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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Brew Science > Water too fail for stouts...
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:33 PM   #11
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Thanks for clearing that up! I see that you are absolutely correct that alkalinity is required for brewing a dark beer. As noted above, the RA of 55 indicates a modest alkalinity in that brewing water and the modest mash pH is in line with what I would expect. Contrast that result with the almost absent alkalinity in the OP's water and its clear that in that case, the poor results could be expected.

Again AJ is correct that I shouldn't have used 'absolutely' in my original post. He is correct that you can brew a dark beer with low alkalinity water. But to brew a good dark beer, you absolutely have to have sufficent alkalinity in the brewing water to produce proper mashing conditions (as AJ pointed out).

Thank you again for correcting me!

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Old 12-12-2011, 02:26 PM   #12
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I think the key word here is "sufficient". One must have sufficient alkalinity to balance the acid. Of course one also must have sufficient acid to balance the alkalinity. "Balance" here does not mean neutralize (pH 7) but rather means sufficient extra acid to hold the pH in the desired range (5.4-ish).

Dark malts obviously supply some of that acid - that's why they were used originally. In their original use they were, of course, used to balance the alkalinity of the available water. Today we use them for flavor, color and style matching and it is possible that we will use them with water less alkaline than the water that caused the original brewers to use them. An imbalance towards the acid side is then possible and alkali would be required. But this is not always by any means the case. This is all a roundabout push for pH measurements (it always is from me). Especially if you are doing dark beers. You could probably get away without doing them if brewing only light beers but, as I hope this discussion has pointed out, you really need them for the dark styles.

I'll note again that if I had used pure RO water in this last Lewis stout my pH would probably have come in at 5.54 rather than 5.6 and I probably would not have added acid (I guess that would have to be a Lewis acid - bad chemist joke). That's what I was hoping for. If I had goosed the calcium I might have gotten it lower still but it would take a lot of calcium to move me down to say 5.45.

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Old 12-12-2011, 08:07 PM   #13
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Question:
There are RA values stated throughout this thread, do they include the acid/acidulated malt added to any of these mashes?,or just water & mash salt additions?

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Old 12-12-2011, 08:23 PM   #14
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In my posts they are just for the water.

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Old 12-12-2011, 08:32 PM   #15
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Thanks for your responses everyone!

mabrungard - I've seen on another forum someone who lives in the area stating Alkalinity to be around 13-14 as you said it would probably be.

I work in a brewery 17 miles from where I live (so I assume the water is pretty much the same), so today went and had a look at what salts were being added to the water there and if they did anything for the mash pH. for a couple of different beers. The brewers weren't sure if it was the problem, but I'd guess they've never made beer without adding salts, and I'm pretty sure it's not my grain bill, it's the same problem on a 13% dark/roasted malt/barley and a 7%, hardly OTT dark grains! I believe it was worse on the higher % btw.

For a 56IBU IPA they were adding Calcium Sulphate (Gypsum) and Calcium Chloride (about 2.5 times more CaSO4 than CaCl2)

For an oatmeal stout they were adding Calcium Chloride and Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) at a ratio of about 5:1 CaCl2:NaHCO3

So yeah, it's looking like they're adding calcium! I think the Caclium sulphate is to bring out the hops (hence featuring in the IPA), and I guess they add Baking soda to increase alkalinity without sticking in too much calcium in there by using just CaCl2

They have some acidulated malt they said I could have as they don't actually use it.

I looked at the mash pH they were measuring, think it was a fairly standard 5.2-5.6 although I can't actually remember (would have remembered if it was outside this range).

Edit: Just seen CaS04 and CaCl2 lower mash pH. So maybe that's why it features in there (I believe many other local breweries use these salts as well).

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Old 12-12-2011, 08:40 PM   #16
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Interesting stuff! Can you post back your own findings?

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Old 12-12-2011, 08:47 PM   #17
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Your stout RA of 55 is water, no salt additions?

I'm just curious becuase I've run a number of darker beers through this the EZ calculator and have been zeroing fields now to see what the RA values are for just the water used. RA's of 40-60 seem to be pretty common for my spreadsheets, excluding salt and acid additions.

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Old 12-12-2011, 08:48 PM   #18
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I'll make sure I do, although it may be a couple of weeks until I brew again (and then obviously it'll be a while until it's ready to compare).

Also, I seem to recall munich making an appearance in our darker beers which is quite acidic (not sure what % they use). So... it's a case of drop the mash pH AND increase residual alkalinity?

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Old 12-12-2011, 09:10 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChillWill View Post
So... it's a case of drop the mash pH AND increase residual alkalinity?
No, it's a case of getting the pH right. This may require adding acid (which would lower RA if added to the water) or alkali (which would raise the RA if added to the water). Which of these you need to do depends on the relative titratable acidity of the grist (which you will not know unless you measure it and there is little point in doing that as it is easier to measure the pH of the mash) and the titratable basicity (I made up that word) of the water which is the alkalinity.
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Old 12-12-2011, 09:19 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSmith View Post
Your stout RA of 55 is water, no salt additions?

I'm just curious becuase I've run a number of darker beers through this the EZ calculator and have been zeroing fields now to see what the RA values are for just the water used. RA's of 40-60 seem to be pretty common for my spreadsheets, excluding salt and acid additions.
My water runs calcium hardness of about 60 and magnesium hardness of about 50 for an effective hardness of (60 + 50/2) = 85 ppm as CaCO3. The alkalinity is about 80 so the RA is 80 - 85/3.5 = 55. As my hardness and alkalinity numbers are pretty typical of water available along the eastern seaboard and elsewhere in the US my RA is pretty typical too.

As you can see from the example numbers increasing alkalinity by 1 ppm as CaCO3 increases RA by 1 ppm as CaCO3 whereas it takes 3.5 ppm as CaCO3 calcium or 7 ppm as CaCO3 magnesium to lower it by 1 ppm as CaCO3.
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