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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Brew Science > Water Primer and Bru'n Questions. Struggling a bit and looking for some help.
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Old 01-12-2012, 02:31 AM   #1
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Default Water Primer and Bru'n Questions. Struggling a bit and looking for some help.

I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around all of this water chemistry stuff. I've been reading up on the subject, but a lot of this info is new to me, so I'm turning here for some help.

Currently I'm doing full volume Brew in a Bag mashes. This means I generally mash in rougly 9 gallons of water ~3qt/lb. I've been struggling with very poor light beers (Blondes, Cream Ales, Pale Ales, etc). Generally I pick up, what can best be described as, a raw grain flavor in the finished beer. It very noticible and tends to never drop out over time. From what I read, I believe it could be from tannin extraction during the mash. I have not experienced this off-flavor in any of my darker beers that use roasted or darker crystal malts(ie. Milds, English/American Browns, American Amber)

I've been following the water chemistry primer, using 1g of Calcium Chloride per gallon of water, along with 2% acidulated malt in my grain bill. I however, did not notice any significant change in the overall finished product. Let me also say, that I do not have a pH meter, so I haven't been able to measure of the pH of my mash. However, I'm am currently looking into picking up a pH meter (currently looking at the phep 5) so that I can properly measure it.

I also downloaded the Bru'n spreadsheet and plugged in all of my water info, including all of the adjustments that I made to my water for my last beer using the water primer stickied in this forum. I'm including the screenshots of what Bru'n says. It seems to be somewhat conflicting to what I thought I'd get by following the primer.



It seems that, while the calcium chloride effectively raises my calcium level to 80ppm, it also raises the chloride level to 133.5. Acording to Bru'n the chloride level should not exceed 100ppm. Is this something that I should be concerned with?



Next, with the 4oz of acidulated malt added to the mash, Bru'n shows the net mash acidity at 79.1 and gives an error that more mash water alkalinity is needed. On the Water Adjustment Summary Page, it shows my Estimated Mash pH at 5.2, but it's highlighted in red.

However, if I remove the acidulated malt altogether, It brings the net mash acidity down to 41.6 (it doesn't give a warning, even though Bru'n says that this number should generally be between 0 and 25) and the Estimated Mash pH on the Water Adjustment Summary Page, while still at 5.2, is then highlighted in green.



I guess I'm just looking for some guidance on what I should do. I'm getting pretty discouraged, turning out one bad light colored beer after another and just need some help. Any advice that you all can offer, I would gladly accept.

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Old 01-12-2012, 04:05 AM   #2
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I will just throw this out if you have a refractometer you can check your wort that your draining from the grain bed, I don't go below 4 brix. I only mention this because you say your getting a grain taste. Do you think you may be over sparging?


Other homebrewers may go below 4 brix but I just call it good at 4.

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Old 01-12-2012, 05:30 AM   #3
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If you are using normal pale ale malts the expected distilled water mash pH will be about 5.7 - 5.75 for just the base malt. A bit of crystal or caramel will lower that to around 5.65 - 5.7. The added calcium will drop the pH by another tenth to 5.55 - 5.6 and 2% sauermaltz will take that down another 0.2 to 5.35 - 5.4. It's very unlikely that the pH would be as low as 5.2 without a fair amount of dark malt but if you are going to worry about pH at all it is very comforting to have the pH meter reading to verify. All these numbers are based on a model - in this case the model underlying the Primer. Bru'n water uses a different model and gives you a different answer. If you used the EZ spreadsheet you would get a different answer still (and a higher predicted mash pH) because it uses a third model. So the obvious question is as to which of these models is correct. The answer is that none of them are and that's why you need a pH meter. So which is the model to use? Who knows? Bru'n water is not very good at predicting what I see in my brewery and the Primer isn't very good at predicting what Bru'n water's author sees in his. If you are concerned that the mash pH will go too low, skip the acid malt altogether or only use 1%.

