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Old 07-08-2012, 03:57 PM   #21
Aug 2010
McLean/Ogden, Virginia/Quebec
Posts: 9,194
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The sulfate:chloride thing is way over rated. I've posted dozens of times here and elsewhere on this subject. Just think about it for a second. Could a beer with water containing 1 mg/L chloride and 1 mg/L sulfate (ratio 1 i.e. what you all call 'balanced') possibly bear any resemblance to one made with 200 mg/L sulfate and 200 mg/L chloride? If you look in a German brewing text you are likely to find a recommendation for a sulfate to chloride ratio and it is 0. This does not mean that Germans don't brew with gypseous waters - they do. What it really means is that sulfate turns the money German brewers spend on noble hops into money wasted because sulfate - even in modest amount (say more than 20 mg/L) destroys the fine bittering qualities of those varieties.

The effects of chloride and sulfate are not antipodal. If your beer is too harsh you can't neutralize that by adding extra chloride. If your beer is to sweet and has too much body you can't neutralize that by adding more sulfate. You need to learn what the effects of each of these ions are and adjust their amounts until you attain the flavor profile you seek. If you want to keep track of the ratio as you go there is nothing wrong with that but this ratio should not be used as a design parameter.

The love affair with this ratio is traceable to a single paragraph in a British brewing text (latest edition of Handbook of Brewing) so if you wish to continue to cleave to it at least limit this to British beers and over some limited range of concentrations.

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Old 07-09-2012, 03:16 PM   #22
mabrungard's Avatar
Feb 2011
Carmel, IN
Posts: 4,164
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David Taylor is the author of the Water chapter in the Handbook of Brewing. I recognize him as an eminent brewing researcher in a wide range of brewing issues. Unfortunately, I don't see a body of work that suggests that he is well versed in brewing water chemistry. As typical for brewing research and texts, water is an after-thought subject that is relegated to a short chapter in the multitude of chapters in a brewing text. He was probably recruited to author the chapter.

This ratio has some basis in fact since its relatively clear that chloride and sulfate do have substantial effect on beer taste. I like the tactile face that Dr. Taylor put on the variation of chloride and sulfate in brewing water through that ratio. Its just unfortunate that he didn't recognize that its really only applicable for modest concentrations of these ions. AJ aptly presents cases above where the ratio doesn't work. Those waters would make starkly different beers.

I have proposed a simple qualifier to use with the ratio to my brewing water collegues while at the National Homebrewers Conference last month. I feel that the ratio is reasonably applicable when the chloride concentration falls between about 25 and 100 ppm. Using this criteria helps the brewer understand that the ratio is meaningless at very low concentrations and is overblown at very high concentrations. This helps guide brewers away from thinking that they can ADD their way to beer flavor nirvana by just targeting a "proper" SO4/Cl ratio.
Martin B
Carmel, IN
BJCP National
Foam Blowers of Indiana (FBI)

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Old 12-22-2012, 01:17 PM   #23
Nov 2012
Posts: 29
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Er, when I am fussing over the balance, I look to my beta & alpha amylase rests - both temperature and duration. I get quite god control over maltyness, dryness, and sweetness. I get most of my fine bitterness control from the dry or wet hop in the secondary.
So this discussion makes suspicious of my methods. For and Imperial Porter, we used a 30 min 131 F saccrification rest (almost down to protease) and get this 75 minutes at 152 F (lower than most infusion methods). We really dried the Porter out. A strong bitter sweet chocolate mouth, followed by a very clean, ordinary style, finish that leaves you wondering about the intensity of the mouth.
Can ph have that much effect on a step mash process?
Brewing is a culinary art - Bruce vanNorman

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Old 12-22-2012, 02:22 PM   #24
Kaiser's Avatar
Nov 2005
Pepperell, MA
Posts: 3,895
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I'm with A.J., I never really warmed up to the idea of the CL/SO4 ratio. I haven't seen any good research that indicates that it is simply a matter of ration and not just the ion concentration difference or a ratio qualified with the total CL+SO4 amount. That's why this is also missing from my water spreadsheet. But I understand that this concept is out there and there is some basis to it.

If you want bitter, emphasize SO4 and when you want malty emphasize Cl. That's what I do when I build water w/o worrying about the actual ratio.


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