer what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse”. In today’s market, these same companies are working tirelessly to stay relevant and compete with the up-and-comers, who seem to have a strong pulse on the changing palate of the American beer drinker. Because of this innovation, the US is now the best place to try and taste new beers, according to Randy Mosher. Between 2015 and 2017, almost 1,000 breweries were opened, and in 2017 craft beer surpassed 10% of overall US beer market share (BeverageDynamics). People have come to demand new and local, something that Big Beer has been tapping into with their Shock Top/Blue Moons and Goose Island/Kona brands- falsely representing brands as craft when they are just as “big” as Budweiser itself. Certain large craft brands have also been seen adding products to the shelves to compete in the smaller craft brew space, e.g. Tropical Torpedo (Sierra Nevada), Voodoo Ranger/Citradelic (New Belgium), Rebel IPA and now a New England IPA (Sam Adams) to name a few. This is the one thing that makes me excited about the future of beer, as if these pioneers are basically a step behind now, where can this industry really go? Authenticity and taste will always seem to trump craft no matter how you define the word. We’re basically seeing history repeat itself- just with different flavors and style trends- and way larger marketing budgets.

There’s a lot of speculation of what’s to come. If 2018 is anything like 2015 or 2017, we’ll likely see another huge acquisition that blows everyone’s minds and makes the buy-outs of yester-year feel like a drop in the bucket. The one refreshing aspect of all of this is how gracious the beer drinking community is. Yes there are people who have had their egos get far too overinflated, but the fact remains that this culture is one based on trust and comradery. For every 10 new breweries, there is at least one homebrew store opening, and soon local malt houses will start to be a staple in the industry as up-and-comers look to distinguish their malt taste, reminiscent of what the French have coined “terroir”. One of the most interesting pieces I got my hands on was a research paper talking about the role that wasps will play in the future of beer taste, as wild yeasts can breed and mutate within the stomachs of wasps. Some larger craft breweries have been experimenting with “brewing history into the glass,” and I’m fascinated to see what type of concoctions brewers will continue to bring to the table in this “ancient” vein. Heck, I heard of a beer that was brewed from a yeast isolated from the brew master’s beard! Now that the science is more specifically understood, there will be some amazing flavors hitting the market that might make our hoppy berliners of today look like finger paintings next to these flavor Picassos. I just saw a well-produced social media ad for sour beers claiming they’re incredible for digestive health. I can see the marketing campaigns already… “So you like Kombucha… Then you’ll love this beer”- they’re already selling 7% abv Kombucha… so why not?

2017 in Craft Beer

Some Big trends that 2017 saw: sour beers, dry hopped wild beers, fruity/juicy IPAs, New England IPAs, and milk in everything. Even though people have loved to hate some of these trends, they’ve come about from brewers responding to feedback from their customers, by just giving the fans what they want. A very stark advantage that these up and coming breweries have is not being chained to successful brands, which frees up tap space for more seasonal brewing, and allows the brewers to pay more attention to their customers. Some tap houses have gained market share by never carrying the same keg twice.

gluten free craft beer

One trend that seems to be gaining momentum is the alternative grains movement. In 2015, Business Insider listed gluten-free beer FIRST on its list of 4 trends to look out for in the coming years. I’m making no large, overarching comments here, but that could be the reason I was chosen to write this article (being a glutard myself). Certain breweries like Ghostfish and Glutenberg have gotten their flavors profiles down so well that we might see a day when gluten-free is no longer just for those with sensitive stomachs, or who are health conscious, and is lumped in with the rest as just down right good beer. It’s still made with water, malted grains, hops, and yeast. Speaking of the Reinheitsgebot, many countries, like Germany, are drinking 30% less beer per capita, and “health reasons” is the main driving force. Take this into account. The same year that the USA was rated the fattest country in the world (2007), Germany was rated as the fattest country in Europe. Gluten is an inflammatory protein. There’s not really any way around that, and gluten-reduced beer just carries chopped up gluten protein pieces, from which I personally still experience inflammation in the form of brain fog, sore joints, and worse hang-overs (think hangover turned flu-like), so there is a chance that gluten-reduced might not be a long-lived trend in beer. Lacking those inflammatory proteins, the path forward may include a growing number of gluten-free breweries, where grains that have typically been on the periphery will now take center stage, like millet, buckwheat, rice, sorghum, quinoa, oats (that are certified gf), corn, amaranth, sweet potatoes, beets, dates, and various of other malt-able grains and sugars. By no means has barley seen it’s day, but there is a massive potential for this industry to take flight considering that according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, as many as 18 million Americans may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

