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Old 07-15-2009, 12:18 AM   #1
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Default Water Profile and Beer Flavor

I had two extract batches that came out tasting awful. One was a Scottish Ale and one was an Irish Red Ale. For the longest time I have been stumped as to why they were so bad, leaving the brewer, myself, as the only culprit.

However, this weekend I just did an AG brew for a different beer, and in the process I was using the brewers friend water chemistry calculator. When I put in the readings for my city's water quality report, the calculator said that it was good for a "very bitter" beer due to the sulphate to chloride ratio.

I know that Scottich and the Irish Red Ale should be malty, or at worst balanced, beers. But they both turned out very bitter. Even after months in the keg.

Based on the brewers friend calculator, could there be a consensus that the sulphate to chloride ratio in my water profile could turn a malty beer recipe into a bitter one?

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Old 07-15-2009, 12:53 AM   #2
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I don't think it necessarily works that way. I'm of the understanding if you have the proper chloride:sulfate ratio a bitter will be sharper, crisper tasting, while with the proper ratio for a malty brew, malt flavor will be rich and complex. I don't think opposite ratios will cause a malty beer to be bitter and vice versa.

I believe John Palmer & Jamil touched on this a couple months ago in the Brewstrong podcast Waterganza.

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Old 07-15-2009, 02:03 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by cactusgarrett View Post
I don't think it necessarily works that way. I'm of the understanding if you have the proper chloride:sulfate ratio a bitter will be sharper, crisper tasting, while with the proper ratio for a malty brew, malt flavor will be rich and complex. I don't think opposite ratios will cause a malty beer to be bitter and vice versa.

I believe John Palmer & Jamil touched on this a couple months ago in the Brewstrong podcast Waterganza.
The chloride to sulfate ration WILL affect the beer and the way you perceive maltiness and bitterness. It won't necessarily make a malty beer bitter, or vice versa, but it will accentuate different aspects.

This is actually part of your problem but its compounded because you made extract beer. Too much mineral content can cause a beer to taste pretty crappy and your water salts were added to extract that already had water salts in it. It depends who made your malt extract but they ALL have some level of salts in them already. It is usually best to add distilled, or RO water to extract unless you specifically know the mineral content.

See this post - http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/8-ba...flavor-104841/

Your AG will not likely have the same problem. Unless you added additional salts.
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Old 07-15-2009, 07:42 AM   #4
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go buy some bottled water and brew see if it goes away. Easiest way to eliminate the water as culprit.

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Old 07-15-2009, 04:43 PM   #5
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go buy some bottled water and brew see if it goes away. Easiest way to eliminate the water as culprit.
Yes, and No. Just make sure it's distilled water or RO water.

A lot of bottled water (aka mineral water) has TONS of mineral and salt content. That will cause the same problem, provided I'm right about the cause.
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Old 07-16-2009, 03:52 AM   #6
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Yes, and No. Just make sure it's distilled water or RO water.

A lot of bottled water (aka mineral water) has TONS of mineral and salt content. That will cause the same problem, provided I'm right about the cause.
Well there's two things there. If he buys RO/distilled water, he needs to add some ions back in.

The drinking/spring water has minerals in it, and you don't know how much, but I do know that none of them are in an excess that will cause off flavors.
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Old 07-16-2009, 04:01 AM   #7
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I don't know a lot about water chemistry but I have hard water with lots of chlorine and chloramine in it and if I brew without treating it, I get the nasty, astringent, bitter beer.

I use both a water filter and campden tablets to improve my water. I brewed using only bottled water for several years before I got my water treatment down and I'm still trying improving it as I go.

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Old 07-16-2009, 05:18 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by z987k View Post
Well there's two things there. If he buys RO/distilled water, he needs to add some ions back in.

The drinking/spring water has minerals in it, and you don't know how much, but I do know that none of them are in an excess that will cause off flavors.
I don't think that you're on the same page as me here. I get what you're saying, but I disagree in this situation.

He will not need to add ions back in. He's making extract beer, not AG. There is no reason for him to add ions in this case because the extract he's using was brewed with water containing ions. They don't mash extract with RO water. The problem in my opinion is that he's adding too many other salts from his water when he brews. That's causing some issues. Please read the thread that I included in my first post. Towards the end it articulates what the problem could be, and it does so very well.

