My Water Chemistry

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Gremlyn

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Yes another water chem post! Try to contain your excitement ;) I'm thinking of adjusting my water for the next batch, after obtaining last year's water report I got the following info:

Ca: 64
Mg : 17
SO4: 172
Na: 87
Cl: 96
HCO3: 144

Now using the caluclator on Brewer's Friend, this is definitely leaning on the bitter side with the sulfate:chloride ratio. If I cut my tap water with 50% distilled and add 1 tsp of CaCO3 and 0.5 tsp of CaCl2 to 8 gallons total I then end up with:

Ca: 71
Mg: 9
SO4: 86
Na 44
Cl: 75
HCO3: 108

The calculator tells me this is a malty/bitter balance, with a pH of 5.86. Does this sound good?
 

ThreeTaps

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I'd like to know as well, since we both use the Alvarado water plant, right Gremlyn1? However I do know that my beer so far tastes good (before carbonation that is...haven't tried one carbonated yet) so people here say it should be fine.
 

boredatwork

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The taste of beer has little correlation to the taste of the water used. So I think that is bad criteria. You are better off getting a water report and plugging those values into a water chemistry calcualtor.

Of course, trial and error is a good approach too.
 

boredatwork

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Yes another water chem post! Try to contain your excitement ;) I'm thinking of adjusting my water for the next batch, after obtaining last year's water report I got the following info:

Ca: 64
Mg : 17
SO4: 172
Na: 87
Cl: 96
HCO3: 144

Now using the caluclator on Brewer's Friend, this is definitely leaning on the bitter side with the sulfate:chloride ratio. If I cut my tap water with 50% distilled and add 1 tsp of CaCO3 and 0.5 tsp of CaCl2 to 8 gallons total I then end up with:

Ca: 71
Mg: 9
SO4: 86
Na 44
Cl: 75
HCO3: 108

The calculator tells me this is a malty/bitter balance, with a pH of 5.86. Does this sound good?
You forgot the most important part. Water chemistry is important only with respect to the recipe.

If you are getting ready to brew a balanced amber colored beer then you are good to go.
 
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Gremlyn

Gremlyn

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I brew mostly neutral beers, Irish Reds, ESBs, and dunkelweizens have been my focus. That's kind of why I think going with what I posed above would give me a nicely balanced beer. The ones I have brewed so far haven't had any weird taste, but I wonder how the taste would change with an altered chemistry. I know the only true way to tell would be to brew and do a direct comparison.

I'd like to know as well, since we both use the Alvarado water plant, right Gremlyn1? However I do know that my beer so far tastes good (before carbonation that is...haven't tried one carbonated yet) so people here say it should be fine.
Correct, we should both be on the same water supply. I don't think it's been an issue so far, but I'm curious what changing it would do.
 

Bsquared

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The taste of beer has little correlation to the taste of the water used. So I think that is bad criteria. You are better off getting a water report and plugging those values into a water chemistry calcualtor.

Of course, trial and error is a good approach too.
Sulfate to Chloride balance has a subtle but noticeable influence on malt/bitterness. The higher on the Chloride side the more you enhance the sweetness of the malts and the body, higher on the sulfate side the grater you enhance the bitterness and drying flavors. It's similar to adding salt to food.
 

-TH-

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Sulfate to Chloride balance has a subtle but noticeable influence on malt/bitterness. The higher on the Chloride side the more you enhance the sweetness of the malts and the body, higher on the sulfate side the grater you enhance the bitterness and drying flavors. It's similar to adding salt to food.
But he said this:
The taste of beer has little correlation to the taste of the water used.

NOT this:
The taste of beer has little correlation to the properties of the water used.
 

Bsquared

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But he said this:
The taste of beer has little correlation to the taste of the water used.

NOT this:
The taste of beer has little correlation to the properties of the water used.
Oops my bad, You are right, I missed the second taste and inserted composition.

But as a note Gremlin, the Sulfide/Chloride balance or ratio is where you should be looking if you want to adjust your water chemistry for flavor.
 

boredatwork

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An ESB is neutral but an Irish Red and definitely a Dunkelweizen would not be neutral but "malty".

