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Old 05-15-2011, 05:35 AM   #1
williamnave
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Default brew science newbie with a quick question

Hi guys....just when I thought I was beginning to understand brewery science, I start reading this forum and realize I'm still pretty green

Anyway, I'm trying to put together a brewing water profile for an IPA. My city (Springfield,OR) has soft, low RA water. I'm using Bru'n water to make my calculations.

I'm trying to get close to Burton-on-Trent to achieve hoppy nirvana. When I make all the adjustments, my mash Ph is dead-on, but I have a very, very close to Dusseldorf profile. I can't seem to find the right additions to harden the water without spiking something out-of-whack or sending my Ph to the ridiculous.

Is this one of those RDWHAHB moments, or should I being doing something differently?

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Old 05-15-2011, 05:37 AM   #2
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Rdwhahb. i brew with my water as-is

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Old 05-15-2011, 05:44 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by williamnave View Post
When I make all the adjustments, my mash Ph is dead-on, but I have a very, very close to Dusseldorf profile. I can't seem to find the right additions to harden the water without spiking something out-of-whack or sending my Ph to the ridiculous.
Are you checking the mash pH before or after adding the grains as they will lower it somewhat. If you are checking after adding grains just ignore me
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:53 AM   #4
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After grain. This will be my 3rd outing with Bru'n water, and results are fantastic so far. Big jumps in ferment-ability and extraction.

But, my experience is 2 beers...looking for info to take a really light grain bill (12.5 #'s 10.4 SRM) and how to get the right flavor profile without skewing mash Ph.

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Old 05-15-2011, 12:38 PM   #5
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It is difficult to closely emulate a Burton profile. In the first place many of the profiles you will find are not valid - they cannot exist because they don't have equal anion and cation charge. The profiles in Bru'n water have been checked for this so if you use one from there at least this first potential problem is put away. The second problem is that Burton water has bicabonate ion in it and that was caused by dissolution of limestone by dissolved carbon dioxide gas. In order to replicate the chemistry of a carbonaceous water you must mimic nature i.e. dissolve calcium carbonate with CO2. None of the popular spreadsheets calculate the amount of chalk necessary correctly. I have a spreadsheet that does but in the first place, it is much too complicated for the beginning would be water tweaker and, in the second place, it is really not worth your while to go to all the trouble to produce genuine Burton water unless you really, really want to be "authentic" and to do that you must not only have Burton water but you must treat it in the same way Burton brewers did and I don't know what that is. The last time I went through the exercise of preparing "genuine synthetic" Burton water it took overnight to get the chalk to dissolve. Then as soon as the heat was applied to the HLT it precipitated back out again. If the Burton brewers used an HLT the same thing would be expected to have happened to them. IOW, the hard water I went to so much trouble to produce would have been softened. It is quite possible that Burton brewers softened their water intentionally by heating closer to boiling or to boiling or by treatment with lime. Or maybe they didn't. In any event there is, IMO, little appeal in going to all that trouble to dissolve the chalk only to have it precipitate back out. The conventional wisdom recognizes that chalk does not dissolve in water and recommends that you add it to the mash in the expectation that the malts acidity will dissolve it. This is something you don't want to do as it increases alkalinity and hence mash pH and does not accurately match the original water profile.

So what should you do to brew an reasonable facsimile of a Burton beer? Forget about emulating the alkalinity. Alkalinity never did anyone any good (probably should never say "never"). Take the Burton profile, convert the bicarbonate number (divide by 61) or the alkalinity number (divide by 50) to mEq/L, multiply the result by 20, deduct that from the calcium and add salts to match the reduced calcium level. You are mathematically softening the Burton water when you do that (but you are softening to a greater extent than is possible in the real world).

The above is theoretically sound but is much too complicated! A much simpler approach, given your soft (and I assume this means low in all minerals) water is to add enough calcium chloride to get the calcium content up to about 50 mg/L, add some acid (sauermalz, lactic) to the mash to control pH and brew with that. This beer will be missing the essence of Burton ale, however as it has little or no sulfate. I recommend you brew it that way regardless and then brew it again with the sulfate augmented. This means using gypsum as the source for all or part of the calcium addition. Take careful tasting notes and see which you like better. Then increase or decrease sulfate until you arrive at the level you like best. You will have to brew and drink lots of beer before you are optimized but no one said this is an easy hobby.

The reason I recommend this approach is that I have on 2 separate occasions brewed ales with "genuine" Burton water and with much softer water. I did this for classes on brewing water chemistry and the motivation was to let the students see what difference water can make. The consensus was that the Burton water beer was more authentic than the softer water beer but that the softer water beer was better beer. The object of varying sulfate levels is to let you explore the trade space between authentic and good. The best point for you is entirely up to you.

There are more details on this approach in the Primer in the Stickies section here.

Mash pH control is the most important aspect of all this. You noted that mash pH's are spot on in the brews you have done so far and that is, of course, what you want to continue to strive for. Always rely on your pH meter to tell you how much sauermalz or lactic acid to add. A calculation (by a spreadsheet or the 1% of grist per 0.1 unit pH drop) will get you in the ballpark but trust the meter and not the calculation. You don't specifically mention a meter. Unfortunately a meter is the only reliable way to obtain pH measurements. Test strips just do not seem to give accurate readings in brewing. Fortunately meters are much less expensive and much better performers than they used to be.

