New Giveaway - Wort Monster Conical Fermeneter!

Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Brew Science > Help with Hard, Alkaline Water




Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 02-21-2011, 07:12 PM   #1
HopBlooded
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Yakima, WA
Posts: 77
Default Help with Hard, Alkaline Water

Hi all,

Thanks for all of the interesting info in this forum. I've been brewing AG for about 6 months and have recently come to the conclusion that some of my mash troubles (high mash pH, low mash efficiency, occasional off-flavors) may be due to the well water I'm using. I send a sample to Ward Labs and got the following results:

pH: 7.7
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est: 398
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm: 0.66
Cations / Anions, me/L: 7.0 / 6.4

Sodium, Na: 40
Potassium, K: 4
Calcium, Ca: 63
Magnesium, Mg: 24
Total Hardness, CaCO3: 258
Nitrate, NO3-N: 3.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S: 11
Chloride, Cl: 14
Carbonate, CO3: <1
Bicarbonate, HCO3: 311
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3: 255
Fluoride, F: 0.42
Total Iron, Fe: < 0.01

As far as I can tell, I have hard, alkaline water that makes it tougher to brew the styles I like to brew, mostly pale ales and IPAs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I think the best ("technically sound") beer I've brewed since moving to AG was a Black IPA at 35 SRM. I've been disappointed in many of the IPAs and pale ales (5-12 SRM) I've brewed and it wasn't until recently that I looked to the water as a potential problem. Before that I was trying to refine my processes, etc. and wasn't seeing the kind of improvement I'd hoped for.

I think my water is probably fine as-is for darker beers (20+ SRM), but maybe not. I'm pretty sure it's not fine as is for sub-10 SRM IPAs & APAs. Given the water profile above, what should I be looking at doing to improve my beers? Sorry, I know you guys get these questions all the time.

Thanks in advance.



__________________
HopBlooded is offline
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-21-2011, 07:18 PM   #2
Yooper
Frau Admin
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
 
Yooper's Avatar
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Upper Michigan
Posts: 58,589
Liked 3848 Times on 2812 Posts
Likes Given: 640

Default

I buy RO water from the store, and use that with a mix of my tap water to reduce the alkalinity. For most beers, it's about 50/50 but my water is not quite as alkaline as yours.



__________________
Broken Leg Brewery
Giving beer a leg to stand on since 2006
Yooper is online now
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-21-2011, 07:22 PM   #3
JJL
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
 
JJL's Avatar
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: , WI
Posts: 1,275
Liked 30 Times on 23 Posts
Likes Given: 2

Default

I'm not an expert, but I have a similar water profile. High pH. High alkalinity, slightly low on Ca and sulfates. I finally threw in a tsp of gypsum and started using a pH buffer to lower the mash pH to 5.2. Seems to have helped. The biggest problem with a water profile like this is that your mash pH is going to be too high. You won't get good conversion and your beers are going to be thin with a harsh soapy taste. You're also probably losing some hop crispness due to the low sulfates.

__________________
JJL is offline
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-21-2011, 07:41 PM   #4
HopBlooded
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Yakima, WA
Posts: 77
Default

Thanks for the quick replies!

My mash pH is too high, I don't get good conversion, my beers are often thin and I have run into that "harsh, soapy taste". I've also noticed that I'm not getting the hop bitterness/flavor that I would have expected, but I never associated that last problem with the water. You've pretty much nailed what I'm experiencing.

I figured I'd have to do some dilution with RO water, which I haven't yet done.

Playing around with the EZ Water Calculator for the first time, it looks like I could dilute 50/50 with RO and then would have to add back some calcium, sulfate, and chloride, and lower the mash pH a bit more. In a 10 gallon batch, how much is too much when adding gypsum, calcium chloride, epsom salt, lactic acid, etc.? I'll do whatever it takes to get all my minerals and pH in balance, but at what point do the water modifications start creating off-flavors of their own?