You are right that I don't know the water profile, in either his extract or any given mineral water he might add. I have no idea. Mineral water is all different. But I am assuming that his problem is caused by an excess of minerals.

If I'm right, which I might not be, he will get a good result adding RO or distilled water.

I'm just suggesting he tries it.
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Old 07-16-2009, 05:31 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by noeldundas View Post
I don't think that you're on the same page as me here. I get what you're saying, but I disagree in this situation.

He will not need to add ions back in. He's making extract beer, not AG. There is no reason for him to add ions in this case because the extract he's using was brewed with water containing ions. They don't mash extract with RO water. The problem in my opinion is that he's adding too many other salts from his water when he brews. That's causing some issues. Please read the thread that I included in my first post. Towards the end it articulates what the problem could be, and it does so very well.

You are right that I don't know the water profile, in either his extract or any given mineral water he might add. I have no idea. Mineral water is all different. But I am assuming that his problem is caused by an excess of minerals.

If I'm right, which I might not be, he will get a good result adding RO or distilled water.

I'm just suggesting he tries it.
Ah, I assumed he was doing AG since he said he just did an AG batch and it turned out the same as the extract batches.
But sure, to eliminate water as the problem RO/distilled will work really well.

Also, he never really mentions what is so bad about the beer. Is it just overly bitter or are there other problems? IMO, there are a lot of things beginning brewers can do that would make their beer turn out bad and water would not be at the top of the list.
Fermentation temperatures and sanitation practices and time always come to mind first.

Also, it might be helpful to see the city's water quality report.
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Old 07-18-2009, 12:01 AM   #10
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Ah, I assumed he was doing AG since he said he just did an AG batch and it turned out the same as the extract batches.
But sure, to eliminate water as the problem RO/distilled will work really well.

Also, he never really mentions what is so bad about the beer. Is it just overly bitter or are there other problems? IMO, there are a lot of things beginning brewers can do that would make their beer turn out bad and water would not be at the top of the list.
Fermentation temperatures and sanitation practices and time always come to mind first.

Also, it might be helpful to see the city's water quality report.
I lost track of this post for a few days. I agree blaming water is a stretch.

I can explain a little more of what happened. But first, to address the post about the sulphate and chloride ratio not having an affect. I listening to all four parts of the Brew Strong podcast on brewing water, and Palmer explicitly stated that the sulphate to chloride ration can effect the taste of the beer. He also explicitly states that water adjustment is also effective in extract brewing.

The first beer I brewed was a Irish Red Ale. After posting I realied that for this one I actually used bottle water, but it was spring water, not distilled, and I don't know what the mineral profile was. But this beer came out very bitter for an Irish red. I thought it was the recipe, since it did have a higher IBU than a normal Irish red. This beer was in the fermentor for about two weeks. The OG and SG were in range. I just recently dumped it, but it was in the keg for about 4 months. The bitterness reduced a little bit over time, but even up until the 4 months it was defintely too bitter for an Irish Red. Honestly, I couldn't tell if there were any other off flavors because of the strong bitterness.

After being unhappy with the first batch I tried to brew the maltiest batch my LHBS had, and that ended up being a Scottish Ale. I kept this one in the fermentor for 6 weeks. The OG and SG were in range. This one I actually tasted before kegging, and it was very sweet. For this beer, I used carbon filtered tap water. However after a week in the keg, it started to acquire a bitterness. In fact the flavor and bitterness levels were very very similar to the Irish Red that I had made, with the Scottish being a less harsh bitterness. I kept this on in the keg for about 2 months, and the bitterness never faded.

I also bottled both beers at different times, and I found that out of the bottle, some of the beers would be more bitter than others, and some would be not that bad in terms of the bitterness. To me, this doesn't make any sense, but I did have a few people confirm this phenomenon.

Like I said, I would say the chance of the water being the problem, is very slim, however, except for oxidation, I have not found too many other source of uncommonly strong bitterness in a finished beer.

One other flaw that existed in the beer was terrible head retention. And when the foam dissipated, it left very ugly almost curdled looking lacing on the top of the beer. From the pictures I have seen it wasn't as bad as infection, but it definitely wasn't pretty.
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