For perspective: I did a barleywine a week or so back with similar mineral content water and a fair amount of dark grain and Maris Otter base malt and got pH 5.51 without any acid. I'd withheld the acid because of those dark grains. Two percent sauermalz would have, theoretically, gotten me to 5.31 which would have been fine but a little lower than I like. 5.5 is higher than I like so I just took it down to 5.4 with CRS (carbonate reducing solution). Theoretically 1% sauermalz in the grist would have done the same job.

As noted above without sauermalz you'd probably get a mash pH of about 5.55 - 5.6 and while that is a little higher than you might ideally want you should be OK with it at that level.

The desirable level of chloride is a matter of personal taste. There is no problem with chloride at 133 mg/L unless you do not like the effects of chloride but most people do like what extra chloride does for beer. It sort of sweetens it and adds to the perceived mouthfeel. It was quite common at one time for people to add salt to their beer at the bar for that reason. You probably would not want that much chloride if you had much sodium but you don't.

The whole concept of the Primer is to prevent you from having to worry about water while you are dealing with the myriad other complexities of all grain brewing which is where I suspect your problems may lie. If changing the water made no perceivable difference in the beer it's not likely the water is responsible.

Three quarts per pound is, IMO, an awfully thin mash. I question whether the enzymes would be concentrated enough with that much water to be able to effectively convert the starches. Also the crush can have a large effect on the conversion efficiency. And, of course, accurate temperature control and maintenance is important. I have no experience with BIAB so I don't know if it is possible to make good beer using it. From what little I do know about it I don't see why it wouldn't be.

As for a recommendation at this point I'd say skip the sauermalz or use 1% so your mind will be at rest on that score and order the pH meter so you can stop worrying about it altogether. Then see what you can do to verify that the other aspects of your process are under control. Learning to brew does take some time so be patient and don't get discouraged. If you can watch other brewers work or get them to come watch you brew that is a great way to get tips.

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Old 01-12-2012, 06:47 PM   #4
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I have to admit that I've never given much thought amount of minerals recommended in the Primer since it uses teaspoons per 5 gallons as the dosing criteria and I work in grams per gallon.

The first problem appears to be the rate that CaCl2 is added to the water. Since volumetric measures are problematic in the first place, its debatable how much mineral is in a tsp of the stuff. My old measurements indicate that its on the order of 4 to 4.5 gm/tsp. That would suggest that the dosage per gallon would be more like 0.7 to 0.8 gm/gal. Then the chloride content is more like 90 ppm which is reasonable.

I see that the starting water is essentially RO water. Low alkalinity is present and tannin extraction due to excessive alkalinity or pH rise is unlikely. Tannin extraction due to oversparging is still possible. Avoid that.

Finally, my experience and the brewing results of myself and my beta testers indicate that the pH drop with a low alkalinity water like this brewer uses will produce low mash pH if the grist is reasonably acidic. In this example, the grist was not described. But I would not be surprised if the grist contained crystal and darker malts and the brewer already said there was acid malt in there. In addition, the residual alkalinity calculated for the mash water is already negative and no pH buffering will be offered by the water. Its no surprise that this mash pH is predicted to go low.

Removing the acid malt is a strong recommendation in this case. There does not appear to be a need for it. If you were brewing a European Light Lager and had little to no crystal malt, then the recommendation for acid malt would be more valid. It doesn't appear to be needed if this brewer's grist has crystal or other darker malts.

Remember, the target is mash pH, not the mash acidity. I'll have to revise that note so that other don't fixate on that value. Sorry for the trouble making!

