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Old 03-31-2011, 03:40 PM   #161
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Originally Posted by bernerbrau View Post
All right, I gotta ask because all this contradictory information is confusing me.

If getting soft enough water, adding a little bit of CaCl2, adding some gypsum if the style calls for it, and adding sauermalz or lactic acid to correct the mash pH is all that is necessary for proper brewing chemistry, why do we have so many people on HBT still advocating the use of complicated math, treatment spreadsheets, and exact mineral profiles?

Is this just one of those things (e.g. HSA, Autolysis, Liquid Yeast is "better") that's "old information" that comes from commercial brewery knowledge, and we're just now learning to do it better? Or is it something (e.g. Extract vs. AG) where one is recommended to beginners over the other?
You left out one of the most important parts: acquire and use a pH meter.

In the case of sauermalz, I want to know how much I will need to hit proper mash pH. That's a big reason I use one of the spreadsheets (sometimes three spreadsheets) for every brew, so I'll know how much sauermalz to crush. Or to get a ballpark figure for lactic acid. People also like to make sure they have enough Calcium after any diluting although the primer takes care of that.

And IMO, "the use of complicated math, treatment spreadsheets, and exact mineral profiles?" is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the effort we go through to make an AG batch. It only takes a few minutes to 'enter' a brew in a spreadsheet.
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Old 03-31-2011, 03:49 PM   #162
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Originally Posted by bernerbrau View Post
All right, I gotta ask because all this contradictory information is confusing me.

If getting soft enough water, adding a little bit of CaCl2, adding some gypsum if the style calls for it, and adding sauermalz or lactic acid to correct the mash pH is all that is necessary for proper brewing chemistry, why do we have so many people on HBT still advocating the use of complicated math, treatment spreadsheets, and exact mineral profiles?
Because they are engineers and engineers just can't help themselves (full disclosure: I'm one too and that's how I know). The potential problem with the creator is found in the old saw "If you have a hammer, everything in the world looks like a nail". The problem with the user is that he is working at a level of sophistication well below that of the guy that developed the spreadsheet. When the IPCC says that the world is going to turn into desert in X years based on a model developed by climate scientists of renown the person that reads it in the paper says "Omigosh. The sky is falling in. Renowned scientists' computers say so." When a spreadsheet says add 10 tablespoonsful of chalk to a stout because it is dark its users, having no more knowledge of water chemistry than of principal components analysis (how the Mann curve became a joke) accept that it must be true. The computer said so.

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Originally Posted by bernerbrau View Post
Is this just one of those things (e.g. HSA, Autolysis, Liquid Yeast is "better") that's "old information" that comes from commercial brewery knowledge, and we're just now learning to do it better? Or is it something (e.g. Extract vs. AG) where one is recommended to beginners over the other?
Is which? In the old days brewers brewed with what they had - they didn't have much choice. They adapted the beer to the water. Now we can do it the other way - adapt the water to the beer. I believe there is a trend towards the use of lower mineral content water with highish chloride and low sulfate. It makes smoother beer with good mouthfeel and lets the hops shine without being overly intrusive. You are giving up an element of authenticity when you do this but the beer will most probably be better than you would get trying to emulate a particular water profile down to the microval. This gets around to the question of what you are trying to accomplish. If you want the most authentic Burton ale you can get then you must emulate Burton water. See Martin's post today in another thread about what a Burton profile is (I have 6 in my collection). Burton water from a balanced (that means electrically - not Cl/SO4) can be emulated very closely but it requires the use of a spreadsheet that models carbonic/bicarbonate/carbonate chemistry in greater detail than the ones out there today do, the used of carbon dioxide gas to dissolve chalk and a pH meter to make sure that there isn't too much CO2 left in solution. If you want ultimate authenticity (or if you are an engineer) you do all that. But probably not more than once or twice.
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Old 03-31-2011, 04:22 PM   #163
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Because they are engineers and engineers just can't help themselves (full disclosure: I'm one too and that's how I know). The potential problem with the creator is found in the old saw "If you have a hammer, everything in the world looks like a nail". The problem with the user is that he is working at a level of sophistication well below that of the guy that developed the spreadsheet. When the IPCC says that the world is going to turn into desert in X years based on a model developed by climate scientists of renown the person that reads it in the paper says "Omigosh. The sky is falling in. Renowned scientists' computers say so." When a spreadsheet says add 10 tablespoonsful of chalk to a stout because it is dark its users, having no more knowledge of water chemistry than of principal components analysis (how the Mann curve became a joke) accept that it must be true. The computer said so.



