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Old 08-16-2012, 03:44 PM   #1
Jcoz
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Default My Brews and newly aquired water report.

Hello, I just wanted to post and see if my thinking is along the right lines - I Started brewing this season and have 5 Batches under my belt - None of these turned out what I would consider really good beers, though all have been drinkable and other people liked them far more than I did (I tend to be hyper critical of my beer).

It was when I tried my first Porter and IPA that I really began to question my water content (starting in All-grain I had more than enough on my plate and wasn't yet worrying about my water).

I'll give a quick run down of the batches

1. Dunkelweizen - Great aroma, little dull on flavor, thin body
2. Robust Porter - Little acrid, thin body
3. IPA (biermunchers Outer Limits) - Really dull and soapy flavor
4. Blonde Ale (biermunchers Cenntenial Blonde) Dull, soapy
5. Kolsch (not really - biermunchers Orange Kolsch) - Came out well, but I'm ot certain it was supposed to be a dead ringer for Blue Moon, lol.

Anyways the IPA was sort of a dissaster given the style, and almost all suffered from very thin bodies.

Water Report fresh off the presses:


pH 8.6
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 79
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.13
Cations / Anions, me/L / 1.01.1

All in ppm
Sodium, Na 4
Potassium, K < 1
Calcium, Ca 16
Magnesium, Mg 1
Total Hardness, CaCO3 44
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.4 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 3
Chloride, Cl 6
Carbonate, CO3 3
Bicarbonate, HCO3 34
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 33
Total Phosphorus, P 1.33
Total Iron, Fe 0.14

I then re-read Palmers section on Water in HTB, and it actually mentioned the dull soapy flavor possibility in this type of water, which is EXACTLY how I described it myself.

To me it looks like there are very few beers (if any) that I would want to brew with my water (unmodified), and that I have many of the basic minerals well below the suggested amounts in Palmers book.

I had planned to use EZ water spreadsheet, but I see the Primer above and may start with that, though I do not have and had not previously considered incorperating sourmaltz.

Am I on the right track with assuming my base tap water is having a huge effect on my finished beers?

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Old 08-16-2012, 04:53 PM   #2
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That water is a great starting point, but it would require adjustment for many brews. The blah flavor is typical when there isn't enough mineralization. The thin, acrid result for the Porter is typical for beers that are mashed with insufficient alkalinity to accommodate the grist. The other beer results sound like there just wasn't enough calcium and a flavor anion like chloride or sulfate.

This water has low enough mineralization to allow you to use the recommendations of the Water Primer for some beers. The Primer won't help you with those darker or more acidic grists though. I suggest that you visit the Bru'n Water website to learn more about how to properly adjust your brewing water chemistry.

In my experience, adding acid or acid malt to a water with this little alkalinity is only needed for the lightest of beers. Most amber or darker beers may need a touch of alkalinity to keep mash pH from dropping too low. You certainly wouldn't want to add acid or acid malt then.

You are very fortunate to have this water quality. Learn to adjust it properly and you will enjoy your beers as much as your guests do.

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Old 08-16-2012, 05:18 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
That water is a great starting point, but it would require adjustment for many brews. The blah flavor is typical when there isn't enough mineralization. The thin, acrid result for the Porter is typical for beers that are mashed with insufficient alkalinity to accommodate the grist. The other beer results sound like there just wasn't enough calcium and a flavor anion like chloride or sulfate.

This water has low enough mineralization to allow you to use the recommendations of the Water Primer for some beers. The Primer won't help you with those darker or more acidic grists though. I suggest that you visit the Bru'n Water website to learn more about how to properly adjust your brewing water chemistry.

In my experience, adding acid or acid malt to a water with this little alkalinity is only needed for the lightest of beers. Most amber or darker beers may need a touch of alkalinity to keep mash pH from dropping too low. You certainly wouldn't want to add acid or acid malt then.

You are very fortunate to have this water quality. Learn to adjust it properly and you will enjoy your beers as much as your guests do.
I just did download Bru'n water, it is a bit more complicated than the first spreadsheet I downloaded, EZ calculator I think... I need to take some time and process it and the information on the site. Also downloaded the 4 water shows from Brew Strong to help soften the process, its a lot to digest.

And of course I'm rushing to get some simple additions together for a Dunkelweizen, a Pale Ale and an IPA that I'm trying to brew and have ready for some company Sept 21st.

Wish I would have ordered the water report a month ago and gotten started on this. Feeling rushed now.
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Old 08-16-2012, 05:49 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
That water is a great starting point, but it would require adjustment for many brews. The blah flavor is typical when there isn't enough mineralization. The thin, acrid result for the Porter is typical for beers that are mashed with insufficient alkalinity to accommodate the grist. The other beer results sound like there just wasn't enough calcium and a flavor anion like chloride or sulfate.