Other Trends to Watch For

I’m very excited to see that barrel aging has gained so much popularity in beer. The next few years will likely see every commercial barrel used for any spirit being used to beer aging- Tequila and Rum barrels especially- the bourbon barrel/taste is starting to play itself out. Also, I’m starting to see less shaker pint glasses serving my favorite golden elixirs- which means that the education about what beer can be is getting out to the masses.

barrel aged craft beer

The public has spoken, as one-bottle wonders are typically a one-time sell. Some craft beer enthusiasts may be willing to pay extra for a beer that they’ve decided they’re going to try and check off their beer bucket list, but they’re not going to come back and buy your 18% ABV mother of all IPAs night after night. Session beers are making a strong comeback, especially as this local movement takes hold and breweries become communal gathering places again and not just destination visits for beer pilgrims. I also keep hearing about pilsners making the list at just about every brewery, so much so that even Robert Mondavi’s kid is opening a brewery that will specialize in just pilsners. Who would have thought? Either way, expect to start hearing from more Utah brewers to be leaders in this space (*throat clear* Jennifer Talley is a genius).

One thing that seems safe to say is that IPA’s are here to stay. Breweries will continue to have IPAs, and in some cases, have more than 4 IPA styles on their tap list (some are all IPA breweries and are not ready to admit it). In today’s climate, it’s almost expected. The number of new breweries being launched with an IPA as their flagship beer is almost staggering. To keep up with this demand, hop cultivars will continue to experiment and breed strains together to get the right chemical mixes and really make those flavors pop. We’ll be seeing some hop breeding relationships that will most likely blow people’s minds- think mixing two “not-as-popular” hops to create something far more desirable- this could change the taste styles we see.

Craft Beer Style Crossover

Speaking of breeding, beer styles have been getting it on so to speak; so much so that they don’t really have their own style category for judging. In fact, we’ll likely see so much style-creep that naming beers might become purely marketing. Cans are already starting to look like professional works of art with the labeling designs, and it’s working. Somehow asking for the bartender for a pint of the “Tropical Imperial Hazy Kolsch” just doesn’t seem like it’ll work in the long run. What do we really know anyway? Could the pilsner’s day actually be in its twilight of popularity? Whatever the case, quality will always win in the craft game.

“Tod Zum Reinheitsgebot” (Gluten Free India Dunkel Bock)

Grains Hop Schedule Yeast
  • 5 lbs. Pale Millet Malt
  • 5 lbs Vienna Millet Malt
  • 2 lbs Munich Millet Malt
  • 2 lbs Buckwheat Malt
  • .5 lb gas hog rice malt (you can mash or just add to the top of your mashed grains and sparge with this for color)- I personally preferred the smoky/astringent taste that transferred over in the mash- very Rauch-like!
  • 1.5 lbs rice hulls
  • 3.3 lbs. of sorghum syrup (towards the end of the boil- 15 minutes)
  • 0.5 lb. Maltodextrin (10 minutes) (stir in a 1 cup glass of warm water before pouring- the same way you do with cornstarch)
  • .5 oz. Hallertau Blanc (60 minutes)
  • .5 oz. Hallertau Blanc + 1 oz Calypso + .5 oz Simcoe (15 minutes)
  • 1 oz. Hallertau Blanc + 1 oz Calypso + 2.5 oz Simcoe (Whirlpool)
WLP 833 German Bock Lager Yeast
By the Numbers:
OG:1.070 | FG:1.005 | ABV:8.5%

Notes:
Treat water with 2 tsp calcium chloride, 1 tsp gypsum. Mix all grains dry in bucket before pouring in, Stir in grains into 5 gal of strike water and add ½ tsp of amylase enzyme. Mash at 154⁰F for 1 hour, raise to 163 for 30 minutes, sparge out with 2.5 to 3 gallons of 170⁰F water with same ratio of calcium chloride and gypsum (In this instance you would use 3/5 of your original measurements- since we’re sparging with 3 gallons). You should have a pre-boil gravity of about 1.03-1.045.
Ferment 2 weeks at 55⁰F. I transferred to the lager fridge when gravity was 1.010. Dry hop three days before pulling the beer out. I let it lager for just about a month between 36-38⁰F.

