When I started helping Brewer’s Friend as a technical adviser I couldn’t help but notice that the mash pH predicted by its brewing water calculator was way off. Since I have done extensive work on brewing water and mash chemistry already I took this as an opportunity to develop a new Mash Chemistry and Brewing Water Calculator from scratch. The goal was to build something that provides a simple and intuitive user interface yet implements the underlying chemistry to at a level of accuracy that is generally not done in brewing water calculators. In fact the only calculator that goes to that extent is A.J deLange’s NUBWS
(Nearly Universal Brewing Water Spreadsheet).
Since Brewer’s Friend is an online recipe calculator the new calculator would also become an online tool. This worked very well in its favor since it is very cumbersome to model complex systems in spreadsheets. PHP, or any other programming language for that matter, makes that type of modeling much easier. In addition to that modern web browser technology makes it simple to create dynamic forms that can readily adjust the form to only asking the user for information that is actually needed based on the context.
That was 3 months ago and after many long nights of coding, re-coding, testing and even running more mash pH experiments version 1.0 has finally been released and is available on Brewer’s Friend.
When you first open the calculator it presents itself like any other basic water with sections for source water, salt additions, grist, mash pH and final water report following this flow chart:
Flow chart for basic use of the calculator
But that’s not all. For those who need want to do more complex water treatment calculations, the full flow chart looks more like this:
The first release features makes these features available:
- Blending of two water sources
- Bicarbonate/carbonate content can be set from either alkalinity or bicarbonate. pH can also be entered for increased accuracy
- Electrical balance (ion balance) of the source water
- Simple GH&KH measurements can be used as a crude way of specifying the source water.
- Report of basic and advanced water parameters of the source water. Among the advanced properties are temporary/permanent hardness and CO2 partial pressure
- supports all major salts (including magnesium chloride) as well as the hydroxides slaked lime and lye
- Alkalinity reduction through boiling and slaked lime. These are features that rely on a more accurate implementation of the water’s carbo system
- Wide range of supported acids including the less commonly used citric, tartaric and acetic acid.
- Salt and acid additions can be made to all water or only the strike (mash) water
- A different water source can be used for sparge water. In most cases that might be reverse osmosis water when the tap water is suitable for mashing.
- Salt additions to sparge water or kettle
- Sparge water acidification with a wide range of acids.
- Detailed report of the treated mash water
- Support for undissolved chalk.
- Grist pH properties can be estimated from beer color or malt bill
- Mash pH prediction based on balancing the various weak and strong acid systems that might be present (carbo system, weak acids and grist)
- overall water report based on the mash and sparge water profile
- target water comparison of the overall water report
For now this tool is only available as a stand-alone calculator but Brewer’s Friend is planning to integrate it into the recipe editor. This will eliminate duplicate entry of the beer’s malt bill. It will also allow the user to use saved source water profile(s).
Go ahead and give it a try. If you have feedback, positive or negative, please let me know:
Mash Chemistry and Brewing Water Calculator
In subsequent posts I’m planning to write more about some of the discoveries I made while writing this tool and how it’s mash pH prediction does compared to actual mash pH data that I have.