Here is the thing about water. Water influences flavor as a function of its mineral profile (NOT as a function of its own flavor). While this is often treated as a insignificant phenomena, let's think about it a different way.

When you make a beer the grain influences flavor, the hops influence flavor, and the yeast influences flavor (both in strain and fermentation temperature). In all grain the mash profile will also influence flavor.

In that respect, water should be thought of as part of your recipe. Not just because it is something you need to think about, but because it can and will affect flavor.

For example. If you are brewing an Irish Red that you want to be balanced in flavor, you can tweak two parts of the recipe, the OG and the IBU. Lets say you go with an OG and IBU that you know contribute to a balanced flavor for an Irish Red. If you were to use water with a chloride:sulfate ratio of 3:1, then you beer would not have a balanced flavor. It would have a malty/sweet flavor with low bitterness. If you were to use water with a chloride:sulfate ratio of 1:3 I can tell you for a fact that your beer would not have a balanced flavor but an extreme bitterness and very little malty/sweet flavor. Now, if you were to used a ratio of 1:1 then you would have a balanced flavor.

But here's the key. Lets say you still want the balanced flavor, and lets say you have a chloride:sulfate ratio of 1:1.5. You have two options, you can either adjust the ratio of the water, or maybe in this case you could lower the IBU or raise the OG to compensate. Get it?

There are three variable that affect flavor (from the point of view of the recipe). Any one of them can be used to dial in the flavor you want out of your beer - and there are many combinations of ways to do it.
 
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Gremlyn

Gremlyn

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Good explanation, thanks! So if I am going for balanced, my water changes from my original post should give me what I'm looking for. I'm going to give it a shot and see how it comes out.

I would imagine that just upping the chloride to balance existing sulfates wouldn't be the way to go with my really high sulfate water...?
 
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Gremlyn

Gremlyn

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So just thinking a little more about this. If I adjust my water to be neutrally balanced, wouldn't that give me the ability to influence the beer more with the ingredients? boredatwork, given your example of decreasing the IBUs when using high sulfate water, the reverse would be true if I am 'neutrally watered', right? What I mean is if I want to go more bitter with neutral water, I just increase the hop additions. Theoretically my IBU ratings should be closer to whatever is calculated when brewing with neutral water, and the beer more true to the expected stats for malt as well. I would expect that trying to increase bitterness with adding sulfates too much, instead of with hops, could lend to the wrong kind of bitterness in my beer (which I think I have experienced with some extract batches in the past).

I guess we'll after tomorrow's batch (the GreenwoodRover memorial). I won't have anything to directly compare it to, but I recently brewed my own ESB, which isn't all that dissimilar, so it should be possible to get a good idea of the difference the water makes.
 

boredatwork

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Yes. I don't think it would be a bad thing to always target balanced. Of course, there might be some subtleties that you are missing - but I think part of this goes back to city specific targets. In other words, some recipes might be assuming the recipe is using XXX city water. And going balanced is definitely a better starting point that being on the wrong side of the flavor scale and wondering why the recipe didn't turn out correctly.

At the end of the day you are working on creating the right flavor - however you arrive there doesn't matter.
 

lazybean

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Any update on how the water worked for you? I am brewing my first AG (ESB)next week end and want to know how the 50/50 water worked.
 
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Gremlyn

Gremlyn

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Not yet, the firs brew with it just went to bottles, so it'll be a few more weeks yet before I can report back. I don't think my water changes would have hurt anything, so if you wanted to give it a shot...
 

Almighty

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Gremlyn1,
Thanks for starting this thread, I would like to revive it a bit for fellow San Diego Brewers. I live downtown so I'm also using Alvarado Treated Water. I have two follow-up questions:

1. So you guys seemed to focus on the Sulphate Chloride Balance which you do a wonderful job on explaining as does the Brewer's Friend Calculator. But my following up question is does the amount of Sulphate and Chloride matter or just the ratio. On Brewer's Friend: # Sulfate (SO4-2) – above 750 ppm and # Chloride (Cl-) – above 300 ppm are dangerous. But if kept below this does it matter. Because with SD water having a Sulphate value at 172 that means you are getting very close to the Chloride limit if you want a 2:1 ratio as recommended for Mild Ales.