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Old 05-15-2011, 03:44 PM   #6
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Thanks! That makes perfect sense, I was under the assumption that Mash Ph was a priority over 'exact' water profile matching.

It sounds like you're familiar with Bru'n water....I have all the 'boxes' (magnesium, Calcium, Chloride,etc.) green, and have a sulfate concentration of about 200. I'm adding a little Epsom Salt for the magnesium, and gypsum for Calcium and sulfates.

My water summary says my mash should be @ 5.3. I don't have the resources (read=cash) to drop 100 bucks on a Ph meter, but I have in the last 2 batches gone an average 8-10 pts in extraction efficiency, so something must be right.

By the way, yes you are correct, I have soft, low mineral content water here.

You mentioned how the minerals evaporate out? I've been putting the mineral additions in my tun, a sealed cooler, and dumping the mash water in, letting them dissolve while the tun heats and settles to strike temp. Is this ok? Would I be better to make mineral adds when I add the grist?

That whole divide-by-alkalinity, add salts, Meq\l thing....well, I'm just going to have to save this thread until I'm a lot better at this!!!!
Thanks! -Bill

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Old 05-15-2011, 06:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by williamnave View Post
Thanks! That makes perfect sense, I was under the assumption that Mash Ph was a priority over 'exact' water profile matching.
Absolutely!

Quote:
Originally Posted by williamnave View Post
It sounds like you're familiar with Bru'n water....I have all the 'boxes' (magnesium, Calcium, Chloride,etc.) green, and have a sulfate concentration of about 200. I'm adding a little Epsom Salt for the magnesium, and gypsum for Calcium and sulfates.
No - not very. When new ones come out I usually check them out and so have a general appreciation for their strengths and weaknesses. For my own work I use my own spreadsheet. It does all the hairy water chemistry stuff but does not estimate mash pH. It, too, has its strengths and weaknesses.

[quote=williamnave;2924968]My water summary says my mash should be @ 5.3. I don't have the resources (read=cash) to drop 100 bucks on a Ph meter, but I have in the last 2 batches gone an average 8-10 pts in extraction efficiency, so something must be right.
[QUOTE=williamnave;2924968]

The predicted pH's calculated by spreadsheets are sometimes right on and sometimes off by as much as 0.2 pH units or more. The only thing I trust to tell me mash pH is a pH meter.




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Originally Posted by williamnave View Post
You mentioned how the minerals evaporate out? I've been putting the mineral additions in my tun, a sealed cooler, and dumping the mash water in, letting them dissolve while the tun heats and settles to strike temp. Is this ok? Would I be better to make mineral adds when I add the grist?
If you you have hard, carbonaceous water and heat it calcium carbonate will precipitate. If you emulate that water and heat it calcium carbonate will precipitate from the simulated water as well - it has close to the same chemisty. Heating also drives of CO2. If you want to consider that a mineral then you could say that it evaporates but I was talking about precipitation.

Assuming that you are not going to prepare cold water which will precipitate calcium carbonate when heated it doesn't really matter whether you add the salts to grist or mash. I suppose you get more even dispersion if you dissolve everything in the water than if you dissolve it in mash but other than that there is no difference.

Quote:
Originally Posted by williamnave View Post
That whole divide-by-alkalinity, add salts, Meq\l thing....well, I'm just going to have to save this thread until I'm a lot better at this!!!!
Thanks! -Bill
Much simpler at the outset to follow the guidelines in the Primer. You will be a better brewer if you eventually make the effort to learn the mEq/alkalinity thing.
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Old 05-15-2011, 09:19 PM   #8
williamnave
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the predicted ph's calculated by spreadsheets are sometimes right on and sometimes off by as much as 0.2 ph units or more. The only thing i trust to tell me mash ph is a ph meter.
Yeah, I thought about getting one. I'm in a brew club w/ Denny Conn, he's the one who got me using Bru'n water. He said after it came out right-on several times in a row, he stopped measuring. That's honestly been a big part of me not dropping aforementioned $100. I did consider getting this one, I thought it might get me through a few months of brew sessions so I can figure out how good a job the calculator is doing.

For now, my efficiency just jumped almost 10 points by using less than 10 cents worth of chemicals, so I'm a happy guy!
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Old 05-15-2011, 10:15 PM   #9
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My recommendation is that unless you've used a substantial sulfate profile like a Burton profile previously and liked the results, you would be better off trying the Pale Ale profile that has a more modest sulfate content. I only added that Burton profile since I did a lot of ferreting to get the actual information and it is a representation of an important historic brewing center. I've heard several pro brewers say that they do not try to emulate a Burton profile since they say it gives a sulfate nose to the beer.

Try the Pale Ale profile, its got enough oomph to make a good pale ale pop.

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Old 05-15-2011, 10:27 PM   #10
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Thanks Martin.....

I'm all green boxes and happy, and I used 'Amber Bitter'. My only concern is that the right mineral concentration to hit proper Ph was landing me square on Dusseldorf, which is more Altbier than IPA. I tried hitting the Pale ALe profile, but by the time I've added enough Cal. Choride, Gypsum, or Chalk, something else goes out-of-whack like chlorides or magnesium or whatever.

I'm at work, when I go home here in a second I'll email you the spreadsheet with the additions.

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