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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Brew Science > Water - I think I was doing it wrong
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:18 PM   #1
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Default Water - I think I was doing it wrong

A while back I had a hard time making light beers that tasted right but stouts and porters tasted fine. After talking to some people, and having people taste the beers, I learned that I can't use my tap water to brew light beers.

After making a few batches with added gypsum and epsom salts, I bought some pH test strips. When I would check the pH, it would usually come out very low (4.6 or lower). I've since learned NOT to dip the strip directly into the mash and also that temperature affects pH reading.

I've also learned that I should be using CaCO3 to bring the mash pH back up to where it should be.

I ALSO learned that I'm supposed to be treating the sparge water as well. I asked this on HBT a few months ago but didn't get an answer.

My next beer is going to be Biermuncher's Oktoberfest. I downloaded Bru'n Water and plugged the grain bill in. Does it really only matter if a grain is base, crystal, roasted, or acid? It seems pretty broad.

What happens to my beer now is that is usually tastes fine out of the fermenter. After dry-hopping for a week in the keg it doesn't taste right. I have a Mosaic IPA that was great initially but now the hop flavor and aroma is gone, replaced by a bitter, astringent flavor. SWMBO and I both tasted it last night out of the keg and it now borders on undrinkable.

Is this because the mash pH for this batch was 4.6?

Honestly this hobby is starting to become very frustrating to me. I just cannot brew a decent IPA. If addressing the pH problem doesn't substantially improve the flavor of my IPA's I'm seriously considering giving this up. It's THAT frustrating.

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Old 10-03-2013, 06:25 PM   #2
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For one. You can't rely on the strips. They're inaccurate. Also, I don't know who told you that you need to add chalk, for your IPA, bu they're wrong, unless you accidentally added too much acid malt or something. What base malt are you using (brand and type)? Also, you mentioned adding gypsum/epsom salts. That drops the pH SOME, but likely not nearly enough if your water brews good dark beers. You'll likely need acid / acid malt and/or dilution with RO water.

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Old 10-03-2013, 06:34 PM   #3
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If your reading of 4.6 was using ColorpHast strips, then your mash was really around 4.9 -5.0, which is extremely high, but I wouldn't put the full blame on that just yet. (Many folks report these read 0.3 low, but I've found mine to be consistently 0.4 low).

What was your final water mineral profile after adjustments? Perhaps you simply added so much minerals that you ruined it. Whoever told you to add gypsum, chalk, and Epsom salts to adjust your pH was flatly wrong. Add acid (lactic, phosphoric, or acid malt) to adjust the mash pH. Minerals are for taste.

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Old 10-03-2013, 06:35 PM   #4
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If your reading of 4.6 was using ColorpHast strips, then your mash was really around 4.9 -5.0, which is extremely high, but I wouldn't put the full blame on that just yet. (Many folks report these read 0.3 low, but I've found mine to be consistently 0.4 low).

What was your final water mineral profile after adjustments? Perhaps you simply added so much minerals that you ruined it. Whoever told you to add gypsum, chalk, and Epsom salts to adjust your pH was flatly wrong. Add acid (lactic, phosphoric, or acid malt) to adjust the mash pH. Minerals are for taste.
Actually, 4.9-5 would be quite low. Ideally the room temp mash pH is 5.3-5.5
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:39 PM   #5
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I left out a really key piece of information in the OP. Sorry about that. For all my pale beers, I use RO water and add salts to them.

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Old 10-03-2013, 06:41 PM   #6
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I left out a really key piece of information in the OP. Sorry about that. For all my pale beers, I use RO water and add salts to them.
Do you add CaCO3 to them? If so, don't. Also, how much epsom salt do you normally add?
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:53 PM   #7
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What base malt are you using (brand and type)?
Great Western 2-row.

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Originally Posted by SpeedYellow View Post
What was your final water mineral profile after adjustments? Perhaps you simply added so much minerals that you ruined it. Whoever told you to add gypsum, chalk, and Epsom salts to adjust your pH was flatly wrong. Add acid (lactic, phosphoric, or acid malt) to adjust the mash pH. Minerals are for taste.
I understand the Gypsum and Epsom won't affect the pH much but I thought chalk does because of the carbonate.

Here is the water profile for the IPA I was talking about:

Ca: 82.1
Mg: 17.7
Na: 8.0
Sulfate: 265.7
Chloride: 4.0
Bicarbonate: 16.0
Total hardness: 278

Mash volume was 4.7 gallons. I added 3.2g MgSO4 and 6.2g CaSO4.

The grain bill was 14 lbs 2-row, .5 lbs carapils and .5 lbs biscuit.

According to Bru'N water my mash pH was 5.3.
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by LovesIPA View Post
Great Western 2-row.



I understand the Gypsum and Epsom won't affect the pH much but I thought chalk does because of the carbonate.

Here is the water profile for the IPA I was talking about:

Ca: 82.1
Mg: 17.7
Na: 8.0
Sulfate: 265.7
Chloride: 4.0
Bicarbonate: 16.0
Total hardness: 278

Mash volume was 4.7 gallons. I added 3.2g MgSO4 and 6.2g CaSO4.

The grain bill was 14 lbs 2-row, .5 lbs carapils and .5 lbs biscuit.

According to Bru'N water my mash pH was 5.3.
You say the beers become worse in the keg. Are you sure you're not just overcarbonating? Also, do you purge your kegs with CO2 before transferring to them? Your mash pH is likely OK based on that water profile / grain bill. Do you have a TDS meter to make sure your RO source is actually low in minerals? Maybe the membrane needs replacing.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:01 PM   #9
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You say the beers become worse in the keg. Are you sure you're not just overcarbonating?
Yes. I kegged two beers on the same day. One the dry-hopped IPA and the other centennial blonde (not dry-hopped). I burst carb'd them for 24 hours at 30 psi and dialed them back to about 12. The blonde is perfect now and the IPA is undercarb'd still because it was at room temp for dry-hopping. It needs another few days to get the carbonation level right.

Quote:
Also, do you purge your kegs with CO2 before transferring to them?
Absolutely.

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Your mash pH is likely OK based on that water profile / grain bill. Do you have a TDS meter to make sure your RO source is actually low in minerals? Maybe the membrane needs replacing.
I don't have a TDS meter. I buy the water from Glacier RO water vending machines which are serviced every few days around here.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by LovesIPA View Post
I don't have a TDS meter. I buy the water from Glacier RO water vending machines which are serviced every few days around here.
It might not hurt to get one. They're pretty cheap.

Also, I saw you mention treating sparge water. Are you also using RO water for that?
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