Is which? In the old days brewers brewed with what they had - they didn't have much choice. They adapted the beer to the water. Now we can do it the other way - adapt the water to the beer. I believe there is a trend towards the use of lower mineral content water with highish chloride and low sulfate. It makes smoother beer with good mouthfeel and lets the hops shine without being overly intrusive. You are giving up an element of authenticity when you do this but the beer will most probably be better than you would get trying to emulate a particular water profile down to the microval. This gets around to the question of what you are trying to accomplish. If you want the most authentic Burton ale you can get then you must emulate Burton water. See Martin's post today in another thread about what a Burton profile is (I have 6 in my collection). Burton water from a balanced (that means electrically - not Cl/SO4) can be emulated very closely but it requires the use of a spreadsheet that models carbonic/bicarbonate/carbonate chemistry in greater detail than the ones out there today do, the used of carbon dioxide gas to dissolve chalk and a pH meter to make sure that there isn't too much CO2 left in solution. If you want ultimate authenticity (or if you are an engineer) you do all that. But probably not more than once or twice.
OK, but I'm not looking to emulate a specific locality, I just want to make sure that my brewing water is properly balanced to make the best beer. I'm not looking for ultimate authenticity.

But the "spreadsheet way" -- enter in your local water mineral profile, enter a target profile for the style you intend to brew, then adjust salts and dilution ratio until you come within 10 PPM of the target numbers -- doesn't seem too much more complicated. You have a few more salts to deal with, but you still come up with clear amounts to add, and the whole "how did those brewers treat their water" question goes out the window if I just want to use profiles that other homebrewers have found work well for them in those styles.

People here seem to be saying that fussing about magnesium and sodium, chloride/sulfate ratio, bicarbonate levels, etc. is largely overkill and your main concerns are proper wort acidity, a baseline of calcium for yeast health, and chloride and sulfate to match the flavor of the beer style. If that's so, then why do we have people advocating spreadsheets and insisting that ion balance needs to be any more precise than that?

And you seem to be saying that spreadsheets are inherently flawed because they don't model the chemistry accurately enough. You also seem to be saying that anything more complex than keeping Calcium, Chloride, Sulfate, and pH within a reasonable range is reserved for sticklers trying to exactly duplicate some flavor and isn't going to make your beer any better. Again, if this is so why are spreadsheets so popular around here and why do some people on HBT ardently recommend their use? Just misinformation?
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Old 03-31-2011, 04:54 PM   #164
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And IMO, "the use of complicated math, treatment spreadsheets, and exact mineral profiles?" is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the effort we go through to make an AG batch. It only takes a few minutes to 'enter' a brew in a spreadsheet.
Really? I usually just plug my grain weight, water volume, and target rest temperatures into a calculator to get my strike temps and infusion/decoction volumes. That doesn't seem like a ton of effort, unless you're referring to the 3-4 extra hours on the actual brew day.
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Old 03-31-2011, 05:07 PM   #165
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Salt additions for ppm in your water is simple and easy (I mean its just inorganic aqueous chemistry). But how the interaction with the malt and the water profile effects mash pH is more complicated, depending on the malt itself, which is organic.

If you are interested in hitting pH values you must have a good pH meter (and take readings at the reference temp.). Only then can you tune in your system with your malts and your water. So, using sauermalt or lactic acid without a pH meter is shooting in the dark. Doesn't mean its going to make bad beer, but it doesn't mean its going to make good beer either.

If you are solely interested in salt additions to make hops pop or bring the malt forward stick with the spreadsheets. But know that salt additions have the potential to effect your mash pH, which can effect the quality of your beer in the end. If you think the salts may be messing with your pH, get a pH meter and use it every time you brew.

If you have soft water: dark beers (a lot of roasted malts) will be an issue in terms of pH being too low.

If you have high alkalinity water: light beers will tend to be a problem (too high pH)

***The last two lines are way over simplified***
Well, my light beers all tend to carry an unpleasant thinness to the mouthfeel and flavor, even when fully carbed. This is why I'm trying to grok water chemistry so I can know if I'm doing the right thing or not.

The OP seems to say distilled + CaCl2 for very light beer, and that's going to get you very good beer, and don't sweat it. And I get people telling me spreadsheets are no good if you don't know the science.

But then I get a couple people on here telling me the more precise salt additions and the spreadsheets are good but you don't need to be exact, and you do need to get a pH meter to get the proper wort acidity.

