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Old 07-13-2012, 01:13 PM   #1
jstofer
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I sent in a water sample a while ago to Midwest Labs here in Omaha. I've recently been going over it and reading about everything that I can on water reports and the relation of the minerals to mash, etc. I've gone through Palmer's stuff on it and downloaded his spreadsheet, bru'nwater's stuff, and I've played with Beersmith's water profile. However, I haven't talked to anyone else about it and I wanted to get someone else's take on it as well.

Here is what I got:
NA - 23.1
CA - 105
MG - 19.4
PH - 7.01
NO3-N - 2.2
SO4 - 33
Bicarbonate - 342
CL - 4

I know that my chloride to sulfate ratio is out of whack; however, I'm more curious as to any comments on the bicarbonate. I noticed that a recent amer ale I made seems to be more bitter and a little thin...same with a wheat I have in the secondary (I moved back in august and these are the first brews that I've really had a chance to do). At my previous house, which was about 120 miles away, I seemed to get a better product...more full and better mouthfeel out of the same beers. The bicarb level in that town was roughly 100 points lower.
Also, I'm getting ready to brew a porter...any thoughts on diluting it some and adding back some NaCL or CaCL to try and balance out the bitterness?

Thanks in advance!

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Old 07-13-2012, 03:25 PM   #2
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Yes, the alkalinity of the new water is higher and that will push the mash and wort pH higher than it was in your previous brews. High pH may be extracting more tannins from the grain and more importantly, the high wort pH in the kettle makes the hop bittering more 'rough'. You can get by with most of those ion levels, but the alkalinity must be reduced. I suggest using phosphoric acid to neutralize the alkalinity. Diluting with RO or distilled water is the best option if you need to reduce all the ionic content. You can consider lime softening for this water since the chloride and sulfate are fairly low.

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Old 07-13-2012, 03:37 PM   #3
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I lived in Lincoln for a number of years, and while my water wasn't quite that alkaline, I would still recommend cutting with RO if you can. That's a big hill to overcome, and even when you do, you'll probably still taste it. And I don't mean the sweet taste of success.

Also, was "SO4" actually written "SO4-S" in your report?

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Old 07-13-2012, 03:43 PM   #4
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I was planning on diluting with distilled water on this next brew to reduce the bicarb and then add back some of the minerals to try and balance the chloride and sulfate. Not sure what my target was going to be with a porter though. I may shoot for somewhere in the low 200's. Any thoughts????? My SO4 was written as such.
I forgot to add, I did take PH readings (with strips) and based on those, my mash was around 5.2-5.4 on an amber ale and a wheat.

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Old 07-13-2012, 04:25 PM   #5
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For starters, I would HIGHLY recommend reading the water chem primer in the sticky here. One of the major reasons I joined this forum was because there were rational voices of water chemistry, particularly AJ. I actually agree with him, and I tend not to agree with lots of water advice.

I would worry less about the chloride:sulfate ratio, and more about the total sulfate. The more sulfate, the more of a sharp hop bite you'll get. Chloride will not balance that forever. The target ranges you see are more "you probably won't have to dump your beer if you keep them reasonably within this range". And you're fine lower than those. Start low, taste your BEER, then experiment with more salts.

I'll just tell you what I would do, and explain why:

To make my life easier I just mix up 10 gallons of water. I would use 9 gallons RO/Distilled, and 1 gallon tap water. That will start you at 10% original levels:

Ca - 10
Mg - 2
Cl - 0
SO4 - 3
Na - 2
Bicarbonate - 34
Trace elements - very low but present

For most styles I'd add 6 grams CaCl to the water to bump Ca to ~50 and Cl to ~65.
Once you're sure you actually like the sulfate bite to hops, you can try adding some CaSO4 as well. Say 4 grams CaCl and 2 grams CaSO4.

I wouldn't worry too much about darker beers and low pH either... but do test it. You'll likely need some acid for lighter beers and 'maybe' some acid in darker. In my opinion, the spreadsheets and calculators go the crap for dark beers. Don't fear soft water. Look at Alaskan Smoked Porter. I don't know what they do to their water, but it's "glacier fed". I personally believe I like it so much because they leave it softer than most brewers would.

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Old 07-13-2012, 04:49 PM   #6
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Yeah, I've read that and about anything else I can find. Your recs were spot on with what I was thinking. I know I derived that from all the reading I've done but it's always nice to have some affirmation. Thanks

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