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Old 09-16-2011, 12:27 PM   #1
ImperialStout
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Default How does water hardness effect mash efficiency?

Last brew recipe had target OG of 1.065 but measured 1.050. LHBS put recipe in the Hopville calculator and adjusted the mash efficiency until the OG was the same as the measured OG. Came up with 51%.

LHBS didn't see anything wrong with the mash process but the water here is hard, I think. We usually have white crud form around the faucets. He thought softening the water should improve the mash efficiency.

Two questions: How does water condition effect mash efficiency? Don't really know anything about hardness, pH, acid, base etc.

Bought an HTH water testing kit that measures chlorine, bromine, pH, alkalinity, hardness and cyanuric acid. Which of these water conditions are important for increasing mash efficiency? Are home test kits reliable enough for brewing or would it be best to have the water dept test the water?

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Old 09-16-2011, 12:34 PM   #2
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I would be interested in alkalinity. Hard water is usually also alkaline. If you mash pH is way off, that could be your problem.

"Softening" as in using a water softener isn't a good idea. You can pre-boil your water to soften it, or I soften my water with lime, but it's kind of a pain and requires some specialized equipment.

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Old 09-16-2011, 12:57 PM   #3
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I would say you're better of diluting it with distilled water, or any soft bottle water.

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Old 09-16-2011, 01:01 PM   #4
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Hoe, what up with my water

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Old 09-16-2011, 01:23 PM   #5
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OK, I don't understand. If boiling water softens it then why does it not soften when the wort is boiled?

Softening water by adding bottled drinking water - Is bottled drinking water usually soft water, or at least around neutral? If so, problem solved. Can get bottled drinking water for $1 gal.

What happens if water is too soft?

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Old 09-16-2011, 01:33 PM   #6
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Read the water section in "How to Brew" -- lots of good information (some of which has since been debunked, but there's plenty of accurate things in there).

Once you learn about water from that source, search the forums for "EZ water calculator 3.0". It's an excellent spreadsheet which will help you adjust your water.

I have very hard water, and those two sources taught me a lot of useful info.

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Old 09-16-2011, 02:12 PM   #7
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mojo_wire, thanks for the lead on water. Was your mash efficiency low with hard water and did it improve with softer water?

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Old 09-16-2011, 03:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ImperialStout View Post
OK, I don't understand. If boiling water softens it then why does it not soften when the wort is boiled?

Softening water by adding bottled drinking water - Is bottled drinking water usually soft water, or at least around neutral? If so, problem solved. Can get bottled drinking water for $1 gal.

What happens if water is too soft?
Read this re: softening via boiling http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=5792.0

It only works with water with high temporary hardness. If your water is permanently hard, you're out of luck without dilution. To know if your water is permanently hard or temporarily hard, you'll need to know the total hardness and alkalinity of your water.

If you have high Ca+ and Mg+ your water is hard. If you have more Cl- and SO4- than HCO3-, then your water is permanently hard. If you have lots of HCO3- and little Cl- and SO4- then your water is temporarily hard.
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Old 09-16-2011, 05:49 PM   #9
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I am no water guru, but I would say "poo poo" to hard water being poor for a mash (exteme cases aside). I would think your crush, your MT lauter method etc. are more to fault than water. I ahve super hard water and routinely get 75-78% efficiency using a corona mill and a Blichmann MT for 11G batches.

You can always get your water report, but I would start with the other stuff first. My water PH is 7.6 and I can dig up the report if needed. My water style is closest to teh dublin style.

SEE post 39 for my water report profile

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Old 09-16-2011, 07:12 PM   #10
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Mash method - Put 8 pounds grain in a bag in a 5 gal Igloo cooler. Filled cooler with 160 F water (maybe 3 gal), covered and let sit for 1 hr, then drained into brew pot. When water got low added more 160 F water. Used 6 gal of sparge water in total. Let water flow out of cooler slowly so it took 20 min or so to drain 6 gal. Also moved bag up and down while draining to increase efficiency. LHBS said method was OK but maybe not. Open to all suggestions from mashing process to water condition. One thing is for sure, the mash efficiency needs to come up. Batch size is 5 gal. LHBS crushed the grains so can't comment on that. This is my first PM and learning curve is steep.

My guess is either the water condition, not sparging long enough or with enough water caused low efficieny, but hard to see how sparging with more than 6 gal for a 5 gal batch would be good. Would 7 gal be OK? Would there be 2 gal loss from grain absorption, dead space and boil down? Assume it is better to get efficiency high even if after losses and boiling there is 5.5 gal wort in pot. Better to toss 1/2 gal of wort than have low efficiency.

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Last edited by ImperialStout; 09-16-2011 at 07:28 PM. Reason: add detail
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