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Old 10-06-2013, 06:02 PM   #1
Wings13
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Default High Alkalinity Question

I have recently stepped up to all grain and have brewed 4 AG beers so far. All 4 have had an off taste which after doing quite a bit of reading and getting a copy of my local water report I believe is a result of my very high alkalinity. The off taste has made the pale ales I made almost undrinkable. I am continuing to read up on water chemistry but was wondering in the mean time if I could simply dilute my tap water with say 75% RO or Distilled water? Would this at least get me in the ball park for now? I do plan to add salts as needed down the road, I was just hoping for a easy alternative for my next couple of brews.

Starting Water (ppm):
Ca: 68
Mg: 43
Na: 9.8
Cl: 32.75
SO4: 17
CaCO3: 310

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Old 10-06-2013, 06:42 PM   #2
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The alkalinity could be attenuated by acidification, but the real problem is the high magnesium content. That indicates that dilution is your only solution. It also helps reduce the alkalinity.

For a pale ale, a 1 to 1 dilution with RO water would be a good starting point. But the alkalinity would still be too high and the sulfate too low. Acid and gypsum additions are probably needed. For all other styles, a higher degree of dilution may be helpful.

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Old 10-06-2013, 10:49 PM   #3
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High pH usually leads to dull flavors rather than off flavor. Was the off taste a kind of sour bitterness? If so you can probably blame the magnesium though water problems are by no means responsible for all off tastes.

If you dilute 1:1 with RO (or DI) water you cut everything, including the alkalinity, approximately in half, 2:1 reduces everything to 1/3, 3:1 to 1/4 and so on. Brewers like alkalinity less than 50 generally speaking so a dilution of 6:1 or 7:1 is required. This lowers everything by a factor of 7 or 8 and calcium, chloride and sulfate (if you want it) will have to be supplemented. An obvious question when such heavy dilutions are contemplated is 'Why not use 100% RO water.' You can indeed do that thus attaining the ultimate in water control. There are also several other ways to remove the bicarbonate and magnesium none of which are as simple as using RO either in toto or as a dilutant.

You may find the Primer here helpful.

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Old 10-07-2013, 08:52 PM   #4
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Thanks for the replies.

I am having a really hard time nailing down the off taste or putting it into coherent words. It has astringency at the end and the lighter beers are overly bitter but not in a good way (I don't believe I'm picking up any sourness). An Amber ale I brewed still had the astringency at the end but I didn't get the overwhelming bitterness.

I'm thinking it might be best just to go 100% RO water to confirm the water is truly the culprit. Am I understanding the primer correctly, that I can simply use 100% RO and add 1tsp of calcium chloride per 5g of RO water for starters? Then if this seems to correct the taste I would focus on dialing in the other additions.

Would just adding the calcium chloride be enough to start with or would you definitely suggest using the sauermalz and gypsum(if applicable) right of the bat as well?

Once again I appreciate your assistance gentleman.

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Old 10-08-2013, 03:15 AM   #5
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RO water and calcium chloride is a minimalist approach to water. Calcium is beneficial and I have never heard anyone complain about the effects of chloride at the level implied by 1 tsp/5 gal (about a gram per gallon) though if you really want to be minimalist you could go to half that. If you have problems with off flavors in a beer made with 1/2 - 1 gram CaCl2/gal in RO water the problem isn't the water. And yes, unless the beer contains colored malts you should use the acidulated malt.

When the beer is finished with the minimalist approach be sure to taste it with and without additions of calcium chloride and gypsum in the glass. This will demonstrate to you the effects of various levels of those salts and you can brew subsequent batches with those salts at the levels that gave you the most pleasing taste.

The reason for witholding the gypsum in this first beer are that many people don't like the effects of sulfate and you may be one of them.

Astringency suggests (but does not prove) high sparge pH which, given the very high alkalinity of your water, is a distinct possibility. RO water solves that problem as well as others.

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Old 10-08-2013, 05:03 PM   #6
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I am going to give this a shot for my next brew day. Realy hoping it corrects the off taste I've been experiencing.

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Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
When the beer is finished with the minimalist approach be sure to taste it with and without additions of calcium chloride and gypsum in the glass. This will demonstrate to you the effects of various levels of those salts and you can brew subsequent batches with those salts at the levels that gave you the most pleasing taste.
That is a great idea to add the additional salts to the glass to get a feel for the effect they have.
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