Alkalinity question

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Bubbles, May 4, 2021.

  1. Bubbles

    Bubbles New Member

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    My tap water has an alkalinity value of 57ppm. Since I brew mostly English/Irish ales and Belgian ales, I'd like that number to be reduced. if I were to dilute my tap water 1:1 with distilled water, would that reduce the alkalinity value to half of 57ppm? Not sure how that works given the buffering ability of bicarbonate.
     
  2. Sunfire96

    Sunfire96 Well-Known Member

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    Hey Bubbles! The water calculator in the recipe builder can calculate this for you if you use the "blend water" option. You tell it the 2 water sources you'll be using and in what quantities and it spits out the mineral values. The water calc also has a FAQ if anything doesn't make sense. Cheers
     
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  3. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    Yes, that would reduce it by half, but keep in mind it also reduces the calcium/chloride/sulfate/etc as well.
     
  4. Bubbles

    Bubbles New Member

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    Yes, I just found out that, in fact, you can blend your source water and distilled. Based on what I'm learning, I won't need to do this except in those English Ales that typically have nearly zero bicarbonate.

    And, yes, I have been including the sulphate, chlorine, etc. Really nice to have such powerful tools when making beer recipes that accommodate our own water source particulars.
     
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  5. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    #5 Silver_Is_Money, May 4, 2021
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
    Dilution is not the only means whereby to reduce Alkalinity. But to your benefit there are two 1950's - 1960's era peer reviewed brewing industry level documents I've come across which state that once alkalinity is reduced to 50 ppm it will no longer have the potential to do damage. Both documents mention that 25 ppm Alkalinity is clearly a better goal to strive for, but that 50 ppm is acceptable. If your water is accurately measured at 57 ppm alkalinity it may not (with emphasis on "may") do much (if any) perceptible damage to simply use it as is. The only way to find out would be to try using it as is. And at the same time brew the same beer with it diluted, or better, reduced in alkalinity via acidification so most minerals remain the same. And then compare the two beers.
     
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  6. Bubbles

    Bubbles New Member

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    Good to hear the information from those papers!

    Yes, I've read elsewhere that getting alkalinity under 50ppm will help a great deal. And by diluting it with distilled water, my tap water will be above 25, but below 50. And if I were ambitious, I would do as you suggest and brew two beers with different waters. But I'm the kind of home brewer that likes to make different beers and rarely the same one twice. I doubt that I'll have to dilute my tap water with distilled water very often since even 57ppm should be fine for most of the beers I plan to brew, particularly the Belgians that tend to have relatively high levels of alkalinity if I recall correctly.

    Having said that, the pH on the water report is supposedly 9.1. Given the relatively low to moderate alkalinity, I imagine that there won't be much buffering of that high pH with the CaCO3 in the tap water and not much concern that the high pH will throw off the mash pH too much. Most recipes I've developed indicate a need for acidifying the mash (lactic acid, acid malt, etc.), but not very much. So, from what I can understand at this point, I seem to have quite good water for brewing, just a little alkaline for some fussier British Bitters, ESBs, etc.

    After a six year hiatus, the advances in brewing software I'm now learning seem to be a huge advance from the guesswork I used to do. This seems much more fun to have a bit more control, at least theoretically.
     
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  7. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    Based upon 57 ppm of Alkalinity (as CaCO3), if you add 0.35 mL of 88% Lactic Acid per US Gallon you will reduce the pH of your water to ~5.4, and also reduce its Alkalinity to ~5 mg/L (ppm). Without impacting its mineral content.

    3.6 ml per US Gallon of 10% Phosphoric Acid will do approximately likewise.

    For Metric, approximately the same will be achieved by adding one of the following to every 10 Liters of your water.
    0.9 mL of 88% Lactic Acid
    1.0 mL of 80% Lactic Acid
    2.8 mL of AMS (CRS)
    9.5 mL of 10% Phosphoric Acid
     
  8. Bubbles

    Bubbles New Member

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    Thanks again for your input, Silver. I used to add acidulated malt and did some rudimentary calculations to try to get a mash pH that was acceptable. But I didn't have a pH meter (am now planning to buy one), so I didn't have a clue as to whether the acid malt worked. I've read that most people prefer lactic acid over phosphoric, but don't know if there is any advantage over acid malt. I imagine that you may contribute to fermentables with the acid malt, but don't know if there is any impact on taste.

