RESIDUAL ALKALINITY AND MASH PH Nomographs

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by AHarper, Nov 21, 2018.

  1. AHarper

    AHarper Well-Known Member

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    Has anyone else thought that the Nomograph section (Chapter 15) of the How To Brew by John Palmer has confusing information?

    I have read through the chapter from the start where it explains how, using a nomograph, you can calculate the Residual Alkalinity of your mash water. It then goes on to explain how you can work out how to adjust your source water to get a style of beer you desire by marking up further points on the nomograph to deduce the chemistry needed to affect a change.
    They produce a chart such as below.
    upload_2018-11-21_18-15-10.png

    Then, at the very end of the chapter, they display a similar nomograph you can also download that gives you the ability to work out your mash chemistry.

    The problem I have is that this downloadable nomograph does NOT have the same detail at the top of the previously displayed charts. The Mash pH graduations, as shown above, do not exist. There is only a Change in Mash pH graduation above the Residual Alkalinity marks. So how do we determine what these marks mean? I can not see an explanation in the text - not one I understand fully anyway - so I have modified the nomograph to replicate the tutorial in the chapter.

    I would welcome anyone's input as to whether I have done it accurately nor not - or indeed if it is any use at all.

    upload_2018-11-21_18-31-53.png
     
  2. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Just use the water calculator on this site - no need to draw lines (with much respect to John - brew strong!).
     
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  3. AHarper

    AHarper Well-Known Member

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    Hi Nosybear
    I do use the calculator here - and it is excellent - it was more for the understanding of how it all works chemistry wise. I do the hit and miss thing about putting in values in the calculator and hitting update to see what happens. I'd like to know for sure what I'm doing which is why I read the "bible" to see what to do. I just thought they had confused the matter a bit having conflicting graphs.
     
  4. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    i'm a long way from high school chemistry classes, but I always found the textbook descriptions to be a bit obtuse for me. I've played around with the calculator here the last few brews, the hands on aspect helps me to understand it a bit better. now if only there was a way i didn't have to wait so long between experiments...
     
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  5. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    It seems this whole water thing has been needlessly over complicated. I understand that water chemistry is a pretty complicated subject, but as far as brewing is concern it just is out of hand and it has led to confusion.

    I follow some pretty simple rules:
    -Light beers, Pale Ales, IPA's all should have fairly soft water 10-30ppm total hardness, mash pH @5.4 at room temp.
    -Brown Ales, Porters, etc water hardness should be @ 50-100ppm, mash pH @5.6-5.7 room temp
    -Stouts, extremely dark beers water hardness should be @ 150-200 ppm mash, pH @5.7-5.8 room temp
    -Light beers pH at pitch 5.1-5.2
    -Brown beers pH at pitch 5.3-5.4
    -Dark beers pH at pitch 5.4-5.6

    It's always easier to lower pH than to raise it. If you drop too low, let it go, correct it the next time you brew. It is almost impossible to add hardness to soft water (RO) without blending in a naturally hard water.

    Water calculators are a great place to start, but over the years I've rarely use them and go by the seat of my pants and it works really well.
     
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  6. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    I get the feeling that the really detailed water chemistry explanations deal with what is possible rather than what is significant. Or that may be me not wanting to spend the time to truly understand all that is being explained. Mash pH and residual alkalinity at homebrew scale is one of those that doesn't seem to be worth the effort, mainly just having a minor effect on extract time and efficiency.

    The balance of the salts, however, do seem to make a noticeable difference and the water calculator on this site is great for that. Though what that balance should be really is a personal preference (or style related) judgement.

    There's a bunch of home brew scale experiments here you can take with a pinch of salt (sorry about the pun) - http://brulosophy.com/?s=water+chemistry
     
  7. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    This is true, I forgot to mention that part.
     
  8. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    Sounds a lot like math, I try to avoid that.
     
  9. Ozarks Mountain Brew

    Staff Member

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    I think home brewing is very forgivable to an extent meaning its very hard to mess up a brew completely but if you were to brew the same beer over and over you will notice a slight difference, some differences might be the after taste or how thin or thick the mouthfeel or how the hops taste bitter or soft but the flavor remains the same, think of alkalinity as a multiplier, it multiplies the bitterness and harshness on the other hand multiplies the softness if not present, these things have very slight differences unless your a good judge
     
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  10. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    I'm also coddled by the local water here. Some of the cleanest in the world. Just need to cover off the chlorine/chloramines and add the calcium.
     
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  11. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    Sounds a lot like the water in many parts of central and western Oregon.
     
  12. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Or metropolitan areas in Colorado. Others, well, the well water is ancient water so it's been soaking up stuff for millennia.
     
  13. Ward Chillington

    Ward Chillington Well-Known Member

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    I gave up on water for now since it can become such a complex part of the process and have resolved that this quarter of the recipe is what will always give my brew a local profile. So after that bit of rationalized self serving marketing for my brewing efforts; I need to point you to a 3 to 5 hour rabbit hole to jump down. If you have the time to listen go find the BN web site and download the Podcasts where John Palmer talks about this on his Nomagraphs. An easy Googleing of "brew strong water" should land you the results of a 3 part series of the Brew Strong Podcast that Jamil and John Palmer did in 2009. JP talks about the genesis of the graphs and how to use them. There is also a 4th show on the site I think it's called "Water Revisited" that they did a few years later.

    After listening to these shows a few times over ( I have a long commute), I concluded that if I fiddle with water beyond the in line RV Filter I use now, it will only be to try to change the mash pH just a smidge and that will only be after I have a better idea of what's coming out of my well. If I correctly recall you too will hear somewhere in this series the other best brewing practice advice that I have taken to heart after sanitation, sanitation, sanitation which is John Palmer stating that brewing is a pretty robust system which with the great advice I have taken from this site, you have to really REALLY screw up to NOT make beer.
     
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  14. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    If I could make good beer with local tap water all it would get is a campden tablet. Unfortunately our tap water has over 200ppm Sodium and a TDS that averages around 350ppm.
     

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