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Old 11-23-2012, 03:23 PM   #1
grathan
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I think my beers have been pretty bland. I did my last batch with distilled water with just a little calcium chloride and it seemed I could finally taste the hops. So a I am thinking about a RO system. Anyways here is my water report. Can anyone talk me out of a RO system?

pH 7.7
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 252
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.42
Cations / Anions, me/L 4.2 / 4.5
ppm
Sodium, Na 14
Potassium, K < 1
Calcium, Ca 50
Magnesium, Mg 13
Total Hardness, CaCO3 179
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 9
Chloride, Cl 17
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 209
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 171
Fluoride, F 0.10
Total Iron, Fe 0.02

I also had tested with the water softner on:
Sodium 89
Calcium 3
Mag 0
Total Hardness 8
iron 0.01
were the only noticeable differences

I have read a bunch since getting the report and it seems my biggest problem is the bicarbonate? This is where I get confused. They say bicarbonate is good for dark beers because the ph gets lowered and neutralizes the RA. So why can't I just add acid and neutralize for light beers? I am not worried so much about mash PH as I am flavor contribution in finished beers.

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Old 11-23-2012, 04:22 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grathan View Post
This is where I get confused. They say bicarbonate is good for dark beers because the ph gets lowered and neutralizes the RA.
That can be a problem but it is much more likely, unless you specialize in dark beers, that the opposite problem - too much alkalinity, will be what plagues you.

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So why can't I just add acid and neutralize for light beers?
You can and that is an approach taken by many. You can even adjust flavor by your choice of acid. There are two problems with this. First is that food grade mineral acids are hard for home brewers to obtain in the US. Second is that unless your water is stable over the seasons you will need to frequently check your alkalinity in order to determine how much to add. An alternative is to simply add the acid of your choice until the pH reaches 5.5. Some commercial operations do this. This is paramount to measuring the alkalinity as the process is the same (adding acid until a certain pH is reached) except that alkalinity measurement is done in the lab. Here you are doing it in the brewery. On the plus side no calculations are necessary. On the minus side you need a pH meter (which you should have anyway).

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I am not worried so much about mash PH...
You should be. Proper mash pH, however you achieve it, is a sine qua non for good beer.

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.... as I am flavor contribution in finished beers.
This is important too but I think you will find that getting mash pH right has a major effect on flavor.

The big advantage of an RO system is that it gives you very soft (low mineral content) water every time without regard for the ion content of the source water. Very soft water is a big plus for a lot of beers and if you tend to brew them (pils, helles, kölsch...) then you should think seriously about an RO system. If you do mostly British and American ales then an RO system really isn't needed.
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Old 11-23-2012, 09:36 PM   #3
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Most certainly if you weren't worrying about your mash pH and sparge water alkalinity, your problem with past beers was too high a wort pH and dull or muddy flavor in your lighter colored beers. This is a critical issue with the water presented. Virtually every ion excepting bicarbonate are in acceptable ranges. That excessive alkalinity produced by the bicarb is likely killing any hope of producing a crisp and lively beer.

Yes, acidification is a treatment alternative for this water. Give the level that needs to be neutralized, I would suggest phosphoric acid. But the mineral acids that AJ mentions (hydrochloric or sulfuric) are quite good alternatives since the chloride and sulfate levels are naturally low in that tap water. The problem is obtaining those mineral acids in a food grade. That could cost an arm and a leg.

There are a FEW beer styles that benefit greatly from low mineralized water and those are typically delicate styles such as Pils and light lagers. Other beers are brewed very well with moderate mineralization. This tap water is only moderately mineralized and ideally suited for a wide range of styles as long as the alkalinity is monitored and neutralized as needed for the current beer. Moving to RO would largely be a waste of money in my opinion. But since this water source quality might vary on occasion, having an Alkalinity Test kit might be a good way to quickly assess if the water quality has changed significantly before brewing. That kit is less than $10 and it can help you baseline and manage your water treatment. If you want simple-stupid, get a RO system. If you are up for a minimal level of water management, get the test kit...read the Water Knowledge page on the Bru'n Water site...and use Bru'n Water to dial in your brewing process.

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Old 12-06-2012, 10:22 PM   #4
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If I wanted to dissociate some of the bicarbonate with acid, the max I could take out is the 171(alkalinity number) or the 209(bicarb)?


Also going from memory from Noonan's book. If I wanted to take 7570ppm hardness out of 10 gallons of water...
It would be about 7.4ml of %85 lactic. 200 * 3.78541 * 10 / 1020 (mg of acid per ml).

He isn't so clear to me on using dry citric though. I think he says it's like 0.94 milligrams of citric per milligram of powder. Flavor of citric aside, how much citric would achieve similar results to the lactic?

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Old 12-06-2012, 11:52 PM   #5
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Alkalinity is a measure of buffering capacity. Bicarbonate is a measure of the amount of HCO3- ion. Both refer to a liter of water. As, in potable water at moderate pH, the only buffer is bicarbonate. To dispose of bicarbonate you supply hydrogen (H+) ions. Then HCO3- + H+ --> CO2 + H20. The bicarbonate is converted into water and CO2 gas. Remove the bicarbonate and the alkalinity is gone.

Thus there is a specific amount of alkalinity associated with each unit of bicarbonate and vice versa. See http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/bicarbonate-total-alkalinity-372115/ for how to calculate one from the other.


You can take out as much or as little alkalinity as you want with acid. By definition you have removed all alkalinity when you acidify to the pH which defines alkalinity. This is usually 4.5 but is sometimes 4.3 or another value.

You cannot remove hardness with acid (except phosphoric under unusual circumstances).

Direct comparison of citric to lactic is a bit tricky as one is monoprotic and the other triprotic. At mash pH citric is going, therefore, to give up more protons per mole than lactic. At pH 5, for example, 1 mmol of citric acid (98 mg) will give up 1.66 mmol of protons whereas 1 mmol of lactic acid would yield 0.92, i.e. 80% more. At pH 5.4 one mmol of citric gives 1.90 mmol of H+ but 1 mmol of lactic only 0.97 i.e. 96% more.

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Old 12-07-2012, 10:20 PM   #6
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I see this in another thread.

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Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
Assuming that you are shooting for mash pH of 5.4 a citric acid addition of 0.71 grams in 5 gallons is equivalent to 1.3 mL of 88% lactic acid in 5 gal.
Are these numbers scaleable,

for example 7 gallons = 5*0.4
so 1.3 * 0.4 = addition for 7 gallons?
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Old 12-08-2012, 03:16 AM   #7
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Yes, definitely.

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