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Old 10-16-2012, 01:37 AM   #1
j2bink
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Default Lab results are in and need assistance

Hello H-BT members.

I just got my lab results back from Ward Laboratories of my tap water. Ever since I have been brewing "all-grain" my beer is astringent with minimal flavors. I have been told from friends and family that I need to go back to making my old recipes. Well... those old recipes are extracts with a partial mash. It seems clear than I need to invest time with my water and start measuring my Ph of the mash and sparge; my temperatures are dead on. I evaluated my process with the exception of water profile. I'm looking for some guidance to interpret my water profile results and need some knowledge assistance. Many thanks!

Ph: 8.0
Total Alkalinity (CaCO3): 75
Total TDS: 207
Cation / Anions, me/L: 3.6 / 3.4

Sodium: 19
Potassium: 4
Calcium: 35
Magnesium: 11
Total Hardness (CaCO3): 133
Nitrate: 1.0
Sulfate: 14
Chloride: 32
Carbonate: 3
Bicarbonate: 85
Total Phosphorus: 0.43
Total Iron: <0.01

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Old 10-16-2012, 03:02 AM   #2
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what types of beers are you having problems with? light? dark? I have the same water profile and darker beers are best.

watch this video,

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Old 10-16-2012, 04:36 PM   #3
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This water is quite unremarkable except that the potassium is higher than usual but not high enough to be a problem as the sodium is modest. You can brew a wide range of beers with this water. Don't be taken in by the notion that the beer has to be in a certain color range (because of the particular RA) or must have a certain malt/hops balance (because of sulfide/chloride ratio). These are old notions that never had much validity and are fading as well they should. This isn't to say that you cannot make better beer with some water treatment than without but on the whole the water is OK for many if not most styles of beer with the exception to the delicate lagers for which the sulfate at 42 mg/L (3 times the Ward Labs reported value which is 'as sulfur') is too high. Even here you can beat the sulfate by diluting with 2 or 3 parts DI or RO water.

It is possible that you may be one of many drinkers for whom this sulfate level is intolerable even in beers that traditionally are made with gypseous waters. It could be that this is a source of the astringency you are tasting but that could also be due to phenol extraction during sparging. The fix, in that latter case, is to stop sparging sooner i.e. before runoff water pH climbs above 6, or to acidify the sparge water to a pH below 6 before beginning the sparge. This won't take much acid as your alkalinity is quite low. In order to know that you have acidified sufficiently you will need a pH meter which you will also need for checking mash pH.

Your water, like everyone elses, will require some acid in the mash in order to get mash pH near 5.4. If you don't add that acid the symptoms are dull flavors as you have described. You can do calculations and add liquid acid or you can use sauermalz which is a much simpler way to go.

If you have diluted with RO/DI to reduce sulfate or alkalinity you will want, in most cases, to augment calcium and chloride in order to build those up to nominally 50 mg/L min. This is done by adding calcium chloride. If you find you do like the effect of sulfate on hops you will use some calcium sulfate as well. All this can get quite confusing to someone just starting out and I recommend to such people that they read and follow the recommendations of the Primer in the Stickies. This will give you a good beer but not the beer you eventually find to be the best beer. To get that you must adjust the chloride, sulfate and calcium levels until you find, by experiment, what works best for you. Once you know that you can use spreadsheets or calculators to figure out what salt additions you need to make to your tap water to get the best beer ion profile. Some do this but many just stay with the RO/DI plus salts water.

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Old 10-21-2012, 03:34 PM   #4
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Hello ajdelange,

I was thinking about getting an RO system for the house. I cant even drink the water out from the tap however my wife can. I must be more sensitive to the ions concentrations. Yes I am starting out now with understanding what needs to accomplished with my water to obtain a better tasting beer; 80% of my brews are IPAs. I'm struggling with understating this and I may just take the easy route and use RO water for my strike and sparge. Would you consider this a waste of money after interpreting my water analysis? Like I have said temperature are great for my strike and sparge, but ph was never considered into the equations until now. Knowing that ph needs to me measured with an instrument what is you recommendation? I personally don't mind buying a $100 meter but I'm disappointing on the often calibration requirements and the life expectancy of the probes.

Thanks for the help!

