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Extract batches need minerals to taste good...

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rhys333

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...if you make your beers with RO or distilled water.

All-grain brewer here. We had a prolonged cold snap early in the New Year, -35C for about two weeks, so I decided to try my very first extract batch as it allowed me to brew indoors. I used a can of the Coopers brand ESB, plus 1kg (2.2lbs) light DME, and then an ounce of hops boiled in about 1.5 gallons water to add some character.

I noticed that the finished brew had that extract twang, flat flavors and a harshness that I didn't like. It dawned on me that it was lacking minerals, so I spiked a pint with a couple shakes of table salt. It improved the flavor of the beer quite profoundly. I mention this because I've heard it repeated often that extract already has the minerals in it. I can say with a high degree of confidence that it doesn't... or at least it doesn't have enough.

If you brew extract with RO water, I highly recommend adding minerals. 1/2 to 1 tsp of calcium chloride in a 5 gallon batch should be about right. Or canning salt will do the trick in a pinch (i.e.: the kind without iodine in it). Another approach is to use bottled water with minerals added. This may not be news to many of you, but for those that haven't tried it, it really does make a huge difference.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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small batch (extract+steep & BIAB) brewer here. I've been occasionally adding gypsum to hoppy extract+steep beers for years with good results.

Extract+steep brewers have been including small amounts of minerals in their recipes for decades - the earliest I have found, a published book, is Homebrew Favorites by Storey Publishing (c) 1994. IIRC, Pale Ale (1999) also has recipes that add minerals to extract+steep recipes.

Chapters in these two books are a good starting point for additional current information:
  • How to Brew, 4e, chapter 8.
  • Brewing Engineering, chapter 14.
I can't speak about the dreaded "extract twang" - as I have no experiences with it [FWIW, I brew with fresh (based on packaged date) Briess DME].

I've heard it repeated often that extract already has the minerals in it.
IIRC, this phrase initially started out as a warning to not use water chemistry software - as the malt extract will contain the minerals from the water that was used when the extract was made. Avoiding water chemistry software with extract+steep recipes is reasonable advice. If one applies full water chemistry to an extract+steep recipe, one will likely over-mineralize the beer. See also chapter 14 of Brewing Engineering.

I highly recommend adding minerals. 1/2 to 1 tsp of calcium chloride in a 5 gallon batch should be about right. Or canning salt will do the trick in a pinch (i.e.: the kind without iodine in it).
I won't argue either for or against those numbers.

I'm half way through brewing a couple of small batches so I can "finalize" my approach for adjusting recipes by adding brewing salts in the glass. This ([link]) is a preview of the approach I'm working on.
 

ncbrewer

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I'm half way through brewing a couple of small batches so I can "finalize" my approach for adjusting recipes by adding brewing salts in the glass. This ([link]) is a preview of the approach I'm working on.
I've done something similar. Since we don't know the water chemistry involved in the extract we're using, we have to use trial and error.

Martin Brungard's Bru'n Water also suggests keeping the alkalinity below 50 ppm. I just started doing that.
 
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rhys333

rhys333

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It makes sense for extract brewers to avoid brewing software if they aren't well versed in water chemistry. That said, a measured dose of calcium chloride will be perfectly safe as long as the brewer exercises restraint. 1 tsp (4.5 grams) in 5 gallons will add 50 ppm calcium and 85 ppm chloride, give or take, which is well within the normal range. I don't know how much is already present in the extract, but going by taste it is VERY low. It also stands to reason that they would avoid salting extracts on the higher end of the scale, particularly the lighter versions.

Now, I mention standard salt above (NaCl) as an option. While it has similar effect, I would use half the amount, particularly if it is fine grain salt. It's also a really good place to start, as the brewer can dose a pint with table salt and immediately taste the difference it makes.

small batch (extract+steep & BIAB) brewer here. I've been occasionally adding gypsum to hoppy extract+steep beers for years with good results.

Extract+steep brewers have been including small amounts of minerals in their recipes for decades - the earliest I have found, a published book, is Homebrew Favorites by Storey Publishing (c) 1994. IIRC, Pale Ale (1999) also has recipes that add minerals to extract+steep recipes.

Chapters in these two books are a good starting point for additional current information:
  • How to Brew, 4e, chapter 8.

  • Brewing Engineering, chapter 14.
I can't speak about the dreaded "extract twang" - as I have no experiences with it [FWIW, I brew with fresh (based on packaged date) Briess DME].



IIRC, this phrase initially started out as a warning to not use water chemistry software - as the malt extract will contain the minerals from the water that was used when the extract was made. Avoiding water chemistry software with extract+steep recipes is reasonable advice. If one applies full water chemistry to an extract+steep recipe, one will likely over-mineralize the beer. See also chapter 14 of Brewing Engineering.



