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techprof 10-31-2012 04:08 AM

Water Analysis, Plano IL
These results explain why my porters/stouts are usually really good, and anything pale is sub-par. Any recommendations for lowering PH (alkalinity) for pale styles?

pH 7.8
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 500
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.83
Cations / Anions, me/L 9.5 / 9.4
Sodium, Na 13
Potassium, K 3
Calcium, Ca 96
Magnesium, Mg 48
Total Hardness, CaCO3 440
Nitrate, NO3-N < 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 36
Chloride, Cl 44
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 362
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 296
Total Phosphorus, P 0.47
Total Iron, Fe 0.02

mabrungard 10-31-2012 11:51 AM

Adding an acid is the obvious for reducing alkalinity. However, that has flavor risks when the amount of acid added is high and the acid used has distinctive flavor. I'd say that using phosphoric acid is the wisest choice when an acid is used.

Given the Mg and SO4 levels, dilution should be a strong consideration for reducing those levels. I'd say a minimum dilution of 1 to 1, but that will still require acid addition. A 2 to 1 dilution would be a safer bet for many styles.

WoodlandBrew 10-31-2012 11:55 AM

Agreed. That Mg level is probably what is hurting your lighter beers. 1:1 tap:RO might be all you need. Although a full RO system might be a wise investment depending on how much you brew.

Dog House Brew 10-31-2012 12:14 PM

What acid is the best to use when treating water like this? In southern IN my water isn't too far from this. I do use 70-80% dilution when doing IPA and lighter beers. Going to start using my PH meter on my brews next week and wondered what to use on my sparge water. Am I better off to use straight RO/Distilled for my sparge and the diluted water for my mash?

ajdelange 10-31-2012 01:22 PM

I'd call this 'throw away' water in the sense that so much dilution is needed to get some things (like alkalinity, sulfate and magnesium) to manageable levels that you might as well use straight RO. Diluting 2:1 with RO, for example, and then treating this water for alkalinity seems like more trouble than diluting 1:0 and adding some calcium chloride and gypsum.

If you do decide to treat with acid phosphoric is really the only reasonable choice as it is so flavor neutral. You could use hydrochloric, especially if you did a modest dilution, as that would leave you lots of headroom WRT chloride but food grade hydrochloric acid is hard for home brewers to get and can be dangerous if not handled properly whereas phosphoric is available at most LHBSs.

If you do use phosphoric be sure to add enough to lower the pH of the water itself respectably. Chico Brewing takes their water to pH 5.5 with phosphoric acid before each brew, for example, though their water isn't as nasty as yours. The reason for doing this is that if, for example, you acidified to pH 7 that would only reduce alkalinity to 240 and, strip out most of your calcium. If, OTOH, you acidify to pH 6 (5.6 mL of 80% acid/5gal) then alkalinity goes to 105 but only about 16 mg/L calcium will stay in solution. If, OTOH, you acidify to pH 5.5 (7.16 mL of 80% acid/5 gal) then your alkalinity would go to 40 and you can keep most (77 mg/L) of your calcium. Obviously you will need to be careful with dark malts if you go this far.

Especially after working these examples (the calcium retention calculations are not precise) it seems more certain to just go with RO water. Of course if you do that you will still need some acid for most beers but with RO water the amounts are small enough that you can use lactic and even better lactic in the form of sauermalz (acidulated malt). See the Primer.

techprof 10-31-2012 03:19 PM

Thanks for the input, I was hoping that I could keep my water but it appears it requires too much tlc for my liking. Will natural spring water work as well as RO?

ajdelange 10-31-2012 03:23 PM

That very much depends on the spring water. Often it is just filtered or UV treated tap water. The bottles usually have an analysis on the side.

mabrungard 10-31-2012 03:40 PM

I strongly disagree with AJ that this water is a throw-away. It is well suited to some styles with modest dilution and could provide necessary alkalinity to supplement RO water in other styles. With an appropriate brewing water calculator, a brewer could significantly ease their water preparation duties in comparison to starting with pure RO and adding minerals back in.

techprof 10-31-2012 05:59 PM

I've been punching in the numbers using EZ calc and might be ok by using 1:1 distilled and adding calcium chloride. Of course this won't be sufficient for truly light styles.

ajdelange 10-31-2012 06:39 PM

To me measuring the water each time you brew in order to be able to use a spreadsheet or calculator in order to figure out how much dilutiuon to use, how much of which salt to add, how much phosphoric acid you can tolerate before calcium starts to precipitate... is appreciably more complicated than having a constant chemistry (for all practical purposes) supply of water to which you add one or 2 salts in amounts depending on the beer you are brewing but each to his own. I used to do all that stuff but found the RO + CaCl2 method much simpler - for me. IOW I throw away water that is much more manageable than OP's. The exception to this (i.e. the case where not using pure RO is simpler than using pure RO + salts) is where you want a profile that has exactly 1/(n+1)th of the mineral content of your source water or close to it. A n:1 dilution with RO will give you that without salt addition. I used to prepare water for Pils that way.

Now if you want to do all the measuring/calculation/manipulation you will certainly learn more about brewing water chemistry and indeed brewing itself and I applaud that. It was doing it the hard way for so long that got me to the point where I don't even have to think much about it when brewing. I still use a spreadsheet to answer questions here (like the phosphate saturation question), however, and still occasionally even measure my well water just to see how variable it is.

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