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Old 12-24-2012, 01:01 AM   #1
Guidry
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Default Water help needed - pH specifically

Due to some seriously bad comments received about my home water supply, and some bad off flavors which seem to be attributed to it, I'm trying to jump into the water adjustment idea. Below is my profile from the lab:

Ca=<1
Mg=<1
HCO3=166
SO4-S=3
CaCO3=3
Cl=5
Na=80
Total Alkalinity=151
pH=8.5

That is from Wards lab. It is not treated by a softener. Straight from the tap. I am fairly confident I can adjust most of the numbers from what I have learned but I would like advice on lowering the pH to a reasonable starting point for lighter beers. I have gotten some people telling me they wouldn't use the water at all and I should buy water. I'd rather not go that route. Any other tips?

I am still reading up and studying adjustment techniques but I can't just stop brewing altogether while I learn it completely.

Thanks!

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Old 12-24-2012, 01:23 AM   #2
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Well before i got to your comments my first thought was "okay so we've got softened water here..." No Ca or Mg with plenty of Na.

It's like seeing 2 cars in an intersection all smashed up and wondering what happened. I suppose a meteor hit them, but 99.999% they probably crashed. Are you in a house?

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Old 12-24-2012, 01:27 AM   #3
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Yes, in a house. No softener present. Water here is known to be extremely soft. Lab results confirm it.

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Old 12-24-2012, 03:44 AM   #4
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Well I admit that is surprising, I've never seen that much sodium in essentially 0 hardness water. Cool!

As for the pH of the water... it doesn't matter. The pH of the tap water does not tell you how well it will resist changing. That is what the alkalinity tells you. 151 is high for any lighter beer, and most moderately colored beers to be honest. Even with NO alkalinity (pure distilled water), you'll likely be adding acid for very light beers.

You certainly don't need to throw this water away. (You may find it more convenient to throw it away, but WTH, keep reading!) The sulfate and chloride are already very low. Everything else can be managed. I would dilute away at least half the sodium (if it were me) and for most beers, at least half the alkalinity, too. (convenient) You might find yourself comfortable with this level of alkalinity for very dark beer... but you're still left with the sodium "problem".

If I were told to brew a light beer without throwing it all away, I'd dilute 3:1 with RO water. That will start you with 20 mg/L sodium and alkalinity of about 38 mg/L. Almost nothing else.

I would add CaCl2 and maybe some gypsum for calcium, chloride, and sulfate (if you like the bite it brings), and neutralize the rest of the alkalinity with acid malt and phosphoric acid in the mash.

As for the sparge, I would recommend 100% RO water or darn near... unless you are confident in your skills with a pH meter and properly eliminating alkalinity with very small acid additions.

This would certainly work. Although at this point, you're probably doing the math and realizing a good three-quarters of your water will be RO. Hey, I'm just the messenger.

Merry brewing!

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Old 12-24-2012, 12:09 PM   #5
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Thanks! One more thing though....my problem, I have pretty much come to believe us hat I am getting extraction of tannins in my lighter beers. From what I read this can be caused by high pH. Like I said, I am no chemistry expert ( that's why I came here) but it seems like if my starting pH was lower, maybe that might not happen so much.

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Old 12-24-2012, 01:06 PM   #6
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That is almost certainly softened water, its just that you didn't soften it. The water company probably did. My city does the same. I'd guess that they have an iron or manganese problem with the raw water and they just go ahead and remove everything instead of blending it to a modest hardness.

The sodium content and alkalinity are the only serious detriments to that water. The sodium isn't crazy high, but its higher than I prefer. Modest dilution, say 1:1 would reduce that level to a workable concentration.

The biggest problem and the cause of the flavor impacts to those lighter beers is the alkalinity. That requires neutralization for most brewing use. Given the fairly high alkalinity, using phosphoric acid may be required to avoid taste impacts. If the water is first diluted to reduce sodium, then the alkalinity would also be reduced and lactic acid could probably be used with little impact.

Of course, adding calcium back to that water is recommended in most cases. Read the Water Knowledge page on the Bru'n Water website for more guidance.

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Old 12-25-2012, 11:51 AM   #7
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Ok, so what I can tell is I should look to reduce my alkalinity and sodium. I guess the only way to really do that is dilution, right? Then add salts to up the calcium?

Just a little more info on the problem I was/am having....Blonde ale keeps ending up with a real bitter/soapy/maybe iodine-like aftertaste. I have pretty much determined its from tannin extraction. That's why I was thinking I need to shoot for lower pH.

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Old 12-25-2012, 02:33 PM   #8
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Those flavor effects are typical for high pH in the mash and in the kettle. The sodium might have added to the off-flavors, but I wouldn't really expect that in this case.

Learn to use acids and your brewing will improve markedly. The dilution will help too.

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Old 12-25-2012, 03:21 PM   #9
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Any advice or links to advice on the use if acids? I've checked a few HB supply shops online and I see lactic and citrus but no others. I see references to muratic in HTB. Would I use the same product found at the pool store?

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Old 12-25-2012, 03:42 PM   #10
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NO! Don't use acids that aren't Food-grade.

Bru'n Water has the calculators for acid use.

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