Sparge water pH

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I've finally learned enough about mash pH (thanks ajdelange!) to have a grasp of understanding some of it.

My new question is about sparging. I have hard alkaline water, and usually mix with RO to get to a good mash pH. But what about during fly sparging? What is a good range for the sparge pH? I know we want to stop sparging by the time the runnings get to 1.010 or so, but what about the pH of the sparge? What's a "good" number? Should I acidify my sparge water? Or is the sauermaltz still "working"?
 

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I use the Five Star 5.2 in my sparge and mash water. Seems to work out ok. But as far as an actual number Im not sure but I would guess some where in that range.
 
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As usual; I'll quote the great Kaiser...

braukaiser.com said:
But sparging with high alkalinity water can quickly consume the mash's buffer capacity and lead to pH levels that lead to excessive tannin extraction into the wort. This is because the high concentration of carbonates and bicarbonates in the water forms a strong buffer. As the sweet wort is diluted and with it the mash’s ability to buffer its pH at a level closer to the mash pH, the sparge water and its pH are taking over which can raise the pH above 6.0 and cause excessive tannin extraction.

There are a number of ways that this pH raise during sparging can be prevented or at least mitigated such that the pH is not allowed to raise above 5.8:

Limited sparging: If sparging is stopped before the pH of the water, that most of the grain sits in, rises above 6.0 an excessive amount of tannins will not be extracted into the boil kettle. While this limits the efficiency of the lauter, it is the most practical way of controlling tannin extraction from the grain husks. It also complies with the Reinheitsgebot (German beer purity law). An elegant way of limiting the amount of sparging is lowering the amount of water used for sparging and increasing the amount of water used for mashing. Pilsner beers, which are delicate beers that would suffer from excessive tannin extraction, are brewed with a mash thickness of up to 5.5 l/kg (2.5 qt/lb) which limits the amount of water that is available for sparging [Narziss, 2005]
Low alkalinity sparge water: The buffer capacity (alkalinity) of soft water is not strong enough to counteract the buffer of the mash even at high dilution rates. If brewing water is build from distilled or reverse osmosis water the salt additions destined for the sparge water can be made in the kettle while “plain” water is used for sparging. For brewers who care, this method is not approved by the Reinheitsgebot.
Sparge water acidification: The sparge water alkalinity can be reduced though acid additions and its pH can be lowered to a pH of 6 where it will only have a weak buffer capacity and will not be able to significantly counteract the pH that is set by the mash’s strong buffer. It is compliant with the Reinheitsgebot if lactic acid is used that was derived from malt based fermentation with malt derived lactobacillus.
I don't know if that helps any, as a lot of Kai's is over my head! :D

http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php/How_pH_affects_brewing
 
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I use the Five Star 5.2 in my sparge and mash water. Seems to work out ok. But as far as an actual number Im not sure but I would guess some where in that range.
Thanks for the suggestion. I'm of the opinion that the 5.2 stuff is garbage, and I've thrown mine out so that's out of the question for me! I gave away a jar of it during the last "Pay it Forward" round because I know some people use it and like it. It didn't work at all for my mash.
 
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As usual; I'll quote the great Kaiser...



I don't know if that helps any, as a lot of Kai's is over my head! :D

http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php/How_pH_affects_brewing
Oh, that does help! I wonder about simply using lactic acid in my entire sparge volume? That would be quick and easy.

But where to start? Do you start with a certain ML for XXXX pH of the water, and then assume that it's going to be 6 or under in the grain bed? Does that make sense? I guess I'm asking where to start. If you wait until the grain bed is already near 6, then it would be too late to add the lactic acid, or at least it would be hard to know how much to add.

I hope I'm being clear in my question. I guess I'm asking where to start with acidifying the sparge water.

Sometimes my head hurts when I think about it, so I just batch sparge! But I really want to do this.
 

ajdelange

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What is a good range for the sparge pH? I know we want to stop sparging by the time the runnings get to 1.010 or so, but what about the pH of the sparge? What's a "good" number? Should I acidify my sparge water? Or is the sauermaltz still "working"?
Most authors (and authorities) seem to feel that as long as the runoff pH is less than 6 you are OK and that certainly has worked for me.