I won't argue either for or against those numbers.

I'm half way through brewing a couple of small batches so I can "finalize" my approach for adjusting recipes by adding brewing salts in the glass. This ([link]) is a preview of the approach I'm working on.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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It makes sense for extract brewers to avoid brewing software if they aren't well versed in water chemistry.
Is there "water chemistry" software that is designed to work with malt extract as an ingredient?

a measured dose of calcium chloride will be perfectly safe as long as the brewer exercises restraint. 1 tsp (4.5 grams) in 5 gallons will add 50 ppm calcium and 85 ppm chloride, give or take, which is well within the normal range. I don't know how much is already present in the extract, but going by taste it is VERY low. It also stands to reason that they would avoid salting extracts on the higher end of the scale, particularly the lighter versions
Agreed, and there are more details in the two book chapters that I mentioned (above)
 
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Is there "water chemistry" software that is designed to work with malt extract as an ingredient?
Not that I'm aware of, but since most water chemistry software is designed primarily to predict mash pH from the interaction of grain and mineralized water, malt extract doesn't really enter into the equation.

The extract brewer may be able to use the software to predict mineral levels in their beer if they know the mineral content of the malt extract they are using, water volume and any salt additions they intend to add. It's a work-around though, and not really what the software is designed to do. One of our gurus in the brew science section may be able to advise further on that..
 

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Thanks. I'm not actively looking for software to help out - just checking to see if I may have missed some existing software.

Brewing Engineering, chapter 14 appears to provide enough information to move the starting point for adding brewing salts (note new readers: we're in the Extract Brewing forum) beyond random "stumbling around in the dark" trial and error.

With regard to people who requote something along the lines of "one can't add" or "one shouldn't add brewing salts to extract+steep recipes, howtobrew.com (link) in the late 1990s, may be a good way to re-establish a baseline for whether or not one can add brewing salts to extract+steep recipes.
However, if in the course of time after you have brewed several [extract+steep] batches of the same recipe and have decided that the beer is somehow lacking, there are three ions that can be used to tweak the flavor. These ions are sodium, chloride, and sulfate. Briefly, sodium and chloride act to round out and accentuate the sweetness of the beer, while sulfate (from gypsum, for example) makes the hop bitterness more crisp. [...] Too much sodium and sulfate can combine to produce a very harsh bitterness.
What I edited out (see [...]) has, in my opinion, changed in the last 20 years (once again, see chapter 14 of ... and chapter 8 of ...).
 

kh54s10

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I have brewed about 10 extract and partial mash beers. I never did any water adjustments. In fact - just carbon filtered tap water. I never got "extract twang" And if I was presented with one of my extracts and one of my all grain I don't think I could pick out which was which.

I brew all grain, not because it makes better beer, but because it is fun and I have total control over all the individual ingredients.
 

dmtaylor

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Extract twang is very real. I am sensitive to it. Hand me two beers of the same general recipe extract vs. all-grain and I can tell you with 95% confidence which is which, I swear on my grandmother's grave. Hand me just one beer with extract in it or not and I'll tell you.

Minerals not recommended in extract brewing unless making IPA or pale ale. Extract already contains concentrated minerals. Adding more just serves to accentuate any twang or imperfections, doesn't make it go away or improve it.
 

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Politely asked: without using the words extract or twang, what does extract twang taste like to you?

for example:

Acetaldehyde

Tastes/Smells Like:
Green apples, rotten-apples, freshly cut pumpkin
[...]


Astringent

Tastes/Smells Like:
Tart, vinegary, tannin, drying, puckering sensation, may feel powdery or metallic in the mouth, like sucking on a grape skin or a tea bag
For example: sort of peach yogurt aftertaste?
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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Those are not flavors that I remember from my recent extract (only) batches. Hydrometer samples from a couple of batches that are in process are not showing those flavors either. With one, I added some calcium chloride to the boil, the other two had no mineral additions.

This observation ...
I noticed that the finished brew had that extract twang, flat flavors and a harshness that I didn't like. It dawned on me that it was lacking minerals, so I spiked a pint with a couple shakes of table salt.
... remains interesting to me. I haven't brewed with Coopers extracts so I don't have any insights that would be directly applicable.

For me, brewing with Briess DME, adding a small amount of gypsum results in a beer that I think tastes better (see reply #2 above).

I'm OK with people choosing to not add brewing salts to their extract+steep batches.

