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Old 08-03-2012, 01:54 PM   #11
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Baking soda always tastes bad (to me anyway) and too much is, IMO, any. There is nothing you can do to 'balance' that taste. More to the point is that baking soda is alkaline and will raise mash pH - something which is not desirable except in the case where inordinate amounts of dark/black malt have been used. It is probable, in such cases, that the beer can never be good because if you need enough bicarbonate to neutralize dark malt acidity you have probably used too much dark malt. The same goes for calcium carbonate in spades. It is even more alkaline. With it there is the additional problem that it reacts very slowly at mash pH. This is, ostensibly, a blessing. One adds a load of CaCO3 to the mash, checks the pH and it looks OK because only a small portion of the addition dissolves. Problem is that it keeps dissolving after the pH meter has been put away and tries to pull the pH of the mash, wort, and beer too high. One winds up with a dull tasting and, I've been told in extreme cases, chalky tasting beer.

The reason CO2 must/should be used is that carbonate in natural waters is brought into solution through the action of carbonic acid (dissolved CO2). Chalk can be dissolved using other acids but then winds up with a mix of calcium sulfate, calcium chloride.... and calcium bicarbonate rather than the straight calcium bicarbonate that one would have in the case of a natural water. Many home brewers fool themselves into thinking they can duplicate, say, London water by adding chalk and dissolving it with other acids. The only way to duplicate a natural water (not that it is usually necessary or even desirable to do that) is to imitate nature and use CO2. Which is, BTW, such a PITA that this is one of the reasons it is usually not desirable.

Where it is necessary to neutralize dark malt acids calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) is usually a better choice (though one must be very cautious in measuring it out as it's a pretty strong base and reacts quickly).

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Old 08-03-2012, 02:56 PM   #12
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Thanks for that. Is there one "Super" book that covers water in depth? I've read so many different sources and still have questions.

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Old 08-03-2012, 03:21 PM   #13
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So basically I don't want the PH to get too low in the first place because chalk doesn't dissolve well without Co2 and baking soda seems to give some undesirable flavors, not to mention the water has plenty of sodium anyways.

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Old 08-03-2012, 03:28 PM   #14
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So basically I don't want the PH to get too low in the first place because chalk doesn't dissolve well without Co2 and baking soda seems to give some undesirable flavors, not to mention the water has plenty of sodium anyways.
As a rule, the mash pH doesn't really get too low anyway, unless you're using a TON of black/dark malt. And with your water, that's probably not going to happen anyway. You probably don't need the lactic acid. To check, try using a different water calculator to see if you get the same results (I've used braukaiser's and bru'nwater, and they seem to agree).

As far as the earlier question about water softeners, you don't want to use softened water as then the sodium is way too high.
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Old 08-03-2012, 03:59 PM   #15
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Thanks for that. Is there one "Super" book that covers water in depth? I've read so many different sources and still have questions.
There is one in progress (by Colin Kaminsky and John Palmer) but it probably won't hit the shelves until sometime next year. You can look at Kai Troester's website (braukaiser), my website (wetnewf.org) or Bru'n Water's instruction section.
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Old 08-03-2012, 04:57 PM   #16
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Another thing to keep in mind is that if you do have too much dark specialty grains that drives the pH down too far (though aj's point that you probably shouldn't use that much in the first place is well taken), you can remedy that by not mashing them with your base grains. You can steep them separately or just add them to the mash after mashing is complete, before the sparge. There are several ways to steep them effectively. Gordon Strong talks about these methods in his book, Brewing Better Beers.

This also has the added benefit of reducing possible harshness that can be introduced in mashing these dark grains, according to Gordon.

I'm going to experiment with this in my coming brews, and take it into account when planning my water chemistry.

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Old 08-03-2012, 05:07 PM   #17
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Another thing to keep in mind is that if you do have too much dark specialty grains that drives the pH down too far (though aj's point that you probably shouldn't use that much in the first place is well taken), you can remedy that by not mashing them with your base grains. You can steep them separately or just add them to the mash after mashing is complete, before the sparge. There are several ways to steep them effectively. Gordon Strong talks about these methods in his book, Brewing Better Beers.

This also has the added benefit of reducing possible harshness that can be introduced in mashing these dark grains, according to Gordon.

I'm going to experiment with this in my coming brews, and take it into account when planning my water chemistry.
Right but if I saved The roasted malt's for the end wouldn't I need to use acid to get my mash PH within range?
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Old 08-03-2012, 05:20 PM   #18
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Right but if I saved The roasted malt's for the end wouldn't I need to use acid to get my mash PH within range?
Possibly. And you'd have to weigh that with the possible advantages expressed by Strong. A bit of acid doesn't hurt though.

The key is to understand all the factors and how the come together, and then make your decision about how you're going to mash and how you're going to address your water chemistry.
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Old 08-03-2012, 06:23 PM   #19
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I agree with almost everything Gordon says but I'm not sure I agree on this one. That does not say I disagree - just that I'm not sure I agree. I don't do many (in fact only 1) beer(s) that use dark malts (I don't consider Munich I a dark malt) but it seems to me that if there were an advantage to holding the dark grains out until the end that commercial operations would do that (and perhaps they do but I'm not aware of it). The issue of the pH going too low as a consequence of controlling for mash pH w/o and then having it then dropping further when the black malts are added could be compensated for by adding alkali (lime) to the wort. OTOH some brewers add acid to worts to get their pH's down so it might turn out that kettle pH would be just right if the dark malts were added later. To be sure of any of this it would be best to measure pH in the kettle as well as in the mash tun.

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Old 08-03-2012, 06:50 PM   #20
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I think I'm just going to add it all to the mash and see where it ends up in terms of PH. I feel like this is one of those "won't know for sure until you try it" things. If it ends up too low (below 5.1) I probably add a bit of baking soda or slaked lime (If I can find it) to get it into normal levels. If it ends up going super low then next time I'll definitely be adding roasted and crystal grains at the end from then on.

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