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Old 08-28-2012, 10:18 PM   #1
tonyolympia
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I recently received my Ward Labs water report, and now I'm reading different texts about water chemistry, experimenting with spreadsheets, etc.

I find that I'm getting terribly confused--which is not unusual, I'm sure. Only one example of my confusion: my water appears extremely calcium deficient, yet it's not clear what I could do to add calcium without also adding too much of other minerals (carbonate, sulfate, or chloride).

Anyone out there who is confident with water chemistry: would you mind taking a look at these numbers and offering an opinion on the water? What do you think of my water if used for pale to dark styles, whether malty, hoppy, or balanced? What, if anything, would you do to this water to treat it for various applications?

Any input you can offer would help me to get my head straight as I continue my research and experimentation. Thanks in advance.

pH 6.4
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 91
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.15
Cations / Anions, me/L 1.6 / 1.5

ppm

Sodium, Na 7
Potassium, K 2
Calcium, Ca 12
Magnesium, Mg 8
Total Hardness, CaCO3 63
Nitrate, NO3-N 1.2 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 2
Chloride, Cl 4
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 72
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 59

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Old 08-28-2012, 11:06 PM   #2
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Don't be concerned about being confused. It is a very confusing subject. To make it worse there are differences of opinion (which is good) but also a lot of misinformation (which isn't) abroad. Upon request I tried to simplify it to the point where a beginning brewer can start out making good beer and move forward from there. This KISS treatment is found in the Stickies at the top of this page. Many have had success with it. It requires water with low mineral content to start with and your water approaches that. I would recommend diluting one part of your water with one part of RO water and carrying out the mineral additions recommended in the Primer.

You should get a good beer first time out provided you follow good brewing practices otherwise - good water won't fix bad beer. But it is your responsibility to fiddle with the mineral additions thereafter, just as you would fiddle with the seasonings in a stew until it meets your expectations.

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Old 08-28-2012, 11:31 PM   #3
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Disclaimer: I'm no expert in water but I've been getting into it.

Well the good news is your water is fairly now across the board for trace minerals and ions and is fairly 'soft'.

I use the EZ Water Spreadsheet and as it stands you are short on Calcium, Magnesium, & Sulfate if you follow Palmer's recommendations (which I do not, many do).

Your Chloride:Sulfate ratio is 0.67 which 'may enhance bitterness' -- but then again, your ppm are so low, a +/- 1ppm error makes that measurement a little unreliable.

So what should you do? I'd say nothing.

What could you do? Based on a 5 gallon batch, you can add 1 gram of Gypsum and Calcium Chloride as long as your pH doesn't fall too low. This would get Calcium to the bottom end of Palmer's range and get you a balanced Cl:SO4 ratio. This would be a good all-round water.

For hop accentuation make it 2 grams gypsum, 1 gram Calcium Chloride.

For malt accentuation make it 1 gram gypsum, 2 grams Calcium Chloride.


Just my $0.02

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Old 08-29-2012, 05:55 AM   #4
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To be honest, it depends whether or not you're trying to match a specific water profile, or if you just care to get the right mash pH. The mineral content looks to be on the low side, so in theory you can replicate fairly accurately most cities water given the right additions. If you just care about ph, some 5.2 buffer should suffice.

I would disagree about the value in mixing your water with RO water unless trying to reduce things like chlorine concentration. Solely from the reported mineral content, your water is closer to RO than to water from Munich or London.

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Old 08-29-2012, 08:22 AM   #5
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This is an example of an opinion i.e. that you don't need to add RO water and misinformation i.e. that 5.2 will control your mash pH.

First WRT the RO water addition. The reason for suggesting it is that the alkalinity is highish in this case - a bit over the recommended maximum of 50. A 1:1 dilution will reduce it to 29 which is certainly better. Less acid will be needed. The other point is that the calcium and chloride levels are low enough that they (and indeed the sulfate if sulfate is desirable to OP) will need to be supplemented anyway so might as well dispose of the alkalinity with RO as opposed to the use of acid as (opinion) the use of RO is simpler. Put another way, some RO is needed to qualify this water as suitable for the guidance provided by the Primer. The Primer represents a very simple way around a very complex problem which is especially appealing for a novice as it allows him to brew good beer without understanding the ins and outs of the subject in detail. Another big advantage of RO is that it swamps variability in the water supply. Not only does the mean level of each ion get halved with 1:1 dilution but the standard deviation does too. This may not be at issue in a particular case and, of course, the downside is that one must obtain the RO water somewhere. But yes, the OP could brew several, if not most, styles of beer without doing anything to this water. Mash pH's would be high for some beers and most would be improved by some calcium and especially chloride enhancement.

