Couple of questions about water

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by J A, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Messages:
    3,476
    Likes Received:
    2,694
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    I've made a few simple changes to my water from time to time but mostly, I've stayed with brewing with simple carbon-filtered tap water so that I've been able to concentrate on making the best beer possible with just that water and pay attention to other variables that help or hinder. Now it's time to start tweaking and improving to look for another level of improvement.
    What are the chemicals/additions that are used most often. I have Calcium Chloride and Gypsum and Lactic Acid (though I mostly use acidulated malt to adjust PH) and, of course, table salt and baking soda.
    What are some other useful things to have around.
    Also, what's the most common practice in terms of addition timing. Strike? Sparge? Boil? I'm sure it varies but I'm trying to keep it simple while I try to up my game by paying more careful attention to water chemistry.
    Do most brewers choose a target water profile based on style or locality?... or both?
     
  2. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2018
    Messages:
    3,998
    Likes Received:
    7,325
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Fallon, Nevada
    Choosing a profile based on a locale, as a rule, isn't useful. With few exceptions, brewers treat(ed) their local water in some way. In most cases, there are no details available. Many of today's water calculators give you the ability to enter your local water profile and build from there. This may include diluting with distilled or RO in some cases.

    You have a good list of salts commonly used for adjustments. On that I would be using canning/pickling salt rather than iodized table salt. Some may argue that the amount of iodine in table salt is inconsequential, but if you don't know the iodine concentration of your source water and/or sanitize with Iodophor, it's just cheap insurance.

    As a rule, a calcium concentration of at least 50 ppm is recommended to promote good enzymatic action in the mash and clarity in the final product among other things. Personally, with the exception of lagers, I shoot for 80ppm. Chloride/Sulfate ratios tend to influence body which accents either malt or hops.

    Other than that, unless you're brewing darker beers in which the more acidic malts lower pH beyond an acceptable range, baking soda is a good way to bring it back up. Epsom salts are great for increasing sulfates without adding more calcium. The Magnesium they add is usually not necessary for yeast health, as the grains almost always take care of this need. Any other trace elements needed can be added by using a yeast nutrient. Fermaid-K is a well accepted and affordable nutrient.

    Acidulated malt is a very common way to lower pH in many cases. The problem with acidulated is the cost factor vs. 88% Lactic Acid. If you only need a small adjustment, it's useful, but in many cases it can come close to doubling the cost of your grain bill. I use only 88% Lactic.

    Everything I post here is based on experience and, to a lesser degree, opinion formed by endless hours of reading. Personally, I don't use Brewers Friend's water tools for anything other than converting grams to teaspoons, but believe the current version to be a great tool.
    Hopefully, you've gained something from this lengthily response. Having seen your wisdom here for several months, I'm sure you'll have no problem working with your water.
     
  3. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2017
    Messages:
    3,756
    Likes Received:
    2,983
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    IT Manager
    Location:
    Edmonton
    I tend to be heavy on the Gypsum, Calcium Chloride (pickle crisp), table salt, and Lactic. In varying amounts.
     
    BOB357 and J A like this.
  4. Ozarks Mountain Brew

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    7,767
    Likes Received:
    3,977
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    IT Managment
    Location:
    The Ozark Mountains of Missouri
    I really have to go with the style of beer you're brewing, my water changes per that style and every batch is different, I never choose a common target report unless its a pale ale or ipa which I've brewed hundreds of times, I like to think of this simply Calcium is a must over 50 ppm, magnesium you want as low as possible and mainly to prevent bowel problems, so salt needs to be low in my book unless it's a really dark and bitter beer, and that just leaves CL, S04 and water hardness, you can think of CL as being malty and S04 as bitter and hoppy, the water hardness is only needed for a dark heavy beer in my book in most cases it will also enhance bitterness or IBU levels so that can be a tricky balance when the ph is 8 or 9 the acid to lower it will cancel out the hardness completely so the bitterness needs to be higher or adjusted accordingly I try to use a rough rule of 1 to 3 ratio or 3 to 1 of CL to S04 and just acid to lower my ph and I use 88% phosphoric just for no flavor issues that lactic can have
     
    Trialben, BOB357, uvmnick and 2 others like this.
  5. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Messages:
    3,476
    Likes Received:
    2,694
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Very helpful, thanks. As I mentioned, I'll take a slow and methodical approach.
    I feel like my beers are by and large of good quality at this point, both objectively and subjectively speaking but there's more to do. I imbibed a lot of "research" on my recent vacation to the NW and I'm really feeling inspired by some of the beers that I was able to get there. Upping the game on my IPAs and Pales is a must and I've been wanting for a while to notch up the quality of my lighter beers, Belgians and lagers.
    Fun stuff! ;)
     
    BOB357 likes this.
  6. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2012
    Messages:
    9,418
    Likes Received:
    6,670
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Aurora, CO, USA
    You pretty much have all the chemicals you need. Addition: I add salts to the mash water, as well as acidifying to pH of 5.4. The calculator does a good job of estimating the acids to add. In general I don't shoot for a given water profile, I make sure I have 75-125 ppm calcium, balance the sulfate and chloride based on the flavor profile. Baking soda is generally useless. Table salt rounds out flavors nicely and is a great source of non-calcium chloride. One thing missing: Some metabisulfite. I'd dechlorinate with that rather than a carbon filter. It helps to understand residual alkalinity. It's the measure of alkalinity remaining after the mash buffers have done their thing. A RA of 0 moves the mash pH 0 points. Positive values increase it, generally only used for very dark beers, negative values decrease the mash pH.