You should know what my answer to the question as to whether you should acidify you sparge water will be: get a pH meter and see whether you need to. You won't have to do this as a matter of course - you will soon learn how pH behaves relative to runoff gravity (checked accurately enough for this purpose with a refractometer) with your equipment, methods and materials.

I really don't quite understand the preoccupation with sparge water vs mash water. I assume the dead guys sparged with the same water they brewed with and I have always done the same. Certainly, if you are going to brewing soft water beers for which you have cut the source water heavily with low ion water the resulting water will have low alkalinity and the acids in the malts will prevail. OTOH if you brewed with a highly alkaline water and used acid to beat that alkalinity you will probably need more for the sparge. I guess an easy answer is "always sparge with RO".

Another way to look at it is to observe that 1.010 SG is 2.5°P. That means that every extra liter of wort you collect contains only 25 grams of extract. Do you really need that extract? If you stopped earlier at 1.020 it would be about 50 grams per liter. Depending on how fast the gravity drops as runoff progresses you might want to think about stopping collection at a higher gravity but really a pH measurement is the best guide.

As for the 5.2 - it will buffer low ionic content water to pH 5.8 - a bit below 6 and should bring higher ionic content water to near that (it is a buffer after all if a weak one). I think we may have found a second use for 5.2 (the other being checking pH meters).
 
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I've only measured my sparge pH once....

It was 5.29 mid-sparge.

I've used 5.2 as it seems to work for me (though I haven't measured my pH without it - I'll do that once I run out of 5.2).
 

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I've used 5.2 as it seems to work for me (though I haven't measured my pH without it ).
That's why it seems to work.

I assume you mean that it seems to work in the mash. The suggestion that it be used to buffer sparge water was not entirely serious. There are better ways to manage sparge pH and the 5.2 adds more sodium.
 
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That's why it seems to work.

I assume you mean that it seems to work in the mash. The suggestion that it be used to buffer sparge water was not entirely serious. There are better ways to manage sparge pH and the 5.2 adds more sodium.
Yes, exactly. I use it in the mash only...
 
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Most authors (and authorities) seem to feel that as long as the runoff pH is less than 6 you are OK and that certainly has worked for me.

You should know what my answer to the question as to whether you should acidify you sparge water will be: get a pH meter and see whether you need to. You won't have to do this as a matter of course - you will soon learn how pH behaves relative to runoff gravity (checked accurately enough for this purpose with a refractometer) with your equipment, methods and materials.

I really don't quite understand the preoccupation with sparge water vs mash water. I assume the dead guys sparged with the same water they brewed with and I have always done the same. Certainly, if you are going to brewing soft water beers for which you have cut the source water heavily with low ion water the resulting water will have low alkalinity and the acids in the malts will prevail. OTOH if you brewed with a highly alkaline water and used acid to beat that alkalinity you will probably need more for the sparge. I guess an easy answer is "always sparge with RO".

Another way to look at it is to observe that 1.010 SG is 2.5°P. That means that every extra liter of wort you collect contains only 25 grams of extract. Do you really need that extract? If you stopped earlier at 1.020 it would be about 50 grams per liter. Depending on how fast the gravity drops as runoff progresses you might want to think about stopping collection at a higher gravity but really a pH measurement is the best guide.

As for the 5.2 - it will buffer low ionic content water to pH 5.8 - a bit below 6 and should bring higher ionic content water to near that (it is a buffer after all if a weak one). I think we may have found a second use for 5.2 (the other being checking pH meters).
Thanks for the explanation! I know sparging with RO water would solve my problems, but as I don't have an RO system, I'd have to haul more water than I do now and I guess it's just laziness. I also want to have residual water in my HLT so I don't sparge my grainbed dry, and I hate buying RO water and leaving it in the HLT.

That's what I was thinking about the 5.2 buffer myself! Darn- maybe it would have worked for sparging!

Another question- how much lactic acid is ok to use before it's perceptible?
 

ajdelange

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Another question- how much lactic acid is ok to use before it's perceptible?
You shouldn't be able to taste it until the pH gets down pretty low. Berliner Weiße, Gueze etc. have pH < 4 (IIRC) so bringing the sparge water to pH 6 shouldn't be a problem. Note that I'm suggesting that lactate itself is fairly flavor neutral so that it doesn't begin to have noticeable effect until you get the acid sourness. I have never tasted neutral sodium lactate so this may be incorrect but I certainly don't notice a lactic acid taste (it's actually something I like) when I use sauermalz for mash pH control.