    I'm inclined to try the lactic acid approach and have played with the Beersmith software to incorporate it. Obviously the proof will be in what pH readings I get of the mash. Incidentally, what is AMS (CRS)?
     
  9. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    Acidulated Malt is fine for guiding a mash to a pH target (typically 5.4 pH), but my information above is intended only for addressing your waters Alkalinity. Depending upon your recipe you may (or may not) still need some Acid Malt.

    Retail AMS (known commercially as CRS) is a UK sourced blend of Sulfuric and Hydrochloric Acids. It is not available (to my knowledge) in the Americas.
     
  10. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    1.25 ounces of Acid Malt is nominally down right close to the acid equivalent of 1 mL of 88% Lactic Acid at a target pH of 5.40. But you would not use Acid Malt to adjust the Alkalinity of sparge water.
     
  11. Donoroto

    Donoroto Well-Known Member

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    It may be interesting to learn how malt is acidified. (Hint: lactic acid, from specific bacteria)
     
  12. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    It's sprayed with a natural lactic acid fermentation, effectively kettle-soured wort.
     
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  13. Bubbles

    Bubbles New Member

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    Once again, thanks for you help. Keep in mind, I'm trying to get as comfortable with the many aspects of brewing as I can, so I have to ask questions that exist because of brain cobwebs plus the tools that I now have that I didn't before. I'm trying to get all things organized before I do my first brew (Double Diamond clone), and this water chemistry seems to be one of the keys. First, does adding the lactic acid before raising the temp on the mash water seem to be the accepted approach? And the point of acidifying water like mine is to make the enzymes that chop up my grain carbohydrates into sugars happy, correct? And the pH of the mash water determines the quality (hop accentuated, malt emphasized, etc.) of the resultant wort and eventually beer, correct? So if I control the pH of the water I use to mash with and the sparging pH, I should be on the right track, right? I'm putting together a flow chart for brewing so I can keep it all straight until I get it back into my head. Thanks for any additional help.

    BTW, I'd like to hear about ways to control fermentation temperature (ensuring the temps don't go out of control on their own) that people have come up with. I know kegerators are one solution (that I'm considering, but I also want it for my corny kegs for dispensing), but I'd like to hear others' opinions. Should I start a new post on that topic?
     
  14. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    Due to the process details which Stan Hieronymus revealed for the award winning line of high priced Ales brewed by the Trappist Monks of the Rochefort Monastery, within his book titled "Brew Like A Monk", wherein he detailed that they intentionally mash at a pH that always falls between 5.8 and 5.9, but subsequently they "mineral acid" (as opposed to organic acid) acidify during the boil, presumably targeting 5.2 pH with the objective of maximizing hot and cold break (which are maximized at pH 5.2), I believe there to be two primary objectives and thereby two potential addition points at which to acidify.

    Prefacing this, from carefully reading the peer reviewed papers and documents of brewing masters of yore it appears to me that the presumption of targeting a nominal ideal 5.4 pH at room temperature is a misnomer, and the target of 5.4 pH was measured at mash temperature. Thus (in my opinion) the real "ideal" mash pH target in room temperature terms is more likely to be on the order of 5.6. In addition it is well known that mashing and even more so, boiling, at higher pH's ultimately leads to darker final beer color. We also know from no less an authority than Bamforth that mash yield (efficiency) is little impacted by mash pH, as the primary enzymes are rather pH resilient.

    Back to Rochefort. Rochefort is not overall concerned with regard to achieving a finished beer at a low Pilsner like final color of about 3.5-4 SRM as is the demand for many Pilsner or Pils style lagers. Therefore they do not need to concern themselves with early acidification which is primarily intended to keep final beer color at its lightest. They thus skip this step. But boiling at higher pH's is attested to result in a more harsh hop bitterness, albeit that it does also result in measurably greater hop utilization, meaning that hop usage whereby to attain any given IBU target is lessened via keeping boil pH at the high end for as long as is possible.