    Forgot to mention: The one thing that is most important is mash pH. The second most important is enough calcium.
     
    Aub and Texas Ale Works like this.
  7. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2018
    Messages:
    3,998
    Likes Received:
    7,325
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Fallon, Nevada
    Isn't the Northwest great! Leaving on a trip Monday, We'll have an afternoon/evening in Bend, OR, followed by a couple of days in Seattle. After that we'll do southern BC and on up to Banff, Alberta I break with beer in Alberta. Their beef is the best I've ever had. . On our return we'll drop into Spokane and then back to Seattle. On our way home is a couple of days in Bend, which is our favorite beer city.

    Is coming home 5 to 10 lbs. heavier a problem? Only to my wife and my doctor :) To me, it's worth every bite and every pint. Glad you grabbed a bit from my rant.
     
    thunderwagn and J A like this.
  8. White Haus Brews

    White Haus Brews Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2018
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    136
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Occupation:
    Nurse
    Location:
    Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
    My water additions will change brew to brew but here's my main approach:
    -treat all water before I start.
    - pay closest attention to the SO4:Cl ratio for the style of brew (picking up other rips as I go along)
    - add lactic to attain my desired pH
     
    BOB357, Aub and J A like this.
  9. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    9,450
    Likes Received:
    9,525
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Pest control tech
    Location:
    Palmwoods QLD
    Nothing much to add to the collected brewing wisdom above but reassuring that im on the right track reading the above responses.

    I mostly use the brewers friend pale malty ballanced and pale hoppy profiles with good results. But some of the best beers have been using a straight ballanced profile.

    New to water too youll have fun adjusting your waternto your tastes. I dont think ive ruined a beer yet mucking around with water adjustments. I add all salts to mash water and acid to mash and a minuscule drop or to of 88% lactic to sparge water. Have fun!
     
    Aub, BOB357 and J A like this.
  10. Texas Ale Works

    Texas Ale Works Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2014
    Messages:
    355
    Likes Received:
    239
    Trophy Points:
    43
    This is how I am applying water chemistry. I am using a mix of lactic acid and acid malt until I am out of acid malt.

    My last beer I shot for 75-100ppm calicum then adjust until the calculations told meni was a bit hoppy.

    I also added 1/2 a campdon tablet to the water as it was heating to strike temp.

    Salts I dump into my grain, and the acid goes in right before I mash in.
     
    BOB357 likes this.
  11. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2018
    Messages:
    3,998
    Likes Received:
    7,325
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Fallon, Nevada
    I've too have found instances where the profile that looks to be a match for a style doesn't suit my taste. The published profiles in water calculators aren't chiseled in stone. They are, as most everything else home brewing, subject to change according to individual taste.

    I brew for me. If I find something that works for me, I do it. Home brewing is a hobby. A hobby is, for the most part, a selfish endeavor. I brew for me. If I like it, it's a success. If someone else doesn't like it, that's their problem. I don't change a beer for anyone but myself. A big reason I don't do competitions.

    If someone is looking for a beer that suits their taste they have two options. Buy beers until they find their favorite, or try to brew it themselves.
     
  12. Head First

    Head First Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,254
    Likes Received:
    2,455
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Back in the mountains
    The only thing I can add to the advice I have seen here is READ! There is tons of info out there. Basic chemistry is easily understood if you read it enough times. Just like adding fruit, start small and work up. Adjusting water now that i mostly understand it, my beer has improved imensly. READ, then see how you can make it work for you. You know enough about brewing to use it to your advantage. I never messed with water much as my water made good beer. After reading and listening to fellow brewers here, it eventually soaked in. Palmer knows his stuff along with several others. The water chemistry calculator here was designed by Kai. We have good software and great support on this site. The way you design recipes you won't have any trouble with a few water adjustments. Piece of cake for an old salt like you with just a little research.;)
     
  13. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2013
    Messages:
    2,494
    Likes Received:
    1,582
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Happily retired
    Location:
    Upper Michigan/Florida
    John, I don't know if you saw this, but I wrote a three part water chemistry article that may be helpful to what you want to know: https://www.brewersfriend.com/2017/11/19/brewing-water-basics-part-1/ is part 1. Parts 2 and 3 are also on the blog if you want more information about putting it together for brewing.

    I use acidulated malt, phosphoric acid, gypsum, calcium chloride and, once in a while, baking soda. That's about it for my brewing, but I usually start with RO water because my tap water is alkaline.
     
    J A likes this.
  14. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Messages:
    3,476
    Likes Received:
    2,694
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    I hadn't seen that, Lorena... thanks!
    I know for the most part what these basic components do and I'm looking for a way to estimate amounts without too much trial and error. I'm using the calculator and it's easy to make all the stars turn green in the ion section but knowing target profiles a little better will really help. I'll keep researching.
     

Share This Page

arrow_white