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Old 01-15-2007, 05:42 PM   #1
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Default Steeping grains in hard water?

I have some very hard water. I don't know the exact hardness, but it is on the high side. This past weekend, I brewed up the Shakespeare Stout clone from AHS and it required some steep time. I start out with tap water without any filtering and bring it to the correct temp for steeping. I steep for 20 min (instructions said 15) and then sparge with some more water to get the last big of color/flavor out of the grains.

My question is: would the hard water affect the steeping % of flavors/sugars? I wonder, because I have such hard water, if it would be better to steep longer--or better yet, use filtered water for the steeping? Any thoughts on this?

The SG came in quite a bit lower than the kit said, which surprised me, but I think part of it was because I didn't get all the wort into the fermenter. I was trying to keep the hot/cold break from getting into the fermenter and I am sure I left too much good wort behind! Lesson learned for the next batch.

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Old 01-15-2007, 05:52 PM   #2
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Well, filtering won't change your waters "hardness" unless your idea of a filter is a water softner system.

Hard water will drop your efficency even for just steeping grains. Kinda like soap not "sudsing" up with hard water. If you plan on using your tap water to brew, consider a water softner system because the hard water will fight you all the way when you try to use it without doing something to it.

You can try salts from your LHBS or online, but with out knowing where your water is in the first place, you'd be flying blind when adding salts.

You can use bottled spring water, or distilled (I use it and correct the profile to a style I'm brewing).

If you are on a city water supply, you can find out the numbers from them. If you are on a well, you have to have it tested. I can't comment on the online test kits, but most universities will test it for nothing or a small fee.

HTH

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Old 01-15-2007, 05:56 PM   #3
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Would R/O water work? We have a softener system, but when I drink that water, I hate the taste so I don't really want to use it for my brews.

I will find out that hardness soon. I wonder what the efficiency lost is for hard water.

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Old 01-15-2007, 06:12 PM   #4
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I was always under the impression that hard water was preferred in most cases to soft water as the calcium helped with yeast growth.???

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Old 01-15-2007, 06:13 PM   #5
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Using a softening system will only add to the confusion since you still don't know where your water is at.

If you use RO water you'll need to build it up using brewing salts.

For steeping, you're only going after color and flavor and shouldn't be too concerned about the water affecting efficiency. If your water doesn't taste good however, your beer won't be either.

Once you start mashing is when you need to start worrying about water chemistry for the most part.

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Old 01-15-2007, 06:15 PM   #6
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And hard water is good for darker beers.

See how it turns out. If you like it, no problem!

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Old 01-15-2007, 06:36 PM   #7
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Well I love my tap water. When I want a glass of water, my family thinks I am nuts for going outside to get some water from the hose as the whole house is on the softening system!

Thanks for the info. This is something I will definitely be looking into and testing with a few future brews. But, yes, I do need to find out more information about the water as eventually I think I would like to go to partial mashing.

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Old 01-15-2007, 08:16 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chairman Cheyco
For steeping, you're only going after color and flavor and shouldn't be too concerned about the water affecting efficiency. If your water doesn't taste good however, your beer won't be either.
Well, your compounding problems. Yes, harder waters are better for dark beers, but if your making a pale beer, how is it going to help? It's not.

Not knowing where your water is in the first place is going to hurt you in the long run. Now you mention you have a water softner... Find out where both; the unsoftened water and the water that goes through your softner.

What software do you use? Beersmith (I know from personal use) will correct your recipe for changes in your water profile. To believe water won't effect your recipe/outcome is kinda like flying blind. The general rule is if your water has no off-flavors, it should produce good beer. But if you are working with hard water, it's killing your efficency. Even for steeping grains, which is in reallity nothing more than mashing on a small scale, how can you expect to extract all the flavors and colors if your getting a low efficency in the first place?

The problem just keeps compounding itself when you use extract. With extract you really should use distilled water in the first place as the extract is just wort concentrate with the water profile (for the style) already in it.

Try using distilled water for the extract portion of your brew and bottled spring water for steeping your grains, and I bet your beer improves drastically over the water from your house.

How can someone from the other side of the country tell you that your water is fine for making beers? Water varies drastically from one side of the country to the other. Yours is yours alone, unless you find someone using the same water.
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Old 01-15-2007, 08:36 PM   #9
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The water is the same after I steep and then add the extract. Why would I use two different types of water here?

And I don't see how hard water would affect extract at all. Does it hold back hot break, cold break or hops utilization?

I don't use software (yet) as I am making kits right now. Still in the learning process. Again, you said it is killing my efficiency...and I would love to know by how much. Is there a formula for this or a website with this information?

One thing I do is top it off with boiled tap water, which removes a lot of the minerals deposits. But that is just water that is for topping off. Maybe I should boil the steeping water first, then the next day pour it into the steeping pot and begin from there. I will give that a shot next time I brew.

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Old 01-15-2007, 09:13 PM   #10
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Quote:
How much effect does pH have in mashing and sparge water?
Lots, especially on beer flavor and extract efficiency. The success of any mash is most dependent on proper temperature and acidity. Grain brewers all pay attention to the mash temperature; too few pay attention to its acidity. The pH optimum for alpha amylase is 5.7; for Beta amylase it is 4.7. A high mash pH, like a high mash temperature, favors dextrinization at the expense of saccharification to fermentable maltose and glucose. If your brews consistently produce beers that are sweeter than they ought to be, look at your mash pH. Is it high? Generally speaking, a 'high' mash pH is anything above pH 5.3. Ideally, it should be 5.2 during saccharification. During sparging, the pH of the mash runoff should never be allowed to rise above 5.8, and really should be kept below 5.5. Higher alkalinity progressively increases astringency and haze in the runoff and in the finished beer. I learned another effect of acidity in brewing from Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company. While admiring the flavor of a Geary's Pale Ale, he commented that the beer had a very "bright" flavor, which he attributed to a well-controlled mash pH. He made the case that beers made from a high pH mash always taste "dull" and "muddy". Sometime later, I conducted my own survey of his assertion, rating the "brightness" of beers flavors and then doing a pH reading of the beer. The pattern was clear - the lower the pH of the beer, the brighter its flavor. The differences were dramatic. It is very easy to test mash acidity with pH papers. If your mash pH is high, it is easy to learn how to manage it using lactic acid. Add a couple of drops of 10% lactic acid to your brewing liquor for your next brew. If the mash pH is still too high, add a few more drops next brew. Repeat the moderate increases until you dial in a 5.2-5.3 pH mash. Just remember to decrease acid additions when you brew darker beers, because dark malts themselves lower mash acidity. You are very likely to brew better beer if you control mash acidity.
From mashers.org and I have been told similar by Joey, owner of Blue Star Brewery here in San Antonio.

Why would you use two types of water? As a test for you. Distilled water for the extract portion because extract is already water "corrected" and distilled is "0" across the board (except Ph = 7, which is "neutral" for Ph). Spring water because it's pretty "neutral" water, and you don't really want to mash in distilled water because there is nothing in it and may actually pull more from the grains than what you want to pull from them.

In order to find out "what" it's doing to your efficiency, you would need to know where you water is.
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