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Old 01-13-2012, 01:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
If you are using normal pale ale malts the expected distilled water mash pH will be about 5.7 - 5.75 for just the base malt. A bit of crystal or caramel will lower that to around 5.65 - 5.7. The added calcium will drop the pH by another tenth to 5.55 - 5.6 and 2% sauermaltz will take that down another 0.2 to 5.35 - 5.4. It's very unlikely that the pH would be as low as 5.2 without a fair amount of dark malt but if you are going to worry about pH at all it is very comforting to have the pH meter reading to verify. All these numbers are based on a model - in this case the model underlying the Primer. Bru'n water uses a different model and gives you a different answer. If you used the EZ spreadsheet you would get a different answer still (and a higher predicted mash pH) because it uses a third model. So the obvious question is as to which of these models is correct. The answer is that none of them are and that's why you need a pH meter. So which is the model to use? Who knows? Bru'n water is not very good at predicting what I see in my brewery and the Primer isn't very good at predicting what Bru'n water's author sees in his. If you are concerned that the mash pH will go too low, skip the acid malt altogether or only use 1%.

For perspective: I did a barleywine a week or so back with similar mineral content water and a fair amount of dark grain and Maris Otter base malt and got pH 5.51 without any acid. I'd withheld the acid because of those dark grains. Two percent sauermalz would have, theoretically, gotten me to 5.31 which would have been fine but a little lower than I like. 5.5 is higher than I like so I just took it down to 5.4 with CRS (carbonate reducing solution). Theoretically 1% sauermalz in the grist would have done the same job.

As noted above without sauermalz you'd probably get a mash pH of about 5.55 - 5.6 and while that is a little higher than you might ideally want you should be OK with it at that level.

The desirable level of chloride is a matter of personal taste. There is no problem with chloride at 133 mg/L unless you do not like the effects of chloride but most people do like what extra chloride does for beer. It sort of sweetens it and adds to the perceived mouthfeel. It was quite common at one time for people to add salt to their beer at the bar for that reason. You probably would not want that much chloride if you had much sodium but you don't.

The whole concept of the Primer is to prevent you from having to worry about water while you are dealing with the myriad other complexities of all grain brewing which is where I suspect your problems may lie. If changing the water made no perceivable difference in the beer it's not likely the water is responsible.

Three quarts per pound is, IMO, an awfully thin mash. I question whether the enzymes would be concentrated enough with that much water to be able to effectively convert the starches. Also the crush can have a large effect on the conversion efficiency. And, of course, accurate temperature control and maintenance is important. I have no experience with BIAB so I don't know if it is possible to make good beer using it. From what little I do know about it I don't see why it wouldn't be.

As for a recommendation at this point I'd say skip the sauermalz or use 1% so your mind will be at rest on that score and order the pH meter so you can stop worrying about it altogether. Then see what you can do to verify that the other aspects of your process are under control. Learning to brew does take some time so be patient and don't get discouraged. If you can watch other brewers work or get them to come watch you brew that is a great way to get tips.
AJ, thank you for the great information! When I first started looking into the culprit of this issue, I initially thought that too much grain particulate was getting into my boil, so I ended up switching from a crona-style mill to a Crankandstein roller mill (I use at the default gap). I also started double bagging my mash. I have an electric keggle setup that also allows me to recirculate my mash to keep a constant mash temp as well. I generally hit around 65% effeciency.

After posting a couple of threads here about how I keep getting these grainy flavors in my lighter beers, but not in any beers in which I use roast or fair amounts of crystal malts, many suggested that it was most likely a pH issue. That's when I turned to the primer, but after brewing my latest pale ale (which used no crystal malts), I haven't noticed much of a change. I feel as though I've tweaked about everything I can with the exception of my mash water/grain ratio. I think for my next batch, I'm going to go with a more traditional ratio (around 1.5q /lb) and then rinsing the grain with the remaining water.

Given my effeciencey of ~65% is it possible that with this effeciency that I'm leaving a lot of unconverted starches behind that that's what would be contributing to the flavor? Perhaps the darker malts are just covering up this off-flavor?
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Old 01-13-2012, 02:05 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
I have to admit that I've never given much thought amount of minerals recommended in the Primer since it uses teaspoons per 5 gallons as the dosing criteria and I work in grams per gallon.

