Water Chemistry Calculator: Salt Addition vs. Ion Results

Discussion in 'Calculator Support Forum' started by [email protected], Feb 22, 2020.

  1. texendo@gmail.com

    [email protected] New Member

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    I’ve been using Brewers Friend for over a year now and am still not clear on what’s happening with ion calculations in the Water Chemistry Calculator despite reading the explanation section many times. My basic question is: under the Salt Additions section, what volumes do the total amount of additions apply to when either checking or clearing the box for “Salts Added to Mash Only”? I would expect that if I check this box, the salts I’ve added would apply only to my mash water volume, yet I’m confused by the ion calculation results.

    The two attached photos summarize the root of my question. The only change made between these two photos is checking or clearing of the “Salts Added to Mash Only.”. When checked, I’d expect that the key ions that I’ve tried to increase (eg. Ca++, Na+, Cl-, SO4-2) with salt additions would increase since the same quantity of salt additions applies to only the mash water volume rather than the total water volume, yet the opposite result comes back. Further, the mash pH does not change between the two.

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    7769A0C2-1006-4715-9F96-E5DEACF52D5E.png
    A0940198-8537-4F0C-86C5-F0EF48290DDD.png
     
  2. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    Is it possible that the mash and sparge volumes change very slightly between those two? That’s how it appears.
     
  3. texendo@gmail.com

    [email protected] New Member

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    I did not change any water volumes between the two photos; the only change that I made was checking the “Salts Added to Mash Only box. However, your response makes me wonder if I’m misunderstanding how to use the calculator. I’ve assumed that if I were to check the SAMO box then the amounts of salt additions shown in the treatment section would apply to only the mash water volume. If that were the case, then I would expect the resulting ion concentrations to increase substantially after checking the box. Instead, what happens is that the resulting ion concentrations amounts decrease slightly.

    In this case, both my mash and sparge waters are from the same source and are very close in volume with the mash volume being slightly less than the sparge volume.
     
  4. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    I have wondered the same thing myself, it makes no sense that the ion levels would increase when you add the same amount of salts to a greater volume of water.
     
  5. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    #5 Yooper, Feb 24, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2020
    The same amount of volume (water) should have the same amount of ions if there is the same amount of each salt added.
    I’ve tried and tried and cannot recreate your error. Can you tell me exactly what all the entries are, including the grainbill, so I can try to recreate it using the same settings that you are?

    The thing that SHOULD change is the mash pH, since you are adding more alkali to a smaller volume of water- and that isn’t changing so that’s another thing I cannot recreate.
     
  6. texendo@gmail.com

    [email protected] New Member

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    Thanks for your quick attention to my query.

    If this is actually an error, it has been this way with every recipe I’ve made using BF; this is my seventh recipe.

    Based on your response, am I to understand that the salt addition quantities in the treatment calculator are to be separately added to each the mash and sparge water volumes if the SAMO box is not checked (assuming that one’s intent was to salt the sparge water also)? If so, this is what has confused me since the instructions say that the ion concentration calculations apply to the total water volume (mash and sparge) if the SAMO box is not checked. By my intuition, if I had equal volumes of sparge and mash water, I would expect the change in ion concentrations to double when I check the SAMO box.

    Attached are more photos with my inputs including the grain bill. Just let me know if you need more information.

    2B1A17D8-C728-4B77-B67C-E9488780DEBA.png F6DB6C51-E3DE-4EF3-BFC6-0D17588AF318.png 9BDEF30E-E58A-435B-87A9-8673A779BD6E.png
     
  7. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    In your screenshots, the overall water report has the concentrations exactly the same.

    Generally, for non-alkali additions, you can add them to the entire amount of water. However, if you are using baking soda or other things to raise the pH, you don’t add that to the sparge water. You never want to increase the pH of your sparge water which can extract unwanted tannins.

    The overall water profile should be the same whether you add 5 grams of something to the mash water or 5 grams to the entire water volume. The reason for only adding salts to the mash is for pH control, or to avoid adding alkali to the sparge.

    In those screenshots, I don’t see what the issue is.
     
  8. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    @Yooper The issue may just be confusion over what the calculator is calculating. Here is my thought process, and I believe @[email protected] 's thought process. Lets say I have a total of 10 gallons of water, split between mash, and sparge, 5 gallons each, and I add 6 grams of gypsum to the full volume of 10 gallons, the resulting ions should be X. If instead I add 6 grams of gypsum to 5 gallons of mash water only, would the ions not be different?
     