Sources:

Anchor steam photo by James Cridland
Gluten free beer photo by Mike Mozart
Barrel Aged beer photo by Bernt Rostad

Brewing Water Basics – Putting it All Together

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

brewing water minerals

We’ve covered some of the basics of water chemistry in the last two articles, and now we are ready to put it all together.

The first step is to start with chlorine-free water of suitable quality for brewing and reducing the alkalinity if needed.

Once you have an understanding of targeting an optimum range for the mash pH and taken steps to use non-alkaline water for sparging, the next step is to consider using brewing salts in the water to further enhance the flavor of your beer.

Just as in cooking certain spices go well with certain foods, certain brewing salts can enhance certain styles of beers. Looking back at the list of our brewing salts, we can see what each of them brings to the table:

Calcium (in Gypsum and Calcium Chloride): Calcium is the primary ion that determines hardness of the water. It helps with lowering the pH during mashing, helps with precipitations of proteins in the boil (hot break), enhances yeast flocculation, and assists in preventing beerstone. Many lagers are made with very low levels of calcium, so it is not required but can be helpful in the amounts 50-100 ppm.

Magnesium (Epsom Salt or MgSO4): Also responsible for providing hardness to the water, it can provide a sour/bitter flavor to the beer in amounts of 30 ppm or more. It has a laxative effect in much larger amounts. Malt provides all of the magnesium required for yeast health, so it is not required as an addition unless adding sulfate in the presence of a high calcium level (using epsom salts, or MgSO4).

Sulfate: Sulfate is the ion that is used to accentuate hop bitterness by enhancing the dryness of the finish. Additions are normally avoided in continental lagers or only used in small amounts, often 30 ppm or less, and in most ales the ideal amount is 30-70 ppm. For highly hopped beers, the desired sulfate level may be much higher: 150-300 ppm for IPAs or west coast APAs. That will make the finish seem more crisp and dry. If using 150 ppm or higher, the chloride level should be under 50 ppm to avoid a minerally finish to the beer.

Chloride: Chloride accentuates a fullness or “roundness” of flavor in the beer, enhancing the malt sweetness. It is generally used in the 40-100 ppm range in many beers, but in the New England IPA style, the chloride is often over 100 ppm, up to 150 ppm.

Sodium (Non-iodized table salt or NaCl): Sodium rounds out the malt flavors, and can be used in modest amounts (under 150 ppm). A higher concentration can make the beer taste salty, and having a high sodium combined with a high sulfate level can create a harsh bitterness. It is generally recognized that keeping the sodium at 0-60 is a safe bet, and using brewing water sourced from a water softener is to be avoided.

Baking Soda (NaHCO3 or sodium bicarbonate): This is used if alkalinity is needed to raise mash PH, and also provides sodium.

Many of us can remember the older guy at the bar with a tap beer in front of him using a salt shaker to sprinkle salt in his beer. Looking at the list, we can see that the table salt consists of NaCl- both sodium and chloride. The sodium rounds out the malt flavor, and the chloride accentuates the fullness of the malt sweetness. We can do the same thing via these salt additions to the mash and/or preboiled wort.

Determining Brewing Water Additions

brewers friend brewing water calc
Check out the Brewer’s Friend Brewing Water Calculator

Adding the salts is done in very small amounts, typically grams. While it can be converted to other measurements (a teaspoon of calcium chloride is close to 5 grams), the amounts are generally very small so a scale that weighs to grams and/or tenths of a gram is very helpful. While it is easiest to just add a teaspoon or a half of a teaspoon of something to the mashing water, it’s best to look at a brewing spreadsheet showing the additions so you can see the results of adding the salts. There are also nomographs available and of course an enterprising brewer can calculate it by hand. The amounts are usually expressed in parts per million (PPM) and the spreadsheets themselves have guidelines on how much to add to avoid overuse. The salts are typically added to the mash, but can be added to the boil kettle in some cases. Make sure to never add baking soda or other alkalinity to the sparging water. In the rare case where you need to raise the mash pH, add the baking soda to the mash.

