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Old 05-25-2011, 10:58 PM   #1
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Default Hard Water

First off, I am chemistry challenged. Secondly, I am making pretty crappy beers except my dark ones. I am getting a harshness/ maybe sourness in the final beer and cannot produce a malt forward beer for the life of me.

I have a pH meter and all the brewing salts which I have messed with in varying degrees for nearly a year. I have especially been dissapointed with my last few beers and realize I need to find a solution.

I am planning to just step back and use AJ's primer for my next batch. I may just go with all RO water as I would need to dilute more than 75% to get into the alkalinity range he recommends.

Anyway here is my Ward report:



Most recently, I have been using a small amount of CaCl and Lactic acid to get my pH in line. As far as all the spreadsheets I have used nothing seems out of place but it is obviously not working.

I guess the main thing I do not understand is: why is my relatively hard/alkaline water, after pH adjustment not producing mid to light beers that you would get starting with soft water? I realize I have not removed anything from the water. I just don't understand what is left that is causing the problems I am having.

I hope someone can make sense out of my confusion and I would greatly appreciate any input.

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Old 05-26-2011, 02:00 AM   #2
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Your light beers don't suck! You're your own worst critic, but your darker beers (especially the porter) ARE much better.

I do remember you using DI or RO water in one batch, though. Do you remember having that same "flavor" in that batch?

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Old 05-26-2011, 03:07 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by lschiavo View Post

I guess the main thing I do not understand is: why is my relatively hard/alkaline water, after pH adjustment not producing mid to light beers that you would get starting with soft water?
Because even after forcing the pH down with acid additions your water has too much residual alkalinity for light colored beer. It's not just about the pH! Time again I have seen people obsess about the pH without considering the other factors involved in the process that determines what the pH is. IMO rather than force the pH of your water down with additions for light beers you would be much better off de-alkalizing or diluting your water to begin with a lower RA.
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Old 05-26-2011, 03:22 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by BigEd

Because even after forcing the pH down with acid additions your water has too much residual alkalinity for light colored beer. It's not just about the pH! Time again I have seen people obsess about the pH without considering the other factors involved in the process that determines what the pH is. IMO rather than force the pH of your water down with additions for light beers you would be much better off de-alkalizing or diluting your water to begin with a lower RA.
I am beginning to totally agree with dilution but this is exactly what I don't understand. By using adjustments, I can make my alkalinity and RA fall into place. At least that is how I am reading the spreadsheets. If all the numbers seem to be in line, why am I not getting results? I know I am missing something key here.
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Old 05-26-2011, 03:28 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Yooper
Your light beers don't suck! You're your own worst critic, but your darker beers (especially the porter) ARE much better.

I do remember you using DI or RO water in one batch, though. Do you remember having that same "flavor" in that batch?
Yes they do suck. Although I still prefer them over any 30 pack.

I used a 50/50 dilution in that batch and did not notice much of a difference. Maybe it wasn't enough?
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Old 05-26-2011, 01:03 PM   #6
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Yes they do suck. Although I still prefer them over any 30 pack.

I used a 50/50 dilution in that batch and did not notice much of a difference. Maybe it wasn't enough?
I don't remember the results of that beer.

My HCO3 is much higher than yours, and for my pilsner it was 100% RO water. But for most of my beers, it's about 50/50 RO and tap water in the mash, so the ending HCO3 is pretty low in the mash. On the spreadsheets, my RA is usually a negative number.
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Old 05-26-2011, 02:00 PM   #7
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That should be excellent brewing water. Both calcium and magnesium are reasonable and all flavor ions are low. Its only alkalinity that will cause the problems you note with lighter colored beers.

I show that the amount of acid needed is relatively low also. So even if your using Lactic, the amount is low enough to avoid flavor impacts. Hopefully you've tried Bru'n Water since it has all the tools needed to get your acid additions fairly close when you don't have access to a pH meter.

