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Old 08-06-2009, 08:56 PM   #1
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Default Water chemistry noob

I'm starting to learn a little about water chemistry. Well, trying to start to learn. Here's my water report:

ph 8.2
sodium 9
potassium 2
calcium 57
Magnes. 26
Total hardness 251
(CaCO3)
Sulfate 15
Chloride 14
Carbonate CO3 12
Bicarb HCO3 228
Total alkalinity
CaCO3 207

Ok, so what does that all mean? It confirms I have hard water, high ph, and high total alkalinity. I suspected that, and have been mixing RO water 1/2 and 1/2 for the last 7 or 8 brews.

I'd like to delve deeper, but still be able to understand. When I heard John Palmer speak about residual alkalinity, it was way over my head (I was hungover, though!). Is there a water chemistry geek that can help me start to understand what those figures mean, and what I can do about it?

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Old 08-06-2009, 11:37 PM   #2
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help me start to understand what those figures mean, and what I can do about it?
What do you want to do about it? You said you diluted the water with 50% RO for the last several beers. Why did you do that? What kind of beers were they? Your water's main alkalinity is from temporary hardness or bicarbonates. The carbonate number of permanent hardness is fairly low as is your Ca+ all things considered. Your water is roughly similar to traditional London brewing water which implies you are good-to-go for porters and other dark ales. For lighter beers you want to reduce the alkalinity. This can be done by dilution as you have already done but bicarbonate/temporary hardness can also be reduced by boiling which will precipitate much of the bicarbonate especially with a small addition of calcium hydroxide, AKA slaked lime or pickling lime. Because your original Ca+ is only 57ppm I would consider adding additional calcium after diluting or de-carbonating. Below is the link I suggest as a quick overview of brewing water. For specific suggestions of water modification you would need to say what particular styles/recipes you want to brew.

Water And Homebrewing
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:44 PM   #3
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What do you want to do about it? You said you diluted the water with 50% RO for the last several beers. Why did you do that? What kind of beers were they? Your water's main alkalinity is from temporary hardness or bicarbonates. The carbonate number of permanent hardness is fairly low as is your Ca+ all things considered. Your water is roughly similar to traditional London brewing water which implies you are good-to-go for porters and other dark ales. For lighter beers you want to reduce the alkalinity. This can be done by dilution as you have already done but bicarbonate/temporary hardness can also be reduced by boiling which will precipitate much of the bicarbonate especially with a small addition of calcium hydroxide, AKA slaked lime or pickling lime. Because your original Ca+ is only 57ppm I would consider adding additional calcium after diluting or de-carbonating. Below is the link I suggest as a quick overview of brewing water. For specific suggestions of water modification you would need to say what particular styles/recipes you want to brew.

Water And Homebrewing
Thank you! I was doing some dilution, because some of my beers have a harsh astringency. The rye IPA, for example, is good, but harsh. I guessed it was possibly because of high residual alkalinity. The blonde, diluted 50% with RO water is excellent, but I really want to know WHY.

Adding Ca+ is doable- but I wondered the best way to do it. Cacl?

When boiling to reduce the alkalinity, I assume that when the bicarb precipitates out, the remants are at the bottle of the kettle?

I've made great darker beers, but my ESB did have a very faint metallic aftertaste. I believe that was dark grains in combination with my water. American Ambers come out very good, and some APAs come out well. Sometimes the bitterness is a bit harsh, though, and I'd like to fix that.
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Old 08-07-2009, 12:09 AM   #4
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Thank you! I was doing some dilution, because some of my beers have a harsh astringency. The rye IPA, for example, is good, but harsh. I guessed it was possibly because of high residual alkalinity. The blonde, diluted 50% with RO water is excellent, but I really want to know WHY.

Adding Ca+ is doable- but I wondered the best way to do it. Cacl?
Depends on the beer. Calcium chloride is a good choice for many lagers and some ales that don't have a robust hop presence. Calcium sulphate (gypsum) is the "universal homebrewing salt" and is fine for pale ales, bitters, IPA and the like but there are many published recipes that recommended it incorrectly IMO. Calcium carbonate is used for dark beers.

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When boiling to reduce the alkalinity, I assume that when the bicarb precipitates out, the remants are at the bottle of the kettle?
Yes. Some of the calcium will also precipitate which is why you will want to add some back in.

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I've made great darker beers, but my ESB did have a very faint metallic aftertaste. I believe that was dark grains in combination with my water. American Ambers come out very good, and some APAs come out well. Sometimes the bitterness is a bit harsh, though, and I'd like to fix that.
OK, there you have it. Dark beers work better with your water, which makes perfect sense based on the water profile. Because your water is not extremely hard you can also get away with brewing medium dark beers without too much fussing. Bitter and hoppy beers typically benefit from a good amount of sulphates in the water and your sulphate is very low. Adding calcium sulphate (gypsum) to pale ales after diluting your water will solve both the Ca+ and the sulphate/hop problem.
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Old 08-07-2009, 12:13 AM   #5
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OK, there you have it. Dark beers work better with your water, which makes perfect sense based on the water profile. Because your water is not extremely hard you can also get away with brewing medium dark beers without too much fussing. Bitter and hoppy beers typically benefit from a good amount of sulphates in the water and your sulphate is very low. Adding calcium sulphate (gypsum) to pale ales after diluting your water will solve both the Ca+ and the sulphate/hop problem.
Yes, I had assumed that. The problem? I rarely drink porters, and never stouts. I like IPAs and APAs as a rule, and that's about 85% of my brewing!

