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Old 08-09-2013, 02:58 PM   #1
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Default Lactic acid for a dummy (me)?

I have tried to digest all the wonderful info on brewing water that is out there but it has been a bit overwhelming.

I got feedback from a brew comp that there was some astringency in my beer. I also personally feel that I use a lot of hops but their effect seems subdued or muted.

From the bits and pieces I've picked up, and getting a ph meter and using it, I think I have a direction to go.

I'm brewing today and wanted to get my feet wet with some minor water adjustments.

Here is what I know about my water (not from my own water report but from a water report I found for the city I live in)

Calcium: 36.00 ppm
Sulfate: 24.00 ppm
Magnesium: 16.00 ppm
Chloride: 25.00 ppm
Sodium: 11.00 ppm
Bicarbonate: 38.00 ppm
PH: 8.00

So last batch I made had a mash ph of 5.8 and that was a Scottish ale with a bit of roasted malt. I added some acidulated malt on the fly, about 1/2lb, but I feel like I could taste it and it didn't fit what I wanted from my Scottish ale.

Since then I have purchased some lactic acid. I'm nervous about using it in the mash so I was going to pass on that for today until I get a better handle on what I'm doing. But I was considering adding some to my sparge water to get the ph down before fly sparging. Will adding lactic acid to the sparge water have much flavor impact? If it's much of a risk I'll pass for today.

I was also going to add a bit of gypsum to the boil to help bring out the hops a bit more. Making an ESB.

Any general advice would be appreciated.

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Old 08-09-2013, 03:08 PM   #2
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https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/

His spreadsheet seems daunting at first but is pretty straightforward and extremely helpful.

Since I have started building my own water profiles I have noticed a marked improvement in my beers, especially malt forward(my towns water has a high sulfate content).

It's just one more level of control.

The MG and NA content of your water is pretty high, you'll definitely need to dilute it with RO/DI water to get them in range. The spreadsheet has that function.

Be aware that room temp PH and Mash temp PH are different. Expect the room temp PH to be .2-.3 higher than the mash PH. I usually shoot for a room temp PH of 5.5-5.6 expecting it to drop to where I want it at mash temps.
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Old 08-09-2013, 03:22 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Xpertskir View Post
[
The MG and NA content of your water is pretty high, you'll definitely need to dilute it with RO/DI water to get them in range. The spreadsheet has that function.
Really? I was thinking these looked pretty good (and are actually slightly lower than in my typical brewing water). Palmer recommends Mg between 10-30 and Na between 0-150. Maybe I'm missing something....
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Old 08-09-2013, 03:32 PM   #4
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In addition to the excellent spreadsheet linked above, the OP may also want to take a look at the 'EZ Water Calculator' spreadsheet (should be able to find with some quick googling). It may be more accessible for a first-time user.

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Old 08-09-2013, 03:51 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Gameface View Post
I got feedback from a brew comp that there was some astringency in my beer. I also personally feel that I use a lot of hops but their effect seems subdued or muted.
It's easy to blame water (sulfate) for this and many other ills but other things can cause it too like extraction from grain husks by excessive pH in sparge water. Your sulfate is right on the edge of where it can cause problems with some beers, especially if noble hops are involved.

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Originally Posted by Gameface View Post
From the bits and pieces I've picked up, and getting a ph meter and using it, I think I have a direction to go.
This is a wise decision though you may, in the course of learning how to use it, question the wisdom.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gameface View Post
I'm brewing today and wanted to get my feet wet with some minor water adjustments.

Here is what I know about my water (not from my own water report but from a water report I found for the city I live in)

Calcium: 36.00 ppm
Sulfate: 24.00 ppm
Magnesium: 16.00 ppm
Chloride: 25.00 ppm
Sodium: 11.00 ppm
Bicarbonate: 38.00 ppm
PH: 8.00
That's pretty good water. Only minor adjustments should be required. Note that there is nothing wrong with your sodium or magnesium levels though diluting everything down with RO and building back up calcium and sulfate is a simple and effective way of setting water chemistry. See the Primer for more on this.

