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Old 09-25-2010, 09:22 PM   #1
agroff383
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Default Harsh/Lingering Bitterness & Using ALL RO Water

Hey all, wondering if anyone can tell me how much RO water I would use to balance out my city tap water. A lot of the lighter color beers I make just get dominated by a harsh, lingering bitterness. Some beers it is way more pronounced and I want to change it.

I can get RO water from a vending machine and I blend it with my tap water for strike and sparge volumes. I have been mashing with RO and sparging with tap water. According to a 2008 report, my sulfate is 79ppm and my sodium is 19.5ppm and my calcium is 161ppm. I don't know if this changes over time.

I want to know why I can't do all RO water. I do all grain. I have read I need minerals. I understand the mash needs minerals to convert, how much do I need? Or does this ride on what kind of beer I am making? If I used all RO water, would my efficency suffer? Or would only the most experienced beer taster be able to tell?

I really don't want to build water if I can get it close with a combo of tap and RO water. I did a SNPA clone last weekend that I only used about 2 gallons of tap water for my sparge and 5+ gallons for the mash/sparge. I am excited to see how this came out and if I can tell if it made a difference.

I know I would need absolute info on my water but this is the closest that I could find. I am going to call the water authority to get an updated report. It seems that everyone thinks my beers are too hoppy, but they are experiencing this excessive bitterness as well. I think if I change the amount of tap water I can lower this bitterness and let the malt/hops shine!

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Old 09-25-2010, 09:30 PM   #2
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What is the chloride content? You can't balance ions by diluting, but you can add salts. There are many online calculators that will help you with this.

I'd suspect your bitterness is coming from somewhere else rather than excessive sulfate to chloride ratio. Maybe post your hop schedule for a previous brew. How do you sparge and how hot is the water? If the pH of your sparge water is very high, that could also lead to astringency/bitterness.

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Old 09-26-2010, 11:31 AM   #3
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I use nothing but RO water in my beers. We live in a rural area, and our well water is so high in dissolved calcium and iron that it's completely unsuitable for brewing.

I do AG, a fairly thin mash with a single batch sparge. I put Five Star's 5.2 pH regulator in my mash according to package directions, and I put yeast nutrient in the boil according to directions. The only time I add minerals is when called for by a recipe, e.g., I added Burton Water Salts when doing an ESB. My beers taste fine.

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Old 09-26-2010, 01:41 PM   #4
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My 1st brew w/ city water was harshly bitter, not in line at all with the IBUs. I switched to local spring water (@ .10/gl.) and the harshness disappeared. If I need to revert to city water, I would pre-boil & use a camden tab to get rid of both chlorine & chloramines.

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Old 09-26-2010, 02:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rico567 View Post
I use nothing but RO water in my beers. We live in a rural area, and our well water is so high in dissolved calcium and iron that it's completely unsuitable for brewing.

I do AG, a fairly thin mash with a single batch sparge. I put Five Star's 5.2 pH regulator in my mash according to package directions, and I put yeast nutrient in the boil according to directions. The only time I add minerals is when called for by a recipe, e.g., I added Burton Water Salts when doing an ESB. My beers taste fine.
You really need some calcium in the mash. I've read that amylase enzyme should not even work at all without calcium.
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:48 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkeeler View Post
What is the chloride content? You can't balance ions by diluting, but you can add salts. There are many online calculators that will help you with this.

I'd suspect your bitterness is coming from somewhere else rather than excessive sulfate to chloride ratio. Maybe post your hop schedule for a previous brew. How do you sparge and how hot is the water? If the pH of your sparge water is very high, that could also lead to astringency/bitterness.
OK for example I did a Cali Common from Yooper.
My hop schedule for that beer was as follows:

ALL Northern Brewer:
.75 oz at 60
1 oz at 15
1 oz at 0

I even adjusted the bittering hops less to try to tame the bitterness to no avail. I used White Labs yeast with a 2000ml starter and fermented around 55 for 3 weeks then another 2 weeks in the keg at 38.

I batch sparge and the water usually around 170 when I dump it in the mash tun. I have been doing one big sparge and now I am going to try splitting it into two smaller ones. Also I have upped my sparge temp since then, to 185 in the pot before adding it to the mash.

I dont know the pH of the water, could I use my aquarium tester to check this? Does the pH change a whole lot during seasons or temp change in any way?
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by logdrum View Post
My 1st brew w/ city water was harshly bitter, not in line at all with the IBUs. I switched to local spring water (@ .10/gl.) and the harshness disappeared. If I need to revert to city water, I would pre-boil & use a camden tab to get rid of both chlorine & chloramines.

-d
Does chorine and chloramines affect bitterness? I wouldnt mind using campden tablets if this is affecting the way my beer turns out, but pre-boiling would add a lot of time to the process, but at the same time it would be worth it.

I only taste this bitterness in lightly colored beers, but it seems worse with more hops. But I know hop bitterness and this is not it. Beers that are darker in color and use darker malts or spices, or ever specialty yeasts like Witbier yeast, this bitterness doesn't come through as much. Almost like this bitterness "loses" the battle with the stronger spices/flavors.

Also would yeast accentuate this quality of a beer? I use almost always US05 for dry yeast. I remember from past beers with Nottingham that this is not as prevalent. But, I brewed at my parents and used mostly Notty and once I moved 20 mins away to another area & water supply I started using US-05.

Back to Notty!
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:54 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Bobby_M View Post
You really need some calcium in the mash. I've read that amylase enzyme should not even work at all without calcium.
Bobby is this the only critical mineral in the mash that is needed?

Any good reading on the mechanics of why these elements are needed for conversion? I would like to learn a lot more about this then I have been. I have Palmer's book but I have to be in the mood to read some of those chapters, I am not an engineer or a chemist, something in plain English please lol!
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Old 09-26-2010, 02:56 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rico567 View Post
I use nothing but RO water in my beers. We live in a rural area, and our well water is so high in dissolved calcium and iron that it's completely unsuitable for brewing.

I do AG, a fairly thin mash with a single batch sparge. I put Five Star's 5.2 pH regulator in my mash according to package directions, and I put yeast nutrient in the boil according to directions. The only time I add minerals is when called for by a recipe, e.g., I added Burton Water Salts when doing an ESB. My beers taste fine.
Good to know. Thats what I was getting at when I said:4

I want to know why I can't do all RO water. I do all grain. I have read I need minerals. I understand the mash needs minerals to convert, how much do I need? Or does this ride on what kind of beer I am making? If I used all RO water, would my efficency suffer? Or would only the most experienced beer taster be able to tell?

I know that the minerals are critical but I guess what I want to know from the smart guys in the room here is what are the consequences if there is a very small amount of minerals?
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Old 09-26-2010, 03:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by agroff383 View Post
Good to know. Thats what I was getting at when I said:4

I want to know why I can't do all RO water. I do all grain. I have read I need minerals. I understand the mash needs minerals to convert, how much do I need? Or does this ride on what kind of beer I am making? If I used all RO water, would my efficency suffer? Or would only the most experienced beer taster be able to tell?

I know that the minerals are critical but I guess what I want to know from the smart guys in the room here is what are the consequences if there is a very small amount of minerals?
Don't brew with just RO water. As Bobby said, the amylase enzymes need a calcium ion to catalyze the starch reduction. There is also the issue of mash ph, but it is not a straight forward relationship in terms of water chemistry, different malts have different effects on ph.

Dilute your water with half RO and try to add a couple grams of calcium chloride. That would raise your chloride:sulfate ratio and tend to soften the hop bitterness. I would give you more specific numbers if I knew your chloride ion ppm for your water.
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