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Old 11-29-2012, 05:36 PM   #1
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Default Fixing my Water

Hi all. I'm trying to adjust my brewing water to make better beer. I've looked up my local water report, plugged it in to the spreadsheets recommended in other threads, and have come up with this:

Estimated Mash pH is 4.77, which is lower than the desired 5.4-5.6.

The water is soft, and the calcium, magnesium, and sulfate are all lower than the desired levels. (4, 8, and 1, respectively)

I have read in other threads that calcium chloride can be used to make the water harder, but doesn't that also lower my pH, which I am trying to raise? I understand that I can raise my pH by adding calcium carbonate or baking soda, and doing that solves the calcium problem, but does not raise the magnesium and sulfate levels (per those spreadsheets.)

So, the way I'm seeing it now, is that I should add calcium carbonate to raise the pH to desired levels and to increase calcium levels, and I should add magnesium sulfate (epsom salt) to raise the magnesium and sulfate levels?

Is this right?

I appreciate any help.

Thanks!

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Old 11-29-2012, 06:23 PM   #2
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I'm hoping that your water report included the bicarbonate or alkalinity values for your water. That is the real driver for mash pH. Adding more calcium containing minerals would drive your mash pH down further, but calcium does provide benefits. In addition, the chloride or sulfate that you might add with that calcium can have flavor benefit too. So you would want to do that with this water.

Adding alkalinity seems to be your need. Baking soda will work, but it can quickly have negative flavor consequences. Pickling lime is a more flavor neutral way to add alkalinity to the mash. Chalk has proven to be a slow actor and doesn't really work in the mash unless you are doing extraordinary measures to get it to dissolve. Go with the Lime!

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Old 11-29-2012, 07:36 PM   #3
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Hey Martin, I heard that chalk is more soluble in cold water. What do you think about stirring chalk into cold water a week before brewing and refrigerating the treated brewing water (in a covered kettle) until you're ready to brew? Will that time delay do anything for the purpose of dissolving the chalk?

I've done this before and noticed that the cold, pre-brewing water looked quite milky/cloudy. But after carefully pouring the cold water off after several days into another vessel, there was no chalk sediment at the bottom of the kettle that would indicate it wasn't being dissolved.

Also... does any further dissolving action occur after the boil? I would imagine an hour long, rolling boil would dissolve some of the chalk. Just curious about time and temp. as it relates to dissolving the chalk more effectively and whether that could be true or not. Thanks.

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Old 11-29-2012, 08:06 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
I'm hoping that your water report included the bicarbonate or alkalinity values for your water. That is the real driver for mash pH. Adding more calcium containing minerals would drive your mash pH down further, but calcium does provide benefits. In addition, the chloride or sulfate that you might add with that calcium can have flavor benefit too. So you would want to do that with this water.

Adding alkalinity seems to be your need. Baking soda will work, but it can quickly have negative flavor consequences. Pickling lime is a more flavor neutral way to add alkalinity to the mash. Chalk has proven to be a slow actor and doesn't really work in the mash unless you are doing extraordinary measures to get it to dissolve. Go with the Lime!
I've gone ahead and ordered the lime and the chloride, and will pick up some epsom salt. Thanks very much for your help!
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Old 11-29-2012, 09:22 PM   #5
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Epsom salt is a fairly rare addition. Its really only called for in very hoppy ales where you really want to accentuate bitterness with the magnesium's sour astringency. Otherwise you don't really have to add Mg.

I would pick up gypsum if you haven't already. Be sure to have a scale that can measure to a tenth of a gram. The lime additions for the typical 5 gal batch are teeny.

Bob: The limit of calcium carbonate solubility is the amount of CO2 dissolved in the water. At atmospheric pressure, that limits the solubility to about 47 to 50 ppm. That is still pretty low. A better alternative is to dissolve the chalk under CO2 pressure in a closed container. An even better alternative is to use lime. Excepting for it's high strength and the need to measure small amounts, it works very effectively.

I do believe Bob is probably right that undissolved chalk from the mash might finally dissolve in the kettle, but it will not have performed the buffering that we really wanted for the mash. If the mash pH gets too low, the body is reduced and the fermentability increases due to that pH effect on the enzymes. You won't end up with the beer you would have if the mash pH was a little higher.

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Old 11-29-2012, 10:18 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
undissolved chalk from the mash might finally dissolve in the kettle, but it will not have performed the buffering that we really wanted for the mash. If the mash pH gets too low, the body is reduced and the fermentability increases due to that pH effect on the enzymes. You won't end up with the beer you would have if the mash pH was a little higher.
Good point. Didn't think about that!
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:10 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
Epsom salt is a fairly rare addition. Its really only called for in very hoppy ales where you really want to accentuate bitterness with the magnesium's sour astringency. Otherwise you don't really have to add Mg.

I would pick up gypsum if you haven't already. Be sure to have a scale that can measure to a tenth of a gram. The lime additions for the typical 5 gal batch are teeny.

Bob: The limit of calcium carbonate solubility is the amount of CO2 dissolved in the water. At atmospheric pressure, that limits the solubility to about 47 to 50 ppm. That is still pretty low. A better alternative is to dissolve the chalk under CO2 pressure in a closed container. An even better alternative is to use lime. Excepting for it's high strength and the need to measure small amounts, it works very effectively.

I do believe Bob is probably right that undissolved chalk from the mash might finally dissolve in the kettle, but it will not have performed the buffering that we really wanted for the mash. If the mash pH gets too low, the body is reduced and the fermentability increases due to that pH effect on the enzymes. You won't end up with the beer you would have if the mash pH was a little higher.
Thank you very much. My next few batches are going to be IPAs, so I will use the salt for these, then hold off on it until I do other hoppy beers.

If I add gypsum, would I be using it instead of something else, or in addition to?

Thanks again! Very helpful.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:32 PM   #8
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I like a significant sulfate content (300 ppm) in my hoppy ales. So I find that a good dose of calcium sulfate is a necessary ingredient. It is in addition to any calcium chloride, epsom salt, or table salt I add to the water.

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Old 11-30-2012, 02:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
I like a significant sulfate content (300 ppm) in my hoppy ales. So I find that a good dose of calcium sulfate is a necessary ingredient. It is in addition to any calcium chloride, epsom salt, or table salt I add to the water.
I use far less sulfate than mabrungard does in my hoppy ales, but otherwise I agree. I'd suggest NOT using the epsom salts, and instead using the gypsum. I had a friend who used the epsom salts to bring up the sulfate, and the beer wasn't good.

There is plenty of magnesium in malt itself and you don't need to add any. A friend of mine (brewmaster at a brewpub) told me that "no one should ever add MgS04 to their brewing water, EVER!" and I took that to heart I guess.
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:35 PM   #10
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Lime, calcium chloride, and gypsum it is.

Thanks everyone!

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