Magnesium importance in water

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Bubbles, May 27, 2021.

  1. Bubbles

    Bubbles Member

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    Ooof, 4:1? Not that I'm doubting you, but where did you find this information on the contribution of minerals from malt? I'm interested to look into this since I want to brew some nice English bitters with an appropriate hop bite. I was calculating mineral contributions with the SO4/Ch ratio of around 2, but maybe that won't be enough. What kind of concentration of SO4 are you using? And then how do you calculate the Ch level contribution from malt?

    BTW, you're just up the river from me, I live in the Twin Cities, so I get my source water from the Mississippi. You must as well. I thought it was pretty good brewing water (but definitely needed some Ca based on the water works reports I get), but have toyed with going to RO or distilled. I imagine the first step would be to brew a beer using RO or distilled water and observing the difference when brewing with municipal water. My sense is that Gordon Strong used RO because his source water in Ohio was just too far out of whack for beer. I wonder what he'd say about our water.
     
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  2. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    I use RO water because my municipal water supply has two sources, and they use chloromine to disinfect. I used a 2:1 (sulfates to chlorides) ratio on an ESB I did a month or two ago, turned out fabulous! Just for reference, I use a 1:3 ratio for hazy brews.
     
  3. Blackmuse

    Blackmuse Well-Known Member

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    I thought I'd chime in here just to give my experience. - I'm no Palmer or any sort of water expert but I've been using the water Calculator here on Brewer's Friend for the last 3+ years and have had great success. Admittedly, my approach is a simplistic one - Malty/Balanced/Bitter.... Whenever I tried to mimic any locality's water - the additions would be much higher than I was willing to go - less is more in my book (5 Gallons is a lot of beer!) - I don't think I have ever added more than 6 grams of anything.

    I have very soft water and will always add Calcium Chloride to get my needed 50ppm for yeast health - from there I always add Epsom salt to provide a bit of magnesium and so4 to offset the calcium chloride addition. Sometimes I will add some gypsum in conjunction with the Epsom salt but not always. This works very well for my beers! I mostly make German inspired beers that lean towards malty if not balanced.

    My Epsom Salt additions have been in the 1g to 3g range on Every, 5.5 gallon, batch! I have NEVER felt that this addition caused any sort of off-flavor. My reported Mg levels have been in the 4 to 12 range.

    I do have Magnesium Chloride but have only ever used it once as I get what I need from the Epsom Salt. I used it very early on before I knew what I know now.

    I also typically use yeast nutrient (20g) so I suppose my Mg is a bit higher than reported by BF's water report. However, the yeast nutrient addition certainly helps - I brewed Saturday and am experiencing the longest lag time I have had in quite some time - I forgot the nutrient addition! I also didn't aerate as well as I usually do... Double whammy?

    Anyway, since I use it every batch (though at low levels) I thought I'd chime in. I honestly feel you would be fine without it however, 2-3 grams just to get you a bit of s04 and some Mg also will certainly not hurt your beer.

    Oh, I also made a video of how to use the Brewer's Friend water calculator if you were interested in trying that out. It's in the Tutorial section of the forums - I believe it is stickied so it comes up at the top.

    Happy Brewing!
     
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  4. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    I found some interesting information in a Master Brewers podcast:
    https://www.masterbrewerspodcast.com/066

    Master Brewers podcast are loaded with great info, some of pertains to home brewing and others don’t. This podcast goes in some detail about the chloride in malt and lab analysis though out the brewing process.

    St Paul water is very good brewing water, it’s often said that’s why the St Paul brew club wins so many competitions. My water is pretty hard, 225ppm total hardness. That actually works to my favor because I can blend it to whatever beer in brewing.
     
  5. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    While I"m not arguing adding a bit of magnesium (as long as someone stays under 30 ppm, ideally less, it'd be fine), but I do want to mention something here. Not @Blackmuse specifically, but for newer brewers.

    We talk WAY too much about this sulfate:chloride ratio. And I think we need to drop that from our brewing vocabulary for two reasons.

    One, 20 ppm of chloride and 80 ppm of sufate is a 4:1 ratio, but so is 100 ppm of chloride and 400 ppm of sulfate. In the first example, there would not be much of an impact at all but in the second, it would make a huge impact and make a far different beer. So it's not the ratio that we need to look at; it's the actual ppm of those ions.

