finally got my water tested

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jimlin

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Been AG brewing (Denny Conn style, cooler tun, batch sparge) for maybe 4 years now. Over the past yr or more I've noticed my pale color hoppy beers being dominated by a flavor I couldn't figure out. Despite using a ton of late boil and dry hops, my hops were disappearing. To me the hops seemed masked by this new flavor.

A brewing in York ME was kind enough to try my most recent IPA and give me feedback and try to trouble-shoot it. The good: the "off flavor" I was tasting wasn't really an off flavor... more so I was just tasting the 2-row base malt front and center. I explained I had used about 3/4 oz of Warrior to bitter, and once each of Citra and Simcoe at 20 and 1 minute, PLUS Citra and Simcoe DH. They couldn't believe I'd used that much hops and they were so missing...

The head brewer's final suggestion: my water. So I got the Ward Labs home brewers test done to my private well water. Results are in and now that Denny Conn pointed me to the Bru'n Water site and spreadsheet, I think I'm figuring out.

pH 8.2
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 222
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.37
Cations / Anions, me/L 3.7 / 3.8

ppm
Sodium, Na 53
Potassium, K 1
Calcium, Ca 15
Magnesium, Mg 8
Total Hardness, CaCO3 71
Nitrate, NO3-N < 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 14
Chloride, Cl 4
Carbonate, CO3 < 1.0
Bicarbonate, HCO3 173
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 144
Total Phosphorus, P < 0.01
Total Iron, Fe 0.03
"<" - Not Detected / Below Detection Limit

After doing some reading, it appears my water is relatively soft, my residual alkalinity high. I plugged in all my results and started looking at the spreadsheet, aiming at the Pale Ale Profile as my goal for my happier pale beers. I'm planning on mixing in about 20% distilled water, and adding gypsum and a little magnesium chloride to boost the calcium, magnesium, sulfate, chloride, and drop the bicarbonate a bit. Using the same recipe as my last IPA, it appears I don't need to deal with any lactic for the mash to get down to about 5.6 pH.

Going to do a bit more reading on all this and then give it a go, brewing the same IPA as my last batch to see what a difference I can get.
 

mabrungard

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The sodium is a little high for some styles, but not a real problem. The alkalinity is likely to be a problem for almost every style. Neutralizing that with acid is your best bet. The rest of the ionic content is very modest.

Learn how to neutralize alkalinity and many of your brewing problems will resolve.
 
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jimlin

jimlin

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Martin, was on my iPhone app last night and didn't want to fight it to write a lengthy post. But thanks for the insight. Water chem is new to me. I've never taken a pH of a mash, let alone add any kind of lactic to adjust alkalinity.

Is acid malt an option, or am I better to tackle the strike water with something like lactic acid? That said, do I need to worry about pH of my sparge water? I batch sparge.

Thanks again
Jim
 
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jimlin

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The sodium is a little high for some styles, but not a real problem. The alkalinity is likely to be a problem for almost every style. Neutralizing that with acid is your best bet. The rest of the ionic content is very modest.

Learn how to neutralize alkalinity and many of your brewing problems will resolve.
Martin, at first I used the Bru'n spreadsheet and started adding a percentage of RO water and saw some improvements, but I still need to plan on gypsum and some magnesium chloride when aiming at it's "Pale Ale Profile". However, if I just use my well water completely, and add a small amount (.3 ml/gallon) of lactic acid to the strike water (in the recipe I'm looking at about 4.75 gallons of strike water), it's saying my alkalinity will drop from 143 to 97 (the profile amount is 91), the bicarbonate drops from 173 to 117 (profile target is 110).

Is 1.4 mL of lactic acid in my 4.75 gallons of strike going to effect flavor negatively? I don't want any sourness, which some seem to suggest lactic can provide if too much is used.

Then there's phosphoric acid which is a much lower strength, requiring more to be used, but people suggest it's less likely to effect the taste negatively. I would need to use 2ml/gallon of phosphoric acid (10% solution) to achieve the same effect on the alkalinity.

