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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > How Did This "Hard water is good for dark ales" myth get started?
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Old 01-26-2010, 08:32 PM   #1
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Default How Did This "Hard water is good for dark ales" myth get started?

I keep seeing in various threads the idea that hard water is
good for dark ales, usually when the brewers dark ales
are coming out well but their light beers aren't. It's not
as bad (or stupid/dangerous) as the "Bleach is not effective
unless you add vinegar" myth, but still....??
Jim

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Old 01-26-2010, 08:37 PM   #2
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Because the roasted grains have more buffering abilities than do the lighter kilned grains.

The acidulated bleach thing comes from a chemist at Five Star, IIRC, who on a podcast spent more time discussing the proper use, mixture, and application of acidulated bleach for homebrewing application than he did his own product.

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Old 01-26-2010, 08:38 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdc2 View Post
I keep seeing in various threads the idea that hard water is
good for dark ales, usually when the brewers dark ales
are coming out well but their light beers aren't. It's not
as bad (or stupid/dangerous) as the "Bleach is not effective
unless you add vinegar" myth, but still....??
Jim
Hmmm... I'm not sure what you're saying. My hard water is very high in bicarbonate and I have a fairly high residual alkalinity. Which means, in short, that my water is very good for dark beers. For lighter colored beers, I need to add RO water (and some salts to add back calcium, sulfate, and chloride) to get my residual alkalinity down to a decent level. My hard, untreated, water is best for beers in the SRM range of 18-22. That's pretty dark!

What's the "myth" you wish to correct?
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Old 01-26-2010, 08:39 PM   #4
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I think people say hard when they mean alkaline.

Bleach is less effective, as a sanitizer, at higher pH.

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Old 01-26-2010, 08:50 PM   #5
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Traditionally, the water from Burton On Trent in England was held to be the "gold standard" for brewing bitters. See Burtonization. Other towns/areas have different water profiles, which have come to be accepted as good for their regional style of beer.

BTW - I think it is the residual alkalinity, not the hardness per se, that determines "fitness" for a certain style although both are a function of the carbonate in the water.

I am really only just getting into water chemistry though, so take what I say with a pinch of calcium carbonate.

See here for more details.

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Old 01-26-2010, 08:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by remilard View Post
I think people say hard when they mean alkaline.
Ah, that makes perfect sense! That clears up my question on what myth we're talking about.

"Hard" and "alkaline" aren't interchangeable terms.
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Old 01-26-2010, 09:09 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by YooperBrew View Post
Ah, that makes perfect sense! That clears up my question on what myth we're talking about.

"Hard" and "alkaline" aren't interchangeable terms.
Right, which must be how it all started. They think because they
have a lot of sulfates in their beer, that's why their dark beers
come out well and their light beers don't, when it's probably
because they are fermenting at too high a temp or they have
long lags because of using dry yeast, and the dark malts cover
up the flavor defects.

Bleach is perfectly effective without acid. It may be marginally
quicker acting with acid, but the difference wouldn't be noticed
by a human. On the other hand, the death of the brewer due
to chlorine gas formed would certainly effect the number of
batches he gets to finish.
Jim
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Old 01-26-2010, 09:28 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdc2 View Post
Right, which must be how it all started. They think because they
have a lot of sulfates in their beer, that's why their dark beers
come out well and their light beers don't, when it's probably
because they are fermenting at too high a temp or they have
long lags because of using dry yeast, and the dark malts cover
up the flavor defects.

Bleach is perfectly effective without acid. It may be marginally
quicker acting with acid, but the difference wouldn't be noticed
by a human. On the other hand, the death of the brewer due
to chlorine gas formed would certainly effect the number of
batches he gets to finish.
Jim
You've got two trains of thoughts going here, so I'll respond one at a time.

Your theory that: "they have a lot of sulfates in their beer, that's why their dark beers come out well and their light beers don't, when it's probably because they are fermenting at too high a temp or they have long lags because of using dry yeast, and the dark malts cover up the flavor defects" is ridiculous.

Water chemistry is HUGE and blaming good dark beers on not being able to taste bad brewing practices (long lag time with dry yeast?!?)over the flavor of dark malt is just silly. I think that you're just throwing ideas out there, but there are definitely some water chemistry issues involved that are better explanations of off-flavors than dry yeast and a long lag time.

Secondly- chlorine gas from vinegar and bleach? Please provide your references. Sure, there would be risk involved especially in large quantities, but not like a cup of ammonia in a cup of bleach. We were talking about very small quantities, just enough to lower the pH slightly to make better sanitizing. (Note- I do NOT do this. I wouldn't. I use star-san or Iodophor for sanitizing anyway).
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Old 01-26-2010, 09:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdc2 View Post
Right, which must be how it all started. They think because they
have a lot of sulfates in their beer, that's why their dark beers
come out well and their light beers don't, when it's probably
because they are fermenting at too high a temp or they have
long lags because of using dry yeast, and the dark malts cover
up the flavor defects.
Who is this "they" you talk about? Links?
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Old 01-26-2010, 09:37 PM   #10
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I moved this thread out of "brew science" since it seems like there is little in this thread that involves actual science like water chemistry, or even the chemistry of mixing bleach and vinegar (which I do NOT recommend). This seems like just a thread criticizing brewers who believe in water chemistry, so it's being moved to "general" discussion.

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