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-   -   Water adjustments; choosing a tool (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/water-adjustments-choosing-tool-364931/)

jaynik 11-02-2012 12:39 AM

Water adjustments; choosing a tool
Let's put it out there. I'm not a chemist. I hate sciencey things. I'm trying to learn more about water chemistry to understand its impact on my finished beers, particularly my perceived bitterness. I got my report back and decided to try to put it to work before asking for help. Here's the result of my report:

Calcium (Ca) 20 ppm
Magnesium (Mg) 2 ppm
Sodium (Na) 4 ppm
Chloride (Cl) 5 ppm
Sulfate (SO4) 18 ppm
Bicarb (HCO3) 50 ppm

I've tried balancing my water using EZ water, Palmers Mash RA spreadsheet and Brun water. Using EZ water and Palmer I achieve balance with these additions.
Gypsum 2 gm
Calc Chloride 5 gm
Epsom Salt 3 gm

I'm struggling to use Bru'n water because I'm able to get within the acceptable ph range and "go green" on the conditional formatted fields by just adding 4g of gypsum but that doesn't get my RA near 0 which is I believe what Palmer suggests is desirable. I simply don't yet understand the impact of each element, so am not able to take full advantage of Bru'n water. It will take me some time, but I'll get there. What I'm trying to combat is a perceived hop bitterness and sometimes astringency. Appreciate any advice on how best to reduce the harshness of my hops without creating saltwater. :drunk:

By the way, I often brew IPAs and pale ales, but do throw in a porter, stout or amber from time to time.

Yooper 11-02-2012 12:47 AM

Brun water took me a while, to be honest. It seemed so much more advanced than my water chemistry ability- but I kept with it and with the help of the water geeks on this forum I totally "got it" now. At least, for my own water.

I'd suggest losing the epsom salts permanently, and if you need more sulfate use CaS04.

As far as RA, that doesn't really matter. Check your mash pH. That's the important part.

pfowl01 11-02-2012 12:49 AM

John Palmer has a water speech on a brewing tv episode.....i believe it's the oaked mild one. I thought it was very helpful.

jaynik 11-02-2012 12:58 AM

Thanks. I have been tempted to get away from the epsom salts, but my magnesium is a bit low and I didn't want it to limit the health of my yeast in the long run. How else can I get my magnesium in the 10 range?

The talk from Palmer on the RA seemed pretty convincing to me. Have you listened to that?

BTW, I think my base water profile is what made my fizzy yellow rendition turn out as well as it did as I believe my water without additions is pilsner type friendly. Seems I'm in good shape for that brew, but need to make some adjustments for IPAs.

mabrungard 11-02-2012 12:02 PM

RA is never a criterion in brewing. Palmer's use of RA as a goal or guide is a great disservice to the brewing community. It's long been proven that beer color and RA need in the mash is very poorly correlated. There are too many other factors that influence what the water characteristics should be than beer color.

If your water and grist are properly entered into Bru'n Water and the mash pH is indicated to fall within an acceptable range and your desired ion content is where you want it...you are good to go. Forget any guidance that suggests that the RA of the water needs to be in a certain range. The methodology used in the program is far more advanced than a simple correlation with beer color.

If harshness is a problem perceived with past beers, avoiding additional Mg could help. The primary way to avoid harshness is to avoid producing a wort with too high a pH. Hopefully you are also acidifying the sparging water to avoid tannin extraction. At 50 ppm bicarb, that water could use a bit of acidification prior to sparging usage. Bru'n Water has the tools for figuring out the acidification.

Of course the other thing to avoid harshness is to not over-bitter. I assume you have properly calculated the bittering level for your brews.


ajdelange 11-02-2012 12:19 PM

Another tine in the harshness fork is sulfate. OP's water is low in sulfate at 18 (unless the data is from a Ward Labs report labeled SO4-S in which case it is highish at 54) and as such should not be a problem. Do not supplement this water with gypsum until you have tried using calcium chloride exclusively first. Then taste the beer finished beer with small additions of gypsum in the glass to see if you like the result. If you do then use gypsum next time you brew the beer.

If the reported sulfate is from Ward Labs try diluting the water 3:1 with RO water and adding a tsp of calcium chloride (see Primer in Stickies) and brewing with that.

Keep in mind also that some hops varieties have a harsh bitterness (those with high alpha) and that sulfate exacerbates this. Also that high kettle pH increases the extraction of bittering principle. Low alpha varieties especially the noble hops produce a 'fine' bittering but are particularly sensitive to sulfate.

The perceived benefits of sulfate are very much a personal thing. You will need to determine whether you are a sulfate lover or hater. And it depends on the style of beer just to make it even more complicated. You might find you love it in an ale and hate it in a Pils.

jaynik 11-02-2012 05:13 PM

With biab do I need to alter my adjustments considering the mash water and boil water are together?

mabrungard 11-02-2012 08:58 PM


Originally Posted by jaynik (Post 4553048)
With biab do I need to alter my adjustments considering the mash water and boil water are together?

If the entire amount of water is added initially to the pot with the BIAB, then it will be important to make sure that the alkalinity of that water will produce an appropriate mash pH. If the water has modest alkalinity that might work well with regular mashing and sparging, it may not work at all when using BIAB since the mash pH may rise too high. This comparison assumes that the brewer is properly acidifying their sparging water in the first case.

So, looking at the water chemistry and resulting mashing and wort pH is still important with BIAB. You can perform that evaluation before brewing with Bru'n Water by entering the entire brewing water volume as the mash volume and leaving the sparging volume at zero. You'll be able to adjust the mineral content and the alkalinity to meet your flavor and mash pH goals.

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