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Old 05-26-2011, 02:30 PM   #8
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That should be excellent brewing water. Both calcium and magnesium are reasonable and all flavor ions are low. Its only alkalinity that will cause the problems you note with lighter colored beers.

I show that the amount of acid needed is relatively low also. So even if your using Lactic, the amount is low enough to avoid flavor impacts. Hopefully you've tried Bru'n Water since it has all the tools needed to get your acid additions fairly close when you don't have access to a pH meter.
I just recently got Bru'n Water. Very nice job with that. A lot of it is over my head but the notes make it very usable. I will be using it from now on.

So you think adjustment with acid should make this water suitable for a light beer? This is what I have been doing so far with not very good results...maybe there is another problem with my system? I have been under the impression that hard/alkaline water needs to be diluted at least. I am certainly not doubting your advice but I am confused by the contradiction.
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Old 05-26-2011, 02:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigEd View Post
It's not just about the pH! Time again I have seen people obsess about the pH without considering the other factors involved in the process that determines what the pH is. IMO rather than force the pH of your water down with additions for light beers you would be much better off de-alkalizing or diluting your water to begin with a lower RA.
There are 2 parts to water treatment. The first is getting the pH right. This is a sine qua non - don't do it right and you won't have the best beer you can. The other part is getting the "stylistic" ions right. The two goals are not independent. For example, if you have high alkalinity and want to increase chloride you can neutralize with hydrochloric acid. If you want high sulfate you can neutralize with sulfuric acid. If you want soft water beer (Pils) you cannot neutralize with acid because when you do this the source of alkalinity, bicarbonate, is replaced with the anion of the acid you choose.

HCO3- + HCl --> H2CO3 + Cl-
2HCO3- + H2SO4 --> 2H2CO3 + SO4--

As an example if you had water at pH 7 with alkalinity of 100 (bicarbonate 120) and calcium of 39.44 (enough to balance the bicarb if nothing else is present) the RA would be 71.9. If you added enough sulfuric acid to lower the pH to 5.6 (the distilled water pH of Maris Otter ale malt) the alkalinity would drop to 19, the residual alkalinity to -9 and the bicarbonate to 22 but the sulfate would be 77.3 mg/L. If mashing with this treated water additiona acid (such as lactic) would be wanted to get the mash pH down to 5.4. At this point only 14.8 mg/L bicarbonate would remain and these lost bicarbonate ions would be replaced by lactate ions. The calcium would remain at 39.44.

Acidification gets rid of most but not all of the alkalinity. If the example water had alkalinity of 200 (and calcium equal 78.88mg/L) the amount of bicarbonate remaining in the mash after acidification with acid would be 29.6 and so on. As bicarbonate does have a negative flavor effect the less of it there is in your beer the better.

An alternative way to reduce alkalinity is dilution. 4 + 1 dilution of this hypothetical water with DI would reduce alkalinity to 20 without any addition of sulfate. The pH would stay (almost0 the same so the bicarbonate will be a little higher at 24 but no sulfate is introduced. Note that the calcium also down by a factor of 5 (to 8) and so, if you wish to fully restore that you will have to add back calcium chloride or calcium sulfate which gets you more or less back to where you were with the acid i.e. with cation equivalent (equivalence has specific meaning in chemistry) to the alkalinity you removed. But you may choose to forgo that. Fine beers are brewed with calcium levels that low.

It should be clear that this can all be tricky in the details and thus such considerations are exactly the opposite of the KISS that I largely preach. As it appears the best beers come from the softest water the dilution approach seems to have a lot of merit. Exception: when high sulfate is wanted.
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Old 05-26-2011, 03:50 PM   #10
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Aj, Thanks for the detailed response. After reading it multiple times it is beginning to make a little sense to me.

You mention that bicarbonate has a negative flavor impact. Can you describe the effect? Looking at my numbers in the spreadsheet and adding lactic to my base water it shows my final bicarb at 7.5ppm. Does that seem reasonable and low enough to avoid the negative effects?

I am still going to try your KISS method with a batch with a higher dilution rate this time to judge the effects.

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