When deciding what additions are suitable for each batch of beer, consider what you want to bring out in the beer’s flavor. Also, keep in mind that “less is more” generally applies, until you know what you like in a certain beer recipe or style. For example, if you are making an American IPA you may want to use some gypsum (calcium sulfate), as the sulfate will help to provide a dry finish and a crisper mouthfeel to enhance the hops bittering. While some brewers will go up to 300 ppm of sulfate in these beer styles, you may want to start smaller at first to avoid perceptions of harshness. Since the easiest way to add sulfate to the beer is via gypsum which also adds calcium, this is commonly done. The other way to add sulfate is via magnesium sulfate (epsom salt), but it’s important to keep the magnesium level below about 30 ppm to avoid a bitter/sour flavor. Some brewers eschew the addition of epsom salts totally, feeling that the gypsum does the job without any issue.

For a beginning profile for something like an American pale ale or IPA, a modest addition of gypsum is may give great results. As an example, using 7 gallons of RO to begin the brewday for a 5 gallon batch, adding 7 grams of gypsum will provide 63 ppm of calcium and 148 ppm of sulfate. Looking at the list above, you can see that it is in a desirable range for both calcium and sulfate for a hoppy beer. Using a brewing spreadsheet, you can see that using this amount of gypsum in the mash is also likely to give an optimum mash pH as well, depending on the grainbill, so this is a great place to start. After the brew is finished and taste testing, a decision can be made for next time. You can even add a touch of gypsum to the glass, to see if you prefer the beer with more sulfate for next time. Starting with less than the maximum recommended generally gives satisfaction to the brewer.

For beers that have a lovely malt flavor, calcium chloride is a common addition. Looking at the list again, you can see that calcium chloride will provide calcium to the mash as well as the chloride. Since chloride enhances the fullness or “roundness” of malt flavor, and gives a perception of sweetness to the malt, adding it to a beer recipe can bring the flavor to the next level. If you’re making an Octoberfest or brown ale, adding some calcium chloride would be a great move. Adding 3 grams to a 5 gallon batch of brown ale maybe be just the ticket to making a very good beer great.

For brewing lagers, especially European style lagers, less sulfate is desirable and often it is completely left out. It wouldn’t be unusual to brew a German pilsner without any additions to RO water at all, so keep in mind that adding brewing salts is not necessary and is a matter of the style of the beer as well as the brewer’s taste.

For a good basic “all purpose” water profile to start, consider something like this:

Calcium: 75 ppm
Magnesium: 10 ppm (more or less, but under 25 ppm)
Sodium: 0-50 ppm
Sulfate: 50-70
Chloride 50-70
Mash pH of 5.3-5.5

There are a couple of cautions when adding brewing salts to your water adjustments. Many brewers will refer to the sulfate:chloride ratio because that’s been discussed in older brewing texts. The theory is that keeping a ratio of sulfate to chloride will make a beer more “hoppy” or more “malty”- but this is not so. When discussing a ratio, remember that 80 ppm of sulfate and 40 ppm of chloride is a 2:1 ratio, and according to a brewing water spreadsheet available online (EZ Water) the text says “may enhance bitterness”. That’s great- but 800 ppm sulfate and 400 ppm of chloride is ALSO a 2:1 ratio- and it also says “may enhance bitterness”. Common sense dictates that one beer will be far different than the other, while the ratio is exactly the same. The first should be just fine, although not with a particularly dry finish, but the second will be “minerally” and undrinkable. When you are cooking and add too much salt to your spaghetti sauce ,you cannot erase that by adding more pepper. When brewing, you also can’t “erase” too much gypsum by adding more calcium chloride. Instead of targeting a sulfate:chloride ratio, look at the actual numbers in ppm and the recommended limits of each ion, and make the decision based on that.

Another pitfall is to be so consumed with the numbers of the ions is to forget that the mash pH is the most important aspect of delving into water chemistry. An appropriate mash pH will provide the most benefit to your beer, while the flavor ions are the “seasonings” in your beer. Starting with a good recipe and using good water and targeting an optimum mash pH will make a very good beer. Tweaking the recipe by adding some gypsum and calcium chloride (as examples) may take that very good beer to very, very good or even excellent beer. To compare brewing to cooking again, adding the perfect amount of salt and pepper to your spaghetti sauce can make your very good sauce something memorable, and adding a bit of rosemary may make it exceptional. So it goes with brewing- starting with a great base and adding your brewing salts in the right amounts can take it to the next level. Adding too much is more of a danger than too little, so be aware of that in your additions as you start adjusting your water.