Now on to 5.2: it is a mix of phosphate salts. The relevant pK's of phosphoric acid are 2.1 and 7.2. Mash pH falls close to half way between the two. As any chemist will tell you buffering capacity is best near one of the pK's and worst half way between. Thus phosphates are a poor choice for a buffer which is intended to control to pH levels desirable for mash. The implications of this are that very large quantities, well beyond the manufacturer's recommended dose, are required to control mash pH into the desired region. This loads up the mash with sodium and phosphate to the levels that calcium may get stripped which really stresses the buffer. There are better means of setting mash pH. Sauermalz is (opinion) the simplest and that's what the Primer recommends.

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Old 08-29-2012, 02:11 PM   #6
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Thanks so much for your help, everyone! Ajdelange, I have read the primer, and I'm experimenting with the recommended treatment for my next brew, a Tripel. (I.e., I'm entering my water numbers into Bru'n Water, balanced against 11 pounds of pilsner and the recommended mineral and acid additions).

I'll post back when I know more, and I'm sure I'll have more questions.

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Old 09-01-2012, 07:39 AM   #7
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I can't speak with authority about using ph 5.2 in a beer that otherwise would not have been anywhere near 5.2. My personal opinion is that beer styles adapted to their respective regions due partly or largely to the available water. So, typically I will make a halfhearted attempt to match the traditional water profile and add 5.2 buffer at 1/3 the recommended amount. Either I'm fantastic at dialing in water pH this way or the 5.2 really works. I like to think its the former but sadly suspect the latter, as measured pH levels have been awfully consistent.

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Old 09-01-2012, 12:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bottlenose View Post
I can't speak with authority about using ph 5.2 in a beer that otherwise would not have been anywhere near 5.2. My personal opinion is that beer styles adapted to their respective regions due partly or largely to the available water.
There is a discussion on the philosophy of water treatment at http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/tho...ources-350970/ which you might want to check out. The consensus seems to be that the water should have the general characteristics of the region from which the beer originally came if authenticity is the optimality criterion but that if the best tasting beer, or another optimality criterion is chosen this may not be the case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bottlenose View Post
So, typically I will make a halfhearted attempt to match the traditional water profile and add 5.2 buffer at 1/3 the recommended amount. Either I'm fantastic at dialing in water pH this way or the 5.2 really works. I like to think its the former but sadly suspect the latter, as measured pH levels have been awfully consistent.
At 1/3 the recommended dose 5.2 will probably have a very minimal if any effect. It takes several times the recommended dose to move mash pH in the proper direction in nominal cases. So the standard question must be posed: How do you measure pH. If the answer is 'with strips' then that explains why the pH seems to be coming out correctly. This is because the strips read 0.3 or more low in wort. Thus if you had a base malt with DI mash pH of 5.6 (and there apparently are some) had water with some calcium in it and/or add some calcium and used some crystal malt in a brew the pH might go to 5.5 which you would read as 5.2 with strips.

If, conversely, you are using a properly calibrated pH meter we want to know more as you will be the first guy with a pH meter who has been able to make this product do what the label says it will do. We did have one guy who claimed he had obtained the desired result with a pH meter (you can read about that in the Primer thread) and that he would show us a video of him doing it but that video never appeared and it turned out he really didn't know how to use a pH meter.

We have theorized that in the case where a brewing water is heavily laden with calcium that the extra phosphate from the 5.2 would enhance the precipitation of apatite (i.e. provide more phosphate than the malt naturally supplies) and thus the associated release of protons but we have not seen a case where this is probable documented. So we are very interested in how you are making this work. The plural is not the editorial 'we'. I'm not the only guy interested in this. The overarching question is "It doesn't work theoretically. It doesn't work in the lab. It doesn't work for brewers with pH meters. Are there some conditions under which it can be made to work in the mash tun?"
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Old 09-01-2012, 02:51 PM   #9
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Other than the fact that 5.2 stabilizer doesn't work, it adds too much sodium to your beer. I found Kai Troester's ward labs analysis of a water sample dosed with it at less than what was recommended. It added 64 ppm of Na. At the recommended rate, it adds 100ppm of sodium. That's a potential batch destroyer depending on your water's Na content. http://www.homebrewersassociation.or...p?topic=1125.0

People smarter than I recommend keeping Na lower than 50ppm. I recently helped someone out who was getting a flavor he didn't like in his beer. His Na was 64 ppm. He started diluting with RO water and eliminated the off flavor.

Modest additions of CaCl2 and CaSO4 along with acid to lower pH are a much better solution than adding a "unicorn" mash stabilizer.

D/l EZ water calc, learn how to use it, and make better beer than you ever have. My $.02.

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Old 09-10-2012, 04:49 AM   #10
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Interesting. To be honest I have never bothered cooling a sample to room temperature, and since even my ph meter is inaccurate above 115 or 120 had assumed the consistency I was seeing was due to the effects of the buffer. Could be that instead the time I've spent reading up on water chemistry has given a very predictable ph, which then is screwed up the same amount each time I toss in the same amount of 5.2

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