Thoughts anyone? And is there an easy way to move this thread into the Brew Science forum as BlueHouseBrewhaus suggested? Or just start a new thread there?
 

mabrungard

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Lactic acid is not going to impact flavor until you exceed about 1 ml of 88% acid per gallon of brewing water, so your 1.4 ml in 4.75 gal is way under the limit. In terms of flavor, all German beers have some level of lactate ion in them and I feel that is one of those nuances that we perceive in a good German beer. Phosphoric is OK too, its just not going to add the nuance!

I am not a fan of acid malt because you don't really know how much acid you are adding to the mash. Its a natural product that is subject to variation. In addition, you will still have to acidify your sparging water and then you would be doing 2 different things. Just use the liquid acids.

I wouldn't bother with dilution since your water is already low in the 'flavor' ions. As mentioned, the sodium content is not enough to worry about.

Don't mess with mag chloride. It is difficult to find and it sucks moisture out of the air and messes up your mineral addition calculations. Use Epsom salt for Mg addition in a hoppy beer.
 

ajdelange

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...if I just use my well water completely, and add a small amount (.3 ml/gallon) of lactic acid to the strike water (in the recipe I'm looking at about 4.75 gallons of strike water), it's saying my alkalinity will drop from 143 to 97 ...
Eighty eight percent lactic acid is about 11.8 N so 0.3 mL of it will knock out 3.54 mEq of alkalinity. A gallon is 3.875 L and so has, at 144/50 mEq/L alkalinity a total of 3.785*144/50 = 10.9 mEq to knock out. Doing this leaves 10.9 - 3.54 = 7.36 mEq/gal or (10.9 - 3.54)/3.785 = 1.945 mEq/L or 97 ppm as CaCO3 so it appears that the alkalinity reduction is correct.

..(the profile amount is 91), the bicarbonate drops from 173 to 117 (profile target is 110).
You shouldn't be concerned about meeting some profile. You should be concerned about getting rid of alkalinity (in most cases). Just because some brewer some where at some time had to live with 91 ppm alkalinity doesn't mean you have to. Alkalinity adds nothing to your beer. It can only drag pH high which is, in most cases, a detriment. By the time the beer is finished most of the bicarbonate (source of alkalinity) will have been converted to carbonic acid. The small amount that remains from the water will be swamped by the bicarbonate from the carbonating CO2.

Is 1.4 mL of lactic acid in my 4.75 gallons of strike going to effect flavor negatively? I don't want any sourness, which some seem to suggest lactic can provide if too much is used.
Why don't you draw a L of water and add 0.3 mL 88% lactic to it and see what you taste? Try the same with 0.5 L of beer and 0.15 mL of 88% lactic. I'm pretty confident that you won't find it offensive (if you can taste it at all).



Then there's phosphoric acid which is a much lower strength, requiring more to be used, but people suggest it's less likely to effect the taste negatively. I would need to use 2ml/gallon of phosphoric acid (10% solution) to achieve the same effect on the alkalinity.
Ten percent phosphoric acid is about 1.1 N at mash pH so to knock out the same 3.54 mEq of alkalinity/gal you will need 3.54/1.1 = 3.2 mL of phosphoric acid/gal.

Thoughts anyone? And is there an easy way to move this thread into the Brew Science forum as BlueHouseBrewhaus suggested? Or just start a new thread there?
The best way to manage this is, IMO, to use RO and build exactly what you want. Second best is to dilute with RO until the alkalinity is very low and then use only as much acid as is required for the malt. Third best is to add acid to the water until the water pH reaches the desired mash pH. This effectively zeroes out the alkalinity of the water as far as mashing is concerned. You still need to consider protons released by the calcium/phosphate reaction and the malt alkalinities. The former usually will not overcome the latter so some additional acid will be needed. All this is best checked up on with a pH meter.
 
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jimlin

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Lactic acid is not going to impact flavor until you exceed about 1 ml of 88% acid per gallon of brewing water, so your 1.4 ml in 4.75 gal is way under the limit. In terms of flavor, all German beers have some level of lactate ion in them and I feel that is one of those nuances that we perceive in a good German beer. Phosphoric is OK too, its just not going to add the nuance!

