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Old 10-28-2013, 10:45 PM   #1
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Default Water Treatment Advice

Although I've been through the general water treatment philosophy threads and have read loads from AJ Delange and fellow Hoosier, Martin Brungard's posts and have a copy of the new BP Water book, I've generally took a pretty casual approach to water treatment so far.

I'm now ready to step things up a notch and fully delve into water chemistry and I have a few questions.

I have a FAIRLY detailed annual water report form my municipality and I have contacted them for a more detailed water report and to see if I can sign up for notifications in the event that they switch from our primary surface reservoir to our backup surface reservoir; I also have the cheap HomeDepot test kit and I plan to do an initial test myself this week.

My municipality's report (Kirkland, Washington) is missing ppm of Chlorine, whether Chloramine treatment is used (I think it is) and ppm of Magnesium, which is unfortunate. Here's their report: http://www.kirklandwa.gov/Assets/Public+Works/Public+Works+PDFs/Water/2013+Water+Quality+Report.pdf

As noted our water almost always comes from the Tolt River Reservoir and looks like this:

  • Total Akalinity as CaCO3: 17.7ppm
  • Calcium as CaCo3: 23.4 ppm
  • Hardness as CaCo3: 25 ppm
  • Iron: 30 ppb
  • Manganese: 1 ppb
  • pH range: 8.19 - 8.51 --Odd that the pH is so high with hardness so low...
  • Potassium: 0.1 ppm
  • Sodium: 0.79 ppm
  • Sulfate: 7.4 ppm

HA! Right as I was typing this I got the detailed and more up-to-date report from the city so adding some additional details:
  • Aluminum: 32 ug/L
  • Chloride: 2.6 mg/L
  • Fluoride: 0.94 mg/L
  • Magnesium: 0.36 mg/L
  • TDS: 37.3 mg/L

They haven't answered the chloramines question yet, but I'm assuming that the chlorine IS as chloramines; that seems to be the trend-right?


I've got such nice soft water I think I'm just going to use a sediment cartridge plus a 2 stage carbon filter and I won't bother with RO as I don't want the added expense reservoir, nor do I want all the water waste and slow performance. -I'm planning on pumping at 2 gpm fill rate to ensure adequate contact time with the carbon. I'll get one of those TDS meters that goes on the inlet and outlet of the filter just to monitor it for ****s and giggles and then I'll do another water test after putting on the filtration system and then I'll plug those numbers into Bru'n water.

Seems like I'll just need to ensure I get my calcium levels up for yeast nutrition and beyond that I just make salt additions for flavor contribution. (Although the ph is higher than I expected so I'm not quite sure what to expect there.)


-Any other comments or tips given my water and plans?


My treatment plan then is to start from my already soft water, then carbon filter it to remove the stuff I don't want (chlorine/ chloramine at the top of the list), then I'll ensure that I add enough salts to get my min of 50 ppm of Calcium for proper yeast nutrition and Chloride and Sulfate as appropriate for flavor enhancement/highlight. -I'll plug all of this into Bru'n water to estimate if I'll hit an appropriate mash ph and/or how much 88% lactic acid I should add. Then I'll test a cooled sample of the mash 10 min in with my calibrated ATC pH probe (Milwaukee mw102 recently cleaned) to confirm all is going according to plan.

Thanks in advance!
Adam


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Old 10-28-2013, 11:19 PM   #2
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Bueller? (Updating post count to avoid enticing people to click on the other duplicate post.)



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Old 10-28-2013, 11:38 PM   #3
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I have water envy! Well, except for the "iron" part. I have no idea how much iron can be in the water and still be below the taste threshold. I have noticed that in darker beers, I can taste a metallic flavor in beers brewed with iron in the water in some breweries, but I don't know what their amount is.

The water you have looks great otherwise. (We need a water expert on that part). Treating with campden to remove chloramines/chlorine would be the only thing I would do with the rest of that water. I'm jealous.

