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IPA water recipe - adjusting high bicarbonate water

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conpewter

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I've gone around a bit with water chemistry on the forums before. I found some good spreadsheets (one done by BearCat which was really nice) but I think I'm going to settle into using Palmer's updated spreadsheet (It wasn't on his site when I read through the whole thing back on '07)

Here's the link

http://howtobrew.com/section3/Palmers_Mash_RA_ver2d.xls

This really is well made, and what I love about it is he tells us the password so we can change it to fit our needs (not that I've done that yet).

Anyway on to my question. I'm trying to replicate Burton on Trent's water. I have a high bicarbonate level (383 ppm...) which is close to their bicarbonates. To adjust my water to be similar I basically add a fair amount of Gypsum, which gets me close (though I have more Chloride than them 121 vs. 16). The thing I'm wondering is palmer's writing about sulfate and the stated values in Burton On Trent's water
At concentrations over 400 ppm however, the resulting bitterness can become astringent and unpleasant, and at concentrations over 750 ppm, it can cause diarrhea. Sulfate is only weakly alkaline and does not contribute to the overall alkalinity of water.
How to Brew - By John Palmer - Reading a Water Report

My question here is that he reports Burton On Trent's water to be 820ppm, which would mean that everyone who drinks their water has diarrhea and the beer is astringent and unpleasant? I doubt this so I am wondering why 820ppm makes a very good IPA...
 

BigEd

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First I would not be too concerned with hitting exact numbers when shooting for a specific water profile. Frankly you will never be able to do it and as long as you are "in the ballpark" everything will be just fine. I have never seen any other comments on levels of sulphate @ 400ppm+. I can only give you my empirical data that in the many dozens of IPA I have brewed over the years with water adjusted to a Burton profile that problem has never been encountered by myself nor have I ever had a report of a problem from anybody drinking my beer. :mug:
 

z987k

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Sulfate is the key to an IPA. It makes the hops shine through. With proper water adjustment you can get an IPA where you can pick out each hop as the beer moves across your palate. Go with the Burton upon Trent water profile.
 
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conpewter

conpewter

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Thanks guys!

I always thought that I couldn't do light beers with my water (bicarbonates off the chart) but Burton upon Trent has the same bicarbs, just a crapload more calcium and sulfate. Luckly that is exactly the ions in Gypsum so I can adjust my water with that. I won't be able to get all the way up to their sulfate level, and I do have more chloride than their water, but I should be able to get close enough (as mentioned it is not anything you can get perfect).

Now for a pilsner I still need to buy distlled/RO water, but I can deal with that.
 

wildwest450

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Good thread! I'm so frustrated with water reports, I wish i'd never had mine tested. To be honest I have no desire to delve into the science of water, it would be nice to have a base water reports one for low, medium and high srm beers. I read somewhere that even though the Burton upon Trent is good for Ipa's it was overly high on some of the levels.

That's why a base level for certain styles would be a great thing! Hint, hint.
Slowly backs away from the water nerd's and runs away.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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Sulfate is the key to an IPA.
Sulphate alone or the Sulphate:Chloride ratio? Palmer talks about how the ratio affects the crispness/maltiness respectively and his spreadsheet shows high Sulphate:Chloride ratio as 'Bitter to Very Bitter' and low ratio as 'Malty and Very Malty'.

But I've never done any tests or anything...just sort of taken it as gospel and went with it. Truly asking here.

I've always been a leetle skeered to try BOT water or Dublin water profiles...so extreme. Then again I'll make an uber-soft Pils water and think nothing of it...obv I'm biased. ;)
 

z987k

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Sulphate alone or the Sulphate:Chloride ratio? Palmer talks about how the ratio affects the crispness/maltiness respectively and his spreadsheet shows high Sulphate:Chloride ratio as 'Bitter to Very Bitter' and low ratio as 'Malty and Very Malty'.

But I've never done any tests or anything...just sort of taken it as gospel and went with it. Truly asking here.

I've always been a leetle skeered to try BOT water or Dublin water profiles...so extreme. Then again I'll make an uber-soft Pils water and think nothing of it...obv I'm biased. ;)
Your right, it's not sulfate alone, it has to do with the chlorine to, and every other ion kind of. But in everything I've read and experienced sulfate is very key to getting that multi-dimensional IPA.

When I get home I'll look some stuff up in Brew Science if you want... or you could download it.
 

TheChemist

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The reason Burton on Trent made light beer is because they couldn't do anything else well - they were limited by their water! The 800+ppm thing is similar to the numbers I have, but that's well above what you'd need. Think 'saturation' levels - you'd only need half that in order to accomplish what you want.

Sulphate increases detectable bitterness, so it your beer has a greater, fuller bitter taste to it. Without a balance of chloride though, it becomes icky and almost 'coats' your tongue - there IS such a thing as too much.

For style-appropriate levels, I posted some general guidelines in my 'pH and water treatment' thread - it's not very pretty right now, but I'll see if I can find something easier to read.
 

mramann

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Another note when trying to adjust your water to a classic profile: we don't necessarily have any idea what those breweries are doing to their water once they pull it from the municipal system. From this information we may be able to understand why certain styles are indigenous to certain areas, and what the overall function of certain minerals is and their ratio to each other. But we can't duplicate a profile and expect our beer to mirror that of the classic city.

