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Old 01-24-2009, 08:04 PM   #1
larrybrewer
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Default Water chemistry brewing for low/zero mineral levels

Portland, OR water has very low mineral content.

Chloride (Cl) 1.7 – 2.2
Hardness (as CaCO3) 3.8 – 6.2
Sulfate (SO4) <MRL – 0.9
Alkalinity (as CaCO3) 7.2 – 18
Bicarbonate (as CaCO3) 8.1 – 9.6
Calcium (Ca) 1.1 – 1.4
Magnesium (Mg) <MRL – 0.7

Full report is here: http://www.portlandonline.com/water/...=29813&a=33093 (PDF)

I believe this indicates total flexibility in brewing, given the correct additions. I was just wondering what others who use this water or similar water do by default when brewing a 5 gallon batch:

A) Ligher beers, like pilsner, pale ale, etc
B) Darker beers, like porter, stout

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Old 01-24-2009, 11:23 PM   #2
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That's very nice water. My water has some low numbers but yours is close to distilled. You are correct in the flexibility area since it's fairly simple to make additions to water but it can be difficult to remove stuff that's already there. You will want to add some calcium at a base level of 50-100ppm for any beer as your water has virtually none. In very simplistic terms for light lagers I would suggest calcium chloride, for pale hoppy ales calcium sulphate and for dark beers calcium carbonate. For more in depth information this site Water And Homebrewing is a good start and both Palmer's How to Brew and Noonan's Brewing Lager Beer have excellent sections on brewing water.

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Old 01-26-2009, 12:42 AM   #3
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Thanks!

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Old 01-26-2009, 11:09 PM   #4
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You should take advantage of the soft water and make some traditional pilsners. I live in Bellingham which has a similar profile. I made a pilsner once that really knocked my socks off.

Aslo I second what BigEd said.

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Old 02-06-2009, 07:13 AM   #5
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I have been lagering for awhile and my munich helles turn out great. They go fast! Lucky to live in an area with water like this.

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Old 02-07-2009, 07:55 AM   #6
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OK, so after reading up and comparing Palmer's spreadsheet and the "mash water chemistry calculator" here: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f84/mash...90/index2.html

I only need a very small amount of CaCl2 and Gypsum, somewhere around 3/4 of a teaspoon for a 5 gallon batch. That is interesting, seems like such a small amount. I'll let everyone know what difference I notice.

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Old 02-07-2009, 12:46 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larrybrewer View Post
OK, so after reading up and comparing Palmer's spreadsheet and the "mash water chemistry calculator" here: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f84/mash...90/index2.html

I only need a very small amount of CaCl2 and Gypsum, somewhere around 3/4 of a teaspoon for a 5 gallon batch. That is interesting, seems like such a small amount. I'll let everyone know what difference I notice.
Your basic need for any beer is calcium. Since your water has virtually none to begin with even that 3/4 tsp will help greatly. For beer styles using very minerally waters like Burton ales or Dortmunders you will wind up using larger addtions of salts.
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Old 02-07-2009, 03:06 PM   #8
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I just want to differentiate between minerals added to the mash and minerals added to the boil. If you're happy with your mash water mineral content, you could just add some minerals to the boil and that would result things like increased perceived bitterness and benefits for yeast/fermentation.

Concerning the mash, Noonan says that calcium "stimulates enzyme activity and improves protein digestion, stablizes the alpha-amylase, helps gelatinize starch, and improves lauter runoff." But how much is needed and how much is contributed by the grain itself? Calcium, next to potassium, is a major mineral constituent in barley.

My water (from a well, unfiltered/untreated), is extremely soft and low in minerals. Its Ca content is 2ppm, its total hardness (CaCO3) is 9ppm, and its total alkalinity (CaCO3) is 7ppm. Most other minerals are low to nil as well and the pH is 5.7. I don't treat my mash water at all and get 89-93% efficiency and don't have any other issues related to what Noonan states.

I swear I've read somewhere (but can't find it right now) that barley malt itself will contribute calcium to the mash. I find this interesting being that my water is so low in calcium, yet I don't seem to suffer any ill effects to the mash. I just add a little gypsum to the boil, less for some beer styles (German lagers, e.g.), more for darker/higher IBU beers (British styles). I mainly do this for the yeast, but also to help with flavor in British styles.

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