  9. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    No, of course not. If you’re using, say, 10 gallons of water. If you add 6 grams of gypsum to half of it, it’s still 10 gallons of water with 6 grams of gypsum. The concentration of the ions in the total overall water would not change. It WILL change in the mash, and that impacts the mash pH a bit.

    The mash PH will change a little, as gypsum drives down mash pH a tad.
     
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  10. texendo@gmail.com

    [email protected] New Member

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    Thanks for your quick attention to my query.

    If this is actually an error, it has been this way with every recipe I’ve made using BF; this is my seventh recipe.

    Based on your response, am I to understand that the salt addition quantities in the treatment calculator are to be separately added to each the mash and sparge water volumes if the SAMO box is not checked (assuming that one’s intent was to salt the sparge water also)? If so, this is what has confused me since the instructions say that the ion concentration calculations apply to the total water volume (mash and sparge) if the SAMO box is not checked. By my intuition, if I had equal volumes of sparge and mash water, I would expect the change in ion concentrations to double when I check the SAMO box.

    Attached are more photos with my inputs including the grain bill. Just let me know if you need more information.

    View attachment 8878 View attachment 8879 View attachment 8880
     
  11. texendo@gmail.com

    [email protected] New Member

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    Hi Yooper, thanks for your patience on this.

    Craigerr has articulated my question exactly. The BF calculator is attempting to estimate ion concentration (in parts-per-million or mg/L) so assuming equal sparge and mash water volumes, adding the same quantity of salts to only the mash water should result in a mash water ion concentration that is roughly twice what it would be if adding the salts to the entire water volume.

    I understand why we don’t want to add alkali to our sparge water and I rarely do. I also realize that an important goal is to create mash water with appropriate ion/mineral profile for the mash (and lowering the pH of sparge water separately as needed). As such, I would expect that if I checked the SAMO box, the calculator would calculate ion concentrations on only the volume of the mash water. However, based on your most recent response, it seems that the calculator will calculate concentrations based on the entire water volume, mash and sparge, regardless of whether or not we check the SAMO box. Am I understanding this correctly?

    I’m really just trying to figure out how many grams of salts to add to my mash water. I will acidity my sparge water separately.

    Thanks
     
  12. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    The profile in the bottom screenshot show the total overall profile- in the total of the water. That’s why the amount in the profile doesn’t double- that’s not the profile of the mash water, it’s the total profile.

    If you add your salts to the mash only, or split it among the mash and sparge, it’s the same amount of salts being added to the same volume of water.

    To put it a different way, say you are making iced tea and I am making iced tea. We are both making one gallon.

    You put 8 teabags in a 1/2 gallon and then add 1/2 gallon of water. I put 8 teabags in the full gallon, and don’t add any water.

    We both put 8 teabags in a 1 gallon volume total. So the make up doesn’t change at all.

    In the case of mash/sparge water, the mash pH may change because some of the salts drive down pH slightly (or up in the case of alkali). But using 6 grams of gypsum in 10 gallons of water gives you, say, 108 ppm, whether you add it to 5 gallons and top up with 5 gallons or adding it to the total of 10 gallons.
     
  13. texendo@gmail.com

    [email protected] New Member

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    Thanks Yooper, you’ve answered my question: the ion concentrations in the calculator are based on the total water volume (mash and sparge) regardless of whether or not the SAMO box is checked. Knowing this now, I won’t request any more of your time.

    That said, and maybe this is my lone opinion, but the calculator would be more useful and intuitive to me if when I checked the SAMO box the ion concentration calculations would apply to only the mash water volume. This would allow a brewer to directly set up the mash water appropriately to support the critical enzymatic functions and starch conversion taking place in the mash tun. By the time we begin sparging in a typical vorlauf/sparge process, the mashing process is essentially complete and the temperature has been elevated to stop the enzymatic reactions. Further, as you noted, we generally don’t want to add salts to our sparge water that may elevate the pH so it would be helpful if we could calculate the ion concentrations separately for each the mash and sparge volumes. Just my two cents.