I am not a fan of acid malt because you don't really know how much acid you are adding to the mash. Its a natural product that is subject to variation. In addition, you will still have to acidify your sparging water and then you would be doing 2 different things. Just use the liquid acids.

I wouldn't bother with dilution since your water is already low in the 'flavor' ions. As mentioned, the sodium content is not enough to worry about.

Don't mess with mag chloride. It is difficult to find and it sucks moisture out of the air and messes up your mineral addition calculations. Use Epsom salt for Mg addition in a hoppy beer.
Thanks Martin! I think I'll try the lactic acid for the first brew with all my new water info.

One more question (I know)... are you suggesting Epsom salt with gypsum as well, or instead of gypsum as well as the mag chloride? I was looking at gypsum to bring up the Calcium (which in my water is only 15 ppm), but that also adds a lot sulfate. Adding Epsom to bring up the Mg adds even more sulfate and all of a sudden I'm up over 350 ppm in Sulfate.
 

ajdelange

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In terms of flavor, all German beers have some level of lactate ion in them and I feel that is one of those nuances that we perceive in a good German beer. Phosphoric is OK too, its just not going to add the nuance!
This is actually an excellent argument for the use of sauermalz or sauergut. Those are the vehicles by which lactic acid is introduced into German beers (in which the use of acids other than those produced naturally in the brewery is prohibited). Those vehicles contain flavor compounds derived from malt (sauermalz is, after all, a malt). Check out the Wyermann's website. They talk about the nuanced flavors that sauermalz can bring to a beer. Of course they are trying to sell sauermalz.

I am not a fan of acid malt because you don't really know how much acid you are adding to the mash.
It appears that you do. I've got detailed data on one sauermalz and pretty good data on two others and while the parameters are quite different the amount of acid delivered to nominal mash pH is pretty darn close.

%.....type.......DI pH.....Buffering........2nd coef.....3rd coef.....Proton Def... pH Shift
97.1% Crisp Maris Otter 5.6894 -46.589 6.3516 -2.623 24.55 -12.16 0.086
1.0% Weyermann Sauermalz 3.6165 -292.09 68.443 -5.3985 -9.582 -0.068
1.0% Sauermalz 3.43 -138.8546256 0.000 0.0000 -8.188 -0.058
1.0% Sauermalz Weyermann 3.44 -158.4955752 0.0 0.0 -9.303 -0.066


The numbers given above show a mash which is 97% Maris Otter and 1 percent each of the three types of sauermalz I have data on. I measured the first and so have all three coefficients for the titration curve. The last two were measured by Kai Troester who assumes linearity which isn't a great assumption but it's not too terribly bad. The main character of the malt is given by the DI mash pH and the buffering (first coefficient). As you can see they three sauermalz samples are fairly different.

Without any sauermalz the water in the OP and the MO only one would estimate a mash pH of 5.80 due to the high alkalinity. The sauermalz rule of thumb is 1% per 0.1 shift in mash pH. If we want 5.5 we would guess that we should have 3% sauermalz and that's how the 1% each number was chosen. Using 1% each the mash pH prediction shifts to 5.60 - a drop of 0.2. The last column (I know they don't look like a column here - too bad there isn't a table tool) shows the pH shifts attributable to each of the three. They are about 2/3 of what the rule of thumb says but pretty close to one another. Also note that the protons supplied by each are close (9.6, 8.2 and 9.3). Three samples are not a universe of sauermalz and there may be some that deviate by more than this but the fact that three very randomly chosen samples across time and distance come out to be about the same suggests pretty strongly that sauermalz is pretty consistent.

It's nice, of course, to have real data but common sense serves us here too. Sauermalz is used primarily to control mash pH (and secondarily to add those flavors referred to earlier). If it's effect was as unpredictable as Martin seems to fear, Weyermann wouldn't be able to sell it. Doesn't it make sense that a manufacurer of such a product would check its titratable acidity at manufacture and control by blending (or some other means)?