2. My next question is if I want to brew ESB or stouts and want London Style water,

then just using the Sulphate concentration I would need to dilute my water with DI water at a ratio of 1:7 or is there another way?
 
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Gremlyn

Gremlyn

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Thanks for bringing this thread back up. I've recently, through talking to some other HBT members, decided that the Brewer's Friend calc isn't quite right. Saq has a water calc spreadsheet he put together based on Palmer's calculations that is a little more detailed, and the water profile I originally was using actually isn't quite as good as I hoped and I have since switched it up a little. I don't have it on my at work, but I'll try to remember to post it later. Saq's spreadsheet bases things more on residual alkalinity (RA) to determine what profile is good for what SRM, and it still uses the SO4:Cl ratio for malt balance. The SO4:Cl ratio will have a negative impact if you go super high or super low, and I'm not sure what those thresholds are; I base my decision on other profiles I've seen.

From memory, I currently do 5 gal tap + 3 gal DI, and add in some baking soda and CaCl2.
 

Almighty

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Thanks for the quick response.
I have a few more things to follow up on. So this is the water report I was using and it looks like you originally were. Did you have your water tested and find another source?



First off do you have a reference document for water profiles?

Also do you have a good list of styles and city profiles (Ex. Pilsen- Pilsners ..)
 
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Gremlyn

Gremlyn

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Almighty

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Thanks for your help,
I am going to mess around with a couple of these and see what works. I'll post what I figure works for a few different styles of beers so people can use my work for an example.

And good luck finding a place. I got lucky a few months ago and got a place downtown at 50% the 2005 price. So it is definitely a good time to buy if you can.
 

mrsunshades

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OK, so this is very good: that folks like yourself are saying that the water can indeed be altered (assuming you have a water report, which I have coming). I also realize this is a whole new level to my brewing hobby, but I have come this far (made my own malt mill / CFC / 3 tier brew stand; I have the oxygenation system, the mash tun w/ sparge arm, etc etc etc...in other words I've been doing it a long time, and it is gut wrenching to go through all the wonderful process only to end up with a very bitter and harsh IPA come out of the keg)! So once I get the report, what do I do? Thanks, and have a great weekend!!!
An ESB is neutral but an Irish Red and definitely a Dunkelweizen would not be neutral but "malty".

Here is the thing about water. Water influences flavor as a function of its mineral profile (NOT as a function of its own flavor). While this is often treated as a insignificant phenomena, let's think about it a different way.

When you make a beer the grain influences flavor, the hops influence flavor, and the yeast influences flavor (both in strain and fermentation temperature). In all grain the mash profile will also influence flavor.

In that respect, water should be thought of as part of your recipe. Not just because it is something you need to think about, but because it can and will affect flavor.

For example. If you are brewing an Irish Red that you want to be balanced in flavor, you can tweak two parts of the recipe, the OG and the IBU. Lets say you go with an OG and IBU that you know contribute to a balanced flavor for an Irish Red. If you were to use water with a chloride:sulfate ratio of 3:1, then you beer would not have a balanced flavor. It would have a malty/sweet flavor with low bitterness. If you were to use water with a chloride:sulfate ratio of 1:3 I can tell you for a fact that your beer would not have a balanced flavor but an extreme bitterness and very little malty/sweet flavor. Now, if you were to used a ratio of 1:1 then you would have a balanced flavor.

But here's the key. Lets say you still want the balanced flavor, and lets say you have a chloride:sulfate ratio of 1:1.5. You have two options, you can either adjust the ratio of the water, or maybe in this case you could lower the IBU or raise the OG to compensate. Get it?

There are three variable that affect flavor (from the point of view of the recipe). Any one of them can be used to dial in the flavor you want out of your beer - and there are many combinations of ways to do it.
 

ajdelange

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The sulfate:chloride thing is way over rated. I've posted dozens of times here and elsewhere on this subject. Just think about it for a second. Could a beer with water containing 1 mg/L chloride and 1 mg/L sulfate (ratio 1 i.e. what you all call 'balanced') possibly bear any resemblance to one made with 200 mg/L sulfate and 200 mg/L chloride? If you look in a German brewing text you are likely to find a recommendation for a sulfate to chloride ratio and it is 0. This does not mean that Germans don't brew with gypseous waters - they do. What it really means is that sulfate turns the money German brewers spend on noble hops into money wasted because sulfate - even in modest amount (say more than 20 mg/L) destroys the fine bittering qualities of those varieties.

