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Old 01-16-2013, 03:03 AM   #1
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Default Czech Pils: Looking for a complete recipe

Guys: I don't post much here but I have a question for you. I have been brewing since 1999 and make a bunch of styles with my water but I can't seem to get a good, overall handle on something like a Czech Pils or other pale-colored beer and I assume it's the water. I have tried. God knows I have tried. I have gotten some tips from AJ but I think I need the whole thing... grain bill, hop schedule, mash schedule, water composition, etc. I can lager so that's not the issue. Here's a look at my source water:

Ca: 34
Mg: 12
Na: 13
Cl: 21
SO4: 27
Bicarbonate: 138

The bicarbonate is the problem. I have tried cutting my water with bulk RO from the grocery store or distilled. I try adding a bit of CaCl to get the chloride and calcium up. I end up with harsh-tasting beer or bland beer. I'm not sure if I should be looking at epsom salt, table salt or something else that I have not tried. I currently have 5 gallons of bulk RO water and 10 one-gallon bottles of distilled water. Would anyone care to take a stab at putting the whole enchilada together? I often make these with pilsner malt (Best Malz usually), some amount of either Vienna or Munich (both Weyermann), all noble hops (Saaz but not always... sometimes Hallertau, Hersbrucker, Mittelfruh, Tettnanger) and any number of yeast strains including but not limited to 800, 802, 2000, 2001, 2278, 830, 2124, 2782. I have a dedicated lager fridge, I oxygenate my wort well, I pitch into wort that is 50°, I do d-rests, I lager, etc. but I just can't seem to get the right balance. I know that bicarbonate and sulfates need to be low here. I know that chlorides can be a little high so that calcium numbers can be in the 40-50ppm range. I typically do single infusion mashes at 149° or so. I could do a Hochkurz mash 142x30 plus 158x60 but I typically stay away from decoction mashes. I have tried 2 or 3 times and ended up with subpar beer (my fault I'm sure). Anyone care to share their experience in this difficult style? Cheers Beerheads.

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Old 01-16-2013, 03:51 AM   #2
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Have you looked at Bru'n Water by Martin Brungard? Google it if your haven't. He has a setting (and may chime in if he has time) for Pilsen water profile. I think you could start with his spread sheet using 100% RO water and build from there accordingly.

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Old 01-16-2013, 03:58 AM   #3
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Hey there...

Good timing on your question. I just racked my Czech pils to secondary this evening. While no expert on water chemistry, I have been focusing on it for the last year in my brewing, so let me see if I can help.

Adding acid will neutralize the bicarbonates and bring their amount lower. If I use the Brun Water Spreadsheet with your water profile numbers entered, it looks like you can get down to a 16.5 bicarbonate level by adding 2ml 10% phosphoric acid solution per gallon of mash water, and using 50% RO water total. (I picked 10% Phosphoric acid because that's what I used. I have seen lactic acid at a few of my LHBS.) That would give you the following numbers:

CA: 17.5
Mg: 6
Na: 10.5
SO4: 14
Cl: 12.5
Bicarbonate: 16.5

Here's my grain bill:

5.5 gallon batch
8.5# Pilsner Malt
.5# Carafoam
.5# Crystal 20
Yeast: WLP802

My water:
CA: 4
Mg: 0.8
Na: 30
Cl: 19
SO4: 9
Bicarbonate: 44

My water is fairly soft like Pilsen as it is, so I didn't change anything. I just did a triple decoction mash. The sample I had of the beer going into secondary tonight made me want to keg it right then and there, so the results were very good.

(Quick Edit: The mash pH with the grain bill I mentioned and 3.5 gallons of the water profile as calculated would be 5.4)

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Old 01-16-2013, 04:08 AM   #4
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BigRedHopHead: I do have BruNWater but I have not tried to make a beer like this with the small numbers that you always see for Plzen because I feel like something else must be happening there (they're doing an acid rest, quadruple decoction, etc). I did see Martin's profile for either "yellow balanced" or "yellow malty" (I forget which) but those were NOT meant for Czech Pils... too much sulfate. I learned that the hard way.

MrHadack: Okay, so this is something I have not tried. I typically mash with about 4 gallons and add any additions (CaCl, etc) to the mash. Then I check the pH and if it needs to be lower (it always needs to be lower on a pale beer), I use 88% lactic acid and normally only need about ½ml or so. Then I sparge with another 4 gallons and check the pH of the sparge or possibly the preboil wort or sometimes both. Where does the phosphoric acid come in? Add 8ml of that to my mash water (4 gallons)? What will that do to my pH? And why does that offset the bicarbonate? I'm not sure I'm following this but if there's something to it... I'll try it.

Thanks for the help guys... much appreciated.

