Extract Efficiency and my soft water...

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RichBenn

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I'm trying to dial in my mashing/lautering, having just got back into brewing. Despite what I think was a good crush and good technique, only about a quart left in the tun, my extract efficiency is low (65% or less)

One of the suspects is the water. We have well water, filtered through 3000 ft. of granite peaks before it reaches my aquifer. It's the best tasting water you ever had, super soft and so acidic (5.9), we had to add an acid neutralizer. I haven't yet found the original water test, but I believe it would come out to be closest to Pilsen water, pre-neutralizer. The neutralizer adds Calcium Carbonate only, AFAIK. Brings hardness up to about 120 or so, and pH up to maybe 7.0. But the other minerals that Palmer talks about are probably almost like distilled water.

Both of the two batches I've done on this system were very light colored grains, mostly two-row with, for example, a little Vienna and/or 10L crystal. The lightest one I just finished last night seemed not as clear after the boil, but that may have been due to using Irish Moss instead of Whirlfloc.

Could my water be affecting mash pH and thus efficiency? I'd originally thought the lowish pH [edit - water profile] would be advantageous for light brews, but the hardness is up there and I got higher efficiencies (I think) with darker partial mashes. I'm thinking I might buy some pH 5.2 stabilizer and see if that helps. Thoughts?
 

Kaiser

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Check the mash pH.

The opposite should be true, ligher beers should be the ones that work well for your water and dark beers should be the ones where you would see problems.

Kai
 
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RichBenn

RichBenn

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Do you test mash pH? The pH of the water before adding the grain is not important.
No, I don't have a pH meter. And I know the pH of the mash is what's important. That's a function of the grains used (color) vs. the hardness(and other minerals?). I can spend $50 on a pH meter or just spend less money on pH 5.2 stabilizer, but I'm not certain pH stabilizer will do what I'm looking for.
 
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RichBenn

RichBenn

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Check the mash pH.

The opposite should be true, ligher beers should be the ones that work well for your water and dark beers should be the ones where you would see problems.

Kai
That's what I was thinking, but for the hardness post neutralizer. I do have some iron in the water, as well.
 

Kaiser

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No, I don't have a pH meter. And I know the pH of the mash is what's important. That's a function of the grains used (color) vs. the hardness(and other minerals?). I can spend $50 on a pH meter or just spend less money on pH 5.2 stabilizer, but I'm not certain pH stabilizer will do what I'm looking for.

No, don’t spend $50 on a pH meter. Get the range 4-7 colorpHast stripts. You can find them shipped for less than $20 and if you cut them in half each test will cost you only 20c. You may want to read this on how to use them: http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=An_Overview_of_pH#colorpHast_strips

As for the 5.2 buffer, don’t use it. It does work to some extend, but there is no need to spend money on tub full of sodium salts (which it appears to be) if you can control the pH with other means.

Kai
 
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RichBenn

RichBenn

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No, don’t spend $50 on a pH meter. Get the range 4-7 colorpHast stripts. You can find them shipped for less than $20 and if you cut them in half each test will cost you only 20c. You may want to read this on how to use them: http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=An_Overview_of_pH#colorpHast_strips

As for the 5.2 buffer, don’t use it. It does work to some extend, but there is no need to spend money on tub full of sodium salts (which it appears to be) if you can control the pH with other means.

Kai
Thanks, Kai. I looked at your wiki and see that the strips are only accurate within about +/-.3 or so, which is to be expected. If 5.2-5.6 is the range we want to have, strips alone would not be so good. The price of those strips has gone up, and one can get a name brand .02 accuracy pH meter on ebay for just $30(+cal chems) now. So a meter would make more sense, especially since one could use it for making wine, hot tub adjustments, etc.

When I adjust my water on the hot tub, to get the pH up, the alkalinity typically goes extremely high. The typical pH stabilizer I buy for it doesn't work either. So I may have to eventually bite the bullet and pay for another water test to find out what I'm working with.

Reason I was asking about the pH buffer is it's only about $12 for a pound(more than I'd ever use), and, if it'd work, would eliminate screwing around with pH testing. Since I'm counting pennies these days....

I erroneously titled this thread "soft water", but it's not actually soft in the house, due to the acid neutralizer. It hardens the water as it neutralizes the acid. Guess I could use pre acid neutralizer water for doing lighter beers, to be sure.

And because my full mash system is new, there could be other reasons for efficiency problems.

Rich
 

Malticulous

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I've been using cheaper papers. There not very accurate but it is easy to if the pH is lower than 6. I use some Calcium Chloride in the strike watter and phosphoric acid in the sparge watter. I use more acid in the lighter brews. Near as I can tell my mash pH is in the high fives. It seems to work well because I get fairly high efficiency.
 
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