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Old 11-28-2012, 04:29 PM   #1
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Default Water Report - Issue with Dark beers?

I've been brewing all grain for about a year now and have been having some issues with off flavors (astringency and harshness), especially in some of my darker beers. I run all of my water through a carbon filter from B3. I sent in a sample to Ward Labs, and it looks like my water is fairly good, though a few things are outside the target ranges.

I'm still trying to get a handle on what adjustments, if any, I need to make but I'd be grateful for any initial impressions on whether this profile could be a candidate for the astringency I've been having. If not, back to the drawing board! Much appreciated.

PH - 7.9
Total Dissolved Solids - 95
Electrical Conductivity - 0.16
Cations / Anions - 1.5 / 1.5
Sodium - 18
Potassium - < 1
Calcium - 8
Magnesium - 5
Total Hardness - 41
Nitrate - 1.3 (safe)
Sulfate - 2
Chloride - 5
Carbonate - < 1
Bicarbonate - 68
Total Alkalinity - 55
Total Phosphorous - 0.75
Total Iron - <0.01

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Old 11-28-2012, 04:33 PM   #2
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My understanding is that bicarbonate can contribute a harshness to beer and can be removed by precipitation by boiling the water.

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Old 11-28-2012, 04:45 PM   #3
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The water is good and it should produce lots of good beers without any treatment at all except a bit of acid to insure pH in the proper range. The one thing that does catch my eye is the low chloride. Nearly every beer benefits from chloride at about 50 mg/L and so the first thing I would do if I were you is to take one of the beers you aren't terribly fond of and add a pinch of table salt in the glass. See if this rounds out those harsh flavors.

However I suspect that the harsh flavors are coming from harsh ingredients in this case. Probably lots of high alpha hops. They can be just plain rough. Try using some lower alpha varieties and see if you like the results better. Also, don't overdo the black malts. They can be harsh and astringent too and if you are using enough of them to render the beer harsh you are probably using enough of them to overcome the alkalinity of the water and base malts. You should be able to brew balanced dark beers with this water if you are reasonable with dark crystal and black malts.

Your sulfate is also low and there are those who would find your beers insipid because of that. And you may be one of those but adding sulfate when you already have harshness problems would probably not be wise. Get the harshness under control first and then experiment with sulfate.

You may find the Primer helpful.

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Old 11-28-2012, 06:04 PM   #4
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One hell of a reply ajdelange. Nothing further to add.

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Old 11-28-2012, 06:22 PM   #5
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This is a case where there isn't enough alkalinity to suit those darker beers. As AJ says, this is a fine water and it should be great for a lot of beers. But its not good for more acidic grists like porters, stouts, and beers with a lot of crystal malts. I recommend you consider pickling lime for those beers that really need it. Bru'n Water has the tools for figuring lime additions. You do have to be able to measure very fine amounts of lime though. If you don't have a scale that can measure to the tenth of a gram, its time to get one.

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Old 11-28-2012, 06:24 PM   #6
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Thanks, all. I appreciate the thoughtful feedback and quick responses. Very much appreciated.

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Old 02-03-2013, 06:12 PM   #7
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I'm brewing a robust porter today (roasted/crystals are 1 lb of English chocolate; 0.5 of English black; and 0.5 English dark crystal) and am concerned about ruining yet another batch.

If I follow the primer, and add 1 tsp/5 gallons of calcium chloride, it will raise my calcium from 8 to 79.9, but it will also increase my chloride from 5 to 132.5. The latter seems way too high. Am I asking for trouble if I don't reduce the amount of calcium chloride accordingly so that the chloride is <100?

Also, EZ Water predicted my Mash PH to be around 5.6, so I'm not sure if these additions are really getting the PH where it needs to be.

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Old 02-03-2013, 07:26 PM   #8
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That level of chloride is fine but if you are nervous about it start with half the amount and work your way up.

Also with respect to Martin's comment: there is plenty of alkalinity for many dark beers but not all. Don't be in too big a hurry to add alkali. If you are using sensible (sensible, that is, in my opinion) amounts of high colored malts then 5.5 - 5.6 is about where your pH should fall. If you use lots of dark crystal and lots of black malts then you can undershoot on pH and some alkali will be needed. To confirm this you really need to obtain and learn how to use a pH meter properly.

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Old 02-03-2013, 07:36 PM   #9
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With this tool http://www.brewersfriend.com/mash-ch...er-calculator/

and making an assumption of about 10 lb of base malt and a strike water volume of 4 gal I get a mash pH prediction of about 5.4. This includes about 2 tsp of CaCl2 in 10 gal of water.

Let's assume that the prediction is a bit high and that your beers do benefit from increased water alkalinity. 2 g of slaked lime to the strike water or mash should increase mash pH by about 0.15 pH units. 5 g of chalk are expected to do the same.

The problem is that these tools take a stab at predicting mash pH and should not be trusted too much. The best would be if you can actually test mash pH.

But if you say that your dark beers don't come out as well as your lighter beers I would definitely go ahead and add some chalk or pickling lime.

Kai

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Old 02-03-2013, 09:04 PM   #10
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Thanks, guys. I need to buy a ph meter, so for the time being, I halved the calcium chloride additions. The wort tasted good after mashing, so hopefully that's a good indicator that things worked out well. Looking forward to tasting some more samples soon!

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