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Old 12-01-2010, 11:39 PM   #1
Patirck
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Default Water treatment questions

I made a belgian blonde - it was about my 8th or so all grain batch and thought it was my best beer ever! I really liked it and so did all my friends. I went to a club brew day to observe some masters at work and brought a bottle of it. A BJCP guy tasted it and was very nice but instantly said - the chlorophenols are overpowering the ability of the yeast to do their thing and that I had very hard water. Before this, I drank my tap water and never tasted anything bad at all. I always made fun of people who drink bottled water instead of tap. Now all I taste is the chlorine - the power of suggestion!

I went to Lowes and bought the household water testing kit they sell and used it. My PH was about 8.5 or so. The water also tested very hard - almost to the top of the little color coded scale they provide.

I stole (borrowed) a ph meter from work (a pharmacy) and tested it with water out of the tap - 8.9. I bought some Five start 5.2 stuff from the LHBS. I went to Lowes and bought a carbon filter to take care of the chlorine. I mixed in the appropriate amount of 5.2 and I was still at 5.9 - 6.0. I added a bit more and it would only go down to 5.8. I went ahead and brewed with this (German Hef - 60% german wheat, 30% german 2 row, 10% munich). I did not dip the ph meter in the mash - this never occured to me and I thought it might screw up the ph meter - after further reading I'll do this next time.

The hef is testing the integrity of a blow off tube now and I'll have my first taste in a week or so.

Is a ph of 5.8 low enough for most beers? Is there something else I should be doing to lower the PH? I brew a lot of stuff more on the malty end of things than the super hoppy end of things - I rarely make anything with more than about 25 IBUs. I tend to make a lot of german and belgian stuff - weizenbocks, tripels, dunkles.

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Old 12-02-2010, 11:46 AM   #2
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Go to the brew science forum and check out the sticky on "Water Chemistry Primer" thats a great place to start. You can also find some useful spreadsheets for calculating your water profile, but AJ's suggestions in the primer will get you moving toward better beer if you're watching your PH with a meter. You may want to consider making two brews, the same, one with filtered tap water and one with bottled RO water.

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Old 12-02-2010, 11:46 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Patirck View Post

I went to Lowes and bought the household water testing kit they sell and used it. My PH was about 8.5 or so. The water also tested very hard - almost to the top of the little color coded scale they provide.

I stole (borrowed) a ph meter from work (a pharmacy) and tested it with water out of the tap - 8.9. I bought some Five start 5.2 stuff from the LHBS. I went to Lowes and bought a carbon filter to take care of the chlorine. I mixed in the appropriate amount of 5.2 and I was still at 5.9 - 6.0.
This confirms what others have noted. Five Star 5.2 works great unless you own a pH meter. Tongue out of cheek: there are multiple posts in this forum as to why this is.

A carbon filter will take care of chloramine if contact time is long enough. Contact time is long enough if you can't smell chlorine in the filtered water. Many people use Campden tablets rather than filtration as it is much faster. One tablet typically treats 20 gallons of water. Again, if you can't smell chlorine you've treated it adequately.



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Originally Posted by Patirck View Post
Is a ph of 5.8 low enough for most beers? Is there something else I should be doing to lower the PH? I brew a lot of stuff more on the malty end of things than the super hoppy end of things - I rarely make anything with more than about 25 IBUs. I tend to make a lot of german and belgian stuff - weizenbocks, tripels, dunkles.
No, 5.8 is really not low enough though lots of beers have been made with pH this high and they are certainly drinkable. Yes, there are things you should be doing to lower the pH. When brewing German style beers the traditional treatement is with lactic acid either in the form of lactic fermented wort (sauergut) or lactic fermented malt (sauermalz) or, for the less strictly traditional, lactic acid from a bottle. The amount needed depends on the qualities of the water - primarily on its alkalinity, secondarily on its hardness. The first step, thus, is to know your water and the easiest way to do that is to send it off to Ward Labs for a test which I believe costs about $25. This is a good deal as the test is pretty accurate and hits all the points of importance to a brewer (assuming you don't have some really weird water laden with strontium or silver or something bizarre like that). Your high hardness and high pH suggest that alkalinity is probably high too but you really need to know how high in order to know how to proceed. You can decarbonate or dilute (with RO or distilled water).

There is a water primer in the stickies at the top of this topic that will give you some guidelines for starting out. If you can continue to borrow the pH meter, that will be your eyes in determining what to do with your water. In a nutshell - you cut the water until the mineral concentration is reasonable and then adjust acid until mash pH comes out in the right range (5.2 - 5.5 best, up to 5.6 OK).
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Old 12-02-2010, 03:03 PM   #4
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I read the primer - it was great. I am looking for a bit of simplicity - perhaps too much.

Are the higher end home water testing sets that I can get at Lowes adequate for this or should I just to the wards water test? (I was hoping to brew this weekend).

From reading the primer, it seems that I will end up mixing RO water with filtered tap water - what ratio depends on the outcome of the water test and what style of beer I'm making (or to my taste as it says). I live in the Los Angeles area and we have access to many kinds of bottled water - one of the more prevelant ones is Arrowhead. I seem to remember the delivery guy (at work) saying that Arrowhead water is not just filtered water like sparklets- I know it tastes better. I am sure they are both put through an RO process for sanitation purposes but I think Arrowhead water has some minerals added back in for flavor. Would I be wise to use Arrowhead or should I stick with a pure RO or distilled water?

