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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Extract Brewing > Attention All Extract Brewers - Harsh Bitterness and Aftertaste
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Old 08-06-2009, 10:56 PM   #11
Yamaha81
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I 'am confused...as a new brewer of course...I could have sworn i read somewhere NOT to use distilled water? I too have this twangy aftertaste to my beer and not even really looking forward to trying my third batch.

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Old 08-06-2009, 11:47 PM   #12
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I get most of the information relating to this experiment from John Palmer. In a podcast on the Brewing Network, he talks about brewing extract beers with tap/deionized water. Here is the link:
The Brewing Network.com - :

At 17:00 into the podcast, he says:
"With extract brewing, you can safely brew any extract kit with dionized water or distilled water because the mineral profile is already in there."

Starting at about 15 minutes into the podcast, he mentions that as a general rule if your tap water tastes good, it is probably safe to brew extract beers with it. He also says that you can get into trouble in some cases. He specifically mentions a case if the minerals in your extract combined with the minerals in your tap water make the beer too high in alkalinity, you can have off flavors. He mentions that these types of beers can be harshly bitter.

In my case, I hypothesize that I'm getting too high of concentrations of sodium and sulfate from the extract's mineral profile combined with my tap water's mineral profile. On Palmer's website, howtobrew.com (chapter 15.1), he mentions that this can cause a harsh bitterness:
"The combination of sodium with a high concentration of sulfate ions will generate a very harsh bitterness. Therefore keep at least one or the other as low as possible, preferably the sodium."

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Old 08-07-2009, 12:39 AM   #13
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In the BrewStrong podcast on water, I think the first or second episode, he does state that the sulfate:chloride ratio can effect flavor even in extract brewing.

Oh, I just checked, that's the podcasts you were referring too. I think once you get through all 4-5 of them you will believe that your water does matter even for extract.

After listening to those podcasts I personally believe that is why my first two extract batches came out with unusual bitterness. Now I always use the brewersfriend.com water chemistry calculator to adjust my water. All of their info comes from How To Brew. Basically they made a web version of chapter 15 of the book.

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Old 08-07-2009, 01:50 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boredatwork View Post
After listening to those podcasts I personally believe that is why my first two extract batches came out with unusual bitterness.
Same here. Hopefully this experiment will support that.
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Old 08-07-2009, 02:42 AM   #15
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Is your tap water from a well or from the city's pipes? Is it chlorinated or chloraminated if it is city water? If it is chlorinated, doesn't chlorine often lead to harsh, astringent flavors? Just being a peer reviewer if you're trying to do a scientific experiment. ;-)

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Old 08-07-2009, 06:00 AM   #16
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Thanks for the info. Sounds like you've really done your homework.

A blind taste test a good idea. If two or three tasters agree, then you are probably on to something; at least as it relates to your own tap water.

We have conflicting information in print lately about water with certain chemical solids vs water with low solids, or even distilled for use in extract brewing.

Thanks for the rundown and please keep us posted.

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Old 08-07-2009, 02:45 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jescholler View Post
I used Muntons Amber DME, packaged by Crosby and Baker. I don't know about the freshness, but I don't think this is too much of a concern with DME. It was packaged in heat sealed plastic.

You might be able to improve your beers by using distilled water. Do you know what brand of spring water you use? Some of the brands publish their information:
- Water from all over the World

The big unknown here is the mineral content of the extract. It's hard to tell if the water that we're using has too much of something if we don't know the mineral content of the extract.
Wow, thanks for that link! I use a number of bottled waters and it will be nice to have one place to go look them up.
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Old 08-08-2009, 03:11 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Levers101 View Post
Is your tap water from a well or from the city's pipes? Is it chlorinated or chloraminated if it is city water? If it is chlorinated, doesn't chlorine often lead to harsh, astringent flavors? Just being a peer reviewer if you're trying to do a scientific experiment. ;-)
My town's water is drawn from 3 deep wells (~475 feet), which draw water from sandstone type formations. The water is then softened at the treatment plants, and chlorine is added for disinfecting purposes, along with sodium silicate for a corrosion control agent, and to help keep iron from settling out in low flow areas.

My water report says the chlorine level is 0.3-0.4ppm. David Miller in "Homebrewing Guide" states that "The combination of chlorine with certain organic compounds can result in formation of chlorophenols, which cause off-flavors at less than 1 ppm (some much lower) and are known carcinogens".

It is possible that the harshness is coming from the chlorine, but I've heard that chlorine is more commonly associated with medicinal/band-aid/phenolic flavors. Some people also describe plastic tasting burps. I don't get that, but I can't say I have the evidence to rule out the chlorine. Unfortunately this experiment won't rule out chlorine either since the tap water has it and the distilled water doesn't.

I'm about a week from bottling this experiment by the way, so stay tuned.

Edit: The peer review is more than welcome. I'm trying to do the best experiment possible, so the input only helps.
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Old 08-08-2009, 02:53 PM   #19
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Default chlorine and chloramine

Interesting thread. I would like to mention that many are under the impression that their local utility uses chlorine when in fact they may be using chloramine as a disinfectant. They are slightly different from each other but there are important differences to note. Here's an excerpt:

What is the difference between chlorine and chloramine?
Both disinfection agents used by water municipalities to treat drinking water, chlorine and chloramine differ slightly. The chemical chlorine, which is still the predominant choice of many water municipalities worldwide, is fed directly into the water source where it kills a host of contaminants and bacteria but produces the potentially harmful byproduct trihalomethanes or THMs.

Chloramine, which is increasing in popularity as the disinfection agent of choice for many water municipalities, is created when chlorine and ammonia are simultaneously fed into the water supply. Not as reactive as chlorine with organic material in water, chloramine does not produce harmful levels of THMs and cannot bond to skin or hair – reducing the irritating external effects of chlorine, like red, itchy eyes and dry skin and hair. In addition, chloramine is a weaker disinfectant than chlorine, but is more stable, thereby extending disinfectant benefits throughout a water utilities distribution system. Finally, since there is no chloramine gas, there are no vapors to inhale as with chlorine, making it somewhat safer in regard to chemical exposure. Unlike chlorine, however, chloramine cannot easily be filtered from water.

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Old 08-15-2009, 04:11 AM   #20
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I've recently had a couple of batches with the medicinal flavors, but I've also had a ton of other batches that turned out great, all using tap water. It will be interesting to see the results.

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