Thanks again for all of the help. I really do appreciate it.

__________________
HopBlooded is offline
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-21-2011, 08:18 PM   #5
JJL
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
 
JJL's Avatar
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: , WI
Posts: 1,275
Liked 30 Times on 23 Posts
Likes Given: 2

Default

If you haven't read Palmer's How to Brew, you should look at the chapter on mashing. It's a good intro to water chemistry for those of us who aren't chemists.

__________________
JJL is offline
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-21-2011, 08:27 PM   #6
HopBlooded
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Yakima, WA
Posts: 77
Default

Thanks for the suggestion. I read the extract brewing relevant parts of How to Brew when I started extract brewing, but haven't gone back and thoroughly read the mashing chapter. I recall thumbing through it last year, but didn't give it a good read. I will have to do that. Thanks again!

__________________
HopBlooded is offline
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-21-2011, 08:50 PM   #7
ajdelange
Senior Member
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: McLean/Ogden, Virginia/Quebec
Posts: 5,199
Liked 452 Times on 371 Posts
Likes Given: 13

Default

This water is indeed hard and alkaline and would benefit greatly from decarbonation. There are few beers you could expect to brew with this water untreated and expect to hit proper mash pH. You could decarbonate it appreciably by simply boiling it for a few minutes - perhaps get the alkalinity down to 50 -100 and still leave a fair amount of calcium. As the other ions are not there is appreciable quantity this is a workable approach. RO dilution is safer and, IMO, simpler once you have a supply of RO water to hand. If you have to drive across the state to get the stuff then it isn't simpler. OTOH home RO units are now sold for a little over $100 and they have enough capacity to support 5 gallon batches of home brew (or larger if you can remember to start collecting water a few days before brew day).

To reduce the alkalinity to 1/2 of what it is now dilute 1:1, to reduce it to a third dilute 2:1 etc. The same dilution factors apply to everything else of course.

In the stickies section of this topic is a Primer which would have you dilute the water way down (9:1) and then build back up with salt additions. The guidelines there are intended to get you started - not to tell you how to treat for a north German Pils as opposed to a South German pils. You might want to have a look at that.

__________________
ajdelange is offline
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-21-2011, 09:38 PM   #8
HopBlooded
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Yakima, WA
Posts: 77
Default

Thanks aj. From everything I'm reading, it sounds like RO dilution (either store-bought or with a home system) is going to be the direction I go. But before I go there I've got a couple of questions.

Using the EZ Water Calculator, my water, 8 gal mash, 7 gal sparge, 27 lb grain, 3 lb crystal grain, and 5.5 SRM, it looks like I could add 3 g gypsum, 4 g CaCl2, and 10 ml of lactic acid (or 1 lb Sauermalz) to the mash and get all of the minerals and pH within the recommended ranges.

Would 10 ml of lactic acid (or 1 lb Sauermalz) contribute sour flavors in a 10 gallon batch?

Are other acid sources preferable in the needed quantity?

What makes RO dilution and subsequent modification the better way to go?

I have no problem going the RO route, just curious as to what makes that a better option than lowering the pH of my water with an acid source.

Thanks again!

__________________
HopBlooded is offline
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-22-2011, 01:15 AM   #9
ajdelange
Senior Member
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: McLean/Ogden, Virginia/Quebec
Posts: 5,199
Liked 452 Times on 371 Posts
Likes Given: 13

Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by HopBlooded View Post
Using the EZ Water Calculator, my water, 8 gal mash, 7 gal sparge, 27 lb grain, 3 lb crystal grain, and 5.5 SRM, it looks like I could add 3 g gypsum, 4 g CaCl2, and 10 ml of lactic acid (or 1 lb Sauermalz) to the mash and get all of the minerals and pH within the recommended ranges.
Kolbach's predicted shift relative to DI water for your water is +0.33 pH so that if your base malt DI mash pH were 5.65 you would expect 5.98 with your water. Adding 3 g gypsum and 4 g CaCl2.2H2O would only decrease the predicted pH shift by 0.07 20 +0.26 and your expected mash pH would then be 5.91. Assume the crystal knocks that back to 5.81. One pound of sauermalz is 3.3% of your grist so the rule of thumb predicts a 0.33 pH drop to about 5.48 which is acceptable but you will have over half a gram of stuff dissolved in each liter of water. This is perfectly acceptable for some styles (Burton ales are pushing a gram per liter) but not so great for others. The styles it works for are those that were developed because the original brewers had water like yours.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HopBlooded View Post
Would 10 ml of lactic acid (or 1 lb Sauermalz) contribute sour flavors in a 10 gallon batch?
1 lb of sauermalz is 1/30 = 3.3% and will probably not contribute sour flavors.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HopBlooded View Post
Are other acid sources preferable in the needed quantity?
Depends on your definition of "preferable". Whenever you decarbonate water by the use of acid you are replacing each equivalent of bicarbonate with an equivalent of the anion of the acid used. So if you "neutralize" 200 mg/L akalinity (4 mEq/L) with lactic acid you are replacing 4 mEq/L bicarbonate with 4 mEq/L lactate. Or chloride or sulfate or phosphate. In Germany they must use lactate whereas in the UK they usually use a mix of sulfuric and hydrochoric. All kill the alkalinity with the same effectiveness but one might argue that it is more authentic to do a British beer with sulfuric/hydrochloric. I do not suggest either of these to homebrewers as obtaining them in food grade is difficult and mishandled can bring the brewer to grief. Lactic has none of these problems and is readily available at the LHBS as is sauermalz.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HopBlooded View Post
What makes RO dilution and subsequent modification the better way to go?
As you start with essentially a "blank piece of paper" you can come up with any mineral profile you want. Also the paper is approximately equally blank any day of the year whereas tap water can vary appreciably with season. The calculations required to establish a given profile are quite simple as long as bicarbonate and carbonate are avoided. Putting salts into RO water is a lot easier than taking them out. In most cases the only way to "take them out" is not to take them out at all but rather dilute them with RO. It is possible to come up with any physically realizable profile from any base water as long as you first dilute every ion in the base to or below what you want in the treated water but the calculations become intricate if any bicarb is involved (not that they wouldn't be with RO but in an RO synthesis we simply don't put them in). In summary I suppose that the big appeal of RO is simplicity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HopBlooded View Post
I have no problem going the RO route, just curious as to what makes that a better option than lowering the pH of my water with an acid source.
I'd hesitate to say it's better - perhaps simply more convenient. And of course this depends on the beers you do. I'm big on RO because the house brew is Boh. Pils which requires very soft water. If I were doing Burton ales I might be less enthusiastic about RO.
__________________
ajdelange is offline
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-22-2011, 04:00 AM   #10
HopBlooded
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Recipes 
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Yakima, WA
Posts: 77
Default

Thanks for all of the great information. I think I need to do a bit of research on RO systems (any recommendations?). I definitely like the idea of starting with a blank slate every time.

One follow-up question: what would a commercial brewery do with a native water profile like mine? Humongous RO system?

Thanks again. This has been a helpful exercise.



__________________
HopBlooded is offline
 
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Reply


Quick Reply
Message:
Options
Thread Tools
Display Modes


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Help Analyzing Water Report - Very Hard Water BrewThruYou Brew Science 6 04-18-2012 06:17 PM
North Penn Water Authority (Montgomery Co., PA) Water Report lebshiff21 Brew Science 10 01-10-2012 07:38 PM
Water quality, what to do....Hard water and high pH. BroadStreetBrewery Brew Science 9 09-11-2010 04:12 AM
Black IPA / CDA (carafa black malt) to counter alkaline water? bsdx Brew Science 6 08-20-2010 04:40 PM
hard water=paler beer? pcollins Brew Science 4 05-27-2010 05:12 PM