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Old 06-21-2013, 06:08 PM   #1
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Default Water Adjustments

[Edited: Corrected S04 in Option 5 (had mistakenly typed 196).]

At the advice of the folks at All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing, I am asking this question again over here.

I believe that I have been getting odd-tasting beer because my pH is too high. The off-taste is most noticeable my lighter-colored beers.

I have not had my water analyzed, but based on averages from my town's water report, I have (in ppm), with EZ Water's recommended range in parens after my number:

  • Ca: 18.5 (50-150)
  • Mg: 5.25 (10-30)
  • Na: 48 (0-150)
  • Cl: 111 (0-250)
  • SO4: 21.5 (50-350)
  • Alkalinity (CaCO3): 65
  • Chloride / Sulfate Ratio: 5.16 (0.77-1.3)

EZ Water's recommended ranges are from Palmer's book. My copy is at home, so I cannot verify them now.

I plan to brew a half-batch, full-volume BIAB of witbier from Brewing Classic Styles this weekend. EZ Water tells me that with no adjustment, my mash pH will be 5.99, which is out of the 5.4-5.6 desired range.

I have listed some possible water adjustments below. The first option was what I came up with to get close to the Hoegarden water profile, as listed in Bru'nwater. However, over in All Grain, it was suggested that adding minerals and mimicking water supplies had fallen out of favor. I also got a recommendation to minimize minerals, keep calcium at a reasonable level, and watch the calcium-sulfate ratio [sic--may have meant chloride-sulfate ratio]. Also suggested was not to worry about Magnesium, enough would come from the grain itself.

Also, in All Grain, a concern over my high levels of sodium and chloride was voiced.

I am looking for a recommendation for what to do with my water. (I want to try using my own tap water and not going the RO/distilled route.)

Based on all that, I came up with a few options.

OPTION 1
My original plan had been to add 4 grams gypsum (CaSO4), 2 grams epsom salt (MgSO4), and 4 ml lactic acid to bump the numbers (as calculated by EZ Water) to get:
  • Ca: 59 (50-150)
  • Mg: 14 (10-30)
  • Na: 48 (0-150)
  • Cl: 111 (0-250)
  • SO4: 155 (50-350)
  • Chloride / Sulfate Ratio: 0.71 (0.77-1.3) Below .77, may enhance bitterness, but Hoegarden seems to have a .65 ratio
  • Mash pH calculated for my recipe: 5.40 (5.4-5.6)

OPTION 2
Just bump up the calcium and use lactic acid to adjust the pH, use no epsom salt (MgSO4), but use 4 grams gypsum (CaSO4) and 4 ml lactic acid to get:
  • Ca: 59 (50-150)
  • Mg: 5 (10-30)
  • Na: 48 (0-150)
  • Cl: 111 (0-250)
  • SO4: 121 (50-350)
  • Chloride / Sulfate Ratio: 0.92 (0.77-1.3)
  • Mash pH calculated for my recipe: 5.41 (5.4-5.6)
The calcium is now in range, the chloride/sulfate ratio is in range, and only the Magnesium is out. I don't have my copy of Palmer's book with me to know how important the Magnesium is.

OPTION 3
Going to the other extreme, I can put all of the numbers solidly in the green range with lots of minerals. Add 7 grams gypsum (CaSO4), 4 grams calcium chloride (CaCl2), 2 grams epsom salt (MgSO4), and 2.9 ml lactic acid to bump the numbers to get:
  • Ca: 138 (50-150)
  • Mg: 14 (10-30)
  • Na: 48 (0-150)
  • Cl: 197 (0-250)
  • SO4: 230 (50-350)
  • Chloride / Sulfate Ratio: 0.86 (0.77-1.3)
  • Mash pH calculated for my recipe: 5.40 (5.4-5.6)

OPTION 4
I can put all of the numbers (for some, just) into the green range. Add 3 grams gypsum (CaSO4), 1 gram calcium chloride (CaCl2), 2 grams epsom salt (MgSO4), and 3.9 ml lactic acid to get:
  • Ca: 61 (50-150)
  • Mg: 14 (10-30)
  • Na: 48 (0-150)
  • Cl: 132 (0-250)
  • SO4: 131 (50-350)
  • Chloride / Sulfate Ratio: 1.01 (0.77-1.3)
  • Mash pH calculated for my recipe: 5.40 (5.4-5.6)

OPTION 5
One comment I received was that my chloride and sulfate looked high for a wheat beer. I can go slightly low on calcium to bring down the sulfate from Option 2: Add 3 grams gypsum (CaSO4) and 4.2 ml lactic acid to get:
  • Ca: 49 (50-150)
  • Mg: 5 (10-30)
  • Na: 48 (0-150)
  • Cl: 111 (0-250)
  • SO4: 96 (50-350)
  • Chloride / Sulfate Ratio: 1.16 (0.77-1.3)
  • Mash pH calculated for my recipe: 5.40 (5.4-5.6)

OPTION 6
If I just use 4.5 ml lactic acid with nothing else, the pH comes down to 5.41, but all the original numbers, including low calcium and high chloride/sulfate ratio, are still there.

It seems to me that my best options are #2, #4, or #5. Any opinions or advice?
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Old 06-21-2013, 07:11 PM   #2
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Dilute your water with RO and then add CaCL, perhaps a little gypsum, and lactic acid as needed, keeping in mind that many people seem to recommend <= 100ppm for Cl.