Entire books have been written about brewing water and water chemistry for brewers, as the subject is complex. Further reading is highly recommended. Some good sources are listed below:

Here are a few links to additional reading, as well as some of the sources of this article:
http://howtobrew.com/book/section-3/understanding-the-mash-ph/reading-a-water-report
John Palmer, How To Brew
https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge
Martin Brungard, Bru’nwater
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Beer_color,_alkalinity_and_mash_pH
Kai Troester
https://www.brewersfriend.com/mash-chemistry-and-brewing-water-calculator/
Brewer’s Friend, water calculator

Water- A Comprehensive Book for Brewers John Palmer & Colin Kaminsky

Brewing Water Basics Part 2

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

brewing water basics alkalinity

This article is a continuation of a three-part series. Check out part one here.

You may have heard that you have “hard” water, or “soft” water. Hardness in water is mostly due to the calcium and magnesium ions in the water. A low concentration of these is said to provide soft water, while high concentrations produce hard water. The hardness of your water varies regionally. In the Midwest the water tends to be hard, while in places like southern California and other coastal areas, the water tends to be soft. Neither type of water is inherently poorly suited to brewing, and both can be used successfully. In most cases, moderately hard water is ideal due to the need or desire for some calcium in the brewing water.

The hardness of your water is balanced by the alkalinity of the water. This is in the form of bicarbonates. Alkaline water is high in bicarbonates. In your water report, you should see “hardness as CaC03” in parts per million (ppm) or “alkalinity as CaC03” in ppm. The key to using your water is to determine its alkalinity and taking steps to provide the proper amount so that you can obtain a proper mash pH. The make up of the sparge water is important as well, and this should be kept in mind.

The pH of your starting water does not impact the mash pH as much as you would think. That is due to the buffering capacity of the water (the alkalinity) and the more acidic grains. Once the water is combined with the grains in your recipe, the mash pH will be determined. The mash pH is the important part of this—it determines many of the qualities of your beer (flavor, color, clarity) and is a factor in enzyme activity. These enzymes are what go to work to convert the starch in the malted grain to fermentable sugars. Providing a mash pH of 5.2-5.7 favors their activity, although the enzymes will work outside of that range. Narrowing the target mash pH to 5.3-5.5 will help to optimize the enzymes, and also enhance flavor. A higher pH will increase harshness in the finished beer, extracting more tannins and also increase the isomerization of hop oils so that the beer can come across as rough or coarse. To be clear, when we are discussing the pH during mashing, we are talking about the readings taken at room temperature. To check the pH, a very small sample (even a shot glass size) can be taken from the mash, cooled in an ice/water bath, and then checked when the sample is at 68-75 degrees. PH readings vary from mash temperatures to room temperatures, and any pH readings are always provided at room temperature. This also will help preserve the life of the probe on the pH meter. A good quality pH meter can be found for +/- $100 or so, and is highly recommended. There are pH strips available in the 5-6 pH range, but their accuracy is questionable and they can be very hard to read, especially with dark wort.

Sparge water should be acidified to have a pH of less than 6, to avoid tannin extraction as the gravity of the wort drops. Alternatively, water with minimal alkalinity can be used such as distilled or reverse osmosis water for this. Sparging with alkaline water can cause some harsh flavors as well as a puckering dryness in the finish.

Dealing with Alkalinity:

For some of us, the biggest challenge is dealing with high alkalinity in the water. For a moderate amount of alkalinity, some acid in the mash and sparge water can be an easy fix. For those with high alkalinity, there are options such as pre-boiling the water and racking off of the precipitate, lime softening, dilution with distilled water, or even installing a reverse osmosis system in your home to deal with this. Our article will discuss adding some acids to our brewing water to optimize the mash pH and sparge water alkalinity, and diluting your own water with distilled or reverse osmosis water.

For further information on reducing alkalinity with lime, please see: http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Alkalinity_reduction_with_slaked_lime . The technique is easy, but far beyond the scope of this article. This works well for brewers with good but alkaline water, and is worth considering as it is inexpensive.