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Old 10-29-2013, 12:47 AM   #4
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It's typical igneous mountain runoff...almost rainwater quality. A fine place to start. The recommendations of the Water Primer are a great place to start. You can take it farther with Bru'n Water if you want. The main thing is to try and produce a mash pH that is somewhere in the vicinity of 5.4 for most styles. With the lack of alkalinity in that water, some dark styles will end up too tart if you don't add alkalinity to the mash. But other than that, you have a nearly clean palate.

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Old 10-29-2013, 07:51 PM   #5
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Martin, one more question for you:

-Instead of adding more alkalinity to my water / mash to increase the mash ph for acidic, dark grists, couldn't I also use the "Gordon Strong method" and save my dark, heavily roasted malts (or at least a portion of them) for the very end of the mash so that my mash ph is still within the acceptable range? (I could add measured quantities of roasted malts to low my mash ph instead of adding acid malt or lactic acid directly, right?)


I've never heard this method discussed here before (although I did recently read about it in your Zymurgy article on water in Ireland); what would be the pros and cons of saving back heavily roasted malts when brewing with soft water vs. increasing the alkalinity ala salt additions? (Yes, I know I'll still need to get my calcium levels up for proper yeast nutrition, anyway but I'm interested in learning through the thought exercise.)


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Old 10-29-2013, 08:07 PM   #6
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To begin with it often isn't necessary to increase the alkalinity of your water for the brewing of dark beers. I and many others have found that the normal stouts can be quite nice with modest amouts of alkalinity in the water e.g. I usually get a mash pH of around 5.5 for a nominal Irish stout recipe with water alkalinity of 50 - 80. The finished beer pH is nominal as well and yet the beer has that slight, refreshing tartness which is so much a part (IMO) of the flavor profile of Irish stout. A previous similar question go me thinking about the Gordon Strong method with respect to this and I wondered whether witholding the dark grains until the end of the mash might destroy that tart flavor. It clearly isn't attributable to low mash or beer pH as neither is particularly low. This notion is not something I have verified by experiment or brewing practice so I only offer the thesis as food for thought at this point. If my intuition on this is correct then loss of that quality would clearly be a minus with respect to those styles that want this sour quality. OTHOH it has been rumored for years and I believe confirmed (by Martin) that Guiness gets that sourness into its beers by adding a second beer or flavor extract or something of the sort after ferementation.

The second potential problem would be that of those beers that come in at the high end of desirable pH with modest alkalinity when the dark grains are included at dough in would come in at even higher pH were they absent at strike.n With higher alkalinities this problem would be even worse.

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Old 10-29-2013, 08:10 PM   #7
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You certainly can reserve the roast and crystal additions to the end of the mash or add a portion to the mash to help the pH drop to a desirable level. The most important distinction is that when those remaining reserved grains are added to the wort, the resulting pH of the wort is likely to be lower than desirable due to the low water alkalinity. You can avoid the destructive effects of a low mash pH, but not the low kettle wort pH.

In addition to a tarter flavor, the lower kettle pH can reduce the hop expression and bittering. The recipe can be revised to alter the hop effects, but the tartness can only be corrected with an alkalinity addition. Seems that its best to address the alkalinity needs off the bat.

By the way, Guinness' London brewery does use a portion of the roast malt to get their mash pH in the right range when using London's more alkaline water.

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Old 10-30-2013, 06:04 PM   #8
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On the issue of what Guinness does, I think it's quite controversial and not at all settled. There's lots of rumors on both sides.