Once again, with regard to people who requote something along the lines of "one can't add" or "one shouldn't" add brewing salts to extract+steep recipes: people have been doing it successfully for decades. (@dmtaylor, I read your reply as a observation based on experience, not mindlessly repeating something that you read. As always, I respect and appreciate your experiences and opinions). I'm of the opinion that with good techniques and a little planning, that I can "dial in" the desired amount of brewing salts using a couple of bottles from a recipe brewed without brewing salts. It will take a couple of months for me to confirm this.
 
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rhys333

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Extract twang is very real. I am sensitive to it. Hand me two beers of the same general recipe extract vs. all-grain and I can tell you with 95% confidence which is which, I swear on my grandmother's grave. Hand me just one beer with extract in it or not and I'll tell you.

Minerals not recommended in extract brewing unless making IPA or pale ale. Extract already contains concentrated minerals. Adding more just serves to accentuate any twang or imperfections, doesn't make it go away or improve it.
I can relate to the first part of your post but disagree with the second. It was readily apparent to a room full of people that salting the extract batch had a marked improvement on flavor. An extract brewer present asked me what to do so that he could duplicate it on his next batch. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.
 

kh54s10

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To say that extracts will always have a twang is just false. There have been many, many, many, extract recipes that have won competitions.

The flavors described have never been present in any of my extract batches. Maybe it is something else??
 
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rhys333

rhys333

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To say that extracts will always have a twang is just false. There have been many, many, many, extract recipes that have won competitions.

The flavors described have never been present in any of my extract batches. Maybe it is something else??
Nobody's knocking extract beer. It can be very good. But many people can pick up a difference between extract and all-grain.
 

dmtaylor

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I don't expect anyone to take my word or anyone else's for anything. Skepticism is healthy. As always, the best thing anyone can do is to run their own experiments and find out whether their theories stand up to real life experience, or not. You may or may not be surprised at the outcome. Usually with any well run experiment, you'll end up with more questions than answers.

:)
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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It was readily apparent to a room full of people that salting the extract batch had a marked improvement on flavor.
which was also your
very first extract batch
With a sample size of one, it's hard to not "push back" on the generalization in the first post in the topic
Extract batches need [additional] minerals to taste good if you make your beers with RO or distilled water.
On the other hand, the idea of adding a little table salt to the beer to fix a flavor problem is worth mentioning.
 
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rhys333

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which was also your


With a sample size of one, it's hard to not "push back" on the generalization in the first post in the topic


On the other hand, the idea of adding a little table salt to the beer to fix a flavor problem is worth mentioning.

Except that my first extract batch tastes like many other extract batches I've sampled. As you note though, it's easy for anyone that can tell a difference to put this to the test with a salt shaker. It's worth mentioning again that this relates to extract made with RO or distilled with low-to-no mineral content. Mineralized RO or tap water would yield different results.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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I don't doubt your additional observations. I'm also willing to leave it to the reader to make a personal decision as to whether or not there's enough evidence to support the generalization.
Extract batches need [additional] minerals to taste good if you make your beers with RO or distilled water.
 
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rhys333

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I don't doubt your additional observations. I'm also willing to leave it to the reader to make a personal decision as to whether or not there's enough evidence to support the generalization.
I'm offering observations, rather than generalizations, which the reader can put to the test quite easily if they wish to do so.
 

kh54s10

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I'm offering observations, rather than generalizations, which the reader can put to the test quite easily if they wish to do so.
Your observation may be very different than someone else's. I can't say for sure about RO or distilled with extract but with my tap water all my extracts were indistinguishable from all grain batches.
 

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I actually switched from using tap or spring water to using distilled when I heard a podcast with John Palmer who said you should be using RO or distilled water when brewing extracts since all of the minerals are already there. They were added when they created the wort and they are still there once re-hydrated. I only use distilled water now.
 
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Your observation may be very different than someone else's. I can't say for sure about RO or distilled with extract but with my tap water all my extracts were indistinguishable from all grain batches.
For sure my observation may be different than someone else's. It's aimed at people that feel they can taste a difference between extract and all-grain and might like to try something different.
 
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I actually switched from using tap or spring water to using distilled when I heard a podcast with John Palmer who said you should be using RO or distilled water when brewing extracts since all of the minerals are already there. They were added when they created the wort and they are still there once re-hydrated. I only use distilled water now.
I may email one of the extract producers and ask if they can share the mineral profile. They probably won't divulge that, but I've been surprised by responses before. Does John Palmer cite any sources?
 

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I may email one of the extract producers and ask if they can share the mineral profile. They probably won't divulge that, but I've been surprised by responses before. Does John Palmer cite any sources?
No, but what he says only makes sense. You have your mineral profile made up when you mash to make the wort. The extract is just the wort with the water either mostly (LME) or completely (DME) evaporated. The minerals are still all there. Just add back in the evaporated water, which would be pure water.
 