I also see the benefit of adding acidulated malt to my grist. Will this work with the Five Star 5.2 (which in my case should be called 5.9) to get the ph down to low 5s?

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Old 12-02-2010, 11:28 PM   #5
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OK - so I measured my water at home using a kit - here are the results:

Calcium 68
Magnesium 27
Alkalinity as CaCO3 120
Sodium 99
Chloride 98
Sulfate 240
Water pH 8.6


I downloaded the spreadsheet in the sticky Palmer's mash RA v2 and put the numbers in. For a target srm of 12, after all is entered it apprears that I need a about a 50% dillution with RO water, 1.5 grams of baking soda as well as 1.6 ml of lactic acid. I am no chemist but don't baking soda and acid work against eachother?

I am still learning this but the ratio of chloride to sulfate still comes out very bitter and I would really like to have this be on the other end of the spectrum. What additions would I need to add and how would I calculate them to make this move to the very malty end of the spectrum?

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Old 12-03-2010, 12:02 AM   #6
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I downloaded the water calc v86 and put the numbers in. It appears that if I add a bunch of table salt (about 2.5g / gallon) my chloride to sulfate ratio gets put to the very malty end of the spectrum. Is this going to effect the overall taste of the beer adding 28 grams 9.25 gallons of water?

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Old 12-03-2010, 01:56 AM   #7
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Forget about ratios. If you have 240 ppm (or 120 ppm) sulfate, you are going to get a sulfate character in the beer. 900 ppm chloride won't fix that, though adding 2.5 g/gal of salt will make it salty.

Dilute the water more to get your sulfate lower. Maybe 4 parts RO to 1 part tap water. This would get you pretty good water. Add a bit of calcium chloride to that and see where that gets you.

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Old 12-03-2010, 06:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patirck View Post
OK - so I measured my water at home using a kit - here are the results:

Calcium 68
Magnesium 27
Alkalinity as CaCO3 120
Sodium 99
Chloride 98
Sulfate 240
Water pH 8.6
I'm interested as to what kit you used. In particular I'm interested in the sulfate and sodium tests as both of those are considered difficult.

You certainly have a lot of sulfate and this will be a problem for you if you are doing continental beers (not all continental beers, of course but many). For Pils or Helles, for example, you'd need to dilute 9:1 or more with sulfate free water to get to the level required.


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Originally Posted by Patirck View Post
I downloaded the spreadsheet in the sticky Palmer's mash RA v2 and put the numbers in. For a target srm of 12, after all is entered it apprears that I need a about a 50% dillution with RO water, 1.5 grams of baking soda as well as 1.6 ml of lactic acid. I am no chemist but don't baking soda and acid work against eachother?
Yes they do. The reason we add acid to brewing water/mash is to neutralize carbonate. The only reason one might contemplate doing that is if he wants to duplicate exactly what goes on in a brewery that uses carbonaceous water and compensates for that with lactic acid. When this is done the bicarbonate is converted to CO2 gas and driven off (or most of it-some residual bicarbonate remains) and the lactic acid is converted to lactate ion. Such a beer would have a specific ratio of lactate to bicarbonate and that could be a part of the beer's profile. But I don't think that's what you are about here.

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I am still learning this but the ratio of chloride to sulfate still comes out very bitter and I would really like to have this be on the other end of the spectrum. What additions would I need to add and how would I calculate them to make this move to the very malty end of the spectrum?
The concept of the ratio as a design parameter has limited application i.e. to British brewing. It is not even uniformly accepted there but is in general rejected in continental brewing where less sulfate is considered better in most cases. If your sulfate number is valid that is going to be a problem for you in brewing many styles. If you like Burton style ales you are in great shape - otherwise this is a problem.

Given that you need 9:1 dilution to control sulfate you might as well use straight RO water (as rejections are in the 90%+ range) augmented with calcium chloride and calcium sulfate to taste when you want to emphasize hops.
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Old 12-03-2010, 02:57 PM   #9
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I talked to the local water department and they told me that they started using water exclusivly from the colorado river as opposed to northern california as of a few years ago. The water is very hard and requires a bit more treatment.

Is there a difference between pure RO water and arrowhead water? I know I can taste a difference. I looked up the arrowhead site and found a water quality report http://www.nestle-watersna.com/pdf/AH_BWQR.pdf#page=4
Can I use this instead of RO water and not worry about additions of salts?

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Old 12-04-2010, 09:51 AM   #10
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RO water is simply water from which 95% or more (depending on the membrane and the individual ions) of the minerals have been removed. Thus a good RO unit will produce pretty pure permeate if the feed is low enough in mineral content. For example, my feed TDS usually runs around 165 and my permeate can be as low as 1 but more typically 3-4 ppm.

If you taste a difference between RO and Arrowhead water I think that answers your question.

Arrowhead water is neither low in minerals nor is its mineral composition constant. I'd say it makes a poor candidate for a substitute for RO water.

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