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Help me with water. RO adding minerals back in...

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rshosted

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Ok, let me start out with a little defensiveness: I know we dont HAVE to use Reverse Osmosis and I KNOW springwater works fine. That being said I HAVE reverse osmosis and I have minerals. What I don't have is the understanding... yet... hopefully...

So, I was doing a German hefe and added 5 grams of Burton water salts, 5 grams of Gypsum, and 5 grams of chalk to 5 gallons.

My observations: stirred into water, and heated to 170 for mash in (lowers to 153 on mixing with grains) . Then I heated another batch to 170 for sparge. (never boiled until adding hops)

I did everything as usual with past springwater batches. I noticed that a lot of the minerals that I added went to the bottom of the water holding tanks.

I also noticed my efficiency was waaaay low this time; around 43%. Last few batches I have been at 70%. I have to assume this time was the water, as everything else was the same. The PH of the strike water was 8.5, and upon mashing in it measured at 4.9 PH. (Digital PH meter). I forgot to test my TDS.

So here are the questions...
Do you have to boil water to get the minerals dissolved (or to bind)?

Does a higher mineral content of mash water/sparge water lower efficiency normally?

Does strike water PH matter? I know the grains will create the right PH usually if the minerals are correct.... right?

Thanks in advance, I've been reading through this forum and haven't found any definitive answers to these questions...
 

clayof2day

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I will you give you my obligatory water reply, to which I link How to brew, Chapter 15

Also, some salts, such as Calcium Carbonate (chalk) do not readily dissolve in water until the pH is lowered as in the mash. FWIW, I've been building water from RO and have been adding all my salts directly to the mash (in with the grains) and I've been getting the best efficiencies of my life (80-85). I would not add anything to any water until I had a very good grasp of what it was (Burton water salts always worry me as that is a little ambiguous) and exactly what it would do to the mash (chapter 15 helps with that).

In response to your questions:
1. No
2. Depends
3. Not really (mash pH is what really matters)

Good luck!
 
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rshosted

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clayof2day said:
I will you give you my obligatory water reply, to which I link How to brew, Chapter 15

Also, some salts, such as Calcium Carbonate (chalk) do not readily dissolve in water until the pH is lowered as in the mash. FWIW, I've been building water from RO and have been adding all my salts directly to the mash (in with the grains) and I've been getting the best efficiencies of my life (80-85). I would not add anything to any water until I had a very good grasp of what it was (Burton water salts always worry me as that is a little ambiguous) and exactly what it would do to the mash (chapter 15 helps with that).

In response to your questions:
1. No
2. Depends
3. Not really (mash pH is what really matters)

Good luck!
Clay thank you; that IS very helpful. It sounds as if you've done this a bit with RO. I've read that chapter on How to Brew, and have read 'New Brewing Lager Beer' chapter on water. Honestly, when I get into chemistry it goes in one ear and out the other. I understand that you have to have a minor understanding to have it make sense...

would you be willing to share what you do add to your mash? (obviously, I would think it would be different for different brews). I am curious to say what you would add to RO for a light ale, then what you add to a dark stout, and if you have an in between.?

Also, do you specifically add for mineral content, buffer ability, or ph level?

Do you/or did you, measure the mash PH after a few minutes, then add more salt or buffer to get the desired PH? Do/did you worry about TDS in your water beforehand?
 

jdoiv

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I would suggest using a water profiler like the one in ProMash to help you determine how much of each salt to add to your water to get it to match the style you are brewing. Use a gram scale and add it in just before you add your grains. Chalk you should add in with the grains as is doesn't dissolve until the water is around 8.3 pH which is way high for brewing. Building to style will get the proper minerals back in the water for the yeast and should change your alkalinity closer to what you need. I would then suggest using 5.2 buffer to set the pH of your mash. Add the minerals to both your strike and sparge water but the 5.2 to just your mash. The pH of the sparge water isn't as important, but you do want to add the proper minerals back into it.
 

Got Trub?

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If you are adding the right minerals to your water for style there is no need for 5.2. Your mash pH will be appropriate. You are doing the reverse of what our brewing forefathers/mothers did. They found the right style to brew with their local water to make great beer. You are trying to recreate the right water to brew the style you want.

