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Tfire136 05-18-2011 02:27 AM

Help with Bru'n Water Profile
Hello everyone,

I have been a long time lurker over the last year and have absorbed tons of information regarding the wonderful world of brewing. I have been brewing on and off over the last 5 years, but have really ramped it up over the last 6 months. I have about 12 AG batches under my belt and want to dive into the world of adjusting my brew water. I have a well that has a sodium water softener attached, which has led me to the idea of building my brew water from scratch, using distilled water. I have been playing around with the various spreadsheets and reading all the threads and literature. I purchased a nice digital PH tester and all the salts along with some lactic acid if necessary. I settled on using the Bru'n water spreadsheet, but still have some questions. The plan is to brew up 5 gallons of Jamil's Robust Vanilla Porter on Saturday, and I would like to build my water for the first time. According to the Bru'n spreadsheet I should add the following:

Gypsum= 2.5g to mash 4.5 grams to sparge
Epsom= 1g to mash .9g to sparge
canning salt= .7g to mash .6g to sparge
Calcium chloride= .6g to mash 1.6 to sparge
Chalk= 2.5g to mash (i have been reading about the issues that come along with dissolving chalk without the use of CO2)

the report states that I should end up with a finished profile of:

CA 92 MG 5 NA 15 SO4 94 Cl 38 Bicarbonate 161

I used a target profile for a "balanced" brown ale as a guide to follow. The mash PH comes out to 5.2.....I was very happy with the way this spreadsheet flows!

Hoping to get some insight as to what people think (I want to prevent catastrophe lol). I am assuming that I should add the mash salts to the mash after I dough in and then add the balance of the salts to the sparge water (I have also read that people add them to the boil). I know there are many threads on this subject; however I just had to get these questions out there lol. hopefully I am not trying to fix something that's not broken. The goal is to add some essential minerals to the beer and also help control the PH throughout the mash. Thanks in advance for your help!!

ajdelange 05-18-2011 03:18 AM

It is true that you do not want to brew with water from the output of a softener and it is also true that if you have a softener the feed water for it is probably pretty hard but I know of one case where they sold a guy a softener and his well was about as soft as I have ever seen. Anyway, if you haven't already done so you should get a water analysis done. Often it is possible to dilute your feed water with varying amounts of RO (or DI) and obtain good brewing water.

If you don't know the composition of your feed water you can, of course, take the start from DI approach.

In general, the less you add to your water, the better the beer. IOW, mineral addition is not always a good thing to do. The possible exceptions are
1. When the source is devoid of calcium (as, of course, DI water is)
2. When you particularly want the effects that sulfate has on hops.
3. When mineral "crispness" is an important characteristic of the style (Export)
4. Where you are motivated mostly by the desire to be "authentic" and the "authentic" water is high in mineral content.

WRT the first: addition of 2.5 grams of calcium chloride to 5 gallons of water will get the calcium into the appropriate region. I see no reason to treat sparge water any different from mash water in the vast majority of cases

WRT the second: I usually advocate omitting sulfate the first time a beer is brewed and then adding some for the second to determine which you like better. Of course you can do this in reverse order. Just be sure you try it again without sulfate if you do choose to go with it in the first try. You will probably like the no sulfate version better but I can't predict where your particular tastes will lie.

WRT Epsom salts - no need for them in general and they add sulfate. Exception: Items 3 or 4 above - magnesium lends a bitterness, generally considered undesirable but then there is again a matter of personal taste.

WRT salt: sodium never brings anything to the party but chloride often does. I'd skip the sodium chloride on the first go and experiment with chloride levels through varying levels of calcium chloride on subsequent brews.

Chalk should never be added to water. There are many reasons for this (one being the necessity of using CO2 that you mentioned). Ezception: Item 4. Chalk should never be added to mash either unless a pH meter reading indicates that it is necessary and in general it isn't. I've seen guys report mash pH's as low as 5.2 and that is a case where you would want to use some chalk but in those cases there have always been roast and dark malt additions to the extent that I would find the beer undrinkable (i.e. 3 times the levels that my experience has show gives a balanced beer). Again de gustibus non est disputandem

In summary: Starting with DI water add 2.5 - 5 grams of calcium chloride to each 5 gallons (mash, sparge, makeup, dilution....) water. Dough in and check mash pH. If it is in the 5.4 - 5.6 region you are fine. If it is lower than 5.4 add a little (and I do mean a little) chalk, stir thoroughly and wait before checking pH again. Better yet, take a portion of the girst (needs to be well mixed so that your sample is representative), add a portion of the water and check the pH of that after a few minutes. This will give you an idea as to what to expect in the whole mash. If low, experiment with chalk to get the test mash to the desired pH, scale that addition to the main mash size and add that amount to the water. It won't dissolve but will mix into the mash as strike faster than if you add it to the mash and stir it in.