    Secondly, talking about this ratio of 3;1, 1:2, or whatever makes it sound like it makes a difference. But think of sulfate and chloride as salts (which they are!) to season your beer. Just like with salt and pepper with cooking, if you've accidentally oversalted with table salt, adding double the pepper won't 'erase' that. For example, I used salt: pepper at a 2:1 ration, and then decided it was too salty so added more pepper. Now it's too salty AND to peppery! The same is true with flavoring your beer- adding more chloride to this "ratio" isn't going to change the impact of the sulfate. And vice-versa. Those salts are for flavor. They can impact the pH somewhat, but they are not primarily for pH management. Aside from adding some calcium (not strictly needed, but assists with yeast flocculation and preventing beerstone), the reason to add salts at all is purely for flavor.
     
  6. Blackmuse

    Blackmuse Well-Known Member

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    Oh I like this! You just gave me the biggest - "OH, YEAH - that makes sense" moment! - I should print this and put in on the wall of my brewery! It opens several other questions! - I think I'll jot them down on paper and come back to ask you @Yooper !
     
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  7. Donoroto

    Donoroto Well-Known Member

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    It is both, but I 100% agree it does not make ALL that much difference. Once you have a couple minerals (and malt or LME or DME generally has all you need) in the water it is going to be fine.

    SOME of us enjoy obsessing over it. Like me...
     
  8. Bubbles

    Bubbles Member

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    I want to get these ideas into some useful way for me to digest them, so let me ask -- if I were to use a mineral profile from the "Water" book's chart I noted above, so that all of the mineral concentrations are well within "safe" concentrations for beer, then does the SO4/Ch ratio become more critical and significant? Also, if the grains contribute significant levels of, for example, Ch, doesn't that more or less ruin our efforts to create the water appropriate for the beer style we're brewing? Ultimately, after getting the feedback I have, I'm starting to wonder about the usefulness of the water profiles suggested in the "Water" book's chart and, for that matter, what the mineral profile actually is. Perhaps those profiles were formulated with the integration of some standard of anticipated mineral contribution from the mashed grains?
     
  9. Blackmuse

    Blackmuse Well-Known Member

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    @Yooper:
    1. Have I merely been adding enough to provide sufficient minerals for the yeast but not enough to reach a person's taste threshold? (Totally cool if the answer is yes - lol)
    Typical ppm of each mineral - Ca: 50-80 / Mg: 4-12 / Na 4-50 / Cl: 50-100 / So4: 50-100
    2. At what ppm do these typically reach a person's taste threshold?
    3. Is there a good way for me to start tasting the effects of each without ruining 5 gallons of beer? - My guess is simply add a small touch to a pint or maybe a liter of beer and take notes as to when I can taste it and what it changes in the beer?

    Thanks for the wisdom!
     
  10. Bubbles

    Bubbles Member

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    Just re-read your post and the investment I was concerned about, fiscally, is an RO water filter set up. I know you can get RO water at a variety of stores, but it does mean more lugging of heavy stuff around whereas a RO filter at home would be far more convenient, but cost more for the initial investment and then the filter replacements. Given that my source water is pretty decent and, for the most part I can use it undiluted, except for pale beers, it's a bit of a question as to whether to just get distilled water when needed for dilution or think about taking the plunge and getting a RO filter system, then following Gordon Strong's path in simple profile formulations so I have a "clean slate" mineral-wise.
     
  11. Donoroto

    Donoroto Well-Known Member

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    Attached is my water profile, not a lot of minerals. RO makes sense if you have hard water. In my case, tap water is just fine.
    D57E8B6D-2D47-43EF-8146-60B20D46F3BB.png
     
  12. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Great pilsner water:)
     
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  13. Daniel Parshley

    Daniel Parshley Active Member

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    After a Wards Lab test, I went to R/O or distilled water and stayed with mostly extract brewing. The quality of my beer went up noticeably. I want to brew beer and keep it simple, too. I'll pay the $5 for water rather than pay for a water treatment system I have to maintain.
     