GT
 

jdoiv

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Got Trub? said:
If you are adding the right minerals to your water for style there is no need for 5.2. Your mash pH will be appropriate. You are doing the reverse of what our brewing forefathers/mothers did. They found the right style to brew with their local water to make great beer. You are trying to recreate the right water to brew the style you want.

GT
Not necessarily. Pilsen water is very low in mineral content and by all accounts shouldn't make a very good beer. But the brewers found that by doing an extended acid rest, the mash would acidify enough for good conversion. Lots of brewers have found ways around their water inadequacies by changing their process or out right changing the pH in the kettle. By adding 5.2, you can guarantee that your mash will convert regardless of the make up of the grist or the pH of the water. True, you shouldn't have to use it but it will give you that guarantee of success. Also, with using RO water, you will need to add some minerals back in if you want to have healthy yeast.
 
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rshosted

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jdoiv said:
Not necessarily. Pilsen water is very low in mineral content and by all accounts shouldn't make a very good beer. But the brewers found that by doing an extended acid rest, the mash would acidify enough for good conversion. Lots of brewers have found ways around their water inadequacies by changing their process or out right changing the pH in the kettle. By adding 5.2, you can guarantee that your mash will convert regardless of the make up of the grist or the pH of the water. True, you shouldn't have to use it but it will give you that guarantee of success. Also, with using RO water, you will need to add some minerals back in if you want to have healthy yeast.
So essentially, according to what you are implying, which makes sense, is that even by matching the water, if you don't plan on imposing the same exact brewing process, you won't get the same results; but by using 5.2 you can get similar PH even with using water that is not balanced according to the water originally used. (unless you plan to do an acid rest... and so on). Interesting.

Unfortunately, doesn't answer what I should be adding to RO water to get a baseline of a 'healthy' water to produce a typical ale.

And not to knock 5.2, but because I don't know what it is, I prefer to not use it.... I would rather have unknowns, and instead, make a batch with the conceptual amount of TDS, then if I find the PH is low or high, make additions of chemicals that I do know at that time. Then next time I can change the water recipe for that said recipe.

So, does anyone have a clue as to what a typical addition would be to RO water for a basic ale? (I really think recipes should give a water profile with the recipe)
 

jdoiv

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Here is the Ideal Pale Ale water that I built in ProMash based on distilled/RO water:

Quantites are grams per gallon:
Gypsum 1.8
Epsom Salts .7
Canning Salt .2
Calcium Chloride .2

This gives you the following profile in PPM:

Ca 125.1
Mg 18.3
Na 20.8
SO4 337.4
Cl 57.5

and a pH of 7.0

Edit: This is really simple to do in ProMash. There are ideal water profiles for most of the basic styles. This is a very old school way of brewing and as I mentioned above, doesn't necessarily mean it's going to fit the grain bill you are using (just like the Pilsen example above). As far as anyone has been able to tell, 5.2 is made of phosphate buffers and shouldn't really affect the flavor of the water as salts do. What you should really be concerned with is the Residual Alkalinity in the water and Mash.
 

Tonedef131

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This is a great thread, I too use RO water because my well water has terrible iron. Do you guys use a different mineral mixture for each style of beer you brew?
 

jdoiv

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If you are going to do this old school and build water per style, yes you would use different mixtures for each water style. I don't use RO water, but do occasionally build my water to a specific style. ProMash has a calculator for doing this in it. Once you have the water profiled, you can then print out a sheet that will tell you how many grams of each salt to add into both your strike water and HLT based upon the quantities of water in each. Very handy.

Again, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are going to get the best results unless you follow the same procedures as the original brewers did to compensate for their water. It really is best to look at the RA of the mash and make sure it is within the optimum range for the style you are brewing.
 

Got Trub?

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jdoiv - does promash calculate the RA or the predicted mash pH based on the water and grain bill? I use a spreadsheet that calculates the mash pH based on Ray Daniels formulas so I know whether or not I need to add some 5.2 for my really light colored beers. For anything else I can adjust the mash pH with a small amount of salts. In most cases this results in a water profile pretty close to that where the style originates. I've also found that by getting close with the water profile as little as 1/4 the recommended amount of 5.2 is sufficient to buffer my pH in the appropriate range.

GT
 

jdoiv

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No, unfortunately it doesn't figure out the RA and it doesn't calculate in the grain bill. It will calculate what the pH of the treated water is, though I've never verified if it is accurate. I only worry about the mash pH and occasionally the sparge pH on very light beers.

