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Old 11-20-2011, 11:11 PM   #1
kincade
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Default Advice on designing the correct profile for a given beer

I'm hoping for a bit of advice. I've been reading all weekend about Bru'n water, EZ Water Calculator 3.0, and water adjustments. I think I've gotten the gist of what each adjustment does and the various ways to adjust for mash and sparge PH.

However, I'm still confused about mineral adjustments in the boil kettle specific to each beer. I've read numerous times that the typical water profiles (burton for an IPA, etc) are terribly unreliable as most breweries conducted water adjustments. Further, I've read here that the Palmer recommendations can be very off and they should be taken with a grain of salt. I even purchased 'designing great beers' hoping for more water adjustment advice, but it mostly relies on the typical water profiles.

So given the disparities with the information available to us, I'm wondering if there are rules of thumb to abide by with each category of beer? Or if there is a great book/website that would help?

I'm doing an APA tomorrow, and right now this is what my ezwater profile looks like. I have no idea if the chloride/sulfate ratio is too low, if my sulfate is too high, if my sodium is too low, etc. The 'burton' profile seems far too extreme when entering the numbers.

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Old 11-21-2011, 04:18 AM   #2
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The Primer in the Stickies, based on the KISS principal, is designed for new brewers in your position. It is intended to cut through the complexities of and BS associated with brewing water chemistry and get you straight to a good beer. I say "good" because as your knowledge and experience grow you will be able to do better by adjusting from the Primer's recommendations and that is because only you can determine what works best for you.

As a second step you should get a pH meter and then armed with that use one of the spreadsheets to give you an idea about how adjusting what changes mash pH. That is your main goal - to hit proper mash pH. The rest is a matter of tweaking chloride for sweetness, mellowness and body on the one hand and sulfate to control how hops are perceived on the other.

Avoid the temptation to "over engineer" your water - use as few salts as possible. Don't be taken in by the myth that dark beer "requires" high levels of alkalinity i.e. don't add alkali (bicarbonate, carbonate, lime...) to your water unless a pH meter indicates that you need to (and there will be times that it does). Don't fall for the trap that implies you can "dial in" a beer along a malty - hoppy axis by setting a chloride to sulfate ratio. These are the common pitfalls for brewers beginning to adjust their water. And, of course, the caveat that all this is in my opinion goes without saying. If others didn't have differing opinions there wouldn't be so much confusion out there.

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Old 11-21-2011, 04:58 PM   #3
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AJ's recommendations are sound. I can even support his contention that there aren't "requirements" for alkalinity in dark beers and a brewer should only add alkalinity as warranted. There are several water adjustment programs that may recommend excessive alkalinity requirements for brewing water and they should be avoided.

With that said, a brewer should recognize that as the percentage of crystal and roasted grain increases in a grist, the "potential" need for alkalinity increases and the resulting beer flavor may suffer if sufficient alkalinity is not available to moderate the mash pH.

The chloride/sulfate or sulfate/chloride ratio should not be taken too literally. Its the magnitude of concentrations of chloride and sulfate that should be taken heed of. Keep these ions low to modest under most conditions and the beer flavor will be better. This ratio can only improve the 'perception' of maltiness or hoppiness. They cannot alter the actual maltiness or hoppiness. That can only be accomplished through the malt and hop bills. In my opinion, chloride should always be under 100 ppm and sulfate should not exceed 100 ppm excepting in highly hopped styles. Keeping these ions at around half those limits is not a bad idea. As AJ said, use as few salts as possible.

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Old 11-21-2011, 05:03 PM   #4
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AJ,

As always, thanks for your advice and time. I appreciate it.

I'd been using the primer for a while, then 'progressed' to using the nomograph from 'how to brew'. My beers have been ok using that method albeit sometimes somewhat plain, but I'm attempting to learn more and brew better. Brewing with RO has forced me to pay more attention to the additions or end up with a possibly 'plain' beer.

I do have a PH meter now, and think I have a grasp on the PH adjustment of the mash in conjunction with EZwater. It's mostly influencing the beer's taste with minerals that has got my goat right now, especially the sulfate to chloride ratio. I was hoping Designing Great Beers would lend more information on this but it seems to gloss over most of the information I had hoped for. Perhaps I need to just worry about the mash PH for now as you suggest and stop worrying about adjusting the rest of the water. I've never gone too wrong by keeping in the middle of the guidelines set forth by palmer. OTOH, I know I'm leaving something on the table by not tweaking the water in my kettle.

