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Old 01-24-2010, 04:08 AM   #1
1 beer short of a sixer
ISLAGI's Avatar
Nov 2008
Frogtown, OH
Posts: 380
Liked 3 Times on 3 Posts

As I was brewing Orfy's Mild today, I wondered what is the minimum color (
assume a quantitative measurement of Lovibond) of beer I can brew without messing with the ph of my water.

The local PWS has good water that I drink all the time, but the big issue to me is the 9.5 ph (straight off the water report). I would prefer ESB's and pale ales.

When I brew my preferred styles - ESB and pale ales - the hop "harshness" is truly noticeable and usually forces me to drink most of the batch myself. This occurs even using 1.5T of 5.2 Stabilizer in my mash water.

Has anyone looked at color compared to ph for acceptable brews? Maybe a chart (as an example only):

Color L========Min - Max mash PH
< 8 ============ 4.8 - 5.4
9 - 14========== 5.6 - 6.2


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Old 01-24-2010, 02:03 PM   #2
BackAlleyBrewingCo's Avatar
Mar 2009
Toledo, OH
Posts: 85
Liked 1 Times on 1 Posts

Hi Islagi,

There isn't a way to correlate water pH to color; you need to determine the Residual Alkalinity first. I would assume that using the 5.2 makes this moot, since it holds the pH (more or less) at 5.2 regardless of water profile or grain bill.

Assuming you leave out the 5.2: Here's a chart relating Residual Alkalinity to beer color (I apologize, I don't remember where I found this.)
  RA (ppm)  SRM
-60 to 0      5
 10 to 60    10
 60 to 120   15
120 to 180   20
180 to 240   25
Toledo water is good for beers in the 7-12 L color range.

To smooth out the hop harshness in your ESB you need to add Chlorides (easiest way is table salt, about 1 gram, or 1/6 tsp for a 5 gallon batch) to balance the Sulfates in the base water.

My starting point for all things water is John Palmer's How To Brew, specifically Chapter 15 - Understanding the Mash pH

Here's a very good online calculator for water profile adjustments: Brewer’s Friend: Brewing Water Chemistry Calculator

For Toledo city water, the profile (from the 2007 Chemical Quality Sheet) is:
parameter                as     value
pH                               9.5
Total Alkalinity        CaCO3     45
Total Hardness          CaCO3     80
Non-Carbonate Hardness  CaCO3     36
Bicarbonate             HCO3    54.9
Calcium                 Ca      28.8
Magnesium               Mg       2.5
Sodium                  Na      16.7
Sulfates                SO4       23
Chloride                Cl         0 (unlisted)
First, let me warn everybody that I'm not a chemist, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. If I'm making a mistake or overlooking something please let me know so I can correct it.

Okay, disclaimer out of the way. Here are my notes:
  • While the water pH is relatively high, it's not buffered much at all, so it isn't a problem for the mash.
  • Mineral content is fairly low across the board, so this water is a very good starting point for any style; we can adjust with salts to get just about any residual alkalinity (determines optimal color) and Chloride/Sulfate ratio (malt/bitterness balance) we want.
  • My calculations for residual alkalinity come to 23 ppm, which is perfect for beers with a color of 7-12L
  • Both Calcium and Magnesium are low (recommended levels are 50 and 10 respectively,) so salt additions would benefit yeast health. I use Magnesium Sulfate (MgSO4, Epsom Salts) to raise the Magnesium levels and either Calcium Chloride (CaCl), Calcium Sulfate (CaSO4, gypsum), or Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3, chalk), depending on the style I'm brewing, for the Calcium.
  • Chlorides are not listed in the report, so I assume there aren't any. Because of this, the Chloride/Sulfate ratio is zero, which enhances hop bitterness over maltiness. This is borne out by the hop harshness you experience in your ESBs. The good news is that Sulfates are very low as well, so you can easily adjust the balance by using a small addition of ordinary table salt. Adding 1 g (1/6 tsp) to the boil for a 5 gallon batch (assuming you start with 7 gallons pre-boil) will bring the ratio to 1/1, which is perfectly balanced between malty and bitter.

BTW, you can get gypsum and chalk at Titgemeiers.
In Primary:
Aging: Tripel
Drinking: Maibock Ale, Amarillo IPA, Irish Red

Reason: clarity

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