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Old 01-06-2010, 05:54 PM   #1
drycreek
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Default Water adjustment questions

I looked at the brew chemistry forum, but a lot of the topics there were pretty specific and I just need some general advice to start with. Forgive me if I'm asking something that's come up before, which is probably true.

I'm about to brew a NB Sunshine Wheat clone. It's a partial mash, but I don't have the exact recipe handy. My local water report is:

Ca - 62 ppm
Mg - 35 ppm
Total Alkalinity - 229 ppm

My first few brews I've used this water as is, but I had a strange underlying taste in all of them and I'm wondering if water quality is the culprit. So I'd like to attempt to make some adjustments, I just need to know where to start.

I read Palmers' How to Brew book and he has a chapter on this. He says you can adjust the mash pH as you go, or you can predict beforehand what needs to be done based on your water and the type of beer you want to do.

So my questions are:

1. Should I just adjust as I go? i.e. test the mash with pH paper and add salts as needed? Or should I attempt to make adjustments before starting the mash?

2. Do I need to also adjust my sparging water, the boil water, and the dilution water? I get the impression the only mash and sparging are really important as long as the others aren't too far off.

3. Should I be aiming for a pH of 5.2 or do I need to figure out pH based on my specific beer?

4. Am I in over my head for my level of experience? Should I just forget about water adjustments and possibly switch to bottled water?

Thanks.



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Old 01-06-2010, 06:03 PM   #2
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I'd just use 5.2 pH stabilizer in the mash to deal with your mash chemistry, and add small amounts of CaCO3 or CaSO4 as needed for "flavor", if you are so inclined. That's really all you need to do.

Off-flavors are most likely due to chloramines or chlorine in the water (they'll produce a band-aid, plastic or slightly smokey taste).



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Old 01-06-2010, 06:28 PM   #3
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you adjust your water for two things, mash PH and flavor profile. With your numbers I get an RA of 164 which suits beers in the color range of 19 - 23 which wouldnt work for your style beer. I would just use spring water and ph5.2 and see how it tastes for that style of beer, darker beers would be a different story. PH5.2 goes in the mash and not in plain water

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Old 01-06-2010, 10:47 PM   #4
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Alright I got home and took a closer look at the 5.2 buffer. It says I put 1 Tbl per 5 gallons of water, which I guess is based on the mash volume. I'll figure out the exact amount and add this during the first few mins of the mash.

Also, I checked my water with some pH strips I had at the house and it is roughly pH 6. That seems like a good starting point when combined with the 5.2 buffer, but I think I'll take the advice of kryolla and use spring water this time around.

The Cl- in my water is 258 ppm, which seems pretty high. It's an order of magnitude above the notable brewing cities listed in Palmer's book. Maybe this is contributing to my funky flavor problem.

I don't know much about flavor adjustments though, and I don't have any CaCO3 or CaSO4 on hand anyways. From what I've read, you can pick your desired RA and then work backwords to calculate the ideal Ca concentration of your water. Of course this depends on you knowing the RA of your brew, and I have no clue how to determine that. My book has this little color scale as shown on this page:

http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-3.html

That still doesn't help much unless I pour myself a glass of the beer and hold it up to the scale, which seems like a very unscientific process. Is there another resource that's better for reading up on this part?

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Old 01-06-2010, 11:41 PM   #5
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I agree with ArcaneXor that 5.2 is the way to go for your mash. As far as the water goes, your chlorine levels do seem high. Spring water a good way to go, just don't use distilled as your yeast needs some minerals to remain healthy.

You can still use tap water if you like. A good way do drive out chlorine is to boil your water. I used to boil the water the night before brewing and let is sit for a day so it was ready to go come brewing time. However, if your water has chloramine in it boiling will not help as chloramine is a stable bugger.

This is where campden tablets come in handy. 1/2 of a campden tablet is enough to remove the chloramine from 5 gallons of water. Don't worry about letting it sit as the reaction is practically instantaneous, just stir a bit until the tablet is dissolved.

Another way to go is to filter your water with a charcoal filter. A good clean filter will remove almost all of the chlorine/chloramine in your water. Keep in mind that a filter's performance will degrade over repeated use.

One last note on the campden tablets, they are an antioxidant so be sure to aerate that wort.

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Old 01-06-2010, 11:59 PM   #6
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It really depends on what grains are going into the mash but for a light wheat, your alkalinity too high for a base grain only mash.

Also, your Cl is high but what is your SO4? I had major problems brewing with a Cl at 53 while my SO4 was down near 15ppm. That's a backwards ratio right there.

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Old 01-07-2010, 01:29 AM   #7
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SO4 = 166 ppm

These are all according to the city water report, and they are actually reported as max values. The ranges are:

Cl = 12 - 258 ppm
SO4 = 34.2 - 166 ppm

So I guess it's possible that my Cl- isn't actually that high, but there is no way to know for sure. Even if I took a sample to a lab to have tested, it could change with the seasons or whatever.

I've read about boiling water to remove Cl-. I guess it just precipitates out or what? And I'll keep the campden tablets in mind.

For now though, I think I'll keep it simple and try the spring water with some 5.2 buffer.

Thanks again.

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Old 01-07-2010, 07:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brewers_Haven View Post
I agree with ArcaneXor that 5.2 is the way to go for your mash. As far as the water goes, your chlorine levels do seem high. Spring water a good way to go, just don't use distilled as your yeast needs some minerals to remain healthy.

You can still use tap water if you like. A good way do drive out chlorine is to boil your water. I used to boil the water the night before brewing and let is sit for a day so it was ready to go come brewing time. However, if your water has chloramine in it boiling will not help as chloramine is a stable bugger.

This is where campden tablets come in handy. 1/2 of a campden tablet is enough to remove the chloramine from 5 gallons of water. Don't worry about letting it sit as the reaction is practically instantaneous, just stir a bit until the tablet is dissolved.

Another way to go is to filter your water with a charcoal filter. A good clean filter will remove almost all of the chlorine/chloramine in your water. Keep in mind that a filter's performance will degrade over repeated use.

One last note on the campden tablets, they are an antioxidant so be sure to aerate that wort.
I currently buy my water, but your saying, If I boil my tap water (City water) and add 1/2 of a campden tab the night before , I should have no ill effects to using my tap water? I will eliminate any Chlorine and Chloramine??
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Old 01-07-2010, 11:06 PM   #9
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I personally don't recommend using tap water.

The short version of my rant is that even though you have a water report, there is no guarantee that those values will be anywhere close to what the values actually are out of the tap. In most water reports if you look at the min/max values, it can be an extreme spread. This is especially true for municipalities use have multiple water sources.



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