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Old 04-03-2013, 09:08 PM   #1
Echoloc8
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Default Just used RO water and salts for the first time... Some questions

Brewed up a batch of Bee Cave IPA this past weekend, and in the interest of saving a few bucks I decided to grab some 5-gallon containers full of RO water from my local Walmart.

The water was indeed cheap, and I used the Bru'n Water site and spreadsheet to figure out my water adjustments right. I picked the Bru'n Water profile for Pale Ale, then found out I couldn't get Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2, one of its salt options that I'd chosen) on short notice.

So I used BeerSmith's water tool to recalculate amounts using the various other salts I did have available, and used those amounts in my mash and sparge water.

It all went really well! I did have these questions:

  • The water was very cloudy before dough-in and sparging, which I attribute to the Calcium Carbonate (chalk), just as a guess. Is this normal? None of the cloudiness transferred to the wort, which cleared beautifully while chilling and with Whirlfloc.
  • My mash efficiency and brewhouse efficiency were *way* up from normal. Mash eff was something like 98% (normally 93-95%), while brewhouse was 75% on a beer I expected to get more like 65% on my system. Can additional minerals account for that, perhaps make the enzymes work better somehow?

-Rich
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Old 04-03-2013, 09:34 PM   #2
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I can't really answer your questions, but calcium chloride is not chalk. Calcium Carbonate is chalk. I've never used Magnesium Chloride, but if you're looking to add Magnesium to your water you can use epsom salt, which is Magnesium Sulfate.

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Old 04-03-2013, 10:32 PM   #3
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I can't really answer your questions, but calcium chloride is not chalk. Calcium Carbonate is chalk. I've never used Magnesium Chloride, but if you're looking to add Magnesium to your water you can use epsom salt, which is Magnesium Sulfate.
I'm sorry, of course it is. :-p Correcting now.

I wound up using both CaCO3 and CaCl2 in the water; regardless, I've heard chalk doesn't dissolve easily.

I did use MgSO4 (Epsom) as well.

Can you tell I'm a n00b yet? :-)

-Rich
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Old 04-04-2013, 09:18 AM   #4
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I brew with RO water from Walmart as well. I started doing this about 8-9 batches ago since my tap water smelled like a community pool. It's cheaper and I also noticed a 7-10 point jump in efficiency. I used Burton's water salts at the start of my boil. I can honestly say my beer has come out better since making the change to RO water. I've used spring water too and didn't notice any difference between that and the tap ( other than the cost). For a $1.60/gallon and a quick trip to Walmart it's worth it. We have a ceramic base with a plastic spigot we keep in the pantry and use the water for everything we do. No more plastic bottles around the house and earth from us.

Cheers.

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Old 04-04-2013, 01:27 PM   #5
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Chalk is virtually useless in brewing unless you have gone through the process of dissolving it via carbonic acid. Since you were starting with RO water and were likely adding a lot of Ca and a bit of Mg, the alkalinity provided by fully dissolved chalk would be helpful in keeping the mash pH from dropping too low. Unfortunately, chalk dissolves very little in the mash and only increases mash pH by 0.1 to 0.2 units. That may not have been enough in this case.

I'm hoping that you didn't add chalk to the sparging water. That is unneeded for sparging water and if that undissolved chalk is carried into the boil kettle, it can ultimately dissolve and raise the wort pH higher than desirable which can cause several adverse taste effects.

I'm curious why you felt that MgCl2 was what you wanted to use to add Mg? It is not common, but some brewers use it. And then why would you use a program like Beersmith when you couldn't get that mineral? Was it because Bru'n Water didn't have the same mineral selections that Beersmith does? Did you like that fact that Beersmith gave you no guidance and doesn't try to keep you from making mistakes? That is a serious problem with Bru'n Water...it does try and keep you from making mistakes and it does require that you read the instructions. Oh well!

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Old 04-04-2013, 03:46 PM   #6
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Chalk is virtually useless in brewing unless you have gone through the process of dissolving it via carbonic acid. Since you were starting with RO water and were likely adding a lot of Ca and a bit of Mg, the alkalinity provided by fully dissolved chalk would be helpful in keeping the mash pH from dropping too low. Unfortunately, chalk dissolves very little in the mash and only increases mash pH by 0.1 to 0.2 units. That may not have been enough in this case.

