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Old 05-26-2011, 02:38 PM   #1
surfnturf
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Default salty water?

Hello everyone,
*
Well, I hate to be yet another person who posts the “what to do with my water” thread, but I’ve encountered a particularly interesting situation…my water is high in Na and Cl, but has overall low alkalinity and is relatively soft.* Up to
this point, the few light color batches that I have brewed have had a noticeable twang while the amber and darker batches have turned out much better..* I’ve only used filtered tap water, no RO/DI dilution.* I am on city water, so this is not from a water softening
system.
*
Here is my report from Ward:
*
Sodium, Na 94
Potassium, K 2
Calcium, Ca 10
Magnesium, Mg 8
Total Hardness, CaCO3 58
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 9
Chloride, Cl 179
Carbonate, CO3 3
Bicarbonate, HCO3 9
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 13
*
I’ve been using the EZ water calculator to set up my profile, but I have some confusion as to the order of operations…based on Palmer in an episode of brewstrong, he really puts emphasis on the RA value being within limits for the color
of the brew, but to accomplish that, I need to add a bunch more salts, namely chalk or baking soda, one of which is an unknown and the other which would raise my already high sodium.* Some of the very respected posters on here seem to indicate less emphasis
on the RA.* Should I, in this order:*
1.******
Taget mash pH
2.******
Evaluate my minimum ion concentrations per Palmer
3.******
Get the Cl:SO4 ratio correct for the bitter/malt charater
4.******
(optionally) adjust RA for the style?
*
Finally, lets say I want to brew a Bavarian hefe.* Would you suggest dilution with RO to bring the Na and Cl down to <50 ppm or thereabouts?
*
Thank you in advance for any help.

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Old 05-26-2011, 03:05 PM   #2
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The first thing to do is forget that anyone ever told you there is correlation between color and "required" RA. There is a correlation but it is entirely too weak to serve as a basis for brewing water design.

The second thing to do is to appreciate that RA is a tool for comparing water supplies - not a design element for beer. IOW, the RA of the available water should be considered in determining how you are going to treat the water/brew the beer but not as in I want to brew a beer of 37 SRM so I need RA of 250 and thus I must add x grams of chalk.

The third thing is to forget, for now, that you ever heard about chloride/sulfate ratio. It may have application in some (British) brewing but does not in others (German). It is a handy thing to keep an eye on (like RA) but (also like RA) not something to use for design.

Fourth: Forget about minimum (or maximum) ion requirements. The proper ion concentrations are the ones that give you a beer you like (or your mother in law likes or wins contests or is best whatever you criteria for "good" are). In general, low ion water seems to give better beer with the notable exception being for brewers (not beers) who like, either based on taste preference or desire to brew authentic ales, a lot of sulfate induced hops punch.

Fifth: Never add alkali (sodium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, calcium hydroxide...) to brewing water unless you are trying to duplicate a particular water and note that this is a pretty involved process. Never add them to mash unless a pH meter reading indicates that your mash pH is too low.

Yes, for a hefe dilute 3 + 1 or more. You now have "soft" (meaning, incorrectly, low in all ions) water. Probably be a good idea to supplement calcium. Have a look at the Primer.

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Old 05-26-2011, 05:49 PM   #3
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Although this water should not taste salty, the Na and Cl are higher than desirable. As AJ says, dilution is your solution. I do have to dispute AJ's comment on minimum concentrations. I feel strongly that there are several reasons why a brewer would want a minimum of 40 ppm Ca in their brewing water (many sources say 50 ppm min.).

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Old 05-26-2011, 06:04 PM   #4
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So are you saying that even if he brewed a beer he liked better with 10 ppm Ca (which is characteristic of the water at Pilsen) he should increase it to 50?

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Old 05-26-2011, 08:08 PM   #5
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Is not the ca concentration critical for yeast health during fermentation? BTW thank you for the help thus far.

