Water treatment in practice

Discussion in 'Beginners Brewing Forum' started by Jordan Penard, Jan 21, 2020.

  1. Jordan Penard

    Jordan Penard New Member

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    Hi All,
    I have been brewing casually for a year now, and I think it is now time for me to look into treating my water.

    Firstly, why do I want to treat my water ?
    I noticed that some tannins gets into the beer giving it a slight harshness. I noticed that in my IPAs but also in my darker beers. I managed to attenuate this slightly recently by reducing my amount of sparge water, and putting this water into my mash instead to end up with the same amount.
    I also now sparge with cold water to be sure that I reduce as much as possible tannins extraction.
    I'm also filtering my tap water with a filtering jug, and I'm even letting the water sit at room temp for a day before brewing.

    I have been reading about water chemistry recently in books and on the web, I gave a few water chemistry calculator a try to see how things works. I think I start to understand the theory (maybe ?), but I'm still far from understanding what I should do to fix my harshness problem.

    I got a water report from my water supplier, so here it is :
    - Calcium : 138mg/L - Looks good
    - Sodium : between 14.8 and 30.6mg/L - Looks good
    - Chloride : between 31 and 55mg/L - Looks good
    - Sulfate : between 18 and 42mg/L - Looks good
    - Alkalinity (HCO3) : 354mg/L - Too high
    - Hardness (CaCO3) : 345mg/L - Not sure we need this
    - pH : between 6.8 and 7.6 - Too high, I tested it with test strips and I'm reading around 6, which still seems too high

    They don't give anything for Magnesium, any idea how to work it out from those numbers ?

    Everything seems ok on the mineral side, but the alkalinity and the pH seems too high. If I understand well, high alkalinity will make it harder for the mash to pull the pH down.
    From here I think I can either add salts (Gypsum, Calc. Chloride) to lower the residual alkalinity which will help lower the pH but this will increase my minerals too much, so I don't think this is a good idea. Or I could add lactic acid or acid malt, but they may affect the taste if I use too much of it, and by the looks of it I would need a significant amount to bring my mash pH down to around 5.5.

    Does this make sense ?
    What would you suggest ?
    What mash pH do you recommend targeting and how would each side of the 5.1 - 5.6 range affect the end product ?


    Thanks
     
  2. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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    Look on the blog for our water treatment post
     
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  3. Mase

    Mase Well-Known Member

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    just out of curiosity, why do you think the “tannin” taste is coming from the Mash? Unless you are mashing above 170+ for the entire hour, I don’t see the tannins coming from the Mash. Nothing against water treatment, but make sure you know where the “tannins” are coming from. Regarding your water, if it’s public water, you use Camden tablets to remove the Chlorine or Chloramine.

    Again, nothing against water treatment, but I’d want to make sure I knew exactly where the tannins were coming from for sure, and to eliminate all chlorine’s/chloramines from the public water with a Camden tablet
     
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  4. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    ^^^ what he said^^^
    The water pH itself isn't so much of a concern as is the mash pH, and residual alkalinity.
    After reading (and by that I mean studying) the 3 part series on water on the blog, enter your water profile as a source profile and you can then play with using water additions to adjust your sulfate to chloride ratio. Sulfate to chloride ratio can be adjusted to accentuate hop or malt flavors.
    The water calculator is pretty good on this site.

    The #1 order of business to be sure that you have no chlorine, or chloramine in your source water. A campden tablet will take care of this.

    To get specific answers for all of your questions, you are truly going to have to do some research, and come to your own conclusions.

    As far as tannins go, I'm not sure tannins are related to your water profile, but others more knowledgeable will no doubt have comments on that.

    Good luck!
     
  5. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    And bingo, there you go!
     
  6. Jordan Penard

    Jordan Penard New Member

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    Were you talking about this 3 part guide ?
    https://www.brewersfriend.com/2017/11/19/brewing-water-basics-part-1/
    https://www.brewersfriend.com/2017/11/19/brewing-water-basics-part-2/
    https://www.brewersfriend.com/2018/02/13/brewing-water-basics-putting-it-all-together/

    I had a read through, and it looks like my reasoning is on the right track. I feed that I should only adjust my pH for now as my other minerals are in the right range. This guide also seems to encurage the usage of phosphoric acid to keep a neutral taste.