You don't have to bring the whole volume of sparge water to that pH - only the part that goes in at the end. Now if you sparge the rest with high alkalinity water you'll be dumping alkalinity into your wort and that's going to have an effect on kettle pH both pre and post boil so you might want to argue that you are adding the extra lactic for the benefit of the boil.

I would, naturally, recommend an experiment. Take a volume of the water you intend to sparge with and add lactic acid to it a little at a time until the pH is 6 or less. For this purpose, pH test strips should be accurate enough. Now taste. If you can taste the lactate then you need to look for another way to lower the pH of the sparge water - e.g. a different acid (phosphoric) or the use of dilution to lower the alkality of the sparge water.
 
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I would, naturally, recommend an experiment. Take a volume of the water you intend to sparge with and add lactic acid to it a little at a time until the pH is 6 or less. For this purpose, pH test strips should be accurate enough. Now taste. If you can taste the lactate then you need to look for another way to lower the pH of the sparge water - e.g. a different acid (phosphoric) or the use of dilution to lower the alkality of the sparge water.
That sounds great! I think I will do just that- thanks for the suggestion!
 

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Hey yooper, this is chumly here. The next time your in MQT. stop in, I have all the food-grade phosphoric 75% you need, if you want to give that a try. I knock down my sparge water to 5.7 on most my paler light beers. I'm not sure if A.J would agree, but I was always taught that phosphoric was more stable than lactic at high temps, and was more natural to beer.But I may have been wrong all this time. O.K were waiting for our lesson now A.J. Ha-Ha!! Cheers!!!
 
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Hey yooper, this is chumly here. The next time your in MQT. stop in, I have all the food-grade phosphoric 75% you need, if you want to give that a try. I knock down my sparge water to 5.7 on most my paler light beers. I'm not sure if A.J would agree, but I was always taught that phosphoric was more stable than lactic at high temps, and was more natural to beer.But I may have been wrong all this time. O.K were waiting for our lesson now A.J. Ha-Ha!! Cheers!!!
Hey! Long time no see! I will do that- I haven't been up there in a while (thank goodness my grandson no longer needs medical care!) but I will come up in the next couple of weeks. I'd be very happy to discuss this with you over a couple of beers! I'll bring an empty growler and bring some beer home to Bob. You have anything hoppy for sale right now?

I just finished my assigned experiment. With five gallons of my tap water at 60 degrees, it took exactly 4 ml of 88% lactic acid to get my pH to 6ish (used those cheap papers, so it was darker than 5.8 but lighter than 6.2). I tasted, and at first I thought I might have detected a flavor, but I tried some more and either became accustomed to it, or I didn't really taste it.

Often, I do use a mix of RO and tap water but I think I'll go with more tap water in the sparge, just to save my old bones from hauling more carboys of RO water home.
 

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If the water in question is hard enough you should be able to decarbonate it by boiling. A simple test is to heat some in a glass container and see if it turns cloudy - if it does you can drop alkalinity simply by heating to the boil, holding for a minute or 2 then letting it cool. Rack the clear water off the precipitated chalk. It should be of low enough alkalinity (50 -80 ppm as CaCO3) that you wouldn't need acid or less certainly.

Phosphoric acid is fine and flavor neutral and it's pretty hard to heat it enough to decompose. Lactic is doubtless more effected by heat but it has a listed boiling point of about 120 °C which means it doesn't decompose at that temp. and it should be noted that the Germans have been brewing with it for centuries.
 

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Hey! Long time no see! I will do that- I haven't been up there in a while (thank goodness my grandson no longer needs medical care!) but I will come up in the next couple of weeks. I'd be very happy to discuss this with you over a couple of beers! I'll bring an empty growler and bring some beer home to Bob. You have anything hoppy for sale right now?

I just finished my assigned experiment. With five gallons of my tap water at 60 degrees, it took exactly 4 ml of 88% lactic acid to get my pH to 6ish (used those cheap papers, so it was darker than 5.8 but lighter than 6.2). I tasted, and at first I thought I might have detected a flavor, but I tried some more and either became accustomed to it, or I didn't really taste it.