One of the easiest ways to estimate your probable mash pH is with a brewing water spreadsheet. There are several available online, and in some brewing software programs you may already have.  We recommend the Advanced Water Calculator at Brewer’s Friend here:  https://www.brewersfriend.com/?p=2959&preview=true .  Each calculator may differ some in the algorithms they use, but most are fairly similar. With your water report in hand (or using the default for reverse osmosis water if that is your supply), you enter the values into the software where indicated, along with the volume of water you are starting with and the batch size. The volume of water you may start with may be a gallon or two more than your batch size, due to boil off and grain absorption and there will be a box for this. Using the recipe input portion, you add the amounts of the grains you are using in the current batch. The spreadsheets will then give you a projected estimate of the mash pH.  The water calculator in Brewer’s Friend is easy to use with a very small learning curve.

You will notice that almost all of the mash pH projections for light to amber colored beers will be higher than desired. That is where the acid additions come in. The acids of choice for brewers are lactic acid and phosphoric acid in the US and often CRS in the UK. There are others available, but many (such as citric acid) may have an undesirable flavor impact so lactic acid and phosphoric acid are more widely used in the US. Lactic acid may have a flavor impact in large amounts as well, so if you have more than moderately alkaline water you may wish to use phosphoric acid which is more flavor neutral. Make sure to look at the strength of your acid. Lactic acid usually comes in 88%, while phosphoric acid can be 10% or 88%. The spreadsheets have a place to add the acid of choice (with the strength) on them, and then recalculate the mash pH of your batch.

Since the grains have a natural acid content, when mixed with water the pH of the mash will naturally drop. Dark roasted grains are more acidic than pale grains, and will drive the mash pH lower without adding acid to the mash. Unless you are brewing a very dark beer, many water supplies will require some acid however, and pale beers most of all. Using a soft water with low alkalinity is a key to success with beers such as pilsners because of this, while brewing a stout will require some alkalinity to balance the acidic grains. That is where the spreadsheets can be helpful, so that the acid content of the grains is estimated and then balanced against the alkalinity of the water. Target a mash pH of 5.2-5.7, ideally 5.3-5.5, for best results. Don’t forget that readings are always done at room temperature. It is highly recommended to do a test mash- that is, a very small batch of the recipe you are using, with the same volume of water per ounce of grain, and to check the pH. You will then know how the entire volume will react, and can make adjustments to your acid additions as needed when making the batch.

In rare cases, it may be necessary to add alkalinity to your water. For example, if you are starting with soft water with low alkalinity, the darker grains used in a porter or stout may drive your pH too low. Unless you have naturally high sodium in your water, baking soda is the addition of choice. Calcium carbonate (chalk) has been used routinely in brewing, but because of its limited solubility, it does not dissolve well in the mash unless extraneous measures are taken, and should be avoided.

heating brewing sparge water brewing water chemistry

It is also important to treat the sparge water if you have alkaline water. If you adjust your sparge water to have a pH of 5.5-6, and avoid any additions of alkalinity like baking soda, you should be all set. Many brewers will choose to sparge with 100% distilled or reverse osmosis (RO) water in lieu of acidifying the water, and that works well. To acidify the sparging water, lactic acid or phosphoric acid can be used. Often, this is very little acid especially if you are using 88% lactic acid so a pipette or dropper is very helpful. To avoid flavor impacts, using phosphoric acid is recommended if more than 5 ml of lactic acid in 5 gallons of water is required for the necessary pH drop. If you do not have a pH meter, the sparge water tool in the brewing water spreadsheets can be used.

To check the mash pH, a small sample of the mash can be taken out and cooled to room temperature (72-75 degrees or so) and the reading taken with a freshly calibrated pH meter. A small shot glass cooled in an ice batch works well for this. The pH of the mash does change as the mash proceeds, however slight, and so the first reading should be taken within about 10 minutes of mashing in. If it is fairly close to the projected desired pH, it should be left and notes taken for next time as chasing pH can be futile if adding acid and then alkalinity to try to hit the target. If the mash pH is wildly off from the projected pH, a new reading should be taken before attempting any fix.

For many brewers, mash pH adjustments may seem overwhelming, at least at first, so further reading is recommended. This article attempts to break water chemistry down into the simplest methods and this is a very complex subject.

If all of this still seems very difficult at first, one of the quick and easy ways to get a likely acceptable mash pH is to start with 100% reverse osmosis (RO) water and add a bit of lactic acid or acidulated malt to it. That will be appropriate for most light/pale beers, although not as precise as targeting a mash pH with the water additions and grist in the recipe. Using RO water for the mash and sparging water, and using acidulated malt in the amount of 1-2% of the grainbill (usually 2-4 ounces in an 11 pound 5 gallon batch) will often get you quite close. For a stout or other beer recipe with 1# of dark roasted grain like roasted barley or black malt, leave out the acidulated malt.  This should result in an acceptable end product without worry.