    Honestly I'm just guessing at this stage, and I'm thinking that if I can reduce my alkalinity and pH then I'll be able to taste my next batch and see if I'm still extracting tannins or not. I'm usualy mashing at 66C and it slowly drops to 60C over the 1h mash.
    I'm filtering and resting the water for a day, so I think no chlorine should remain, right ? My water supplyer doesn't use chloramines.
     
  7. Texas Ale Works

    Texas Ale Works Active Member

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    Where are located? Public or well water?
    Can you send a sample to Wards Lab?

    Also, can you please describe the tannin taste....are you sure it is tannins....
     
  8. Meatwad

    Meatwad Member

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    Mash pH above 5.8-6 can cause tannin extraction, especially if there's a mashout with higher temperatures.

    The larger issues here are the Ca and Alkalinity. This water needs to be cut with either RO or DI in order to lower the Ca and Alkalinity to more acceptable levels. Too much Ca will affect yeast flocculation.
     
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  9. Ward Chillington

    Ward Chillington Well-Known Member

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    The targets I use for mash are a pH of 5.3 to 5.5 for your lighter colored brews and 5.4 to 5.6 for darker stuff. I think I got this off of one of the Jamil Show's with John Palmer.

    Additionally, you say that the water pH is too high at between 6.8 and 7.6....too high for what? That looks pretty neutral to me. Also, are your thermometers right? I'm pretty sure all my recipes call for sparging at a higher than mashing temp......cold seems odd.

    Finally, this may help with your tannin taste description https://www.yaofamilywines.com/blog/The-Difference-You-Need-To-Know-Between-Tannin-And-Acid
     
  10. Jordan Penard

    Jordan Penard New Member

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    Thanks all for your help.
    To answer the question about describing the "tannins" taste I'm feeling : Tart and bitter lingering finish. It doesn't feel like acidity, I'm actually thinking that my heavily dry hopped IPAs could use a bit more acidity to make them more juicy.

    Ok, point taken for Camden tablet, I will give it a try to be sure.

    I'm in the UK, and I'm using tap water.

    What would be acceptable levels for you ?

    I think I understand what you mean now, the starting pH isn't the problem, 7 for example is reasonable, because the mash will pull it down. I will need to do a mash pH measurement next time I brew, I have only looked at calculators so far, and as it was predicting a mash pH of 6 for my standard smash IPA recipe I started to think that it might me an issue.
     
  11. Meatwad

    Meatwad Member

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    Alkalinity from negative values to 100 would be acceptable for light colored beers, and higher than 100 for darker beers. Darker grains are more acidic and lower mash pH more effectively than lighter lovibond malts. You're going to need to use 88% lactic acid in order to lower the alkalinity.

    Calcium should be between 50-75 from water source or mineral additions. The malt provides some Ca but not a sufficient amount.

    I still propose you cut your water with at least 50% RO or DI water to reduce the Ca and alkalinity.
     
  12. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    A pH of 6 for a recipe consisting of mostly pale malt is pretty much normal. I add salts - mostly calcium chloride but if I'm pulling my water too far out of balance some gypsum, some bicarbonate because my water is pretty soft, then acidify with either 50% phosphoric acid (I dilute 80% acid to 50% because the more dilute acid is easier to handle) or 88% lactic acid. I only put the salts in the mash, then acidify my sparge water to pH 5.4. I'm using small amounts of acid solution, about 3 ml in the mash and 1 ml in the sparge. Key is to get your mash pH down to an acceptable range, it's been mentioned above but I'll repeat: I target 5.3 for pale beers, 5.4 for ambers, 5.5 for dark beers. The higher range for dark beers is to soften their acrid roasty flavors - the bicarbonate I need adds carbonates - complex water chemistry there - and softens the beers.
    Practical water management is as follows: Dechlorinate always, reduce mash pH to 5.3 - 5.5, don't worry about a couple of hundredths of a point, don't heat your sparge water above 170 degrees F and if you feel it's necessary, reduce the pH to 5.6 or lower. Starting water pH doesn't matter, alkalinity does.
     