Often, I do use a mix of RO and tap water but I think I'll go with more tap water in the sparge, just to save my old bones from hauling more carboys of RO water home.
Hey Yoop!! Good to see grandson is doing Great!! Stop in and have a few, and bring a sample of your treated water. We can check it with my PH meter.
It's just a Hanna Phep 5, which I think is one of the better avg. priced pocket meters on the market right now. I should have the I.I.P.A on tap soon,
which I used some Citra instead of Simcoe this time, a little tangerine instead of pine & cat-piss maybe?? I also normally dry hop for the 3rd time in the brite tank with hop-sock on this beer,but this time I'm gonna try some cascade hop oil for the 1st time that I just got. Wish me luck!! You should check out the new nano-brewery that my homebrewing buddies started here
in MQT. Hope to see you soon. Cheers!!!
Chumly

P.S: Do you need any Acid No.5 or Acid 6 ???

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Hey Yoop!! Good to see grandson is doing Great!! Stop in and have a few, and bring a sample of your treated water. We can check it with my PH meter.
It's just a Hanna Phep 5, which I think is one of the better avg. priced pocket meters on the market right now. I should have the I.I.P.A on tap soon,
which I used some Citra instead of Simcoe this time, a little tangerine instead of pine & cat-piss maybe?? I also normally dry hop for the 3rd time in the brite tank with hop-sock on this beer,but this time I'm gonna try some cascade hop oil for the 1st time that I just got. Wish me luck!! You should check out the new nano-brewery that my homebrewing buddies started here
in MQT. Hope to see you soon. Cheers!!!
Chumly

P.S: Do you need any Acid No.5 or Acid 6 ???

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Since I don't even know what acid no 5 is, or acid 6, I'm guessing that I don't "need" it!

When you get a chance, PM me your cell phone number so I can give you a call when I'm up there- or are you always around the brewery anyway?
 
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If the water in question is hard enough you should be able to decarbonate it by boiling. A simple test is to heat some in a glass container and see if it turns cloudy - if it does you can drop alkalinity simply by heating to the boil, holding for a minute or 2 then letting it cool. Rack the clear water off the precipitated chalk. It should be of low enough alkalinity (50 -80 ppm as CaCO3) that you wouldn't need acid or less certainly.

Phosphoric acid is fine and flavor neutral and it's pretty hard to heat it enough to decompose. Lactic is doubtless more effected by heat but it has a listed boiling point of about 120 °C which means it doesn't decompose at that temp. and it should be noted that the Germans have been brewing with it for centuries.
I was wondering about that- boiling my sparge water first to precipitate out the bicarb.

Another reason I want to use more sparge water in my HLT is to cover my HERMS coil when I only do a 5 gallon batch. With only 4 gallons left in the HLT, the amount for sparging many of my 5 gallon beers, the majority of the HERMS coil is exposed. I want to use more water in the HLT- and any remaining water can be used for cleaning- than I actually need for brewing. I don't mind using a few MLs of lactic acid, but to buy RO water and then not use it for brewing is tough to take.

Chumly, I'll bring up some water and we can play with it a bit. Thanks!!!!!!
 

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If the water in question is hard enough you should be able to decarbonate it by boiling. A simple test is to heat some in a glass container and see if it turns cloudy - if it does you can drop alkalinity simply by heating to the boil, holding for a minute or 2 then letting it cool. Rack the clear water off the precipitated chalk. It should be of low enough alkalinity (50 -80 ppm as CaCO3) that you wouldn't need acid or less certainly.

Phosphoric acid is fine and flavor neutral and it's pretty hard to heat it enough to decompose. Lactic is doubtless more effected by heat but it has a listed boiling point of about 120 °C which means it doesn't decompose at that temp. and it should be noted that the Germans have been brewing with it for centuries.