I did more reading last night, and came up with 2 other suggested profiles for an APA. The first seems less extreme and looks ok in the spreadsheet, so I may try it and see what results I have.

From Pale Ales by Terry Foster:

Ca 50 - 100 ppm, SO4 100 - 200 ppm, Cl 20 ppm

Randy Mosher's profile for Pale Ales for APAs and IPAs:

Ca: 110
Mg: 18
Na: 17
Cl: 50
SO4:350
CaCO3: 57

Thanks again for attempting to answer my question.

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Old 11-21-2011, 05:23 PM   #5
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A moderated version of Mosher's Pale Ale profile is included in Bru'n Water. I've used that profile for almost 3 dozen American Pale and Brown Ales. At 300 ppm SO4, its not too sulfurous. That can be a problem if a brewer were to use the various Burton water profiles.

That Nomograph is one of the poster children of excessive alkalinity requirement that AJ warns about. It has truely been one of the most serious downfalls to brewing good beer. Moving past that nomograph can be an important improvement to brewing.

To reiterate the need to avoid overdosing brewing water with chloride and sulfate, Bru'n Water has visual indicators that warn the brewer that they are getting excessive with those ions.

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Old 11-21-2011, 05:26 PM   #6
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One of the reported effects of getting pH right is that all the flavors are "brighter". That should help you to figure out what is going on with the chloride and sulfate both of which are often called "stylistic ions" for obvious reasons. They don't have appreciable effect on mash pH but do effect flavor directly.

I usually recommend starting off low on the sulfate and higher on the chloride because I know that will give me a beer I like better but I'm not you. You could equally well start off high on the sulfate and low in the chloride and work from there and Foster's profile looks fine as a strating point. What is important is that you figure out the effects of those 2 ions and adjust their levels until you are happy with the result. For ales higher sulfate is preferred by many if not most. For lagers it's the other way around as sulfate just doesn't seem to work with noble hops. Naturally there are exceptions in either case. I would only adjust one at a time. From Foster's recipe you might try lower sulfate and see if the beer is better or worse in your and your drinking associates opinions. If lowering doesn't improve the beer then try raising. Then try raising the chloride and if that improves the beer keep going in that direction. The important thing is to brew and brew and brew. Of course someone has to drink all that beer but such is life.

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Old 11-21-2011, 08:45 PM   #7
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I often call them "Flavor Ions" since they have to do with their effect on flavor. They have no effect on Style. I'm not sure why the term "Stylistic Ions" would ever be mentioned or termed.

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Old 11-21-2011, 09:50 PM   #8
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Flavor isn't part of style? I'm not understanding something here. Is an Export the same style as a Boh. Pils?

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Old 11-22-2011, 12:29 PM   #9
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Flavor is part of style, as is color, body, mouthfeel, and aroma. But those ions affect none of those components to any significant degree. They do affect flavor and therefore are more properly termed "Flavor Ions". Do let us know how those ions affect style!

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Old 11-22-2011, 02:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
Flavor is part of style, as is color, body, mouthfeel, and aroma. But those ions affect none of those components to any significant degree.
Guess that's where the disconnect is. It's pretty generally known that sulfate has a profound effect on hops flavor. It's perhaps lesser known that chloride has a noticeable effect on sweetness and body. It's well known that certain styles (Export, Burton ales) have a mineral crispness whereas others (Boh Pils) do not. There may be some debate as to how much of this is flavor and now much mouthfeel but there can be little debate that these qualities aren't a major part of the respective styles. Some beers (Goze being an extreme example) are noticeably salty in taste. Michael Lewis used to teach his students that they should not treat their water (provided it was generally suitable for brewing meaning you could hit proper pH) as the mineral profile would be part of their brewery's style.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
Do let us know how those ions affect style!
For a couple of years running I would get a nasty e-mail from George Fix complaining that I hadn't scored his Export highly enough in a particular competition. He pointed out that several pro-brewers he knew had told him it was good. And it was. It just totally lacked any mineral character and that was at that time an important part of the BJCP style description. I told him his argument wasn't with me but with BJCP. He agreed with me (first and last time that happened. Clearly as it was good beer, he got the pH right but clearly brewed it with water lacking the mineral content of Dortmund water.

So that's an example - George didn't get a ribbon because he didn't set his sulfate right and the comment on the score sheet was "good but not to style".

Note that I spoke of the profile of export in the past tense. I noticed that the 'mineral crispness' phrase has been dropped from the description of Export in the most recent BJCP guideline. Or at least toned down "Some mineral character might be noted from the water, although it usually does not come across as an overt minerally flavor."
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