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  13. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    All good comments and advice above.
    In my case I chose to go with RO water from a local water shop quite some time ago, and never looked back.
    This adds about $5 Canadian to a 5g batch, or 2-3 UK lbs.
    This gives me a clean slate to build my water profiles from to suit the beer I am making.
    I use gypsum, calcium chloride, pickling salt (not iodized), epsom salt, baking soda (if predicted pH is too low on a dark one), and 88% lactic. When I use lactic, I am using such a small amount that there is no discernible flavor contribution.
    Lately however I have been using acidulated malt in place of lactic (sometimes I would forget to add the lactic).
     
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  14. Jordan Penard

    Jordan Penard New Member

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    Ok, I will need to search for distilled/RO water around me and try to cut my tap water with it. Would you treat strike and sparge water in the same way ? Like for example cut it all at 50% and add acid and salts to the full amount and then split into 2 vessel ?

    A lot of different acids are available for homebrewing. Which one would you recommend ? It seems that lactic acid can have a flavour impact, and so as acid malt. What about phosphoric and citric acid, are they as good candidates ? They don't seems to be often mentioned and I'm wondering why that would be.
     
  15. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    Citric acid also can have a big flavor impact (think lemon juice). Phosphoric is the most flavor neutral, and works well.

    I tend to use 100% RO water now, so my water is all mixed together but you can do it separately if you wish. The idea is to sparge with non-alkaline water and you don’t need to add salts to it (but you can if it’s easier).
     
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  16. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    You're not adding enough acid to make that much of a difference in flavor if you start with "decent" brewing water. I use either 88% lactic acid or 50% phosphoric acid. Hopefully it helps if I go through my water treatment routine:

    Since I'm using RIMS to control and heat my mash, I generally split the water 50% - 50% mash and sparge. To the mash water, I add half a crushed Campden tablet or about 0.3g sodium metabisulfite to remove chlorine and chloramine. The effect is instantaneous. Then I add salts based on the water calculator and the target I've selected, generally the targets provided in the water calculator dropdown. I don't worry about exact, I just get close but keep in mind enough calcium (50 ppm or more) and keeping the sulfate/chloride ratio the same. I've started adding bicarbonate to dark beers to mellow the flavor a bit, adding pure carbonate - what you really want - is not practical because it's effectively insoluble in wort. Then I add any acids needed to bring the alkalinity down to where it needs to be, provided I didn't add acidulated malt (which is basically pilsner malt sprayed with an organic lactic acid solution). Then I mash. While I'm mashing, I prep my sparge water, again tap water, dechlorinated as above, with acid added to get it into the 5.4-5.6 range. Any water I use for late additions I dechlorinate.

    As to which acids to use, phosphoric acid is generally considered the most "neutral" tasting acid, contributing only tartness. Lactic acid in too great a quantity can start to take on a yogurty flavor, I'm told, but I've had Berliner Weiss, about the most tart beer you can drink, and never picked up any flavor contribution from the acid. Winemakers use tartaric acid, I wouldn't because of the possibility of tartarate crystals (beer stone).

    Finally, you can add salts at packaging for flavor. I do this if I have a dark beer that's too harsh, a light beer that isn't malty enough or a hoppy beer that needs a bit of dryness.

    Hope this helps....
     
  17. BarbarianBrewer

    BarbarianBrewer Well-Known Member

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    #17 BarbarianBrewer, Jan 23, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
    In spite of the potential flavor contribution, I use lactic acid instead of phosphoric acid because I need far less of lactic than phosphoric to achieve my desired PH. If there is a flavor contribution, I've not been able to detect it.

    Edit:
    Took one of my recipes and found I needed 5 ml of lactic acid (88% strength) or 55 ml of phosphoric acid (10% strength).
     
  18. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    I got my hands on some 80% food-grade phosphoric and cut it down to 50%. Amounts are similar to 88% lactic.
     
  19. BarbarianBrewer

    BarbarianBrewer Well-Known Member

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    Where do you get concentrated phosphoric acid in a home brewer size? Seems to be the concentrated stuff only comes in large, even giant containers. A gallon size would last me decades!
     
  20. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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    I by mine at Duda diesal about a quart size 85 percent
     

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