    I’ve been homebrewing for 25 years and I really enjoy using BF. It’s the best application I’ve used, and the fact that you’re so responsive to technical questions makes it that much better. Your responses are appreciated! Cheers.
     
  14. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    Can I ask you why you would want the mash separate from the sparge water? I mean, you can do that with a workaround (by using 0 sparge water in the calculator) but I don’t know what critical enzymatic reactions occur with calcium chloride (as an example). I’ve never heard that those ions are critical for mash enzymatic activity, and was taught that those are flavor ions, or in the case of calcium, there to assist yeast flocculation and precipitation of proteins during the boil, helping with colloidal stability, etc.

    What would be a desirable amount of sulfate, for example, in the mash that would improve the enzymatic activity? This is very interesting to me.
     
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  15. texendo@gmail.com

    [email protected] New Member

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    Just knowing how the calculator works helps a lot. Yes, I can do the workaround by setting the sparge water to zero.

    As for the ion concentrations, I understand that it is essential to have appropriate amounts of the various constituents in order to achieve appropriate mash pH. In particular, the concentration of Ca++ and, to a lesser degree Mg++, ions is important for balancing out alkaline buffering in the source water thereby allowing a suitable mash pH to be achieved. For those of us with some buffering capacity in our source water, we often add calcium chloride to boost calcium levels, but not the buffering capacity, in order to allow a light coloured beer mash to achieve appropriate pH. I don’t know if sulfates play a role in the mash pH or the enzymatic activity, but I sometimes add them because of the effect on the final beer flavour (ie. dryness). Conversely, adding carbonates and bicarbonates may be desirable with some beer styles and source waters in order to achieve mash pH.

    With my particular source water, I often only add calcium chloride depending on the beer style. This allows an appropriate mash pH to be achieved, and it seems to be the practice of the local commercial brewers as well.
     
  16. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Just adding my 2c to this conversation.
    I've always added acid to adjust PH yes on the very rare occasion with darker beers some bicarbonates are added. Adjusting on with your salt ions may not be the best option compared to a near neutral acid like Phosphoric acid?
     
  17. Group W

    Group W Well-Known Member

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    I second what trialben said above. It appears your water is twice as alkaline as my well water. After three years I’m just now trying RO water from Walmart to smooth out my lighter beers. Like Ben, I set my salts first, then adjust for ph with acid on my lighter beers. I use baking soda to increase ph on dark beers with my well water but you shouldn’t need as much.

    One thing that stands out to me in the information is that there is baking soda to increase PH combined with acidulated malt in the grain bill. That seems odd to me.

    Hang in there. You have water that should work well for dark beers. I wouldn’t sweat the small stuff. Cheers!
     
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  18. texendo@gmail.com

    [email protected] New Member

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    Hi Trialben and Group W, thanks for the suggestions. I have used lactic acid in my mash water to help with the pH and it works, however the calcium in my current source water is below the lower threshold recommended for just about any beer so I like to add some not just for supporting an appropriate mash pH, but to ensure there is enough for yeast and protein reactions later in the process.

    I agree that it's weird to add the baking soda and acid malt, but this is a dark, sour beer and I was trying to boost the residual alkalinity to closer mimic the water of a brewery that makes this style. It might have been a knee-jerk reaction on my part but I think (?) it may also allow some additional sodium to be added without changing the sulfate/chloride ratio as would happen with adding NaCl.

    The water here does work quite well for dark beers, especially with a little calcium added...but with no need to sweat the small stuff! Thanks.
     
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  19. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    I see- thanks for the explanation.
    Remember that the calcium reactions (aside from the small amount needed to avoid beer stone formation) isn’t just in the mash. It’s the total amount in the water. That’s why I was confused on needing to know the amount in the mash.
    Normally you would not use baking soda and acid malt in the same beer- it’s counteracting each other. Remember that the sulfate/chloride ratio isn’t really “a thing”- it’s the total amounts that you’re using. Just like 2 grams sulfate and 1 gram chloride is a 2:1 ratio, but so is 250 grams of sulfate to 125 grams of chloride- but they are totally different waters and will give totally different results.

    Anyway, I understand now why you were asking to have the ions listed separately in the mash, and I’ll give that some thought.
     
  20. texendo@gmail.com

    [email protected] New Member

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    Thanks very much Yooper and all others who helped out with this question.

    Cheers!
     

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