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Old 10-06-2012, 03:16 PM   #1
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Default Lingering Bitterness in Light Beers

I've been modifying my water for my IPAs and it has made a nice improvement, but I'm still getting a a little bit of lingering bitterness at the back/side of my tongue. I use EZ water calculator for my water adjustments.

I usually try to end of with a balanced Chloride/Sulfate ratio of around ~.77. Should I shoot to enhance the bitterness? Does this actually make it more bitter to does it smooth out the bitterness?

Here are my typical water modifications:

Starting Water (ppm):
Ca: 43
Mg: 22
Na: 19
Cl: 39
SO4: 24
CaCO3: 138

Mash / Sparge Vol (gal): 5 / 4
RO or distilled %: 0% / 0%

Total Grain (lb): 12.0

Adjustments (grams) Mash / Boil Kettle:
CaSO4: 2 / 0
CaCl2: 1 / 0
MgSO4: 1 / 0
NaHCO3: 0 / 0
CaCO3: 0 / 0
Lactic Acid (ml): 0
Sauermalz (oz): 2

Mash Water / Total water (ppm):
Ca: 81 / 64
Mg: 27 / 25
Na: 19 / 19
Cl: 64 / 53
SO4: 104 / 68
Cl to SO4 Ratio: 0.62 / 0.78

Alkalinity (CaCO3): 55
RA: -19
Estimated pH: 5.49


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Old 10-06-2012, 04:53 PM   #2
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Those adjustments seem reasonable. Assuming the mash pH estimate is accurate, I would still aim for 5.4. So a little more acid malt or lactic is needed.

Bumping the sulfate is quite possible for an IPA. The sulfate level used here is very low for an IPA. I use 300 ppm, but that is a matter of taste.

I'm hoping you are acidifying your sparging water since the tap water alkalinity is far too high for sparging. Unfortunately you use EZ and it does not provide you any guidance for correcting sparge water alkalinity. Bru'n Water is a program that does provide more than mash pH estimate, it provides substantial guidance for all water adjustments including acidifying sparging water. Sparging with alkaline water can extract tannins which may be producing that bitterness you perceive.


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Old 10-06-2012, 04:55 PM   #3
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What kind of water do you sparge with? Ideally you want to sparge with RO water, or water that's been adjusted to have a pH <6 (ideally with phosphoric acid).

EDIT: Doh, Martin beat me to it.
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Old 10-06-2012, 05:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NervousDad View Post
I've been modifying my water for my IPAs and it has made a nice improvement, but I'm still getting a a little bit of lingering bitterness at the back/side of my tongue. I use EZ water calculator for my water adjustments.

I usually try to end of with a balanced Chloride/Sulfate ratio of around ~.77. Should I shoot to enhance the bitterness? Does this actually make it more bitter to does it smooth out the bitterness?
I'd forget about the ratio business and try to learn what the effects of chloride and sulfate are. IMO they are not log antipodal (what they would need to be if the ratio concept were valid). Sulfate tends to dry the perception of beer and render hops sharp or even coarse - you want fine bitterness. Some lingering bitterness is usually considered OK as long as it is fine bitterness but if you don't like it you don't like it and should try to get rid of it. Getting rid of sulfate is probably a step in the right direction but you should also consider using lower alpha hops as the big alpha ones tend to lend coarse bitterness. Chloride enhances the mouth feel of beer, rounds, smooths and sweetens it. I'd start by brewing your beer with very little sulfate i.e. no sulfate addition at all. Then taste it and then taste it again after adding a little gypsum in the glass. This will give you an idea as to what sulfate does. You can, at the same time, add some calcium chloride to see if that benefits the beer. Some people like the effects of sulfate, some don't.
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Old 10-06-2012, 06:36 PM   #5
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Thanks for all of the information! I haven't been treating my sparge water at all. I will pour a glass and add a tiny bit of gypsum to it to see if that helps.
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Old 10-06-2012, 06:39 PM   #6
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My CaC03 level is higher than yours- but one thing I noticed before I started using RO water is that my IPAs and pale ales were good, but had a harsh lingering bitterness to them. I especially noticed it in a kolsch- a not hoppy beer at all, but the bitterness had a lingering harshness.

I'd try to change up the next sparge. Either use RO water for the sparge, or reduce the alkalinity by acidfying the sparge water. I really think that would make a huge difference.

For my chloride and sulfate, I don't increase those much at all. I like them both to be pretty low. Normally, the chloride is in the 40s, and the sulfate is in the 60s, and the IPAs come out great now.
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Old 10-06-2012, 07:39 PM   #7
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I'm not so concerned about the alkalinity as a problem with sparging. It may or may not be and it's easy to confirm whether it is or not by a simple measurement with a pH meter or even strips ought to work here as the later runoff isn't so highly colored. A meter is, of course, preferable. Where it is of concern is WRT to getting mash pH correct. Take note of Yooper's account. Diluting with RO water reduces alkalinity without having to add anything to the water. Take care of alkalinity to the point that mash pH is correct and if you have low overall ion content problems just magically disappear. Take especial note of the Kölsch comment.

My recommendation to OP would be to cut his water 4:1 with RO, boost the calcium back with the chloride, use 2-3% sauermalz and work up the sulfate from that starting point (see the Primer). I'm guessing that this will fix the problem but it is still a guess (though I hope an educated one). Of course sparging with water treated this way will take care of any potential phenol extraction problem whether that is a real problem or not.
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Old 10-06-2012, 08:00 PM   #8
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That is great info and it's appreciated I never bothered with the sparge water because I really couldn't see the result in EZ water calculator.

I guess I was focusing far too much on RA( trying to get it as low as possible for light beers), which apparently isn't as important.
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Old 10-06-2012, 09:51 PM   #9
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A lot of people have tried to hang the whole thing or RA. RA is a convenient way of comparing brewing waters but doesn't tell the whole story by any means. The object is to get mash pH right and you must do whatever you need to do to get that. The RA, and you can calculate an RA whenever you add acid or base to water, will go where it will.


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