We will talk about more specific steps to make water chemistry easier for you in the next article of our series.

 

Brewing Water Basics – Part 1

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

brewing water, mash water

For many brewers, water chemistry is treated as the last frontier of homebrewing. Oftentimes, it is ignored or at least not something homebrewers want to think about. The old adage “if your water tastes good, it’s fine to brew with” may be repeated, and believed. The brewer may work on refining recipes and take great pains to provide fermentation temperature control, but ignore the water used in brewing.

This is a mistake because the largest component of beer is the water. Managing the pH of the mash and the flavor contributions of the water can take a good beer to a great beer. While it’s true that poor tasting water will make poor tasting beer, the inverse is not always true. Great tasting water out of the tap may not be well suited to brewing. Additions to the water by the water supply company such as chlorine, or the more stable form called chloramine, keep your water supply safe for drinking but chlorine can negatively impact the flavor of the beer. In some areas, the water out of the tap may be high in bicarbonate or iron which can also negatively impact your beer. If you wish to not delve into water chemistry at all, it is advisable to use reverse osmosis water from the water dispensers at grocery stores or distilled water as it would be a blank canvas to start with. Even so, better beer can be made with paying attention to a few water additions and mash pH that will be discussed in this article series.

Where to Start With Brewing Water

Getting a water report from your water company, if using municipal water, is a great place to start. They should have all of the information available, but you may not get all of the information you need from them at first. They are required to test the water for safety, and will report contaminants and pesticides, but will not always give you the components that brewers are looking for in a water report. You can ask brewers around you about the water, but often the easiest way to get a report on what you need is by ordering a household minerals test from a testing company. If you have a well, this is likely the only way to get a report. One of the dangers will dabbling with brewing water is to add items per a recipe without knowing what you are starting with, so the report is crucial before beginning. A popular company is Ward Labs, but there are others out there. A basic test should run under $35 for what you need. You will require sodium, calcium, magnesium, sulfate, chloride, bicarbonate, and total alkalinity.

It’s also important to find out if your water company uses chlorine or chloramines for disinfection of the water. In order to use any water for brewing, this is a steadfast rule: the water must be chlorine free. Chlorine will off-gas and/or boil off, but chloramine is a more stable form of chlorine and will not easily boil off. It can be removed via campden tablets (potassium metabisulfite) easily. One tablet crushed and dissolved into 20 gallons of water and stirred well will remove chloramine (and chlorine) in most cases. Removing the chlorine, or purchasing reverse osmosis or distilled water should be the first step in dealing with water.

Understanding Minerals

brewing water mineral additions

The results from your water test will give you the ion concentrations in parts per million (ppm) or mg/l. These minerals are important for brewing water, because they can affect the suitability for use in brewing and have a flavor impact.

If you have iron in your water (look for discoloration in plumbing such as rust spots), it is generally poorly suited for brewing as it is detectable in very small amounts in the finished beer as an unpleasant metallic or even blood-like flavor. Iron should be under 0.1 ppm in the water. If you have sulfide flavors and aromas in your raw water (rotten egg-like smell), it will not be suitable for brewing. If you have some sediment, a filter will often help. Just be sure to send the water after filtering for testing if that is what you plan to use.

The major mineral ions will we be working with are as follows:

Calcium: Calcium is the primary ion that determines hardness of the water. It helps with lowering the pH during mashing, facilitates precipitations of proteins in the boil (hot break), enhances yeast flocculation, and assists in preventing beerstone. Many lagers are made with very low levels of calcium, so it is not required but can be helpful in the amounts 50-100 ppm.

Magnesium: Also responsible for providing hardness to the water, magnesium can provide a sour/bitter flavor to the beer in amounts of 30 ppm or more. It has a laxative effect in much larger amounts. Malt provides all of the magnesium required for yeast health, so it is not required as an addition unless adding sulfate in the presence of a high calcium level (using epsom salts, or MgSO4).