On the specific water chemistry thread for my brew next Saturday, I worked out a series of salt additions using the Bru'n Water sheet. Then I get people jumping on to tell me I'm overthinking it and to forget about everything except for the CaCl2 and sauermalz as predicted by BeerSmith. Then on this thread I get people telling me, variously, that the spreadsheet stuff isn't stuff I need to worry about, and it's flawed anyway, or that some spreadsheets are more or less flawed than others, and that it IS stuff I need to worry about, but not to the point of obsession.

And regarding pH, some of these spreadsheets and calculators will let you put in your grain bill and give you the resulting mash pH from the treated water, and tell you how much sauermalz to use to get into the ideal range. So those of you telling me a pH meter is absolutely vital to getting the right wort acidity, is it just because the spreadsheets aren't accurate enough to trust?

So yeah, my head is spinning in circles and I'm going to break for lunch.

And for the record, I'm going to take the distilled + CaCl2 + sauermalz approach this weekend unless someone tells me it's a bad idea.
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Old 03-31-2011, 05:41 PM   #166
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Really? I usually just plug my grain weight, water volume, and target rest temperatures into a calculator to get my strike temps and infusion/decoction volumes. That doesn't seem like a ton of effort, unless you're referring to the 3-4 extra hours on the actual brew day.
Yeah, I meant the entire amount of effort we put into each batch, including brewing/packaging...purchasing ingredients...everything.

I've been using both the TH and Bru'n calculators my last two brews just to see how close they match each other as well as predict my mash pH. Comparatively speaking, Bru'n Water seems way more complex but once you enter your water ands use it a couple of times it's easy and only takes a few minutes.

What is 'way overthinking' to one guy is just 'being thorough' to another (or just gettin' your geek on...whatever melts your butter). Between AJ, Kaiser, and Martin I think they cover the topic of 'brewing water' pretty well. Being that I trusted JP and his work on brewing water in How To Brew (unfortunately, to my beer's detriment) I now have a pretty tight filter for any advice that is brewing-water related. Your last post had people telling you this then other people telling you that...a tight filter helps here.

Also, I have noticed that my light beers are more full and malty since using primer water but it's not like there was a controlled test. So much so that I need to adjust my mash temp. It's a constant evolution...make an adjustment here and it makes an impact there so then you have to go back and adjust something else.
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Old 03-31-2011, 05:49 PM   #167
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Being that I trusted JP and his work on brewing water in How To Brew (unfortunately, to my beer's detriment) I now have a pretty tight filter for any advice that is brewing-water related.
Ah, and see, in another thread, someone linked me to a couple chapters in the How To Brew online book and said that was all I'll ever need to know about brewing water.

A tight filter is all well and good but when you're just starting out it's kind of hard to tell where that filter should be applied.
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Old 03-31-2011, 05:53 PM   #168
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Also, I have noticed that my light beers are more full and malty since using primer water but it's not like there was a controlled test. So much so that I need to adjust my mash temp. It's a constant evolution...make an adjustment here and it makes an impact there so then you have to go back and adjust something else.
If by "primer water" you mean the water described in the OP of this thread (CaCl2 + dilution + pH control), then I think I will go for that to start, and get more sophisticated if it doesn't come out right.

You mentioned experimenting with how well the Bru'n Water spreadsheet predicts mash pH, but you didn't actually mention how good your results were. How accurate has it been?
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Old 05-20-2011, 06:42 PM   #169
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Dusting off this original thread that kicked off ajdelange's water "rules of thumb" for some results feedback.

I've now done 4 batches using ajdelange's approach, all recipes I'd previously brewed in the past. I gotta say, with exception of a pils, none came out as good as before. All the ales "lost" substantial hop flavor and were very bland. Listening to the last CYBI, "Tasty" McDole made a fantastic point - he said 90% of the pro brewers they talk to add gypsum. He also said he generally uses just two water profiles:

Mild: 40 ppm calcium, 180 ppm sulfate
Pale: 80 ppm calcium, 350 ppm sulfate

Now I'm calling a bit of BS on Tasty as I don't think those numbers are even attainable with just gypsum, but I am now convinced some gypsum is critical to most beers. I'm going back to gypsum as my primary source of calcium and adding calcium chloride as necessary to express malt flavor to style.

All of ajdelange's fine work is not completely lost on me however. I've definitely learned the importance of pH and after testing, now add lactic to both my mash and boil to keep the numbers in line.

Curious if others have any feedback yet on their water tweaks...

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Old 05-20-2011, 06:56 PM   #170
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What number are you keeping in line by adding lactic to the boil?

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