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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Brew Science > using distilled water - need any (bi)carbonate?
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Old 01-27-2013, 10:03 PM   #1
JLem
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Default using distilled water - need any (bi)carbonate?

When starting with distilled water...is there a need to add chalk or baking soda to add (bi)carbonate? Or can I just deal with acid malt, gypsum, espom salt, and calcium chloride to get my mash pH, Ca, Mg, Cl, and SO4 levels where I want them?


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Old 01-27-2013, 10:10 PM   #2
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Most of the time no, but occasionally yes. Those occasions are the ones on which you use so much highly colored malt that the acid in it overcomes the buffering capacity of the base malts and pulls mash pH low. In those cases you will need to neutralize that excess acid (so it does not overcome the buffering capacity of the base malt) and bicarbonate is one way to do that. With natural waters calcium bicarbonate is there but you can't buy calcium bicarbonate at the LHBS so you either have to make it with water and CO2 under pressure or substitute calcium carbonate (which doesn't work very well) or calcium hydroxide which is more effective.


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Old 01-27-2013, 10:51 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
Most of the time no, but occasionally yes. Those occasions are the ones on which you use so much highly colored malt that the acid in it overcomes the buffering capacity of the base malts and pulls mash pH low. In those cases you will need to neutralize that excess acid (so it does not overcome the buffering capacity of the base malt) and bicarbonate is one way to do that. With natural waters calcium bicarbonate is there but you can't buy calcium bicarbonate at the LHBS so you either have to make it with water and CO2 under pressure or substitute calcium carbonate (which doesn't work very well) or calcium hydroxide which is more effective.
Gotcha...the bicarb is solely important to maintain a proper mash pH...so, as long as I am confident in my ability to adjust the water/mash to hit a proper pH I'm good to use distilled water...especially for the German Pils I am gearing up to brew.

But if I'm brewing up a RIS, I might need to figure some other things out to hit my proper mash pH if I want to use distilled.

FWIW, I've been brewing with store-bought spring water...with a relatively known mineral profile and have been using -TH-'s EZ Water Spreadsheet to great effect. I've just been thinking about moving to distilled water for things like this Pilsner
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:09 AM   #4
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Using reverse osmosis water might be cheaper than DI water and effectively the same for brewing. I only buy DI water for experiments and rinsing the pH meter probe but brew with RO water +salts.

I still like calcium carbonate for adding alkalinity to the water even though it seems about half as effective as it should be if its not dissolved with CO2. I have used it both ways and didn't find a difference (except for using twice as much) that would warrant telling brewers to dissolve their CaCO3 or use slaked lime instead.

sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is also very effective, but you have to watch the sodium level of the resulting water. If you start with R/O water that should not be that difficult.

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Old 01-29-2013, 04:27 AM   #5
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Using reverse osmosis water might be cheaper than DI water and effectively the same for brewing. I only buy DI water for experiments and rinsing the pH meter probe but brew with RO water +salts.

I still like calcium carbonate for adding alkalinity to the water even though it seems about half as effective as it should be if its not dissolved with CO2. I have used it both ways and didn't find a difference (except for using twice as much) that would warrant telling brewers to dissolve their CaCO3 or use slaked lime instead.

sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is also very effective, but you have to watch the sodium level of the resulting water. If you start with R/O water that should not be that difficult.

Kai
Thanks for the info, Kai. I ended up brewing the Pils last night using spring water I already had on hand so I'll have to try my hand using RO/DI water another time.

Btw, your posts here and over on your wiki have really helped me out as I've started venturing into brewing German beers (altbier, kolsch, and this Pils). Thanks for providing all that info.

Fwiw, here's the estimated water and mash profile I ended up with for my Pils (which was 98% pilsener malt, 2% acidulated malt):

Water mineral estimates (all ppm):
Ca: 57
Mg: 11
Na: 3
Cl: 56
SO4: 94
Alkalinity: 20 (as CaCO3)

Mash profile:
protein rest @ 131°F for 20 minutes
sacch rest @ 148°F for 45 minutes
thin decoction (10 min boil) to mash out @ 170°F

Cheers!


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