The first problem appears to be the rate that CaCl2 is added to the water. Since volumetric measures are problematic in the first place, its debatable how much mineral is in a tsp of the stuff. My old measurements indicate that its on the order of 4 to 4.5 gm/tsp. That would suggest that the dosage per gallon would be more like 0.7 to 0.8 gm/gal. Then the chloride content is more like 90 ppm which is reasonable.

I see that the starting water is essentially RO water. Low alkalinity is present and tannin extraction due to excessive alkalinity or pH rise is unlikely. Tannin extraction due to oversparging is still possible. Avoid that.

Finally, my experience and the brewing results of myself and my beta testers indicate that the pH drop with a low alkalinity water like this brewer uses will produce low mash pH if the grist is reasonably acidic. In this example, the grist was not described. But I would not be surprised if the grist contained crystal and darker malts and the brewer already said there was acid malt in there. In addition, the residual alkalinity calculated for the mash water is already negative and no pH buffering will be offered by the water. Its no surprise that this mash pH is predicted to go low.

Removing the acid malt is a strong recommendation in this case. There does not appear to be a need for it. If you were brewing a European Light Lager and had little to no crystal malt, then the recommendation for acid malt would be more valid. It doesn't appear to be needed if this brewer's grist has crystal or other darker malts.

Remember, the target is mash pH, not the mash acidity. I'll have to revise that note so that other don't fixate on that value. Sorry for the trouble making!
Thank you for your input and the excellent tool that you've developed. I apologize for not including my grain bill and detais about the beer in my initial post. I had intended to, but omitted it by mistake. Here it is:

10lbs Canadian 2-Row (I use this because I can buy it by the sack)
1lb Munich
8oz Honey Malt
4oz Cara-Pils
4oz Acidulated Malt

20g Cascade (5.4%) 60 min
10g Cascade at 40, 30, 20, 10, and 5 min

By using the Brew In a Bag (BIAB) method, I have been mashing in the total volume of water (~3qt /lb). This particular beer, I mashed in 9 gallons of water at 154 for 50 min. I then raised it to a 168 degree mashout for 10 min. At the end of the mash, I pull the bag out of the kettle (don't rinse or sparge) and let it drain into the kettle as the wort is coming to a boil. I boiled for 60 minutes and then quickly chilled down to 65 degrees, aerated using pure O2 for 60 seconds and pitched a starter of Wyeast 1056. I fermented at 65. It's now approaching week 2 in the fermenter on the primary yeast. I'll probably leave it there for another week where I'll dry hop and then rack to a keg.
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Old 01-13-2012, 05:26 AM   #7
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Given the grain bill you have posted I think you probably will need some acid. The evidence that your beers made with roast and/or lots of caramel malt does suggest that the pH will be higher in beers made without but high pH generally manifests itself as lack of well defined flavors, dull, flat flavored beer. Graininess can mean a couple of things. Husky flavors are often caused by overly aggressive grinding (the husks get pulverized or shredded), overly long sparge with overly hot water and/or high sparge pH. But some malts are just grainier than others and this is not necessarily considered a flaw. Based on this I'd suggest trying a different base malt. Maris Otter in particular gives rich malty flavors with no hint of husk or astringeny (in my experience) so you might want to try that.

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Old 01-15-2012, 04:22 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
Given the grain bill you have posted I think you probably will need some acid. The evidence that your beers made with roast and/or lots of caramel malt does suggest that the pH will be higher in beers made without but high pH generally manifests itself as lack of well defined flavors, dull, flat flavored beer. Graininess can mean a couple of things. Husky flavors are often caused by overly aggressive grinding (the husks get pulverized or shredded), overly long sparge with overly hot water and/or high sparge pH. But some malts are just grainier than others and this is not necessarily considered a flaw. Based on this I'd suggest trying a different base malt. Maris Otter in particular gives rich malty flavors with no hint of husk or astringeny (in my experience) so you might want to try that.
Thanks for the info AJ. I appreciate the help!
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