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Old 01-15-2014, 12:42 AM   #1
MrT2u
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Default Sparge Ph

I am a new All Grain Brewer and have made 4 batches.

1st- American Amber- Good (Much more hoppy than the 2nd Amber, same grain bill though, more hops).
2nd- American Amber- Off flavor
3rd- Milk Stout- Great
4th- Blonde- Same off flavor as the 2nd.

The off flavor was really hard to place, somewhat burnt, and also a plastic taste was cited to me by others. I could notice the off flavor as soon as the wort had been boiled and then cooled before pitching yeast, so I know it is not a wild yeast, bacteria, fermenting, etc. issue

Anyway, after doing some reading I decided it may be my brewing water. The water profile changes frequently in the small village I live in. We use various wells that all pump water to a large tower, slightly treated and then it is piped into homes. I was told that the water profile will change many times over the course of the year and depending on weather (Canadian Climate). I just tested the PH of my tap water and got a reading of about 7.2. I think this may be too high for lighter beer and also explains why my stout turned out good.

What is my next step? Can I treat my sparge water only? What should I treat it with, without knowing the specifics of the water report? Would 5.2 Stabilizer work?

Any suggestions would be great, as I really have no idea what to do next.

Thanks

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Old 01-15-2014, 01:17 AM   #2
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First, read through the Primer sticky here. That should give you everything to get started on managing your brewing water.

Your description of plastic gives me the thought of phenols from chlorine/chloramine in the water, which need to be removed before you brew. These can be expressed as a burning, plastic or bandaid odor, and is sometimes very forward or subtle. These are developed in the mash - and are not boiled off. Give a hard look at chlorine sanitation in the water provided to your village - and use campden tablets to treat the brewing water the night before.

The alkalinity of your water, not its pH is the important criteria. You should check the ph of your mash (sample cooled to room temperature) to determine what adjustments you might need to make on a given batch.

I would suggest to isolate this issue that you purchase spring water or RO water for your next brew and see what happens. If the plastic flavor shows then - you can look elsewhere, such as your cleaning and sanitation regiment, plastics touching wort or beer, etc.

Best of Luck!

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Old 01-15-2014, 10:10 AM   #3
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This is great. I will pick up some spring water and see if I can get a water report in the meantime to check on the chorine.

What are your thoughts on 5.2 Stabilizer for a beginner? This seems like an easy way to go....maybe I should just jump into managing my water like stated in the sticky.

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Old 01-15-2014, 10:27 AM   #4
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5.2 is, unfortunately, one of those topics that sometimes leads to a fierce debate.

My understanding (and others can correct me if I'm incorrect) is that 5.2 is a buffer - it is meant to make it so that, when you get the mash to 5.2 pH, the stablilizer makes the mash resist changing from 5.2 pH. It does not make your mash BECOME 5.2 pH.

If you want to drop your sparge water from 7.2 to somewhere lower, try adding lactic or phosphoric acid.

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Old 01-15-2014, 11:10 AM   #5
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If your water source changes repeatedly there is little use in getting your water tested. It will be different next month or next week. Water companies may add more chlorine or chloramines in the summer when the temps are higher, or when they feel they need to, or after doing repairs or so.
If in doubt, just use a 1/4 Campden tablet in 5 US/Imp gallons. It's a piece of mind, and you can't taste it at that level.

+1 on using RO/DI/Distilled water for the next brew. The primer/sticky will set you straight on which brewing salts to add and how much. That will help tracing and eliminating the problem.

Your lighter beers will showcase impurities and off flavors more prominently. A stout or IIPA can mask a lot.

JonM's advice is spot on regarding 5.2 and using some acid instead.

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Old 01-15-2014, 12:43 PM   #6
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When your water quality varies, there are a couple of things you can do to help plan and account for with your water to help produce more consistent beer. Relatively inexpensive aquarium water test kits for calcium hardness and alkalinity are invaluable for quantifying your water's current calcium and alkalinity. A second component of home testing should include a total dissolved solids (TDS) meter. With that inexpensive meter, you can determine how mineralized your water currently is.

Those home tests provide you with the bulk of the information a brewer needs to estimate how the mash pH will end up and steps needed to bring it into a desired range. This testing will not provide a complete picture though. One or two complete water tests from a lab like Ward Labs or from the water utility will enable the brewer to fill in the blanks on the other ions that are typically in the water.

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Old 01-15-2014, 05:43 PM   #7
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imageuploadedbyhome-brew1389811206.557048.jpgimageuploadedbyhome-brew1389811251.783496.jpg

This is the water report. Everything seemed to fall into norms for brewing, except Alkalinity.

I hope this will help with some specific instructions on what I should do, besides follow the info from the sticky.
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Old 01-15-2014, 07:08 PM   #8
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You have a somewhat high level of alkalinity, which in my opinion is on the edge of either using dilution or some other method to lower. You could try boiling the water the day before and decanting off the precipitate or give slaked lime a try. Dilution with store bought RO water, IMO, is the least intensive solution. Your water, like mine is fairly soft, but very alkaline - yet the report provides no carbonate or bicarbonate levels. Just the alkalinity at 185 ppm (I assume as CaCO3). You have a some calcium and a little chloride and sulfate, but that will be reduced a lot to get your alkalinity below 80 ppm where it is manageable with acid (using only about 40% tap water, treated for chlorine). This really comes down to how much effort and energy you wish to expend, versus difficult or convenient it is to purchase and transport store bought water.

I cannot see the full cation/anion ratio presented in the report, but I see that is exceeds more than 0.50 ppm - which is typical of an annual range report. So the data is pretty generic which will throw prediction software into question and useability.

Based on this - it doesn't change my recommendation.

I don't see anything that would indicate an off flavor, other than the strong likelihood and assumption they are using chlorine and/or chloramines to sanitize the water for delivery. Solve your plastic off flavor issue first by removing your water as a variable, then move to solve your long term water source issues.

Also, please don't be put off by the suggestion of starting with the Primer - it is the gateway to a much more intensive and sophisticated look at your water - without getting into the extremes. The recommendations come from very experienced brewers and chemists. You can always experiment from there to determine sulfate and chloride levels that you prefer, while following the stylist recommendations.

Cheers, Matt

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Old 01-15-2014, 08:45 PM   #9
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I notice the focus always seems to be on mash pH. I find my mash pH is pretty close but if I don’t acidify the sparge water, it extracts astringency. I use twice as much acid in the sparge as in the mash.

Is it just me? I am pretty sensitive to phenols. If the mash pH is off, it’s a little dull. If the sparge pH is off it seriously hurts the beer.

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Old 01-15-2014, 09:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wynne-R View Post
I notice the focus always seems to be on mash pH. I find my mash pH is pretty close but if I don’t acidify the sparge water, it extracts astringency. I use twice as much acid in the sparge as in the mash.

Is it just me? I am pretty sensitive to phenols. If the mash pH is off, it’s a little dull. If the sparge pH is off it seriously hurts the beer.
It really depends on the alkalinity of your water. I have a very high alkalinity level, and without treating the sparge water, the lighter colored beers are especially harsh. I now normally use 100% RO water for sparging (and no treatment is needed) or acidify the sparge water if it's a tap water/RO mix.
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