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Old 05-12-2009, 12:59 AM   #1
snowscaris
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Default Water Chemistry for Portland, Oregon

Hello everyone!

This is my first post, though I have been reading the forums for a while now.
I have recently switched to all grain brewing. I've been trying to brew stouts and browns for my first few batches. All of my batches have an astringent off flavor that I am trying to identify. I replaced my stove with one capable of a full rolling boil without having to keep the lid half way on the pot... so no dms.
I recently listened to an interview with John Palmer from the basic brewing pod cast archives concerning water chemistry. John mentioned Portland as a region having Pilsen type soft water. He went on to comment that Portland's soft water could be problematic for brewing dark beers such as stouts, as the dark grains could drag the pH of the mash below optimum levels.
I am in the process of getting my water tested for specifics, and will be testing my current mash pH on my next brew day... But I was wondering if there are any other home brewers in the Portland area that may have run into this problem already, and would care to comment?

Thank you!
Snow

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Old 05-12-2009, 01:41 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum. Astringency is a result of phenolic compounds. These can come from a variety of sources including grain husks, hops, chlorine or iodine sanitizers, and yeast metabolism. Lower mash pHs do not contribute to increased phenolic compounds.

Make sure your sparge water isn't too hot (below 180°F) and that you have clear wort running into the kettle (no husks). Also, have a good rolling boil and hot break. This can help precipitate out phenols. And make sure your evaporation rate isn't too high (unlikely). If you use a chlorine sanitizer, rinse your sanitized equipment with pre-boiled water (or don't use a chlorine sanitizer). If you use iodine, use the correct concentration. Make sure your yeast pitch rate and fermentation temps are within the correct range and try to keep too much break material out of the fermenter.

It's doubtful your water or the use of dark grains is causing it. But if you do have naturally soft water (assuming your on a well?), it's definitely worth looking into your specific water profile. You likely need to add some minerals (e.g., calcium) to have better brewing water.

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Old 05-12-2009, 02:37 AM   #3
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I brew using Portland OR tap water, and haven't had any issues with astringency. I also haven't done any stouts since moving to AG, and I don't do many browns either.
I suggest that you try a couple of lighter beers, to see if the issue shows up.
Also, you don't say how old the beers are, and I found that I got more off flavors from very young beers after switching to AG.

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Old 05-12-2009, 03:01 AM   #4
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I have been using portland water with no issues so far. I tried 5.2 ph stabilizer to help efficiency but I haven't used it for every batch. So far haven't noticed any astringent flavors w/ 10 all grain batches.

FWIW Lucky lab uses the pdx tap water straight up, and the guys I have talked to at steinbart lhbs (about the 5.2) also use tap water w/ no ph adjust. I don't boil it or anything, just use it straight. I even used it straight cold when I was doing extract.

edit: whoa 200 posts

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Old 05-12-2009, 04:23 AM   #5
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I also use water straight out of the tap and have had no issues. Most Portanders get their water from Bull Run reservoir or from Mt. Tabor, both of which are so naturally filtering the city barely treats it at all. Some people use well water which can attribute to astringency (I think Kilted_brewer has well water and said he may have those problems)

Let us know what the results of your water profile report is!

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Old 05-13-2009, 06:48 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowscaris View Post
He went on to comment that Portland's soft water could be problematic for brewing dark beers such as stouts, as the dark
I know that the batch of Milk Stout I brewed while in Portland ( Oct. 2008) was incredible. I just used tap water. Growing up there, I never used any additives while brewing.

In California, I am using RO water and adding minerals to get decent beer.
The tap water in the area I live in is ok... but not really brew quality.
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Old 05-13-2009, 09:57 AM   #7
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That'll teach you to live in California!


Sorry, but I gotta get my jabs in while I can.

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Old 05-13-2009, 03:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
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(I think Kilted_brewer has well water and said he may have those problems)
Master Evil is correct. I live in Milwaukie (SE Portland really....well...kinda) and am on well water. I have the opposite problem of the OP though. Darker brews are great with just tap water, I can't get the lighter styles to come out with out the tanniny, astringent flavors. I'm messing around with cutting it with RO water and just did a blonde over the weekend that I just used some gypsum and calcium chloride (per Palmer) to help get it to where I need for lighter ales.
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Old 05-13-2009, 05:40 PM   #9
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For you guys using straight-up PDX tap water, are you running it through a filter at all? I've been using the water filter that comes with the OBC loaner system, but if I don't need it, that'd be one less thing for me to worry about.

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Old 05-13-2009, 05:48 PM   #10
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I don't filter.

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