    Those who are most concerned as to maintaining low final beer color must acidify their mash water early (pre-mash). But Rochefort are only concerned to both maximize hot and cold break and enter fermentation at ~5.2 pH. If smooth (as opposed to harsh) bitterness is the goal then it seems that this latter boil acidification step should be done early, to perhaps (for the very smoothest of hop bitterness, with an acceptance of lower utilization requiring more hops to compensate) just pre boil.

    The above said, I have to believe that when Rochefort claims to mash at between 5.8 and 5.9 pH they are speaking in room temperature pH measurement terms. Mashing at greater than the uppermost extreme of 5.8 to 5.9 pH as measured at room temperature risks unleashing harsh tannin extraction from the hulls of the grists various malts and unmalted grains.

    In summary, the objectives for acidification (which at this juncture have grown from two to four) are:

    1) Mash in water with Alkalinity sufficiently addressed via acidification whereby to not exceed around 5.85 pH (as measured at room temperature) to avoid tannin extraction.

    2) If there is any concern for maintaining the very lightest possible final beer color, acidify early (meaning pre-mash) whereby to mash at ~5.4 pH (as measured at mash temperature), or 5.6 pH (as measured at room temperature).

    3) Maximize hot and cold break during the boil, and also aid the yeast in reducing the beers final beer pH to the ideal stability range by targeting the achievement of ~5.2 pH by the juncture of hot break.

    4) Acidify to accomplish #3 above early (meaning here pre-boil) if maximizing hop smoothness is the goal. Or acidify as late as 10 remaining minutes in the boil to both maximize bold/harsh hop expression and hop utilization efficiency while still allowing for maximum hot break and cold break.

    In passing, the present day popularity of targeting 5.4 pH (as measured at room temperature) during the mash and reducing acidification to one single addition step offers a compromise which greatly presumes a nominal drop across the boil of about 0.2 pH points whereby to achieve the real and ultimate goal of 5.2 pH at the juncture of the hot break. But the degree of measured pH drop across the boil has proven to be highly variable, and not an assuredly fixed quantity. So the compromise is a bit of a gamble. And the very least measured drop in pH across the boil corresponds to the lowest levels of added calcium pre or at the mash stage.
     
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  15. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    I should add that there is peer review documented attestation from brewers of yore that the higher the pH when entering the boil, the greater the drop in pH as measured across the boil, albeit with a maximum drop of about 0.3 pH points. And likewise there is attestation that if pH is reduced to 5.2 (or lower) pre boil there will be little to no additional pH drop measured across the boil.
     
  16. Donoroto

    Donoroto Well-Known Member

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    Yes, probably.
    I ferment one of two ways:
    Fermenter sitting in the dining room, hoping ambient air is sufficient. Maybe add a small fan to help cool the fermenter.
    Fermenter in the extra refrigerator, with an Inkbird controller connected to it. The Inkbird senses the fermenter temperature and turns the fridge on and off as needed. In winter, I use a heating pad (like for a sore back) if the temperature needs to rise. By taping the sensor to the fermenter body and covering it with thin insulation (felt pad) it keeps it all within a degree or two.

    At the moment I have 4 kegs in the fridge, so method 1 is being used...
     
  17. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    In this peer reviewed study the two beers mashed at the lowest pH's (5.40 and 5.33 pH) staled the most over time, and the beers mashed at higher pH's staled the least over time (see Table 5), with the beer mashed at 5.80 pH being among the best in this regard.

    https://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/j.2050-0416.2008.tb00324.x

    I can find nothing in this study that leads me to believe there is benefit in mashing at lower pH's.
     
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  18. Donoroto

    Donoroto Well-Known Member

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    At the very least in regards to staling. It appears they did not study the effects of mash pH on flavor as an absolute.
     
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