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Old 06-26-2013, 02:16 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smyrnaquince View Post
I also got a recommendation to minimize minerals, keep calcium at a reasonable level, and watch the calcium-sulfate ratio [sic--may have meant chloride-sulfate ratio]. Also suggested was not to worry about Magnesium, enough would come from the grain itself.
This is good advice. You'll get enough Magnesium from the grain so I wouldn't really ever add epsom salt. I've also heard that you want to keep your ions pretty low for a pale wheat beer. As long as you have ~50 ppm of Calcium you should be fine. It functions mainly in yeast health, flocculation, and in the mash. I definitely wouldn't add any chloride and I think your best bet would be to just add enough gypsum to get an acceptable Cl/SO4 ratio and adjust pH with acid. So I would go with Option #5 (I'm assuming you meant to write SO4: 96 not SO4: 196).
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Old 06-27-2013, 05:08 PM   #4
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Yes. SO4 = 96, not 196. I just edited that post to correct it. Thanks.

And now, a good-news follow-up. I've been talking with someone at our Water Department and got hold of the reports for the individual wells as well as the mix of wells that feed my neighborhood.

The good news is that my chloride should be around 50, not the 111 average I calculated from the max range reported. The well that spikes at 200 ppm chloride is an "emergency" well that is not typically used.

Here is what I went with, incorporating the numbers from the updated water reports:
Add 3 grams gypsum (CaSO4) and 4 ml lactic acid to get:

  • Ca: 49 (50-150)
  • Mg: 4 (10-30)
  • Na: 24 (0-150)
  • Cl: 50 (0-250)
  • SO4: 89 (50-350)
  • Chloride / Sulfate Ratio: 0.56 (0.77-1.3)
  • Mash pH calculated for my recipe: 5.39 (5.4-5.6)
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Old 06-27-2013, 06:03 PM   #5
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That is good news about the chloride, and it's nice that you can get a water report that is that specific!

But it looks like your sulfate will be a little too high now in relation to your chloride if you are still adding 3 grams of gypsum. I would split between gypsum and CaCl2 to get the calcium up to around 50 and keep the chloride/sulfate ratio around 1.0. Maybe 2 grams gypsum and 1 gram CaCl2.

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Old 06-27-2013, 06:38 PM   #6
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I'm guessing that a wit beer would be one where the proper chloride to sulfate ratio is ∞. I'd suggest brewing it with only calcium chloride the first time. Try adding some gypsum to a glass of the finished beer to see if you like what sulfate does to it. I'm guessing you won't but one never knows until one tries it.

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Old 06-28-2013, 01:11 PM   #7
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Bru'nwater states these ratios for sulfate/chloride (and in parens I inverted for chloride/sulfate):

  • Very Bitter: >2.0 (<.5)
  • Bitter: 2.0 (.5)
  • Balanced: 1.3 (.77)
  • Malty: .75 (1.3)
  • Very Malty: .5 (2)

I am getting sulfate/chloride = 1.78 (chloride/sulfate = .56). That would push me to the bitter side.

So, I looked again at the BJCP Stylebook and found this for a witbier:
Flavor: Pleasant sweetness ... Hop bitterness is low to medium-low ... .
My faulty memory had this as a bitter beer, which (as you guys have pointed out) is backward.

Oh, well. This is a learning process. I do appreciate the help. Thanks.
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Old 06-28-2013, 02:10 PM   #8
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I keep trying to convince people that beers are made bitter by adding lots of high alpha hops and that they are made malty by using lots of malt (high OG). Sulfate changes the way the bitterness is perceived. The less there is the finer the bitterness, the more, the harsher, dryer, more assertive. Sulfate does not change hops bitterness. The IBU 'adequately reflects beer bitterness' and does not change with the sulfate content of the water but is proportional to the amount of isomerized bittering substance dissolved in the beer. Because one pays a premium for the fine bitterness of noble hops one avoids sulfate when using them.

I personally do not, in general, like the effects of sulfate on hops and so always use a Cl to SO4 ratio of ∞ (i.e. no sulfate in my brewing water). If I want a bitter beer I use lots of hops. If I don't, I don't. If I want a very malty beer I brew it to high gravity and use rich malts.

Consider the traditional Bohemian Pilsner. It is, at once, both intensely bitter and very malty. It is brewed with low sulfate water. The drinker can tolerate the high level of bitterness because of this - the bitterness of the Saaz hop is very fine and that fineness is not destroyed by the presence of sulfate ion.

You have probably noted that my comments are aligned mostly with continental lager brewing and that should be noted as should my personal dislike for 'assertive' hops bitterness. IOW there is lots of opinion being expressed here but it is supported by the science too in terms of ASBC (and the international community's) use of the IBU as a measure of beer bitterness.

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Old 06-28-2013, 05:32 PM   #9
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ajdelange,

To be fair, I believe that I read on Bru'nwater than the chloride/sulfate ratio affects the perception of bitterness, not the bitterness itself. Based on your post, I am now considering (for future brews) avoiding CaSO4 and only using CaCL2. (Given my water alkalinity, I need to drop the mash pH when I brew, but I am also low on calcium.)

One difference is that, yes, I brew ales, not lagers.

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Old 06-28-2013, 09:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smyrnaquince View Post
Based on your post, I am now considering (for future brews) avoiding CaSO4 and only using CaCL2.
I think people should seriously consider doing that the first time they brew a new recipe and then experiment with some gypsum in the glass when tasting that brew. This will give a fair indication of what the sulfate will do for you if used in a subsequent brew. If it turns out you are among those who like sulfate then by all means use it. Because I don't like it doesn't mean you won't or shouldn't.

Another approach says to start low on the calcium chloride too and then do tasting tests with various amounts of calcium chloride and calcium sulfate. This way you will learn what the effects of each of these ions is and can decide for yourself whether you think bitterness/maltiness is a function of their concentration ratio.
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