I'm hoping that you didn't add chalk to the sparging water. That is unneeded for sparging water and if that undissolved chalk is carried into the boil kettle, it can ultimately dissolve and raise the wort pH higher than desirable which can cause several adverse taste effects.

I'm curious why you felt that MgCl2 was what you wanted to use to add Mg? It is not common, but some brewers use it. And then why would you use a program like Beersmith when you couldn't get that mineral? Was it because Bru'n Water didn't have the same mineral selections that Beersmith does? Did you like that fact that Beersmith gave you no guidance and doesn't try to keep you from making mistakes? That is a serious problem with Bru'n Water...it does try and keep you from making mistakes and it does require that you read the instructions. Oh well!
I thought I made it pretty clear I was new at this. Sorry for offending you. Thanks for the chalk info, anyway.

-Rich
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Old 04-04-2013, 04:30 PM   #7
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I'm curious why you felt that MgCl2 was what you wanted to use to add Mg? It is not common, but some brewers use it. And then why would you use a program like Beersmith when you couldn't get that mineral? Was it because Bru'n Water didn't have the same mineral selections that Beersmith does? Did you like that fact that Beersmith gave you no guidance and doesn't try to keep you from making mistakes? That is a serious problem with Bru'n Water...it does try and keep you from making mistakes and it does require that you read the instructions. Oh well!
Okay, here's what I was originally trying to do:



As for why to include magnesium at all, the spreadsheet's hover-note mentions that it can aid the perception of bitterness, and this is an IPA.

I was trying to make all the profile adjustments come to numbers that made sense. The magnesium-chloride addition seemed to work best to allow as few additions as possible, just gypsum, baking soda and MgCl2, right? And no chalk, I might add, because someone I can think of populated his Water Knowledge page with "chalk is hard to dissolve" warnings.

This plan worked great until I found out I couldn't get MgCl2 on short notice. Substitute, right? Well, obviously it's not so simple. All of a sudden it was epsom salt, and then backing off the gypsum to avoid too much sulfate, and then the chloride had to come from somewhere. I was delighted to find that BeerSmith had a tool to try and formulate a backup plan in a few moments instead of a half-hour of spreadsheet jiggering. I knew it wouldn't be as perfectly efficient as one I did the long way, but hey, it's just beer, right?

Had I known using the BeerSmith tool was so problematic I might have avoided it and added another half-hour to my brew day while using a friend's stovetop and as a guest in his house. Then again I might not.

If chalk in my sparge water has ruined the beer, then gracious, I might just have to chalk it up (ha) to having learned by doing.

As it is, I had a positive experience with both Bru'n Water and BeerSmith to make water-chem changes on my brew day. Sorry if that didn't come through in my earlier comments. Why the snide tone?

-Rich
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Old 04-04-2013, 05:40 PM   #8
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Perhaps you've already done this, but I'd read this:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/bre...primer-198460/

then try this:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/ez-...-3-0-a-261001/

I've had great luck with the spreadsheet (confirming pH with a meter) and the water primer gives you an idea of how simple you can make what can otherwise be pretty intimidating.

good luck!
dan

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Old 04-04-2013, 06:08 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by MNDan View Post
Perhaps you've already done this, but I'd read this:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/bre...primer-198460/

then try this:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/ez-...-3-0-a-261001/

I've had great luck with the spreadsheet (confirming pH with a meter) and the water primer gives you an idea of how simple you can make what can otherwise be pretty intimidating.

good luck!
dan
Thanks, Dan. I've seen the primer thread, and thought I could make the Bru'n Water sheet work. Next time I'll absolutely go with the EZ calculator, see how it does.

-Rich
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Old 04-05-2013, 06:02 AM   #10
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Yea, don't add chalk to beer. Chalk works to increase the alkalinity, which typically need to be decreased, unless you're brewing dark beers. And 92% eff is kinda crazy. Home brewers typically are in the 70-80%. I'd check that calculation.

I typically use gypsum, calcium chloride, epsom salt, and baking soda in my beers. and 100% RO. And lactic acid. And fairy dust.

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