Soft Water and Dark Beers

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bikegeek

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I do all grain brewing and if I'm understanding Palmer correctly, my water isn't alkaline enough to buffer the acidity of dark malts. I really want to do some porters and stouts, but don't want to waste my time and $ if they're not going to work.

Here's what I have to work with (ppm):
Ca: 46.3, Mg: 23.1, Na: 21.5, Cl: 14.1, SO4: 19, and Alkalinity as CaCO3: 50

I only recently noticed that my Ca and SO4 levels are lower than Palmer's suggested "brewing range" so I'll be taking steps to correct those in future brews. My dilemma is in trying to increase the alkalinity with chalk and baking soda additions, I put the Ca and Na numbers well above where they should be for brewing.

Any water gurus out there? Am I misunderstanding this stuff? Is there a way for me to do dark beers?
 

BrianP

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If you want to replicate a certain water for a specific type, some software tools are out there that will help you tailor your water using epson salts, chalk, etc. Palmer's 'How to Brew' goes into it in good detail in chapter 16.

BeerTools (what I use) has a calculator where you can through trial and error get pretty close to your 'target' water. If you google, you can probably find a similar tool on-line.
 

BigEd

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bikegeek said:
I do all grain brewing and if I'm understanding Palmer correctly, my water isn't alkaline enough to buffer the acidity of dark malts. I really want to do some porters and stouts, but don't want to waste my time and $ if they're not going to work.

Here's what I have to work with (ppm):
Ca: 46.3, Mg: 23.1, Na: 21.5, Cl: 14.1, SO4: 19, and Alkalinity as CaCO3: 50

I only recently noticed that my Ca and SO4 levels are lower than Palmer's suggested "brewing range" so I'll be taking steps to correct those in future brews. My dilemma is in trying to increase the alkalinity with chalk and baking soda additions, I put the Ca and Na numbers well above where they should be for brewing.

Any water gurus out there? Am I misunderstanding this stuff? Is there a way for me to do dark beers?
Just use enough calcium carbonate to get your alkalinity number where it needs to be. A little extra calcium isn't going to bother anything. Sodium, however, is another matter. Personally I wouldn't use sodium bicarbonate. Sodium is not necessary and it's too easy to wind up with excess sodium which can start to cause problems. :mug:
 
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bikegeek

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I'm using Palmer's "residual alkalinity adjustment" spreadsheet and I think it may be the source of my confusion on all of this. According to the spreadsheet, my water, undoctored, has a residual of 3.3 ppm. If I plug in a target SRM of 36 for a stout it tells me I need a residual in the range of 317-376 ppm which seems really high. Adding enough CaCO3 to get me in that range puts my calcium at 456 ppm.

Do you think emulating a UK water, London, for instance, and then using a product like 5.2 stabilizer would work for an oatmeal stout?
 

BigEd

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bikegeek said:
I'm using Palmer's "residual alkalinity adjustment" spreadsheet and I think it may be the source of my confusion on all of this. According to the spreadsheet, my water, undoctored, has a residual of 3.3 ppm. If I plug in a target SRM of 36 for a stout it tells me I need a residual in the range of 317-376 ppm which seems really high. Adding enough CaCO3 to get me in that range puts my calcium at 456 ppm.

Do you think emulating a UK water, London, for instance, and then using a product like 5.2 stabilizer would work for an oatmeal stout?
FWIW you are never going to get an exact match to another brewing water. You also don't need a residual alkalinity of 375 to mash a stout unless you have 50% black patent malt in the grist. :rolleyes: If you want a quick & dirty solution just add 1.5 tsp of calcium carbonate to a five gallon recipe and mash away.
 
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bikegeek

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BigEd said:
FWIW you are never going to get an exact match to another brewing water. You also don't need a residual alkalinity of 375 to mash a stout unless you have 50% black patent malt in the grist. :rolleyes: If you want a quick & dirty solution just add 1.5 tsp of calcium carbonate to a five gallon recipe and mash away.
I didn't think so either, hence the confusion. Thanks for the advice.
 
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