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I may email one of the extract producers and ask if they can share the mineral profile. They probably won't divulge that, but I've been surprised by responses before. Does John Palmer cite any sources?
A guy in my club works for Briess. I might beg him for inside intel... but he's also been fairly tight lipped in the past.
 

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I actually switched from using tap or spring water to using distilled when I heard a podcast with John Palmer who said you should be using RO or distilled water when brewing extracts since all of the minerals are already there. They were added when they created the wort and they are still there once re-hydrated. I only use distilled water now.
This is also in How To Brew, 4e (chapter 1, p 11). Chapter 8 (Water for Extract Brewing) expands goes into much more detail, including ideas for adding brewing salts to brew hoppy and malty beers. Brewing Engineering, chapter 14, offers some observations on different brands of malt extracts.

Does John Palmer cite any sources?
I didn't see any in chapter 8 of HtB. There may be some useful references in Water (which Palmer co-wrote).
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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Here are some additional links that I had found (and saved) over time. Some of the links are 6 to 10 years old - so it may be appropriate to treat them as a point in time observations (rather than current facts).
Brewing Water
Water adjustment can make the difference between a good beer and a great beer if it is done right.

[...]

Tips For Extract Brewers
Malt extract is concentrated wort, and the extract’s brewmaster has already made the water decisions. All you really need to be concerned about as an extract brewer is rehydrating the malt extract back to its original composition. And for that, a low mineral mountain stream source or distilled water source is ideal.

If you want to add brewing salts to your water, I urge you to brew the beer without the salts first and see how it tastes. This is where water adjustment gets tricky for extract brewers: You don’t know how much sulfate or chloride is already present in your malt extract. It doesn’t matter whether you are brewing with dry malt extract or liquid malt extract; the minerals are still there.

If you want to add brewing salts to enhance the flavor of the beer, use either 1 gram of calcium sulfate per gallon (3.8 liters) of wort for bitterness or 1 gram of calcium chloride per gallon (3.8 liters) of wort for fullness. Don’t use both, and don’t exceed 1 gram per gallon (3.8 liters) until you have brewed with that extract recipe and determined how it tastes.

Remember, don’t go overboard with water adjustment. Brewing is cooking, and using brewing salts and acid additions can easily be overdone, just like over-salting your food.
 

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When I started extract, the directions said if your water tastes good it is OK. I never treated anything for chlorine or anything else for over 6 years. I did filter the water, first with a Brita filter and later with a carbon filter. Those beers were all from good to great -IMO. And that covers Extract brewing, Partial mash and all grain...

I would say that the need to add something to the water for extract brewing - depends.......
 

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I would say that the need to add something to the water for extract brewing - depends.......
I think there's an agreement that the topic is mis-titled.

This looks like this a good starting point for how to approach experimenting with minerals in extract-based recipes.
If you want to add brewing salts to your water, I urge you to brew the beer without the salts first and see how it tastes. This is where water adjustment gets tricky for extract brewers: You don’t know how much sulfate or chloride is already present in your malt extract. It doesn’t matter whether you are brewing with dry malt extract or liquid malt extract; the minerals are still there.
The "missing" piece is a (relatively) easy approach for "dailing it in" (something more accurate than "trial and error") with the first batch.

Learning Lab: Water Treatment for All (Craft Beer and Brewing, 2019) isn't quite it: brewing four batches, one of which may be over-mineralized, probably isn't appealing to many. Blending (in the glass) bottles of "untreated" and "Balanced" could be one way to salvage an over-mineralized batch.

I'm working through an approach that would involve only the initial recipe and adding minerals in the glass. As far as I can tell, there's nothing really new in the approach. The dosing solution (in the glass) will use teaspoons and tablespoons (rather than eye droppers) as the revised recipe would use additions along the line of 0.3 grams per gallon (rather than PPM). I mentioned this in a different topic about a month ago.
... I did some "back of the envelope" calculations to get a small solution (0.2g gypsum in 100ml distilled water) so I could work with teaspoon / tablespoon additions in a 12 oz bottle. For the specific beer (probably along the lines of early 2000s APA), I found (this time anyway) that tablespoon additions were noticeable. Next step will be to put together a lookup table: 1 tablespoon of solution is an x.x gram addition to the recipe. Tablespoon measurements (and 12 oz bottle pours) are not precise measurement, but they may be to be "close enough".
Currently, I'm brewing (side-by-side) two early 2000s APAs, using a different brand (Briess, Muntons) of "light DME" in each batch. Tasting early sampling of hydrometer samples, I noticed a difference. Maybe the differences disappear when the beer gets into the glass, although things I've mentioned earlier in this topic suggest that the difference will carry through to the glass.
 
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