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Old 05-09-2011, 02:48 PM   #1
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Default Confused about Water - first beer with minerals = cloudy

Well, I brewed and just bottled my first beer with mineral additions. My water has the following characteristics:

Calcium - 74ppm
Magnesium - 15 ppm
Sodium - 19 ppm
Chloride - 62 ppm
Sulfate - 24 ppm (multiplied Ward's by 3)
Bicarbonate (HCO3) - 188

I used the ez water calculator and added 2 grams of baking soda and 2 grams of chalk. I wanted to try bumping up the mash PH a little and trying a little more calcium. Mineral additions bumped calcium to 100 ppm and sodium to 37. Mash PH is 5.52 at room temp according to calc (don't have a meter).

This is an Irish Red (13.9 SRM). It came out a LOT cloudier than I'm used to. I mashed for 90 minutes and this is usually one of my clearer beers. In the hydrometer jar, I'm usually quite clear and this thing was really cloudy. Taste is also a little off, but not bad tasting. It just tastes different because this is the 4th batch of this beer and I'm very used to the tastes of the other batches.

1. Is there a clear cause of this haze like too much sodium or calcium?

2. I did mash only additions of the minerals? Should I have split the additions between mash and boil?

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Old 05-09-2011, 04:50 PM   #2
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The culprit is the chalk. You should never add chalk to brewing water*. If it is to be used at all it should be added to the mash and that only if a reading from a properly calibrated pH meter indicates that it is necessary.

The chalk may be responsible either directly or indirectly. It wouldn't have dissolved completely and so their is the possibility of chalk particles making it into the beer. This is unlikely. The filtering of the sparge and just letting the beer sit usually permits chalk particles to settle out. More likely is that the chalk and baking soda raised the mash pH high enough that either starch conversion was incomplete (so the turbidity is starch particles) or protein digestion incomplete (in which case the turbidity is protein particles) or both. The funny taste can be due to mineral carryover. I have heard people describe beer made as you did as tasting "chalky" or "like alka selzer". But the high pH will also result in considerable modification of flavor and not to its benefit.

*As with everything else in life there is an exception. If you are trying to emulate an actual brewing water ion profile then it is very likely that chalk will be required as most natural waters contain calcium bicarbonate which got into those waters when limestone (chemically the same as chalk) was dissolved by carbonic acid (CO2). For you to duplicate nature's result you must emulate nature's method and dissolve the chalk with CO2. This is an elaborate process, requires a pH meter and is usually not worth the trouble.

Many of the spreadsheets advise the addition of chalk to water or mash in cases like yours. In a lot of them the amount suggested is tied to the color of the beer. These spreadsheets can lead one astray as they have done to you. If you ignore their suggestions about chalk and sodium bicarbonate but follow their advice about everything else you should be OK.

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Old 05-09-2011, 06:19 PM   #3
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I really appreciate your response. My head is breaking trying to digest all of the water profile information in a very short time.

The EZ Calc is saying that my estimated mash PH is 5.35, but it seems the only way to raise it is chalk or sodium bicarbonate. Every other mineral addition either has no affect or lowers mash PH.

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