~Justin

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Old 10-21-2012, 04:12 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j2bink View Post
Hello ajdelange,

I was thinking about getting an RO system for the house. I cant even drink the water out from the tap however my wife can. I must be more sensitive to the ions concentrations. Yes I am starting out now with understanding what needs to accomplished with my water to obtain a better tasting beer; 80% of my brews are IPAs. I'm struggling with understating this and I may just take the easy route and use RO water for my strike and sparge. Would you consider this a waste of money after interpreting my water analysis? Like I have said temperature are great for my strike and sparge, but ph was never considered into the equations until now. Knowing that ph needs to me measured with an instrument what is you recommendation? I personally don't mind buying a $100 meter but I'm disappointing on the often calibration requirements and the life expectancy of the probes.

Thanks for the help!

~Justin
I'm not AJ, and I will never have his grasp of water chemistry, but I can tell you from personal experience that spending $129 for my own RO water system is the best thing I ever did. I make mostly IPAs and APAs, with an occasional stout or other style, and my beers were always pretty good. But they are so much better now.

I can mix some tap water/RO water for some styles, and sparge with 100% RO water and it works out great. Of course, you can always start with RO water and add a little bit of calcium chloride or gypsum and that's pretty easy to do.

I got my pH meter last year for Christmas, and I think it was about $55 or so.
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Old 10-21-2012, 04:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j2bink
Hello ajdelange,

I was thinking about getting an RO system for the house. I cant even drink the water out from the tap however my wife can. I must be more sensitive to the ions concentrations. Yes I am starting out now with understanding what needs to accomplished with my water to obtain a better tasting beer; 80% of my brews are IPAs. I'm struggling with understating this and I may just take the easy route and use RO water for my strike and sparge. Would you consider this a waste of money after interpreting my water analysis? Like I have said temperature are great for my strike and sparge, but ph was never considered into the equations until now. Knowing that ph needs to me measured with an instrument what is you recommendation? I personally don't mind buying a $100 meter but I'm disappointing on the often calibration requirements and the life expectancy of the probes.

Thanks for the help!

~Justin
Since my career began, I've been working with pH meters. Anything from Fisher, VWR, Denver, or other name-brand manufactures should be good. As for calibration, I would do at least a 2 point calibration at 5 and 7 on brew day. I've had probes last for over a year and still read accurately. It is very important to store the probe in the proper buffer and keep the electrolyte level up. Depending on how often you brew, it may just make more sense to use test strips. I hope this helps.
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Old 10-21-2012, 05:23 PM   #7
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I use thermoworks temperature units and I like them alot. There customer service is great. Has anyone tried the ph meters.

http://www.thermoworks.com/products/...9ph_meter.html

http://www.thermoworks.com/products/..._ph_phpro.html

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Old 10-21-2012, 06:29 PM   #8
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I have no experience with pH meters from this supplier. The 8689 ostensibly appears suitable. It is capable of 2 (and 3) point calibration whereas the other one looks as if it is only capable of 1, has ATC and automatic buffer recognition. The only fly I see in this ointment is that it recognizes NIST buffers (4.00, 6.88) - not the NIST traceable (4 and 7) buffers that are so commonly available.

Another point with any meter like this one is that they specify resolution of 0.01 pH and accuracy of 0.05pH. Given that they are calibrated and capable of reading to 0.01 how can they have accuracy limited to 0.05? The answer has to be that their readings are not stable and indeed this seems to be the case. In the Sticky on calibration of pH meters there are instructions for checking stability.

If you want stability then you will have to spend appreciably more than $100. Calibration with buffers is a fact of life. I had one electrode that lasted over 3 years and held calibration for a month or more but that was most unusual (the stability - no the life span).

As for obtaining an RO unit - I'm a big advocate of those. It is really the only path (other than a still or ion exchange setup) to total control over brewing water and total independence from seasonal (or other fluctuations) in your supply.

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Old 10-21-2012, 06:34 PM   #9
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Is ward still listing Sulfate as SO4-S? If so, you really have 14 x 4 = 56 SO4. It's not obscenely over the top, but it could be one factor in the brightness you complain about.

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Old 10-21-2012, 07:21 PM   #10
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Bobby, it a multiplier of 3, not 4 for sulfate reported as SO4-S.

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