This water has low enough mineralization to allow you to use the recommendations of the Water Primer for some beers. The Primer won't help you with those darker or more acidic grists though. I suggest that you visit the Bru'n Water website to learn more about how to properly adjust your brewing water chemistry.

In my experience, adding acid or acid malt to a water with this little alkalinity is only needed for the lightest of beers. Most amber or darker beers may need a touch of alkalinity to keep mash pH from dropping too low. You certainly wouldn't want to add acid or acid malt then.

You are very fortunate to have this water quality. Learn to adjust it properly and you will enjoy your beers as much as your guests do.
One thing I dont get though about what you said in regard to acid malt is that the primer says I would add the sourmalz to my water simply as a base:

Quote:
The following recommendations apply to “soft” water. Here we will define soft as meaning RO or distilled water or any water whose lab report indicates alkalinity less than 35 (ppm as CaCO3 – all other numbers to follow mg/L), sulfate less than 20 (as sulfate – Ward Labs reports as sulfur so multiply the SO4-S number by 3 to get as sulfate), chloride less than 20, sodium less than 20, calcium less than 20 and magnesium less than 20. If your water has numbers higher than these, dilute it with RO or DI water. A 1:1 dilution reduces each ion concentration to 1/2, a 2:1 dilution to 1/3 and so on. If your water contains chloramines add 1 campden tablet per 20 gallons (before any dilution)
My water would qualify under this definition of soft.
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Old 08-16-2012, 06:43 PM   #5
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Those are AJ's recommendations and serve as a general "rule of thumb". Following them will certainly result in a drinkable beer, but maybe not the beer YOU like best. You should brew the same recipe many times and tweak your water additions each time until you are delighted with the results. With experience you will know when you'll need to add acid malt (typically in the lightest beers with your water) and when you can skip it.

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Old 08-16-2012, 09:18 PM   #6
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One thing I dont get though about what you said in regard to acid malt is that the primer says I would add the sourmalz to my water simply as a base:



My water would qualify under this definition of soft.
While I generally agree with the recommendations of the Primer, they were promulgated under the assumption of an almost 100% Pils malt grist. Acid or acid malt is probably required for that grist due to its low acidity (low crystal or roast malt content).

When either crystal or roast malt percentage goes up, the need for acid goes down. At some point, alkalinity is needed to avoid too low a mash pH.

Since its difficult to make a simple rule set that can apply to all cases, the recommendation is to add the acid. This is safe since high pH is worse for beer flavor than low pH. So, AJ is trying to steer you mostly right for most conditions. To make better beer, you would need to anticipate, monitor, and adjust your mash pH. Bru'n Water helps brewers out by giving them a fairly accurate tool with which to anticipate what the mash pH will be and what might be needed to adjust it.
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Old 08-17-2012, 12:12 AM   #7
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While I generally agree with the recommendations of the Primer, they were promulgated under the assumption of an almost 100% Pils malt grist.
Not so. There were promulgated under the assumption that one was going to be brewing almost anything except beers with an exceptional proportion of dark malt.
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Old 08-17-2012, 12:55 PM   #8
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Unfortunately, an exceptional proportion of dark malt is not the only thing that will drive mash pH too low.

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Old 08-17-2012, 03:39 PM   #9
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What else does? Dark malts are the only source of acid I know of in brewing (barring, of course, addition of external acids which includes sauermalz which isn't very dark but I imagine most people know I wasn't referring to that). If a guy is brewing with water contaminated with mine runoff (IOW he has water with low pH and buffering capacity behind it) then the water could swing pH low but of course he shouldn't be brewing with water like that. My well produces water with pH 6.4 and wells can go lower than that but there is no buffering capacity behind it and what there is dissipates as soon as the water is heated.

Of course we could have discussion as to what 'exceptional' means. Based on my experiments with distilled water and roast barley with a nominal base malt it takes 30% roast barley to hit a mash pH of 5.2. We could, of course, argue as to whether that is excessively low pH but I would consider 30% an exceptional dark malt load given that most stouts use 10%. At 10% mash pH comes out 5.5 or so and some might want to add acid to lower it but I don't recommend that.

Now we fully recognize that home brewers are experimenters and may very well want to try stouts with 30% or even more roast stuff. These guys, and everyone really but especially the experimenters, should be checking mash pH with a meter and especially when experimenting with dark malts. We also recognize that roast barley isn't the totality of dark malts - in fact it isn't even a malt.

The guidelines were based on a statement in one of the German brewing texts (can't remember which one and can't look it up as the books are in Virgina) that most beers require acid and that has certainly been confirmed by my brewing experience even in my beers that use dark malts but of course in proportions that I don't consider 'exceptional'. And I do tend to brew beers more in line with the German than the English tradition. Were most of my brewing based on stouts and porters I might set the 'exceptional' threshold higher.

In any event the Primer doesn't pretend to do anything beyond cover 'most cases'. If it didn't I would expect feedback to that effect and I have had some reports of cases where it didn't but they've been pretty few and far between.

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