I have a spreadsheet that someone in my club made up that will figure RA and take into account the SRM of the grain bill. It allows you to add in salt additions by either tsp or grams per gallon. It's pretty nice, but doesn't really tell you if you are throwing some of the flavor salts out of proportion so you have to be careful with it. With the ProMash calculator, you can get really close to most water styles and can see each component easily.

I've gone back and forth with the 5.2 thing. I think it works really well and is much simpler to use than weighing out grams of various salts and treating the water. However, I do worry about it's effects on the waters flavor, though I haven't noticed any real difference. The one thing it does do that I like is boost my efficiency. I haven't made a bad beer with it yet either.

I can accomplish the same results by adjusting the water salts and mash, but I worry about the mash pH during the sparge more. With the 5.2, I don't worry as much as the buffers will work through the sparge process (I usually fly sparge).
 
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i use distilled water to brew. i use this page to find the proper minerals for style, and i add 5.2 to my HLT. the way that i think about it, i'm using the minerals to create the proper flavor profile for the style and i use the 5.2 to assure good pH and thus high efficiencies (i brewed an APA last night and got 93% into the boiler). yeah, maybe you don't need 5.2 in the sparge water but it's easier to just add everything to the hlt and forget about it.
 

HBDrinker008

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All I can say is I am sooo happy that my tap water is wonderful for beer and I dont need to consider this. The two breweries in the city say they use tap water too and they are still in business
 

Got Trub?

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jdoiv said:
No, unfortunately it doesn't figure out the RA and it doesn't calculate in the grain bill. It will calculate what the pH of the treated water is, though I've never verified if it is accurate. I only worry about the mash pH and occasionally the sparge pH on very light beers.

I have a spreadsheet that someone in my club made up that will figure RA and take into account the SRM of the grain bill. It allows you to add in salt additions by either tsp or grams per gallon. It's pretty nice, but doesn't really tell you if you are throwing some of the flavor salts out of proportion so you have to be careful with it. With the ProMash calculator, you can get really close to most water styles and can see each component easily.

I've gone back and forth with the 5.2 thing. I think it works really well and is much simpler to use than weighing out grams of various salts and treating the water. However, I do worry about it's effects on the waters flavor, though I haven't noticed any real difference. The one thing it does do that I like is boost my efficiency. I haven't made a bad beer with it yet either.

I can accomplish the same results by adjusting the water salts and mash, but I worry about the mash pH during the sparge more. With the 5.2, I don't worry as much as the buffers will work through the sparge process (I usually fly sparge).
5.2 definetely works and is safer to use then diluting strong acids to lower your pH. I do worry about off flavours which is why I try to use only enough to get my mash pH into range. Even with that something is precipitating out of my water as it turns cloudy when I heat it up. As I batch sparge I only use it in my mash water.

GT
 

jdoiv

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Probably Calcium of some sort. When you boil water some of the minerals will fall out and to the bottom of the kettle. I'm guessing your water is moderately hard.

The directions on 5.2 state to use it in the mash. They don't say anything about the sparge and I really think it is unnecessary to add it to the sparge wheter you fly or batch sparge. If you are getting with in range using only a 1/4 of the recommended usage, I'd say your good to go.
Even with using the recommended amount I am usually still at 5.4-5.5 on lighter colored grain bills.
 

Kaiser

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rshosted said:
So, I was doing a German hefe and added 5 grams of Burton water salts, 5 grams of Gypsum, and 5 grams of chalk to 5 gallons.
This is way to much minerals for a 5 gallon batch. I also use R/O and salts and for my Hefe I end up adding about 2-3g of minerals. You added a total of 15g and you calcium content must have been very high, which lowered the RA well below what you need and dropped your pH that far down. The pH was below the optimal range for conversion, hence the bad efficiency. But I guess that was already said.

Here is another article on this that tries to explain the RA thing with pictures.

I listed 2 water recipes here. You could use the one for the pale ale for the hefe. I'll check my notes for the water recipe I use for my hefe's. I think I keep the sulphates lower on them.

Kai
 

mindtune

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Thanks everyone, I'm realitively new to brewing, and my latest learning experience is about water ph. Reading this has helped alot, although you've shown me how much more I need to read/learn.
 
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