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Old 01-16-2013, 04:09 AM   #5
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From everything I have done and read a decoction mash is not necessary with today's malts. Single infusion at 149 should be fine. Just my 2 cents.

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Old 01-16-2013, 04:12 AM   #6
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scroll up on the style section of the sheet and you will start to see famous brewing city water profiles. There should be selection for "Pilsen".

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Old 01-16-2013, 04:12 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigRedHopHead View Post
From everything I have done and read a decoction mash is not necessary with today's malts. Single infusion at 149 should be fine. Just my 2 cents.
I've heard the same, but thought I'd try it anyway for kicks. I made the exact same recipe with a single rest. I'll let you know what happens in my upcoming blind taste tests.
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Old 01-16-2013, 04:16 AM   #8
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I did see the Pilsen profile but I think the jury is still out on whether homebrewers can create a decent beer with all of the major water ions in the single digits. AJ and Martin have both suggested that the 50ppm calcium number may not be necessary but they both suggest more than 7 or whatever Pilsen is set to. There is an "American Lager" profile too but I didn't try that one either. I have tried a 50% water cut with RO or distilled and then about 2.5g of CaCl in the mash. I have one like that in a keg right now that I'm waiting to sample. But I'd like to hear about the phosphoric acid reducing the bicarb thing. I also remember someone mentioning "pickling lime" which is calcium hydroxide (or something) and also "slaked lime" to remove bicarbonate but I haven't tried those yet either.

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Old 01-16-2013, 04:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenlenard View Post
Guys: I don't post much here but I have a question for you. I have been brewing since 1999 and make a bunch of styles with my water but I can't seem to get a good, overall handle on something like a Czech Pils or other pale-colored beer and I assume it's the water. I have tried. God knows I have tried. I have gotten some tips from AJ but I think I need the whole thing... grain bill, hop schedule, mash schedule, water composition, etc. I can lager so that's not the issue. Here's a look at my source water:

Ca: 34
Mg: 12
Na: 13
Cl: 21
SO4: 27
Bicarbonate: 138

The bicarbonate is the problem.
Yes, it is. To brew a Czech Pils I'd forget about diluting that water. Even at a 9:1 dilution you would still be left with ~14ppm CO3 which is OK but why not save the work and just use 100% RO/distilled. Then add 5g of CaCl2 per five gallon batch. Do not use gypsum, Sodium chloride and definitely not Epsom salt. The small addition of Calcium chloride will supply enough Ca+ to keep the mash pH in line as well as the other beneficial stuff Ca+ provides to the beer. The chloride will help with the flavor and the Cl- will be below the level where you might encounter problems. Do not worry about sulphates (bad here) or Sodium (not needed or wanted) or Magnesium (ugh for this style).

Quote:
Originally Posted by kenlenard View Post
I know that bicarbonate and sulfates need to be low here.
They should be next to zero IMO.


Quote:
Originally Posted by kenlenard View Post
I often make these with pilsner malt (Best Malz usually), some amount of either Vienna or Munich (both Weyermann), all noble hops (Saaz but not always... sometimes Hallertau, Hersbrucker, Mittelfruh, Tettnanger) and any number of yeast strains including but not limited to 800, 802, 2000, 2001, 2278, 830, 2124, 2782. I have a dedicated lager fridge, I oxygenate my wort well, I pitch into wort that is 50°, I do d-rests, I lager, etc. but I just can't seem to get the right balance.
All of those ingredients and techniques are fine. Use what you like but if you want my opinion it's all pilsner malt with perhaps a bit of CaraFoam or CaraHells for the grist, Saaz for flavor/aroma with the option to blend Saaz with a clean higher alpha for bittering and 2278, 2001 or 800 for fermenting.





Quote:
Originally Posted by kenlenard View Post
I typically do single infusion mashes at 149° or so. I could do a Hochkurz mash 142x30 plus 158x60 but I typically stay away from decoction mashes. I have tried 2 or 3 times and ended up with subpar beer (my fault I'm sure). Anyone care to share their experience in this difficult style? Cheers Beerheads.
Again, any of those mashes will get the job done so use what you are comfortable with. Personally, I do decoction mashing with this one for sure but you don't have to.
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Old 01-16-2013, 04:28 AM   #10
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Big Ed: I have not tried to go with 100% distilled or RO yet. That's one thought. I have also sent a sample of my bulk RO water (that I get at the grocery store) to Ward Labs to find out exactly what's in it. That may be an option as well as long as everything is very low, which is should be. That said, it occurs to me that someone, somewhere has made a great homebrewed Czech Pils and whether they used their own soft water (lucky!) or built the water, I should be able to duplicate the water and proceed from there. So BigEd... have you used 100% distilled/RO and added 5g of CaCl and had it come out well? Would I add all 5g of CaCl to the mash or what would you suggest?

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