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Old 10-14-2011, 01:24 AM   #1
maitiu_seamus
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Default Help with Water pH, Alkalinity, & Hardness

Hi, All,

I plan on attempting my first all-grain brew this weekend. In my preparations for it I've come across the issue of water and how it affects the outcome of the brew. I'm really struggling to understand this. According the the water analysis in my area in Maine I have soft water (Calcium=4, Magnesium=1, Alkalinity as CaCO3=9, Sodium=12, Chloride=9, Sulfate=3... all in mg/l). I'm wanting to brew a harvest belgian, copper in color (11 or 12 SRM) but I have no idea if my water is appropriate for that.

What kind of problems am I going to run into while brewing with 'soft water'?
How do I remedy it?
Can anyone help me to understand where my pH, alkalinity, and hardness levels should be for the best brewing?

Regards, M



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Old 10-14-2011, 01:46 AM   #2
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Well for starters.....what style of beer are you interested in making?

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Old 10-14-2011, 02:37 AM   #3
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Can someone compare and contrast the influences of ancient Greece and the Roman Catholic church on western civilization for me? I have an exam tomorrow.

Your question is similar to the one posed above in that it would be impossible to brush the surface of either in the time available in a format like that of this forum. If you are brewing this weekend your bet bet would be to follow the recommendations for soft water mineral additions as set forth in the Primer in the Stickies. Then at leisure you could browse the hundreds of posts here that deal with the questions you are asking.

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Old 10-14-2011, 03:18 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maitiu_seamus View Post
Hi, All,


What kind of problems am I going to run into while brewing with 'soft water'?
How do I remedy it?
Can anyone help me to understand where my pH, alkalinity, and hardness levels should be for the best brewing?
After moving recently, my beers began having a harsher flavor and I just started brewing with water adjustments.

Yooper's primer made things much easier: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/brewing-water-chemistry-primer-198460/
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Old 10-14-2011, 03:38 AM   #5
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You really need to get some all-grain brews under your belt before attempting water adjustments. Your about to throw a handful of variables into your brewday with all-grain alone. Brew some beers so you have a benchmark for water tweaking. You really need a pH meter inorder to properly adjust pH and alkalinity. Once you get your feet wet read the primer mentioned above (pssst... the author of it needs help on his midterm tomorrow). We are lucky to have two notable water gurus on HBT, ajdelange and mabrungard, both of which are referred to in Gordon Strong's new book. So get comfortable with dough in temps, mash temp control, batch sparging (or fly sparging), stuck mashes, gravity readings, top off water if needed, cooling, hop clogs, etc. etc. Oh and then their is the crappy grind from the LHBS (if you dont grind your own grain) ...

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Old 10-14-2011, 12:28 PM   #6
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Thanks guys, all of this information has been helpful. I'll give it a go this weekend and see how it turns out!

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Old 10-14-2011, 01:18 PM   #7
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You have a fine water as a starting point. Use the recommendations in the Primer for now. Add calcium to improve yeast health and flocculation, but otherwise don't bother with much else. When you master that, you might consider reading Bru'n Water to gain more knowledge.

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Old 10-17-2011, 08:38 PM   #8
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Finished up last night. Currently fermenting consistently every second or two. OG was at 1.075 (I was hoping to get up into the 80s). I think I probably lost some efficiency in the sparge but, overall, pretty good.
As for pH levels, I was 5.4 for the liquor and 5.1 for the mash (both really surprised me). I think that the water analysis for the city of Portland is a bit off from what comes out of my faucet.
Any sense, all looks good for now. Thanks for the help guys!

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Old 10-17-2011, 10:10 PM   #9
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Not surprisingly, the mash pH dropped a bit low due to that water's very low alkalinity. Having pickling lime on hand and knowing how to use it could help you maintain mash pH in a slightly higher range.

Your beer should be fine. It may have a slightly tarter and thinner perception than typical, but otherwise pleasant if the sanitation was good.

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Old 10-18-2011, 02:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maitiu_seamus View Post
As for pH levels, I was 5.4 for the liquor and 5.1 for the mash (both really surprised me).
That would surprise me too. Adding some calcium chloride to the liquor would probably raise the pH somewhat (because most calcium chloride other than lab grade contains some calcium hydroxide as well) so a liquor pH of 5.4 is quite unlikely. I suspect you measured with pH strips. They are quite unreliable but seem to read 0.3 - 0.4 high fairly consistently. Also, unless you used quite a bit of dark grains the mash pH would be more like 5.5 - 5.6. The only reliable way to check mash pH is with a recently calibrated pH meter of decent quality.


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