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HenryHill 06-29-2009 11:20 PM

Adjustment Without Salts
I had my water tested and outside of high alkalinity, it seems that I am close to where I want to be. Sulfate and chloride could use some amendment, and I am not opposed to doing that small amount of gypsum and calcium chloride, but counteracting the immense hardness ions with some good old H+ seems the way to go.

Adding salts can help balance the alkalinity, but not without increasing my other elements by too much. I have played with dilution of water by using distilled water up to 50%, and then adding 1/2tsp CaSO4 and 1/2tsp, CaCl2 using this calculator. I'd love to come up with standard remedies that equate my water to the standard style's profiles, without resorting to distilled water.

Adding more in the way of 5.2 also increases minerals.


How would you do it?

Can I just adjust the pH of the mash of 100% well water, using phosphoric or some other mild acid, rather than trying to balance the HCO3, to gain some better efficiency? And can I do this by math or spreadsheet rather than needing a pH meter? I read that Palmer had acids in his original spreadsheet, but then he dumbed it down.

Here is the Ward Labs Test Result:

Water Test Sample B COLD 6/23/09-Ward Labs
Private Well- Perry, MI

Ph 7.6
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est. 482
Electrical Conductivivty mmho/cm 0.80
Cations/Anions me/L 7.2/8.3

Sodium, Na 20
Potassium, K 2
Calcium, Ca 71
Magnesium, Mg 33
Total Hardness, CaCO3 315
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 25
Chloride, Cl 16
Carbonate, CO3 <1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 384
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 315
Fluoride, F 0.62
Total Iron, Fe 0.10

“<” Not Detected/Below Detection Limit

Yuri_Rage 06-29-2009 11:37 PM

Lactic acid or acid malt are the traditional means by which to lower the mash pH. You can use test strips instead of a pH meter.

I'm not entirely sure that simply adjusting the pH will solve the alkalinity issue, but someone more knowledgeable in water chemistry will likely chime in with an answer to that.

HenryHill 06-30-2009 01:41 PM

Using this interactive nomograph, adding anything to counteract the CO3 results in extremely high levels of other minerals.

The idea of targeting pH seems best.

Mash pH Nomograph

HenryHill 06-30-2009 03:05 PM

Palmer's latest mash salt spreadsheet. Lactic and hydrochloric acids only. :(


Using this spreadsheet and making no other additions other than 5ml of 37% HCl, I calculate I can brew down to a '0' SRM beer, although it doesn't seem to show the common wisdom fallout of some amount of Ca that acids are supposed to precipitate.

Chloride goes up to 229 ppm, but Palmer's book shows that under 300 is fine. This keeps me from having to add tons of salts and further muddy the original source water minerals.

2 grams (1/2tsp) of gypsum repairs the Cl/SO4 ratio putting me at 'malty', while adding back some Ca, theoretically lost to acid addition.

Is this right or am I mistaken?

Kaiser 06-30-2009 06:16 PM

I think John should add phosphoric and sulfuric acid to the spread sheet. The problem with these acids is that they are weak acids. This means that the amount of H+ they donate will depend on the pH of the water and later the mash. But I think this can be accounted for with an empirical factor. The same is true for lactic acid. Sulfuric acid is the best of them. about 99+% of it’s molecules will donate H+ to combat the alkalinity.

I’m not sure if I would you all lactate acid to get the RA from 300+ down to 0. You’ll end up with a lot of lactate and lactic acids. The latter b/c lactic acid does not fully disassociate at mash pH. And I wonder if that would start to show up in the taste.

Fact it, your water sucks for light beers. There are a number of options:

- dillute with RO or DI water
- work with hydrochloric and sulfuric acid to convert the carbonate into chloride and sulfate. If you have both you can also aim for a desired sulfate/chloride ratio
- precipitate bicarbonate with slacked lime. But given that a lot of the bicarbonate actually belongs to Mg and Na the effectiveness of this process will be limited. And it is a rather advanced process anyway. There are only a few brewers I know who do this. But it is common in commercial brewing.

I know it It’s a lot of money, but investing in an RO filter system can pay off for your beers.


Spine 06-30-2009 08:46 PM

I have similar water to what you have except my other minerals are a tad higher but my alkalinity is around 347ppm. I found that by diluting the mash and sparge water to 75% distilled/25% tap water and adding a little CaCl and then knocking out the remaining alkalinity with phosphoric acid to make some decent pale beers. I also modified palmers spreadsheet to deal with phosphoric acid as well.

Recently (2 weeks ago), I bought an RO system from E-bay for $99. It's a simple 4 stage system (sediment, 2 carbon filters + RO membrane) without a receiver tank or any taps or the like. I was able to obtain a electric solenoid valve from my work and put that on the feed piping of the RO system. The valve is powered by a simple light timer (soon to be integrated into my arduino setup) to start filling my HLT at a given time so that when I wake up to brew I have a full tank of RO water. By doing it this way I was able to buy a smaller (and much cheaper) RO system with a lower flow rate (75 gallons per day). The system I got is called an "aquarium RO system" but the RO membranes they use are all basically the same (for our purposes anyways). If you get a system with a receiver tank (for more $$$) then you can use the RO system for other things in the house but realize that a 5 gallon tank will only fill to maybe 3 gallons and therefore might not be enough for your brew. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you have a water softener system in your house you will want to feed the RO system with softened water (to extend the life of your RO membrane) BUT if you want to top off with water, be sure to use HARD (or unsoftened water).

I was paying 1$/4L of distilled water so per batch (at 75% dilution) I was buying around 32L (or 8$) worth of water every time, so my payback should be around 12-13 batches.

HenryHill 06-30-2009 09:34 PM

I have a home water distiller, nice one, 3 or 4 gallon tank, auto refill or manual fill. 10 bones in a second hand shop.; just needed the spigot nut tightened inside the tank. Not RO, but I am guessing that distilled is close to plain H2O...:confused:

I find a 4 oz 10% phos at Midwest HBS and a place in NY, Niagra HBS, that has 8 oz for the same money, otherwise it's Spectrum Lab Supply... :/

Kaiser, you mention sulfuric (muratic?) acid for adjustment, as it disassociates at 99+, but what about phos for actual gain of H+?

Spine, please send me the Palmer's Mash Spreadsheet that you added phos to; I'd love to see how the adjusted water looks with phos.;)

I haven't run the second test sample-hot soft tap water. I wonder how that works out-I know the sodium is higher, but the cold is low anyway....

menschmaschine 07-01-2009 12:35 AM


Originally Posted by Henry Hill (Post 1408340)
Kaiser, you mention sulfuric (muratic?) acid for adjustment

Not much to add here... except that muriatic acid is sort of an old-timey term for hydrochloric acid, not sulfuric.

HenryHill 07-01-2009 09:50 PM

From Palmer's Spreadsheet instructions:

"I do not recommend the use of Phosphoric Acid because it removes calcium from the water, and changes the water profile that you are trying to adjust. The amount of calcium removed is complex, and I don't have a feedback loop in the spreadsheet to accommodate the effect."

He recommends Sulfuric Acid, from a brewers standpoint, but deems it very dangerous to use.

Basically, he recommends HCl, but cautions the additional levels of Chloride.

So...... :P

Kaiser 07-02-2009 05:19 AM

Today I tried to buy muriatic acid for cleaning my dishwasher but it is not sold anymore in MA. The same might be true for sulfuric acid. This leaves lactic acid as the only really practical acid for the home brewer. It is also much safer to use. Except that it may nit be the best to combat very high alkalinity.


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