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Old 05-26-2011, 09:31 PM   #6
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I don't know about critical for yeast health. It is, no doubt, the co factor for some enzyme and so may be critical but it is magnesium that I usually think of in this regard. But malt contains lots of both - about 1.3 grams of each per killogram. Thus if you mash at 10 L/kg you would have 130 mg/L of each.

I'm not saying it's bad and I'm not saying that more isn't better and I'm not even saying that 35 mg/L Ca (which is what I run) isn't better than 10 (which is what they do at Pilsner Urquell). I think it well may be and I'm a little chicken to lower it because the beer is so good at that level (but to be frank about it I suspect the chloride is responsible for much of this). What I am saying is that while 50 ppm may be good as a general rule of thumb there are some beers that are brewed with appreciably less.

In another thread Martin worried about flocculation. I don't worry about that because, as it's lager beer, it is going to be lagered. I actually want the yeast in suspension when I go into the keg (and run my fermentors to keep it so). Once in the keg it drops clear within a couple of weeks. Martin also worried about calcium oxalate. I don't worry about that either because 1. I have only once seen a calcium oxalate crystal in a hazy beer I brewed 2. When the jungbuket is dissipated, the beer is clear enough to drink. 3. I don't get beerstone buildup on my equipment (because I treat with nitric/phosphoric acid mix). Now I have seen shadows of calcium oxalate crystals on x-rays of my own, invaluable kidneys and so perhaps should worry about it more than I do. That is one of the reasons I run Pils at 37 mg/L rather than closer to the "authentic" 10. No problems in this regard in the last few years so I guess I could add 4. I don't get kidney stones but I should add "touch wood" to that one and remark that the jury is still sort of out. If I do get them again I can always blame it on spinach and sorrel soup.

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Old 05-26-2011, 09:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
So are you saying that even if he brewed a beer he liked better with 10 ppm Ca (which is characteristic of the water at Pilsen) he should increase it to 50?
Yes I am stating that. There are definite brewing problems that result from brewing with low calcium concentration. I don't really agree that the minimum number is 50, but its not far off what I consider an absolute minimum of 40 ppm.

I have heard of plenty of brewers and judges commenting that even calcium at elevated levels may detract from the softness of beer flavor, but that is well above 50 ppm...more like 100 ppm that the comments arise. I have not heard of or tasted beers that were comparatively brewed with really low Ca and moderate Ca (say 50 ppm). I would not expect that the flavor differences from that ionic concentration difference would be perceivable. Is anyone else aware of experimentation regarding taste or stability of beer when the calcium content is varied from very low (ie, Pilsen) to moderate concentration (ie. 40 to 50 ppm)?

It boils down to including a modest concentration of calcium in brewing water to avoid problems with yeast flocculation and beerstone formation potential. Filtering solves the problem of poor flocculation, but there is no easy solution to beerstone.
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Old 05-26-2011, 10:15 PM   #8
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Just so I'm clear on this: you would brew a beer you like less well than another because of fear of beerstone. I guess I can understand that. Having scrubbed beerstone I'll never do it again but, as with poor flocculation, it just isn't a problem for me now that I know what to do. Just make part of your keg, fermentor and beer line cleaning treatment with phosphoric/nitric acid mix or a similar commercial product intended to remove beerstone and you won't have that problem either.

Now whether 10 ppm calcium pils is better than 80 ppm calcium pils I really don't know. I do know 37 ppm calcium pils is really good. I guess I'll just have to do the next one with even lower calcium and see how it compares. I'm making much better pils at the higher level than I used to but that's because I'm now controlling pH which I didn't used to do when I ran 10 ppm Calcium. That made a dramatic difference. I started using the higher level of calcium at the same time so I'd be able to tell the urologist that I take steps to minimize oxalate in my beer if he ever decides to give me any grief about it. I really don't think I'd be able to taste the difference between 10 and 37 mg/L calcium beers. But the traditionalist in me keeps pushing me to want to go to lower levels. There must be some reason Pilsner Urquel and Budvar stick with their very soft water.

Truth be told I suspect the chloride ion may be responsible for some of the improved flavor of my lagers more than the calcium.

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