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-   -   Water Chemical Makeup vs. PH (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/water-chemical-makeup-vs-ph-61784/)

JVD_X 04-07-2008 08:35 PM

Water Chemical Makeup vs. PH
Hi Folks,

I was wondering if someone could explain to me if water chemistry is important in any way if I am already using Five Stars' 5.2 PH stabilizer? (Except chlorides of course)

At first I was thinking that by just setting the PH to about 5.2 that I would get great accuracy for any chosen beer style; however, according to Papazian (I went back and re-read his joy title nth time but this time paid attention to water) the free chemicals interact with mash in certain ways that - even with the PH was held at 5.2 - would not allow me to brew an exact style based on the mineral content of my household water.

I know this is being anal but I am curious if the the only benefit of the PH stabilizer is to increase yield.

Dr_Deathweed 04-07-2008 09:36 PM

Some in the solutes in your water are more nutrients for the yeast than they are for the mash. 5.2 is more to stabilize your pH than to add minerals to your water. As far as brewing different styles, stabilizing the pH will help A LOT, but what is already in your water (Ca, HCO3, Mg, etc.) will have an impact as well.

If you get a water report from your water supply and post it here, we may be able to give yo a bit more information.

JVD_X 04-08-2008 12:03 AM


I have actually contacted quality control for my water company and had an extensive discussion with the guy that produces the report. Our water actually comes from two different sources depending on availability - the Potomac River and a nearby lake. Each source has a different chemistry based on the little information I have. To make matters worse, the often blend the two waters for distribution, again depending on availability. Here is what the water compliance officer wrote:

Please pardon the delay. I have taken the last 3 years of data and provided result data is that is typical for your supply.
> The following is water quality information for the Bristow area. Please note your area had exclusively Potomac River water from Aug 15th -last week, due to the drought. We are slowly increasing Lake Manassas capacity. It is likely you are receiving a blend, which should become a Lake Manassas only supply by next week. We can make some field assessments at your location to determine where you stand during this transition.
> Lake Manassas Potomac River
> pH: 7.2-7.6 7.5
> Below are in parts per million (=mg/l)
> Free Cholrine: 0.75-2.0 2.0-2.5 (May-June only)
> Chloramine: None 2.0-3.5
> Orthophosphate: 0.5-0.75 ~1.0
> Bicarbonate: 30-40 60-80
> Total Hardness: 50-60 60-150 (harder in the winter)
> Sulfate: 25-40 18-30
> Sodium: 25 10-15
> Chloride: 20 15-25
Calcium: - 25-45

> Unfortunately (in the brewing sense), as the Lake supply returns your water will transition from moderate-very hard to a neutral rating. If there are other parameters needed please feel free to contact me.

ajf 04-08-2008 02:43 AM

I'm no expert, but as I understand it, the concentration of calcium ions can have a substantial affect in the mash, and the concentration of sulphate ions substantially affects the hop profile.
Since I switched to AG, I've always added gypsum to my water to make up what I consider calcium and sulphate deficiencies,
Recently, I found my mahs pH was a little bit low, but instead of resorting to pH 5.2, I added a touch of calcium carnonate which corrected the problem.


Dr_Deathweed 04-08-2008 03:07 AM

Just glancing at your profile, you seem to have some pretty good water. A little gypsum as ajf mentioned wouldn't hurt, but I would first find a program such as beer smith and play with the water profiles. It allows you to try and match your water profile against a target profile and adjust what additions that you need to get there. A free water profile tool is BreWater 3.0, it is very easy to use and free (both big pluses):D

Personally, I am a HUGE proponent of 5.2, especially with lighter beers. I have a crappy water profile, and even with dilution and mineral additions, I still use a little 5.2 to cover my back. It would be great in your situation, because while you have a pretty decent profile, it can help remove alot of the worry about maintaining a steady pH in your mash, and allow you to play a little more with mineral additions.

TexLaw 04-08-2008 01:08 PM

I don't know if you can just throw 5.2 into the mash and forget about everything else. However, as Deathweed said, you have some pretty good looking water to begin with.

Water chemistry also plays into the flavor of the beer.


pjj2ba 04-08-2008 03:43 PM

Different water chemistrys are what gave rise to many of the styles we enjoy today. When the Bohemian lagers hit the scene, everyone wanted to emulate that style, but no one could because they didn't have the same water. So people experimented to find out what they had to do to make a pale crisp beer. People adapted their ingredients to match their waters. High carbonates, like that in Dublin, need some more acidic ingredients to bring the pH down. Hence their popularity of stouts. I have high carbonate water so I take steps to reduce that when I'm brewing light hoppy beers, other wise the bitterness is harsh and takes a long time to mellow.

Dr_Deathweed 04-08-2008 06:47 PM


Originally Posted by TexLaw
I don't know if you can just throw 5.2 into the mash and forget about everything else. However, as Deathweed said, you have some pretty good looking water to begin with.

Water chemistry also plays into the flavor of the beer.


You are absolutely right. You can't just forget about everything else with 5.2, sorry if I implied that. I meant more I love it because its buffering capacity can help keep your pH in the right range and avoid off flavors associated with tannin extractions, etc. Because of that I can worry a bit less about pH and focus more on basic brewing steps (temperature, mash times, sparging, etc.) and have to worry a little less than water quality.

TexLaw 04-08-2008 07:54 PM

I agree with that completely, and I don't think you implied otherwise. I was more typing what I was thinking, rather than replying directly to anything you said. ;)


BBboomer 04-08-2008 08:34 PM

One thing I see in your report you do need to address is the chlorine.
You need to filter your water through a charcoal filter to take care of that, then it looks like you are good to go with just about anything you want to brew.
I highly recommend a software program like ProMash to help you with water formulations for a specific beer type. You can adjust the chemical composition to match or nearly match nearly any type.

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