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Old 03-17-2010, 07:36 PM   #1
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Default Water Chemistry Questions From a New Brewer

I’ve brewed two extract recipes using distilled water. I used distilled water because I didn’t know anything about water chemistry and just assumed it would be a safe bet. Both turned out fine likely because the major ingredient was extract, but now that I am moving toward all grain I know I need to understand water chemistry.

I am about to brew a stout using a partial mash and now have a 10 gallon brew kettle so I can do the full boil. I’ve also now read Palmers book. The water chemistry stuff is confusing to me and this is where I am looking for help.

I seem to read different opinions about trying to replicate Dublin water. So instead of doing that I am just trying to find a good water recipe for an extra stout. Beyond that I’m trying to decide how to go about fixing my water. I have a two gallon mash tun and will be mashing 5 pounds of grain. I will be adding around 6 pounds of liquid (pale malt) extract on a 5 gallon brew.

Here is my water profile.

Calcium 14 mg/l
Magnesium 3 mg/l
Bicarbonate negligible
Sulfate 8 -10 mg/l
Sodium 8 mg/l
Chloride 2.5 mg/l
pH 8.5
Alkalinity 45

I’d like some advice on the following questions.

With a partial mash like this do I adjust the chemistry for the entire volume of water I will be using for both the mash and the boil or do I adjust those separately?

Is there a good resource for water chemistry profiles or in other words recipes for different types of beer?

Based on my water profile, does anyone have suggestions for the simplest way to adjust my existing profile for a good extra stout recipe?

I am curious about the 5.2 buffering additive and if I would want to use that for my partial mash. If so would I add that to the entire volume of water before or just the strike and sparge water. Or is that added to the mash tun?

Finally if anyone could suggest a good resource for breaking down the chemistry or using the nomographs Palmer suggests I’d be forever in your debt. Maybe Palmer’s explanations are as good as it gets and if so it’s probably just me that doesn’t get it. I never was much for chemistry.

Any help is appreciated. I know there are a lot of questions here.

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Old 03-17-2010, 08:51 PM   #2
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There's the 4 hour series on water on the brew strong podcast and I have 3 videos on youtube that attempts to make sense of it from a practical perspective. Download the www.ezwatercalculator.com spreadsheet while you're at it.

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Old 03-17-2010, 10:05 PM   #3
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With a partial mash like this do I adjust the chemistry for the entire volume of water I will be using for both the mash and the boil or do I adjust those separately?
I normally adjust mine for the entire boil by adding just to the mash.

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Is there a good resource for water chemistry profiles or in other words recipes for different types of beer?
The EZ water calculation spreadsheet is what I use. I don't worry about imitating water profiles. I just add enough chemicals to put everything in the suggested range and get the residual alkalinity in line with the SRM.

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I am curious about the 5.2 buffering additive and if I would want to use that for my partial mash. If so would I add that to the entire volume of water before or just the strike and sparge water. Or is that added to the mash tun?
You add it to the mash tun right after you dough in. You would use 1 tbsp. I still use it even though I'm adjusting my pH with salts, but I only use about 1 tsp for a 5 gallon batch.
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Old 03-17-2010, 10:14 PM   #4
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I put your stuff in the EZ Water Adjustment spreadsheet. I had to assume some things:

Mash water (gals) - 1.5625 (I figured this using a 1.25 quarts/pound of grain ratio)
Sparge water (gals) - 5 (just a guess, really. This would be the amount you are boiling less what you get out of the mash tun)

I uncheck the "Adj for Sparge Water" boxes all the time because I think it is just easier to add everything to the mash. Putting in the following:

3 grams chalk
3 grams epsom salt
2 grams baking soda
2 grams non-iodized salt

Brings everything into the suggested range, puts your pH suitable for 31 - 36 SRM (which is within range for a stout, you'd have to adjust based off your recipe), and the chloride to sulfate ratio providing a balanced taste. If you water a more bitter taste, reduce the non-iodized salt. If you want a more malty taste, increase the non-iodized salt.

Anyway, that's pretty much what I do. Hopefully that will get you started.

EDIT: You'll end up having to put a relatively large amount of salts in your mash because you have very soft water that is well suited for light colored beers.

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Old 03-17-2010, 10:31 PM   #5
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At a certain point, don't you add so much salt it starts to give a noticeable salty taste?

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Old 03-18-2010, 01:46 AM   #6
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thank you Bobby M - I watched all three of your videos and started listening to the pod casts. It has all helped. I think once I get through the rest of the pod casts I'll have a lot figured out. I am still a bit fuzzy on PH vs RA and why I shouldn't care about water PH but should care about mash PH ect. etc. But where once the picture was all muddy, now I my starting to see some sun.

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Old 03-18-2010, 01:51 AM   #7
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Thank you Mojotele for taking the time to respond and run the numbers. I found the same calculator and will work through the numbers. Now I just need to figure out what to do about my chlorine issue.

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Old 03-18-2010, 02:43 PM   #8
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At a certain point, don't you add so much salt it starts to give a noticeable salty taste?
Yeah, I try and keep the sodium and chlorine levels to a minimum. In his case, the sodium levels in his water are so low that you can add quite a bit of salt without getting a salty taste.

A little salt will accentuate sweetness, though. It does this on everyday foods. For instance, putting a small amount of salt on a carrot will make the carrot taste sweeter.
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Old 03-18-2010, 02:49 PM   #9
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Thank you Mojotele for taking the time to respond and run the numbers. I found the same calculator and will work through the numbers. Now I just need to figure out what to do about my chlorine issue.
No problem! You have a lot of chlorine in your water as well? Apparently, chlorine will evaporate rather quickly if you just sit an open bucket of water in sunlight for a day or so. You're going to boil it anyway, so there's no harm in that.

Chloramine, though, will require Campden tablets. According to this article the tablets will increase the levels of chloride and sulfates in your water.
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Old 03-18-2010, 02:54 PM   #10
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A little salt will accentuate sweetness, though. It does this on everyday foods. For instance, putting a small amount of salt on a carrot will make the carrot taste sweeter.
Egad! What manner of alchemy are you peddling!? *points* A WITCH! A WIIIIIITCH!

Seirously, though. I'm having a heck of a time balancing this all out in my head as well. Great advice in this thread. Now, if I could just get a decent water report.
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