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Old 08-10-2010, 03:55 PM   #1
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Default Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?`

I'm probably jumping the gun a little, but I brewed the following...

4 Weeks Ago - Jamil Saison - About 1.065 OG, 1.002 FG - 26 IBU - 8.3% ABV
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Calcium Magnesium Sodium Chloride Sulfate Alkalinity
(Ca ppm) (Mg ppm) (Na ppm) (Cl ppm) (SO4 ppm) (CaCO3 ppm)
80 7 16 87 84 54


3.5 Weeks Ago - Jamil Dubbel - About 1.070 OG, 1.007 FG - 25 IBU - 8.3% ABV
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Calcium Magnesium Sodium Chloride Sulfate Alkalinity
(Ca ppm) (Mg ppm) (Na ppm) (Cl ppm) (SO4 ppm) (CaCO3 ppm)
137 7 119 76 79 357

Both beers exhibit a significant harshness. No with that being said, the harshness DRAMATICALLY improved once I crash cooled them and transfered to the keg. Each beer was roughly primary fermented for 1 week to 1.5 weeks and then sat on the yeast cake another week once fermentation was 100% complete. Both beers turned out a little bit higher in gravity than was expected and both attenuated more than expected.

I've read a few things about mineral content / Alkalinity, could this harshness be due to too high of alkalinity in my adjusted water? I would think that this is more likely in the Dubbel given the total Alkalinity of 357. Both beers have the same type of harshness and used 2 different yeasts (3711 & 3787).

Is it more likely that this is Alcohol Harshness, I'm not really sure what that even tastes like?
Is it just Green Beer?
Does C02 even out this harshness, or will it taste better after carbonation?

Anyway, I now know I need to bump up my efficiency calculation to at least 75% in the future. I'm just trying to understand the harshness I'm tasting.

Thanks for the help in advance!!!

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Old 08-11-2010, 04:05 AM   #2
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Are these AG beers?

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Old 08-11-2010, 04:29 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aarondrich View Post
No with that being said, the harshness DRAMATICALLY improved once I crash cooled them and transfered to the keg.
This definitely points to yeast bite.

I may be way off here, but I get the impression that the biggest concern with too much alkalinity is that the beer pH will not drop far enough, leaving the brew tasting dull and susceptible to spoilage microbes.
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Old 08-11-2010, 12:45 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MachineShopBrewing View Post
Are these AG beers?
Yep, they are All Grain
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Old 08-11-2010, 12:46 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 944play View Post
This definitely points to yeast bite.

I may be way off here, but I get the impression that the biggest concern with too much alkalinity is that the beer pH will not drop far enough, leaving the brew tasting dull and susceptible to spoilage microbes.
Why would the saison still have that harshness after I crash cooled it then? The beer looks pretty darn brilliant at this point??? Crashing the dubbel right now...
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Old 08-11-2010, 01:58 PM   #6
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High alkalinity is good for beers with dark roasted malts, like stouts. Lighter colored beers should be brewed with lower residual alkalinity.

In my case, my tap water makes fantastic stouts. But I made some very harsh kolsch before I did water adjustments.

Use a water spreadsheet (Palmer's is great, so is -th's here on HBT) to see what I mean about residual alkalinity and SRM.

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Old 08-11-2010, 05:53 PM   #7
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What kind of harshness are we talking about here? There are a lot of ways that a beer can be harsh. Does it dry out your mouth and have a harshness on the back of your tongue after the sip? If so, it could be tannins from the mash.

I was talking lately with the head brewer at August Schell and he was saying that the pH of the beer has a big effect on drinkability. If your pH is too low in the finished beer, that would really make it harsh. Although this wouldn't explain why it got better in the keg, it is something else to think about. He said he likes his lagers around 4.2-4.7 and ales slightly lower.

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Old 08-11-2010, 06:25 PM   #8
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If there is one valid rule of thumb in brewing it is "Alkalinity = Bad". Many, many brewers think there is a correlation between SRM and "required" alkalinity which causes them to dump chalk into their beers. This louses the beer up in many ways. Another rule which isn't perhaps quite so universal is "Sulfate = Harsh". You have quite a bit of sulfate. My suggestion would be to try one or both of these beers again. Do notadd chalk or sulfate. In fact if your sulfate is high try diluting the water with RO or DI water to get the sulfate level down and see how these beers are different from the ones you just brewed.

Hops bittering principal does adhere to yeast membranes to some extent. This is part of the total hops utilization question. This may explain why things seemed a little less harsh after the yeast dropped.

Other potential sources of harshness are phenols (yeast strain related) and fusel alcohols (high fermentation temperature). Let them age. They will probably smooth out at least to some extent.

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Old 06-23-2011, 01:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
If there is one valid rule of thumb in brewing it is "Alkalinity = Bad". Many, many brewers think there is a correlation between SRM and "required" alkalinity which causes them to dump chalk into their beers. This louses the beer up in many ways. .
So is the goal to aim for a pH and then let RA fall where it may? In other words, say I'm brewing a porter. I don't want it to taste too harsh -- or too burnt -- , but I have moderately hard water. I add enough acid malt to get a pH of around 5.5. Is this the real goal? Or do I need to look beyond pH and think about Palmer's RA ranges -- and know I need to target, say, a 120 RA.

Ditto for, say, a Pumpkin Ale with an SRM of 8 or so. I've got a little crystal in there, but I want it to be a bit sharp -- and maybe even a little dry -- when I add in the pumpkin spices. I decide I want to go for pH of 5.25-5.3. Is this what I want to think about -- pH?

I know RA and pH are linked -- but when I'm thinking about salt adjustments and acid adjustments -- do I really want to concentrate on the pH first and foremost and let the RA fall where it falls? Or do I want to think, well, Palmer says a porter needs an RA of 60+, so I want to shoot for this -- and then take whatever pH I get?

I'm confused about where I need to focus for the biggest flavor.
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Old 06-23-2011, 01:09 PM   #10
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Appropriate Mash pH is the goal. RA is NOT the goal, but it provides a modest pH correlation at best and can be a poor indicator under some conditions. By all means, stay away from any spreadsheet that guides you to a target RA based only on beer color. There is much more to predicting mash pH than beer color. Forget what Palmer says, it is seriously flawed.

The best approach is to know your water and your grains and the mashing pH they produce. The next best approach is to use brewing water modeling software to get you in the 'ballpark'. Using a water calculation program that only provides you with the resulting ion concentrations in the water can still leave you in the dark with respect to how the mash pH may respond.

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