The effects of chloride and sulfate are not antipodal. If your beer is too harsh you can't neutralize that by adding extra chloride. If your beer is to sweet and has too much body you can't neutralize that by adding more sulfate. You need to learn what the effects of each of these ions are and adjust their amounts until you attain the flavor profile you seek. If you want to keep track of the ratio as you go there is nothing wrong with that but this ratio should not be used as a design parameter.

The love affair with this ratio is traceable to a single paragraph in a British brewing text (latest edition of Handbook of Brewing) so if you wish to continue to cleave to it at least limit this to British beers and over some limited range of concentrations.
 

mabrungard

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David Taylor is the author of the Water chapter in the Handbook of Brewing. I recognize him as an eminent brewing researcher in a wide range of brewing issues. Unfortunately, I don't see a body of work that suggests that he is well versed in brewing water chemistry. As typical for brewing research and texts, water is an after-thought subject that is relegated to a short chapter in the multitude of chapters in a brewing text. He was probably recruited to author the chapter.

This ratio has some basis in fact since its relatively clear that chloride and sulfate do have substantial effect on beer taste. I like the tactile face that Dr. Taylor put on the variation of chloride and sulfate in brewing water through that ratio. Its just unfortunate that he didn't recognize that its really only applicable for modest concentrations of these ions. AJ aptly presents cases above where the ratio doesn't work. Those waters would make starkly different beers.

I have proposed a simple qualifier to use with the ratio to my brewing water collegues while at the National Homebrewers Conference last month. I feel that the ratio is reasonably applicable when the chloride concentration falls between about 25 and 100 ppm. Using this criteria helps the brewer understand that the ratio is meaningless at very low concentrations and is overblown at very high concentrations. This helps guide brewers away from thinking that they can ADD their way to beer flavor nirvana by just targeting a "proper" SO4/Cl ratio.
 

bvn

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Er, when I am fussing over the balance, I look to my beta & alpha amylase rests - both temperature and duration. I get quite god control over maltyness, dryness, and sweetness. I get most of my fine bitterness control from the dry or wet hop in the secondary.
So this discussion makes suspicious of my methods. For and Imperial Porter, we used a 30 min 131 F saccrification rest (almost down to protease) and get this 75 minutes at 152 F (lower than most infusion methods). We really dried the Porter out. A strong bitter sweet chocolate mouth, followed by a very clean, ordinary style, finish that leaves you wondering about the intensity of the mouth.
Can ph have that much effect on a step mash process?
 

Kaiser

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I'm with A.J., I never really warmed up to the idea of the CL/SO4 ratio. I haven't seen any good research that indicates that it is simply a matter of ration and not just the ion concentration difference or a ratio qualified with the total CL+SO4 amount. That's why this is also missing from my water spreadsheet. But I understand that this concept is out there and there is some basis to it.

If you want bitter, emphasize SO4 and when you want malty emphasize Cl. That's what I do when I build water w/o worrying about the actual ratio.

Kai
 

abbysdad2006

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Yes another water chem post! Try to contain your excitement ;) I'm thinking of adjusting my water for the next batch, after obtaining last year's water report I got the following info:

Ca: 64
Mg : 17
SO4: 172
Na: 87
Cl: 96
HCO3: 144

Now using the caluclator on Brewer's Friend, this is definitely leaning on the bitter side with the sulfate:chloride ratio. If I cut my tap water with 50% distilled and add 1 tsp of CaCO3 and 0.5 tsp of CaCl2 to 8 gallons total I then end up with:

Ca: 71
Mg: 9
SO4: 86
Na 44
Cl: 75
HCO3: 108

The calculator tells me this is a malty/bitter balance, with a pH of 5.86. Does this sound good?
What do these stand for?

Ca
Mg
SO4
Na
Cl
HCO3
 
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