Water, minerals and alkalinity

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Duchifat, Feb 4, 2016.

  1. Duchifat

    Duchifat New Member

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    Dear All,

    As I am slowly gaining experience in brewing, I am trying to take more variables in account in my recipes.
    Now it's water. I requested a water profile and this is part of what I got:
    Alkalinity M 53 mg/L CaCO3
    Hardness 118 mg/L CaCO3
    pH 7.9
    Ca 38 mg/L
    Chloride 50 mg/L (free Cl)
    Na 36 mg/L
    Chlorine 0.4 mg/L (free)
    Sulfate 55 mg/L SO4

    I am planning to brew my first Saison. My questions are:
    1. would it be a good idea to acidify the water before mashing? What would be the best way to do this? Lactic acid? Would using acidulated malt be a good alternative?
    2. I read that sulfate levels above 100 ppm will enhance dryness and contribute to a refreshing character. Given the profile above, would it be a good idea to add calcium sulfate? The problem is, I would be adding calcium as well...

    Any general comments on this water profile would also be very welcome.

    Thanks in advance,

    Michael
     
  2. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    If you're asking these questions, I would advise you not to start messing with water. The answer to both is, it depends. And it depends on a lot. The Brewing Elements series book "Water" has a lot of information, I'd advise reading it as a starting point or, at minimum, "How to Brew" by John Palmer. Water is probably the most complex subject in brewing and there are really no easy answers.
     
  3. newmanwell

    newmanwell Active Member

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    1. Both methods work very well for lowering mash pH (I use lactic acid).
    2. It's the ratio of sulfides to chlorides that enhance dryness/bitterness.

    I agree with Nosybear, continue to read and play with the water chemistry calculator on brewers friend before you start making water adjustments.
     
  4. Duchifat

    Duchifat New Member

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    Thanks a lot for your references and answers. I'll do more reading and try to be less ambitious...
     
  5. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    this might be for another thread, but exactly how important is getting the right water profile for a style?
    i mean, i know that beer is mostly water, so it's "important", but would using a "stout" water profile make a horrible IPA? or can you somewhat compensate with ingredients, mashing techniques, etc.?

    definitely not trying to discourage anyone or anything like that, but i don't know what i don't know, ya know?
     
  6. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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    most water will make ok beer meaning its drinkable and not bad, but if you want a very good beer or even great, you need a specific water profile for that type of beer
     
  7. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    It's not terribly important to get water right for a style unless the mineral taste is a part of the style's profile. The most important variable seems to be residual alkalinity - how much alkalinity is left over after mashing and how that affects the mash pH. That affects conversion and fermentation. Following that, calcium concentration seems to be most important. You need over 50 ppm in the water. After that, well, it gets into shades from that point: Sulfide vs. Chloride, actual mineral flavors, and so forth. I don't worry about anything but RA and calcium and get good results. But then, I'm not trying to reproduce a Burton ale.
     
  8. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    interesting. it's good to know that i just "need" to dork with a few things (when i decide i've got the rest of the process down pat)

    for that calcium level, is that absolutely every time, every style it needs to be at least 50ppm?
    sorry for all the questions, i know there's some good reading material out there which i need to check out. but, you're talking to an english major, not exactly a chemist, so i go cross-eyed at this stuff after just a little bit :shock:
     
  9. newmanwell

    newmanwell Active Member

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    One point of adjusting your water is mash pH. If you stray out of the 5.2-5.6 range your extract efficiency is going to suffer. Just try making a blonde ale with water high carbonates. Also there is likely going to be astringency when your sparge gets above 6.

    Try making a stout with water that it very high in sulfates. It's probably going to taste harshly bitter (bitterness from dark malts, IBUs, and extra dryness enhanced by the sulfates).

    Many of the dissolved solids in water are good for yeast health, for example, calcium encourages yeast flocculation.

    So yes, your water is quite important. And of the "big 4" ingredients it's the only one that us as brewers can change.
     
  10. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    Well I suppose after 20 years of brewing, and a year and a half of doing all grain, maybe it's time I start messing with water. Who has that copy of Water for Dummies?
     
  11. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    That would be the Palmer version, although he provides a nomograph in his book rather than the spreadsheet, which you can get online. I've downloaded the spreadsheet - it contains the formulas for calculating the upper and lower residual alkalinity (RA) values based on the color (SRM) of the beer (hint, Austin, we could use a target RA calculator giving high/low/midrange in the Recipe Builder, the formulas are pretty easy). It seems to be very forgiving - the range of the calculations is generally over 50 ppm so we're not dealing with high precision here. I shoot for the mid-range (low+(high-low)/2) then use the Brewer's Friend calculator. I generally only modify dilution, acidulated malt, calcium and magnesium to get to where I need to be and I make the decision of gypsum vs. calcium chloride based on the outcome I want, generally favoring CaCl2 because I usually want malty beers. Sometimes I'll add some lactic acid to either the mash or the sparge, which I try to keep at pH5.5. Add running my water through an activated charcoal filter (the kind used to filter water from campgrounds into motor homes) and you have all the "dorking" I ever do with water.
     
  12. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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    Just for your info Austin left the company
     
  13. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Somehow I missed that. Sorry to see him go.
     
  14. GernBlanston

    GernBlanston New Member

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    Was he "dorking" around too much?
     

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