Whether you use it straight or dilute it you will want some acid for most beers. The question is how much and that depends on the beer. For light beers the equivalent of 2 - 3% grist weight in sauermalz is generally good.

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Originally Posted by Gameface View Post
So last batch I made had a mash ph of 5.8 and that was a Scottish ale with a bit of roasted malt. I added some acidulated malt on the fly, about 1/2lb, but I feel like I could taste it and it didn't fit what I wanted from my Scottish ale.
If that was less than 5% of the grist by weight you should not have noticed the taste and 5% would probably be too much for this beer as the rule of thumb is 0.1 pH drop for each % w/w. Sauermalz, being malt, does introduce malt flavors but they are very subtle and desirable in lagers but might not be so in a Scottish ale. You definitely should not have noticed the flavor of lactate ion at levels at or below 5%.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gameface View Post
Since then I have purchased some lactic acid. I'm nervous about using it in the mash so I was going to pass on that for today until I get a better handle on what I'm doing.
Sauermalz is, I feel, safer as you can't slip and add too much of that without really trying to screw up and it is so easy to calculate the amount required.


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Originally Posted by Gameface View Post
But I was considering adding some to my sparge water to get the ph down before fly sparging. Will adding lactic acid to the sparge water have much flavor impact? If it's much of a risk I'll pass for today.
How will you determine how much to add? And how will you measure it out. It isn't necessary with the low alkalinity you are dealing with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gameface View Post
I was also going to add a bit of gypsum to the boil to help bring out the hops a bit more. Making an ESB.
That should or should not be done according to your personal taste. I'd recommend tasting a beer you have already brewed with this water with and without some gysum additions in the glass. This will tell you whether or not more sulfate will improve your beers.
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Old 08-09-2013, 03:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwalker1140 View Post
Really? I was thinking these looked pretty good (and are actually slightly lower than in my typical brewing water). Palmer recommends Mg between 10-30 and Na between 0-150. Maybe I'm missing something....

For lower SRM beers they are further off than for brown and black beers, which in some cases they are fine.

I'm no expert, I have put a lot of faith in the profiles built for me in Bru'n water and other resources who I assume are experts.

Its my understanding that MG and NA are down the pecking order of importance anyways.
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Old 08-09-2013, 04:22 PM   #7
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With the very modest bicarbonate content of that water, I'm surprised that the mash pH was as high as reported. 5.8 is higher than I'd expect and 5.5 to 5.6 would not have surprised me. Something does seem amiss. How confident are you in the city's water report? Did you measure the mash pH after the acid malt was added?

With the low level of bicarbonate in the water, very little acidification of the sparging water will be needed. You could actually get by with none. If acidification was performed, there should be no flavor effect due to the minor lactic acid addition.

If the water report is accurate, I don't see any significant concerns. A few ions may be a little higher than preferred in some beers, but they are OK.

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Old 08-10-2013, 12:01 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the responses! They really helped.

So I didn't mess around with the lactic acid today but I did add 1lb (4.4% -- 10.5G batch) of acidulated malt to the mash. My measured mash ph was 5.36, so I'm pretty happy with that. My efficiency was also a lot higher than normal, which has been 76% for the last few brews.

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Old 08-10-2013, 11:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gameface View Post
Thanks for all the responses! They really helped.

So I didn't mess around with the lactic acid today but I did add 1lb (4.4% -- 10.5G batch) of acidulated malt to the mash. My measured mash ph was 5.36, so I'm pretty happy with that. My efficiency was also a lot higher than normal, which has been 76% for the last few brews.
What was the grain bill? That's quite a bit of acidulated malt.
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Old 08-10-2013, 03:34 PM   #10
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What was the grain bill? That's quite a bit of acidulated malt.
20lbs MO
1LB Carastan
1lb Acidulated
0.5lb Victory
0.25lb Brown Malt

mash@148 75min w/24qt water

Yeah, it was a lot. I also have my doubts that you can't taste it under 5% of the grist. I chewed on a couple grains and they have a very strong sour taste.

My last batch had a measured ph of 5.82 so to get it between 5.2 and 5.5 I needed quite a bit.
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