Palmer does nail it pretty well in his book. But there is a lot of room to tinker with each specific water profile. You and I could brew the exact same beer and end up with a noticeably different result. It's the final frontier of brewing...?
 

mb2696

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conpewter, did you ever do this? how did it turn out? i'm looking to do a burton profile but it just seems like so much...
 

ajdelange

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To do a Burton profile is more trouble than it is worth. People don't understand that Mother Nature dissolves limestone by using carbonic acid and wonder why they can't get a good match to published profiles with sulfuric or hydrochloric acid or, in most cases, by just tossing in whatever chalk a spreadsheet (that doesn't understand the concept either) tells them to and hoping it will dissolve in the mash. To closely approach an authentic profile you must calculate the chalk addition recognizing that it will be dissolved by CO2 and then dissolve it with CO2. This is a big PITA but it can be done. I've done it a couple of times in order to brew "authentic" Burton ale to be compared to ale brewed with my well water which has nominal mineral content. A couple of comments on what happened when I did this: 1) as soon as the authentic water hit the HLT and got warmed up a portion of the chalk I had so laboriously dissolved precipitated right back out. 2) People (in the workshop and others) agreed that the Burton water beer was more authentic but that the soft water beer was a much better beer.

I believe that the Burton brewers brewed what they did because that was the water they had. Bass ale isn't brewed with water with anything like the sulfate content of the traditional ale.

I recommend to anyone who will listen (precious few) that they should start with RO water with a tsp calcium chloride per 5 gallons and brew the beer with that to see what they think of it. Then, and only then, should they add some gypsum to get a handle on the effects of sulfate on hops. If they want more sulfate/hops they can then increase the gypsum even more on subsequent brews. If they don't they can decrease or eliminate gypsum.
 

mb2696

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great point on the chalk. i never thought twice about it, but now that you point it out, it's obvious you can't just add any amount and have it dissolve
 

bakins

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I recommend to anyone who will listen (precious few) that they should start with RO water with a tsp calcium chloride per 5 gallons and brew the beer with that to see what they think of it.
Would you recommend this as a good starting point for most styles?
 

bakins

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Yes. Maybe half a tsp for Bohemian Pils.
And for a stout, still just 1 tsp?

I've been using the various spread sheets and I actually think my beer has gotten worse. Part of it is probably I didn't know about the SO4 number from Ward's lab.

The pH strips read the same no matter what, so I need to invert in a pH meter, I suppose.
 

ajdelange

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And for a stout, still just 1 tsp?
Yes, it should work fine for a stout but if your tap water is has alkalinity less than say 100 you ought to be able to use it.

I've been using the various spread sheets and I actually think my beer has gotten worse. Part of it is probably I didn't know about the SO4 number from Ward's lab.
If you have been adding carbonate in the quantities the spreadsheets call for for darker beers (stouts, porters, bocks, barley wines....) it is probably high mash pH, kettle pH, fermenter pH and plus possible carryover of bicarbonate into the beer that would have been the major detriments. The sulfate factor, even though it is three results in addition of too much sulfate in trying to match a level but it's often not as bad as you might think. For example, if you wanted 100 and your Ward Labs report said you had 20 you would add 80. Since the level as sulfate is 60 you would have 80 + 60 = 140 total "only" a 40% overshoot.

The pH strips read the same no matter what, so I need to invert in a pH meter, I suppose.
I think you do. They only cost $80 or so these days and even if they only last a couple of years you should know what's going on by then to the point where you don't have to check pH every brew.
 

mb2696

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...I recommend to anyone who will listen (precious few) that they should start with RO water with a tsp calcium chloride per 5 gallons and brew the beer with that to see what they think of it. Then, and only then, should they add some gypsum to get a handle on the effects of sulfate on hops. If they want more sulfate/hops they can then increase the gypsum even more on subsequent brews. If they don't they can decrease or eliminate gypsum.
AJ -

Is the sulfate thing something that could be done a glass at a time after fermentation? I would like to taste the differences side-by-side without the differences due to brewing separate batches.
 

ajdelange

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AJ -

Is the sulfate thing something that could be done a glass at a time after fermentation? I would like to taste the differences side-by-side without the differences due to brewing separate batches.
I don't really know. Since, as far as I know, there is no dependence in the isomerization reaction on the amount of sulfate in the wort I'm assuming that sulfate affects the way we perceive the bittering rather than the actual chemistry of the bittering but I could be wrong on that. If you did do a taste test with sulfate additions on some finished beer I think you'd know pretty quickly whether my surmise is correct or not.
 

mb2696

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that is what i assumed too. i think on my next hoppy brew i will do just cacl2 then do some side-by-side tasting with various amounts of added sulfate
 
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conpewter

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conpewter, did you ever do this? how did it turn out? i'm looking to do a burton profile but it just seems like so much...
Adding gypsum has really helped with my hop flavor, much crisper, not nearly as muddled as before. I don't need to add any bicarbonates to my water, I already have plenty. I don't go up to 800ppm though, somewhere around 300

My water looks like this after adjustment. I add gypsum and bit of calcium chloride (for the calcium) in the mash and in the boil kettle
Calcium Magnesium Sodium Chloride Sulfate Alkalinity
(Ca ppm) (Mg ppm) (Na ppm) (Cl ppm) (SO4 ppm) (CaCO3 ppm)
230 27 62 184 334 210
 
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