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Old 05-07-2009, 01:53 AM   #1
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Default Help me to understand chloride - sulfate ratio

In several podcasts on water chemistry, Palmer mentions that the pH isn't as important as the chloride to sulfate ratio. He has said that this is because the acidity of the grains will buffer most of the alkalinity of the water.

He goes on to say that the chloride to sulfate ratio has more to do with the flavor outcome of the final beer because chloride enhances malt character while sulfate enhances hops character.

But does this mean that a 50/50 ratio of chloride to sulfate will make an evenly balanced beer, all other things being equal? Or for that matter, is it a direct relationship from this ratio to the flavor profile (i.e., 60/40 Cl/SO4 = maltiness and 40/60 Cl/SO4 = hoppiness)?

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Old 05-07-2009, 02:05 AM   #2
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I think that seems to be the case. I think it is interesting that he chooses "malty" and "bitter" as the descriptors. I am not sure I see those as definatively opposite. I think "bitter" vs. "sweet" might be better. Here is the only other reference to this I have seen:
Handbook of brewing - Google Book Search

I also wonder where this comes in. If it is simply perception only, then one could in theory just add some salt (CaCl2 or CaSO4) to the 2 pours of a beer and compare. I think I am going to try this soon.

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Old 05-07-2009, 03:41 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hexmonkey View Post
In several podcasts on water chemistry, Palmer mentions that the pH isn't as important as the chloride to sulfate ratio. He has said that this is because the acidity of the grains will buffer most of the alkalinity of the water.

He goes on to say that the chloride to sulfate ratio has more to do with the flavor outcome of the final beer because chloride enhances malt character while sulfate enhances hops character.

But does this mean that a 50/50 ratio of chloride to sulfate will make an evenly balanced beer, all other things being equal? Or for that matter, is it a direct relationship from this ratio to the flavor profile (i.e., 60/40 Cl/SO4 = maltiness and 40/60 Cl/SO4 = hoppiness)?
"Ratio" does not imply 50/50. I don't know what the proper ratio should be, but it could easily be 2:1, 3:2, 10:1, or even 1000:1. All it means is that if you jack up one value, you should also jack up the other and vice-versa.
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Old 05-07-2009, 04:12 AM   #4
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This is from his spreadsheet

Quote:
The chloride to sulfate ratio is known to be a strong factor for the taste of the beer. A beer with a ratio of chloride to sulfate of 1-2 will have a maltier balance, while a beer with a chloride to sulfate ratio of 0,5-1 will have a drier, more bitter balance.
How to Brew - By John Palmer - Residual Alkalinity and Mash pH

Spreadsheets at the bottom of the page, found this in the instructions section
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Old 05-07-2009, 03:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by conpewter View Post
The chloride to sulfate ratio is known to be a strong factor for the taste of the beer. A beer with a ratio of chloride to sulfate of 1-2 will have a maltier balance, while a beer with a chloride to sulfate ratio of 0,5-1 will have a drier, more bitter balance.
Hmmm, aren't those the exact same ratios? I would have thought 2:1 Chloride:Suphate = malty (actually, very malty) and 1:2 Chloride:Suphate = bitter (actually, very bitter). At least that's the way the spreadsheet works.

FWIW, it just so happens that the 'balanced' ratio is centered around '1'. So 1:1 Chloride:Suphate is considered balanced.

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All it means is that if you jack up one value, you should also jack up the other and vice-versa.
Not exactly...it just means that the two quantities are considered relative to each other. If you jack both of them up then you didn't change the ratio (or bitterness:maltiness)...you just added salts.
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Old 05-07-2009, 03:34 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by SpanishCastleAle View Post
Hmmm, aren't those the exact same ratios? I would have thought 2:1 Chloride:Suphate = malty (actually, very malty) and 1:2 Chloride:Suphate = bitter (actually, very bitter). At least that's the way the spreadsheet works.

FWIW, it just so happens that the 'balanced' ratio is centered around '1'. So 1:1 Chloride:Suphate is considered balanced.


Not exactly...it just means that the two quantities are considered relative to each other. If you jack both of them up then you didn't change the ratio (or bitterness:maltiness)...you just added salts.
I think palmer is giving a ratio range. So a ratio of 1 and up to 2 will be more malty. a ratio of .5 to 1 will be more bitter.

so 50ppm chloride/100ppm sulfate will give you a ratio .5 and thus be in the bitter range. 200chloride/100sulfate gives you a ratio of 2, so thus in the malty range.
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Old 05-07-2009, 04:12 PM   #7
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Sorry conpewter...I completely misunderstood you're first post. I thought you were giving the ratios themselves; i.e. 1:2 instead of the range of the value of the ratio; i.e. 1-2.

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Old 05-07-2009, 04:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beerrific View Post
I also wonder where this comes in. If it is simply perception only, then one could in theory just add some salt (CaCl2 or CaSO4) to the 2 pours of a beer and compare. I think I am going to try this soon.
Is this to say that perhaps the bitterness or maltiness could be adjusted after the fact with very small adjustments to the final beer? Or are these factors due to differing extraction rates of flavor compounds in the wort?
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Old 05-07-2009, 04:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpanishCastleAle View Post
Sorry conpewter...I completely misunderstood you're first post. I thought you were giving the ratios themselves; i.e. 1:2 instead of the range of the value of the ratio; i.e. 1-2.
It was confusing to me too, the quote was right out of Palmer's spreadsheet.
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:30 AM   #10
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I have pretty hard water, so I generally avoid any salt additions.

But now, if I understand it well: even if I have lots od sulfates, and lots of chloride, as soon as they balance each other, they have neutral impact on taste. And, I can, for instance, add even more gypsum to move the balance towards sulfates and enhance hopiness?

Well, when I add gypsum I will increase Ca level as well as sulfates... can that be an issue?

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