Sulfate: Sulfate is the ion that is used to accentuate hop bitterness by enhancing the dryness of the finish. Additions are normally avoided in continental lagers or only used in small amounts, often 30 ppm or less. In most ales the ideal amount is 30-70 ppm. For highly hopped beers, the desired sulfate level may be much higher: 150-300 ppm for IPAs or west coast APAs. That amount will make the finish seem more crisp and dry. If using 150 ppm or higher, the chloride level should be under 50 ppm to avoid a “minerally” finish to the beer.

Chloride: Chloride accentuates a fullness or “roundness” of flavor in the beer, enhancing the malt sweetness. It is generally used in the 40-100 ppm range in many beers, but in the New England IPA style, the chloride is often over 100 ppm, up to 150 ppm.

Sodium: Sodium rounds out the malt flavors, and can be used in modest amounts (under 150 ppm). A higher concentration can make the beer taste salty, and having a high sodium combined with a high sulfate level can create a harsh bitterness. It is generally recognized that keeping the sodium at 0-60 is a safe bet. Using brewing water sourced from a water softener is to be avoided.

Bicarbonate: Bicarbonate plays a huge role in water chemistry for brewing. It raises the pH of the mash, so should be kept under 50 ppm for pale/light colored beers. An amber colored beer could use a bicarbonate amount of up to 150 ppm (depending on the grainbill). A very dark beer with roasted grains (like a stout) could easily go up to 200 ppm or even a bit more, as more bicarbonate is needed to balance the acidity of the dark roasted malts. As such, there is no ideal range for mashing water except that what is needed to achieve an appropriate mash pH. In sparge water, low bicarbonate water is desired to avoid tannin extraction from the grain. This will be discussed at length in our next article on water and mash pH.

Brewing Salts

The common brewing salts are gypsum, calcium chloride, epsom salts, chalk, sodium chloride, and baking soda. These are available at the homebrew supply store, or can sometimes be found at your grocery market.

Gypsum  (CaSO4 or calcium sulfate) is used in brewing to bring calcium and sulfate to the water. This can reduce the mash pH, in a small amount as can calcium chloride.

Calcium chloride (Pickle crisp or CaCl2) is used to add calcium as well as chloride, and epsom salt (MgSO4 or magnesium sulfate) is used for the magnesium and sulfate contribution. Plain old non-iodized table salt (NaCl2 or sodium chloride) brings sodium and chloride to the table.

Chalk: (CaC03 or calcium carbonate) has been traditionally used to raise mash pH in cases where it may be needed, but it doesn’t dissolve well without extraneous measures and is to be avoided in general.

In those rare cases where the mash pH should be raised, baking soda (NaHCO3 or sodium bicarbonate) is most useful.

Lactic acid or phosphoric acid are the most common acids used to lower the mash pH if needed.

A helpful comparison to brewing salts may be seasoning salts in cooking. Just as making chicken soup with a great recipe and fresh ingredients can be improved with a bit of salt or some bay leaf, a great beer base can be improved with a bit of tweaking of brewing salts. Too much salt in the chicken broth can ruin the soup, however; and too much of a brewing salt can ruin the beer. Using more conservative additions with the “less is more” idea is a great way to approach adding brewing salts to your homebrewing repertoire. You don’t want a “minerally” or harsh beer in the end after all your hard work!

There are brewing spreadsheets and books available to help you decide where to target your ideal concentrations of those ions, and Brewer’s Friend has both a basic and advanced water calculator to help you reach your goals.   We have given you give a range, and it is recommended to stay at the lower end of the range until you know what you like. You can always add more next time, but you can’t take it out. One pitfall that many brewers fall into as they delve into water chemistry is finding a water profile from a historic city, and set that up as a target. That can be problematic, as it may not be what the breweries themselves actually used, as they may have preboiled the water to drop the bicarbonate, or used water from another source. If a profile seems to have very high numbers, and you’d still like to make an authentic London porter, dig a bit deeper into what the breweries in that area did with the water before brewing with it. Brewing water with less than your ideal ion targets may seem a bit bland (think of the chicken soup seasoning analogy) but won’t be undrinkable as it would be if you add far too much of a good thing.

A good way to see what the brewing salts may do to your beer is to try it out. Pour a pint of your beer, and add a dash of table salt to it to see what chloride brings out. Next time, add some gypsum, to see what that brings to the beer.

If you are just starting in water additions, you can get by with gypsum, calcium chloride, baking soda, and lactic or phosphoric acid. We will discuss using those items as we discuss mash pH and delve deeper into water chemistry in the next article.

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