Some of the Guinness references clearly show that beer WAS aged and blended long ago; the beer was certainly aged in barrels albeit pitch covered ones. Some of the whispers and rumors are that the bottled extra stout still has added lactic and isn't just getting it's acidity from roasted grains, low alkalinity, and carbonic acid. (Obviously we could prove the last one by shaking one violently and letting most of the dissolved CO2 evolve and test the pH before and after.) -If you were a brewer at the time and you were trying to ensure a similar taste during a brewery equipment and process transition, you'd want to maintain the flavor as much as possible; brewers are definitely taught to do this today. IMO, there's no way to get that lactic taste without a bit of lactic. -IMHO, there's an overwhelming amount of evidence that at least still in the 1850s some porter and stout brewers were blending aged ("stale") and fresh ("mild") porter / stout together and that this was responsible for the tart lactic flavors back then (See Loftus the Brewer in 1850), the question is just how brewers adjusted to trying to brew a beer that produced that same flavor when beer was aged at the brewery and without natural lactic infection; did brewers, and specifically Guinness in this case add some lactic in some form (commercial acid or via a sour or sour+roast mash) to mimic the original blended flavor or did they just change the taste and wait for consumers to adapt to it?

The take in the Zymurgy article that the "Essence of Guinness" is from a pure roast barley steeping was interesting; definitely the first time I'd heard that take on it, but it's certainly feasible. -Although no one ever quotes sources when it comes to the lore of Guinness, after living in Dublin for 5 of the last 6 years and being involved in the early craft beer movement there the general sentiment was that the "Essence of Guinness" was essentially just liquid malt extract that is produced at St. James Gate and distributed to many of Diageo's regional breweries in an effort to ensure a more consistent product and to save $$ in shipping by massively dehydrating the product. A prevalent rumor was that this "Essence of Guinness" was shipped to Belgium, the Caribbean, and Nigeria and simply rehydrated and fermented locally at varying strengths for each of the regional products. -Although I do like the idea that this is simply a heavily roasted product that is added post mash and that the regional breweries still do a base malt mash of some sort (your information on the London plant still mashing helps lend some credence that this is more likely); this doesn't necessarily close the door to a lactic acid addition(I'm ignoring the option for a modern sour mash as they're just not predictable/repeatable enough) for this steeped malt addition/ "Essence of Guinness".

Couldn't gas chromotagraphy identify the presence of lactic in both regular and export Guinness and answer the question once and for all of whether lactic acid is partially responsible for the twang?


(Yes, now I've gone fully off-topic.)

Adam

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Old 10-30-2013, 07:24 PM   #9
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Yooper: In Washington State you have to report if your water supply contains more than 6 micrograms / Liter and the maximum amount permitted is 300 micrograms / liter; my water supply is at 30 micrograms / liter.

The lowest taste threshold is in distilled water and WHO says that's at 40 micrograms / liter; in mineralized spring water the taste threshold is 120 micrograms and 300 micrograms in well water.

Staining of laundry and pipes also begins at 300 micrograms / liter.


So although I'd like the iron to be a bit lower, it seems that 30 parts per billion isn't bad and is definitely below even the distilled water taste threshold and certainly below the beer taste threshold.

An activated carbon block filter (which I'll be using) can reduce oxygenated iron (if I'm reading correctly); I don't think my supply requires anything more than that. A manganese greensand filter can be used to reduce higher quantities of iron, but they don't seem to exist in the 10" cartridges and seem to be unnecessary for my water.
(I agree that the iron stat seems to be the worst number in my water profile, though (and aluminum at 30 micrograms/ liter).)

Adam

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Old 10-30-2013, 09:39 PM   #10
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Adam, you raise some interesting ideas. With respect to the infusion of lactic acid for Guinness products...it could be. I tried to resolve that while writing that Zymurgy article on Irish water and could not verify it. One thing is certain, a long steep of that roast barley at a low temperature (essentially an acid rest) could easily promote the growth of lactic bacteria and impart lactate into that essence...if Guinness wants it that way. They wouldn't have to add lactic acid unless they didn't want to take the time to allow the bacterial production.

Thanks for the interesting discourse!

By the way, the info on the Guinness practices at their London brewery are taken from Lewis' book on Stout.



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