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Old 04-10-2010, 03:01 AM   #1
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Default Mash: Is it okay to add ONLY Sodium Bicarbonate to Distilled water?

Something I've always wondered that would help me with mashes for very dark beers:

Is it okay for me to add nothing but Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) to the mash to raise the mash pH in a very dark beer?

Does the mash actually need Calcium, or can I add my Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Chloride, etc. after the mash and in the boil kettle?

I guess the base question is: Does the mash need any specific minerals, or just a specific pH?

Example:
Strike Water: 4 gallons
Total Grist Weight: 10.5 lbs
Estimated SRM: 41.6
Roasted Mat % of Specialty Grains: 43%

To get a pH of 5.3, I'd need a Residual Alkalinity of 295+. To get there with just Sodium Bicarbonate in the mash, I can add 7.4g of Baking Soda.

However, I also need at least 50 ppm Calcium. And, I want 100 ppm Chloride and 50 ppm Sulfate. To get all of that and still maintain a pH of at least 5.3 during the mash, I'd need: 1.94g Epsom, 3.15g Calcium Chloride, 7.58g Baking Soda, 3.03g Undissolved Chalk.

If I'm lucky and all I actually care about during the mash is pH and not the actual mineral content, then I can get away with: 7.4g Baking Soda in the mash; 1.94g Epsom, 3.15g Calcium Chloride in the boil kettle. Those numbers are calculated for 4 gallons rather than 5, but you get the point.

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Old 04-10-2010, 07:45 PM   #2
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If using distilled water you may want to add a balance of minerals to the mash. The minerals tend to work synergistically and effect more than just the malt! The minerals are basically only effective during the mash.
Just in case you may be interested, check out the link, not the only info on the net but kind of interesting I think.
Good luck!
http://www.ingermann.com/documents/b...ter-primer.htm

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Old 04-11-2010, 03:33 AM   #3
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No, it is definitely not OK. Calcium is a must and pH is only a part of the equation. You need to read some of the sticky links here or brewing water sections in How To Brew or other homebrewing books to get a better handle on this.

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Old 04-11-2010, 04:23 PM   #4
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I decided to test the extreme case of only balancing pH during my brew yesterday based on some responses by A.J. deLange. During the mash, I only added Sodium Bicarbonate to get the pH around 5.2-5.3, and ignored all other minerals (starting with a base of distilled water).

I then added my Calcium Chloride and Magnesium Sulfate in the brew kettle. It certainly converted as expected in the mash. Taste is something I can't be sure of until after the fermentation is complete.

If you're interested in deLange's post, it's here:
http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/for...hp?f=2&t=20052

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Old 04-11-2010, 04:35 PM   #5
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Palmer says you need some Calcium in the mash for enzymes but doesn't say why or how much.

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Old 04-11-2010, 04:42 PM   #6
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From How to Brew:

Quote:
In 1953, P. Kohlbach determined that 3.5 equivalents (Eq) of calcium reacts with malt phytin to release 1 equivalent of hydrogen ions which can "neutralize" 1 equivalent of water alkalinity. Magnesium, the other water hardness ion, also works but to a lesser extent, needing 7 equivalents to neutralize 1 equivalent of alkalinity. Alkalinity which is not neutralized is termed "residual alkalinity" (abbreviated RA). On a per volume basis, this can be expressed as:
mEq/L RA = mEq/L Alkalinity - [(mEq/L Ca)/3.5 + (mEq/L Mg)/7]
where mEq/L is defined as milliequivalents per liter.
So that is the why. Not sure on how much, but I have heard on numerous occasions that Palmer advocates 50ppm Ca minimum in the mash (and in the final beer). I see that some people advocate (using Pilsen as an example) that low levels of Ca are OK. I would have to think that is because the malt itself can contribute Ca and MG, again not sure how much.
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Old 04-11-2010, 05:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beerrific View Post
From How to Brew:


So that is the why. Not sure on how much, but I have heard on numerous occasions that Palmer advocates 50ppm Ca minimum in the mash (and in the final beer). I see that some people advocate (using Pilsen as an example) that low levels of Ca are OK. I would have to think that is because the malt itself can contribute Ca and MG, again not sure how much.
For more on the why, this is from Noonan's "Brewing Lager Beer":

"In appropriate amounts, calcium is advantageous to the brew. It stimulates enzyme activity and improves protein digestion, stabilizes the alpha amylase, helps gelatinize starch and improves lauter runoff. Calcium also extracts fine bittering principles of the hop and reduces wort color. A calcium precipitate formed with potassium phosphate improves hotbreak flocculation. It is also an essential part of yeast cell compostition; small amounts of calcium neutralize substances toxic to yeast suce as peptone and lecithin. During aging it improves the clarification, stability and flavor of the finished beer."

In short, calcium is a hell of a multitasker in brewing. Sodium can be added but is not a substitute for calcium and it's way too easy to add and excessive amount using sodium bicarbonate. Traditional Pilsen brewing got away with extremely low calcium but utilizing lower temperature mash rests for pH control. I agree that you want at least 50ppm of Ca+ in any brew.
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