In subsequent brews add some gypsum. Here you are seeing how you like what sulfate does.

Not knowing what your pre softener water looks like I can't say whether you are trying to fix something that is not broken but I can say that in many cases trying to make elaborate salt additions to brewing water is. Keep the additions as low as possible and keep them simple and you will get better beer.

jmf143 05-18-2011 02:33 PM


Originally Posted by ajdelange (Post 2932384)
Keep the additions as low as possible and keep them simple and you will get better beer.

This is something I struggle with - I look at the profiles in Bru'n Water and then play with the additions (over and over and over) to get my final water to match. Of course, then when I get one of the minerals "right on" it leads to another mineral being slightly too high or low compared to the profile, or my pH will be outside the 5.3 - 5.5 range. So of course I start fiddlin' with my additions again. It can be maddening.

I love the Bru'n Water tool - this is not an indictment of it. But in my case its sorta like giving matches to a pyromaniac.

ajdelange 05-18-2011 04:07 PM

The "problem" is that Martin has been very careful to be sure that the profiles he included are all electrically balanced (many if not most of the profiles that have been floating around the home brewing community for years are not). An electrically balanced profile can exist but in order to match it closely one must do what nature does and that is add not only salts but acid - generally in the form of CO2. If you don't include acid in an addition that includes chalk or sodium bicarbonate you will not be able to get a very close match. If you do it is usually possible to get a set of salt/acid additions which will bring the concentration of every ion within a fraction of a percent of target values. For example consider the following more or less arbitrary balanced profile (I found it in my spreadsheet left over from who knows where)

pH 7.9
Alk: 51.18 (bicarbonate 59.14)
Ca: 76
Mg: 13
SO4: 129.5
Cl: 56
Na: 9

This can be matched by adding the following quantities (mg) to each liter of DI water treated:

CaCl2.H2O 98.01
NaCl 3.51
CaSO4.2H2O 140.01
MgSO4.7H20 131.83
CaCO3 32.31
NaHCO3 27.84
CO2 15.22

Calcium will be off by 0.01 mg per liter and sulfate by a like amount.

Now if I try to match this without CO2 I must still supply acid because if I don't I won't be able to get the bicarbonate and calcium levels I want. Yes, sodium bicarbonate is a source of bicarbonate but you can't buy calcium bicarbonate from the LHBS. If you could profile matching would be a lot easier. If I do ask for a solution without acid I do get one but it is way off - almost 100% on bicarb, 175 on calcium,19% on chloride, 4% on sodium. Here are the additions with lactic acid:

CaCl2.H2O 98.75
NaCl 0.0
CaSO4.2H2O 126.15
MgSO4.7H2O 134.82
CaCO3 56.42
NaHCO3 33.43
CO2 0.0
Lactic Acid 62.13

This gives me a profile in which the calcium is off by 8.8%, the magnesium by 2.3%, the bicarbonate by 3.8%, the sulfate by 5.1%, the chloride by 3.1% and the sodium by 1.6%. This isn't too bad actually. Other than having lactate ion which is not in the target profile the other ion's concentrations are certainly close enough that you wouldn't notice a difference in the beer brewed with the treated DI water and one brewed with the target water.

So why not try hydrochloric or sulfuric acids as the target contains a lot of each of these ions. In this particular case that works. It is possible to get solutions as good as with carbonic in the case of this example. This will not always be the case and it is necessary to use CO2 in those cases.

In any case, the problem being solved here in order to get an accurate match is an optimization problem. To solve it requires use of Excel's Solver and an additional degree of sophistication in the models built into the spreadsheet. To use these requires expertise beyond what can be expected of the beginner and that's why I don't suggest that even fairly advanced "water chemists" undertake to use them. Obviously I have a spreadsheet that allows me to calculate this stuff but I don't publicize it because it would just give most people a headache.