Its a natural product that is subject to variation.
It is with respect to DI pH and buffering but these appear to have been adjusted in order to get approximately the same titratable acidity at least in the three samples considered and, of course, common sense says the maltster would do that.

In addition, you will still have to acidify your sparging water and then you would be doing 2 different things.
You might but in many cases you will not have to. You shouldn't be mashing or sparging with high alkalinity water.

Just use the liquid acids.
I don't make blanket statements so I won't say 'Don't use liquid acids' but to insist on using them sort of guarantees that you won't get what the German brewers (who actually brew pretty good beer in many cases) achieve by the use of sauermalz and sauergut.


I wouldn't bother with dilution since your water is already low in the 'flavor' ions. As mentioned, the sodium content is not enough to worry about.
The big advantages of dilution with RO water are two. First you have ultimate control over the ion content of the water. Second, the variability of the ion content of the water is much reduced. If your system rejects chloride at some level such that it is at 1 ppm in your permeate and the source level trebles (because of salting roads in winter for example) your permeate chloride only goes to 3 ppm.

Don't mess with mag chloride. It is difficult to find and it sucks moisture out of the air and messes up your mineral addition calculations.
So does calcium chloride but we have ways around that. Similar techniques allow preparation of pretty accurately characterized solutions of magnesium chloride from Epsom salts, lye and HCl. It's sort of a fun home science project but I don't really see any reason to do it as MgCl2 doesn't really add many degrees of freedom to your syntheses. Anyway, malt contains lots of magnesium as is and you don't need to add more except for some special beers where its generally unpleasant taste is part of the profile.

So there's an almost antipodal POV for you to consider.

Edit (PS really) How to absolutely prevent uncertainty from variation in sauermalz titratable acidity:
Buy a multi year supply (it comes in 25 kg sacks just as do all Weyermanns products) and store it in a Vittles Vault (hermetically sealed pet food container from Gamma2 Plastics).
 
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jimlin

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As someone who hasn't spent any time dealing with chemistry, physics, of differential equations since sophomore yr in college, my meds gonna explode!

Seriously guys, thanks for the detailed responses. I obviously need to do more reading myself. My darker beers have been quite good (most recently a Black Butte Porter clone, as well as Jamil Z's altbier), but the US style hoppy ones have all lost their hop flavor and aroma. Weird in that A couple years ago I brewed some very hoppy beers that seemed fine. Assuming my well water profile has changed a bit over time... but how significant a change can happen in a couple years?

Ah well. Thanks again for the insight. More from you guys or others is always appreciated but it appears I have a good starting point.

Jim
 

ajdelange

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Assuming my well water profile has changed a bit over time... but how significant a change can happen in a couple years?
It can change appreciably over a much shorter time period. Here are a set of alkalinity numbers from my well:

Date Alkalinity
11/06/14 111
11/13/14 93.8
11/24/14 135
12/08/14 122
11/29/14 145
04/26/15 134
05/22/15 69.325

n 7
Average 115.73
Standard Deviation 26.64
Max 145
Min 69.325
Range 75.675

As the numbers show the standard deviation is about half a mEq/L and the range, which was spanned in two readings a month apart (rain?) is about three times that. This is significant and is one argument for the use of RO water. If your well is as variable as mine (and I have no idea whether it is or not) you will have to keep track of such variations and adjust for them (unless you use RO).

The simplest way to do this is to get a cheapie TDS meter (measures the conductivity of the water) and check the TDS against what is in your Ward Labs report. Better yet would be to check the conductivity and send another sample off to Wards. This will calibrate you TDS measurement against theirs. In any case once that is done it is a simple matter to check you water when you are ready to brew. If its conductivity is about the same as what's on the Ward report chances are very good that your water chemistry is about the same as when the analysis was done but there is no guarantee (some ion could have increased by just enough to offset another). OTOH if the TDS values are appreciably different there has been an appreciable change in the water chemistry.

The next step up, and clearly a better one, is to measure hardness (both Mg and Ca) and alkalinity each time you brew. Simple kits in which you add drops of test solution to a sample are available from several manufacturers and lots of home brewers use them.
 

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