So, adding some gypsum and using the RO/tap mix seems to be an easy fix. Thanks so much for your help! I'll read up some more on water chemistry, and I know there is a link to Palmer's spreadsheet around here somewhere.
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Old 08-07-2009, 12:49 AM   #6
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Hey Yooper. I have been delving into water chemistry myself for the last couple weeks and am getting ready to do my first major manipulation this weekend. I have the opposite probelm you have as Seattle water is extremely soft and lacking in mineral content. Even for basic pale ales the Seattle water would benefit from a calcium addition.

Anyway I am no expert, but I will give you some links I found helpful.
First is the brew strong archives. They have a 4 part archive with Jamil and Palmer on water chemistry. You have to scroll down the list to find them, but I think they are about 20% of the way down the page.
Brew Your Own: The How-To Homebrew Beer Magazine - BrewCast

Also here is a neat on line residual alkalinity calculator that I think is based on Palmers.
Residual Alkalinity Calculator

Lastly here is Palmers spreadsheet link
http://howtobrew.com/section3/Palmers_Mash_RA_ver2d.xls

Now all you need is a chemistry degree.

Cheers

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Old 08-07-2009, 05:53 PM   #7
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Yooper,

Here is a link to a presentation I made to our homebrew club about water and brewing. I don't claim to be an expert, because water chemistry and brewing is a bit complex. I hope it is useful, as a starting point. St Croix Valley Homebrewers Association [Brew Page]

Don't dispair. I have very similar water and eventually began diluting it 50/50 with RO water and adding gypsum and calcium chloride to up the Ca, SO4 and Cl content.

The other thing I have done is use the buffer salts that Five Star (starsan makers) sell. Think it's called 5.2. This works to get your mash pH in the right zone, like the other salt additions do. What this doesn't do is give you the right minerals for the finished beer.

I have recently started treating my well water with calcium hydroxide, got it at the grocery store as pickling lime. This precipitates the bicarbonate as calcium carbonate, and you can siphon the softened water off it. Saves me the time of fetching the RO water.

Good luck.

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Old 08-08-2009, 05:43 PM   #8
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Thanks! Getting the RO water isn't a problem- Bob gets it at the store for me when he does the weekly grocery shopping.

I think the easiest approach for me is to continue mixing RO and tap water, and using salts as needed. I'm still struggling with what my goals should be for each brew, but I'm sure Palmer's spreadsheets will help with that. I picked up some gypsum yesterday, and I have some 30% liquid CaCl that I use for cheesemaking, so hopefully I can use that.

I'm definitely no chemist, so this feels like quite a hurdle for me. I'm definitely overwhelmed.

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Old 08-08-2009, 06:28 PM   #9
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Also, does anybody have a link to a "desired water profile per style" link? I have several already in Beersmith, but I guess I'm not looking to match a location as much as getting my water to accentuate hops flavor without harshness and astringency in pale ales, for example.

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Old 08-08-2009, 06:47 PM   #10
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First: I think it's time to put all these water tools and spreadsheets in a sticky in this sub-forum so they don't have to be continually posted.

I will start it today if someone could make it a sticky.

Telling you things won't match what playing with some of the tools will do for you, as far as being able to see and understand the effects of each of the minerals and how to manipulate them. It never made any sense to me until I played with the tools a bit, and I have a fair, if old, understanding of chemistry from a college level course I took in HS. There really are only about 7 things to consider.

My understanding has increased slowly; here is my initial thread in this topic.
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/adj...-salts-126076/

I suggest playing with the brew water spreadsheets and looking and toying with the interactive nomograph. saq made a nice spreadsheet (6.0) similar to Palmer's and the best teaching tool is at:

Brewing Water Chemistry Calculator | Brewer's Friend

Using your numbers and then diluting, you have a starting point, then adding small amounts of things give results. Play with these to get green stars for the color of beer you are aiming for.

This will be your best teacher, but you will find that one or another of the spreadsheets does more for you after you know what you want to do, and how to do it.

Interactive nomograph:
Mash pH Nomograph
This shows the direct relationship with hardness and pH compared to beer color desired, so you can see the reason why you can't always get to where you want to be from where you start.

saq's spreadsheet is here, but it doesn't open for me today.
http://www.thesaq.net/beer/waterprofile/


I have a similar water profile and found that I should add some acid to lower my water pH, and dilute with at least 50% distilled/RO. I could also benefit by adding back a pinch of gypsum. Your pH is far higher (more alkaline) and you probably will need to acidify by using aciduous malt or acid directly.

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