1. All the calculations given here are theoretical. In practice you would not be able to measure/mix/analyze to a fraction of a percent.
2. There are an infinite number of salt addition combinations which will give the accurate synthesis (acid included). They don't differ much. A bit more of this salt, a bit less of that.
3. The optimality criterion for finding salt additions is minimization of the sums of the squares of the logs of the ratios of synthesized to target ion concentrations. This is equivalent to minimizing the percentage errors as opposed to mg/L errors.

Tfire136 05-18-2011 06:45 PM

Thanks for the insight everyone! ......this stuff gives me a headache lol. I do not have a water report for my water report for my pre-softened water, but obtained an analysis of the post-softened water when we purchased in January:

PH 6.4
Hardness as CaCO3 0.19
NA 82
Cl 34
Sulfate 16

There was nothing listed for Mg. I assume just use the distilled water. There are some good suggestions here. If anyone else has insight I am all ears. I am glad I stopped at inorganic chemistry in college lol.

ajdelange 05-18-2011 07:46 PM

That's 3.52 mEq/L sodium. Assuming the incoming well water (we can tell it is most probably a well because of the low pH) was low in sodium, lets say 11.5 mg/L because that's a round half mEqL that means that 3 mEq/L of that sodium was swapped for calcium and magnesium so that your total hardness was 3*50 = 150 ppm as CaCO3 (not counting the 0.19 calcium hardness at the softener output. The 3.52 mEq/L cations are balanced by 34/35 mEq/L chloride and 16/48 (total 1.5 mEq/L) plus bicarbonate which must, therefore, have been at about 3.5 - 1.5 = 2 mEq/L so that your alkalinity must have been somewhere near 2*50 = 100 ppm as CaCO3.

Now back to the 3.5 mEq/L hardness: assuming half of this is from calcium and half from magnesium you would have 1.75 mEq/L of each. This is 20*1.75 = 35 mg/L calcium and 12.15*1.75 = 21.6 mg/L. Probably more calcium and less magnesium but in any event we now have a rough picture of your water. Much better to send a sample off to Ward Labs and know for sure.

Tfire136 05-19-2011 12:05 AM

Wow....thanks for the analysis! I think I will get a sample over to Ward Labs. I recently purchased one of those carbonating caps that you can put on a 2L soda bottle and inject CO2 into. My idea was to add a liter of distilled water to the bottle and then add my salts (including chalk) and then inject with CO2 and essentially make a specific solution containing the desired minerals which I can add to my mash or sparge water. I figured I would just subtract a 1 liter from my total mash (or sparge water) so I am not ending up with extra water in the mash. What does everyone think?? I figured that making a solution would alleviate any issues regarding mixing the salts (especially chalk when necessary).

mabrungard 05-19-2011 01:57 AM

That softened water profile is interesting. The pH suggests it may not necessarily have been a carbonate water profile. That may indicate that the reason the water is softened is because of iron or manganese in the raw water. I wouldn't be surprised if there was rust or blackish stains on the exterior of the house if lawn sprinkling is performed. The sodium concentration is not terribly high in any case and might be used with some dilution.

Using a carbonator cap, RO water and and known amount of chalk is perfectly fine for creating a dosing solution for adding alkalinity to your mash. I did this before I switched to using Lime. It works well. Let's say you added 10 g of chalk to 2 L of RO water and pressurized the system with CO2. After a day or two, the chalk is in solution. If the calculations say you need to add 2.5g of chalk to your mash, then you add 1/4 of the 2 L water volume (ie 1/2 L) to the mash. In this case, you will add exactly the amount of bicarbonate that Bru'n Water said you would add via the chalk since its fully dissolved.

Its good that you have a pH meter, since you can monitor the mash and decide if you need to add the chalk water in the first place. Bru'n Water will give you an idea of how much you might need to add. Your measurements should be the final guide on how much to add.

Tfire136 05-19-2011 02:03 AM

mabrungard....thanks for the insight. There are no rust stains on the house as the previous owners also had some sort of iron filter installed with the original softner (i believe it uses potassium permanganate).

ajdelange 05-19-2011 02:40 AM


Originally Posted by mabrungard (Post 2935424)
That softened water profile is interesting. The pH suggests it may not necessarily have been a carbonate water profile.

I'm not following the reasoning here. It's common for wells to produce water with pH that low and yet be quite alkaline. My own well is typical for this area, runs a pH of just about 6.4 and has alkalinity 70 - 80. It is, of course, super saturated WRT CO2 and so loses this over time accompanied by a gradual rise in pH.

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