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  14. Daniel Parshley

    Daniel Parshley Active Member

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    Want to trade water? Okay for an English Ale but not much more.
    pH 8.0
    Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 291, Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.49
    Cations / Anions, me/L 5.3 / 5.2 ppm
    Sodium, Na 38
    Potassium, K 5
    Calcium, Ca 43.5
    Magnesium, Mg 16
    Total Hardness, CaCO3 177
    Nitrate, NO3-N 0.1 (SAFE)
    Sulfate, SO4-S 21
    Chloride, Cl 14
    Carbonate, CO3 < 1.0
    Bicarbonate, HCO3 215
    Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 178
    Total Phosphorus, P 0.01
    Total Iron, Fe < 0.01
     
  15. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    #35 Silver_Is_Money, Jun 1, 2021
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2021
    Iron is not an issue, so IMHO this water should be good for far more than just English Ales. To address the Alkalinity add 5.2 mL of 88% Lactic Acid (or 54.5 mL of 10% Phosphoric Acid, or 4 mL of 85% Phosphoric Acid for better flavor neutrality) to every 5 gallons, plus to bring up the calcium and chloride ions add 2 grams of CaCl to every 5 gallons. No need to get overly stressed out over matching so called 'water profiles' in my opinion.

    BTW, your SO4 ion is actually 63 ppm, and your NO3 ion is actually ~0.42 ppm.

    Note: Depending upon the style or color of the beer you are making, additional acid may or may not be needed in the mash water. For light colored beers, more acid will likely be needed in the mash water. For dark ales less acid may be needed in the mash water.
     
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  16. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    #36 Silver_Is_Money, Jun 1, 2021
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2021
    After the addition of 4.0 mL of 85% Phosphoric Acid (or one of the listed alternatives) plus 2 grams of 'nominally' CaCl2.2H2O (nominally pure Calcium Chloride Dihydrate) to 5 gallons of your water, your waters resulting analyticals should be ~ as follows:

    pH ~5.5
    Sodium, Na 38
    Potassium, K 5
    Calcium, Ca ~72.3
    Magnesium, Mg 16
    Total Hardness, as CaCO3 ~246.7
    Nitrate, NO3 0.42
    Sulfate, SO4 63
    Chloride, Cl ~65
    Carbonate, CO3 0
    Bicarbonate, as HCO3 ~24.4
    Total Alkalinity, as CaCO3 ~20
    Total Phosphorus, P 0.01
    Total Iron, Fe < 0.01

    I might add that some 1950's and 1960's era peer reviewed literature claims flavor benefit in targeting ~40 ppm sodium for very light colored beers, and ~80 ppm sodium for very dark beers.
     
  17. Donoroto

    Donoroto Well-Known Member

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    You're welcome to visit with a large tank, take all the water you need. I got plenty so no need to bring any...

    The greatest advantage of water like yours is that the soap rinses off in the shower. Trust Me that really soft water makes it seem like you've greased yourself. Mine's OK but not ideal for that.
     
  18. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    For me I don't think we should drop it from our vocabulary, but unless you're paying attention to the PPM you could be wasting your time. The podcast @HighVoltageMan linked above has some really interesting information on the contribution from the grains and why you probably need to think in terms of ratios (as well as PPM) when you're targeting a flavour/perception with your salt additions.

    Does the water calculator here make any attempt to add the various mineral contributions from the grains? I can imagine it would either be a simplification, so possibly not worth doing or a massive, ever changing, challenge.
     
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  19. Silver_Is_Money

    Silver_Is_Money Active Member

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    #39 Silver_Is_Money, Jun 2, 2021
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2021
    The calcium and magnesium content found within malts is not in the ionic state. Rather, it is in the molecular state. The calcium and magnesium that are added to ones brewing water is freely in the ionic state as soon as it dissociates upon dissolving. This is the meaning behind the terms 'bound' and 'free' for minerals. The two forms are not the same thing. One can interact/react, and the other cannot (unless via some mechanism it becomes unbound) interact/react.

    That said, how is anyone, or anyone's software, supposed to know the molecularly 'bound' minerals contents of their malts. It seems as if the worlds major malting houses would list this information among their key published malt analyticals if anyone at all within the brewing industry itself thought there was any significance to brewing to be found within this molecularly bound to organic substances mineral content information.

    In order to even have the potential to dissociate and thereby ionize a molecule must first be soluble in water. I presume that many to most of the organically complexed and thereby tightly bound minerals within malts to be highly insoluble.
     
  20. Bubbles

    Bubbles Member

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    OK, let me throw out an example -- I've read on this site and in "Water" that Mg need not be added to mash water since there is plenty of Mg available due to the grains. Is this another misinterpretation of the availability of Mg? Or does the organically bound Mg satisfy the requirements for Mg in some way I'm not comprehending? My impression of your post is that one should pay a fair degree of attention to the mineral profile of your brewing water since, at least, Mg and Ca are not able to transform from the organically bound state to the ionic state. Does this apply to other critical components, say, for example, SO4?
     

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