Thanks A.J for the quick and informative response, it makes alot of sense. I think it's more of a flavor choice or lack-of, I should say that I think it comes down too! Lactic would be the more appropriate choice for a Berliner Weisse, but maybe phosphoric for Blond ale? Your knowledge and posts to this forum are a asset to the brewing community, and always look forward to reading and learning from your posts. This is what makes this "Art & Science of Brewing" so great? Is that you never stop learning, no matter how long we have been doing this. I love this job!!! Oh I forgot. Do you think the 5 gallon pail of lactic 88% from 5-Star that's over 10 years old is still good?
Cheers!!! Chumly
 
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Thanks A.J for the quick and informative response, it makes alot of sense. I think it's more of a flavor choice or lack-of, I should say that I think it comes down too! Lactic would be the more appropriate choice for a Berliner Weisse, but maybe phosphoric for Blond ale? Your knowledge and posts to this forum are a asset to the brewing community, and always look forward to reading and learning from your posts. This is what makes this "Art & Science of Brewing" so great? Is that you never stop learning, no matter how long we have been doing this. I love this job!!! Oh I forgot. Do you think the 5 gallon pail of lactic 88% from 5-Star that's over 10 years old is still good?
Cheers!!! Chumly
You have a 5 gallon pail of lactic acid that's over 10 years old? Just sitting around the brewery? Did you just step over it every day or what? :D I've been in your brewery- it's not that big!

I'm still trying to get a grasp on all the improvements I can make in my brews. I think that most of the beers I make are "good" but not great. Of course, I think that 75% of the commercial beers I've tried are also "good", so I'm pretty happy with that. I think my beers are better than at least many of the commercial offerings. But I just want them to be the best I can make them.
 

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Ten years? I have a small bottle that's probably that old and it has, over the years, turned a little yellowish. I'd assume some sort of oxidation (back, presumably, to the pyruvic acid from which it came) but according to one MSDS the yellow color is normal. What does this stuff look like? Is it dark?

You would probably be OK with it but I just wouldn't be comfortable with stuff that old.
 

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I'm happy using phosphoric acid to get my pH into the proper range. I decarbonate my water with lime and after settling and transferring off the sediment I adjust the pH with phosphoric acid. I got a 10% boost in efficiency once I got more careful about the pH.
 

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I was just checking out Kai's pH stuff from a link at basic brewing. He has some great things to say about acid additions, and even a little bit on sparge additions to combat alkaline water. I myself have thought about using phosphoric acid. I'm currently using hydrochloric acid for my mash, but really want to understand pH more and Kai's information is fantastic. Of course I don't understand much of it, but as far as pH of sparge water, it goes basically you can add a bit of certain acids just fine and phosphoric acid is one of the most used due it's characteristics.

Chumly! How it's going, eh? I will be planning on stopping by up there this summer. I think my daughter is working on her MTU summer camp schedule and I want to make a week-long stay up there. I enjoyed my brief (well, not brief for my wife who was waiting as you and I chatted in the basement,... er brewery...) Very cool place.

EDIT: Link to Kai's stuff at Basic Brewing
 

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Yooper, I found Kai's spreadsheet to help a lot when looking at sparge water, as well as adding acid (acid malt)/ I live in the Texas Hill Country, and I too am combating hard, alkaline water. I'm still messing with the RO/tap water ratio, because I'm using GALLONS of RO, too. In a recent test batch, (before using Kai's updated spreadsheet,) I used lactic acid to combat alkalinity. I did detect a sour taste to it, and lo and behold when I downloaded Kai's spreadsheet, and put the numbers in, it did send up a flag stating that the acid addition was above the detectable threshhold. In short, I believe there is a detectable amount, but Kai's spreadsheet will help point out if you reach that limit
 

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Most authors (and authorities) seem to feel that as long as the runoff pH is less than 6 you are OK and that certainly has worked for me.

You should know what my answer to the question as to whether you should acidify you sparge water will be: get a pH meter and see whether you need to. You won't have to do this as a matter of course - you will soon learn how pH behaves relative to runoff gravity (checked accurately enough for this purpose with a refractometer) with your equipment, methods and materials.

I really don't quite understand the preoccupation with sparge water vs mash water. I assume the dead guys sparged with the same water they brewed with and I have always done the same. Certainly, if you are going to brewing soft water beers for which you have cut the source water heavily with low ion water the resulting water will have low alkalinity and the acids in the malts will prevail. OTOH if you brewed with a highly alkaline water and used acid to beat that alkalinity you will probably need more for the sparge. I guess an easy answer is "always sparge with RO".

Another way to look at it is to observe that 1.010 SG is 2.5°P. That means that every extra liter of wort you collect contains only 25 grams of extract. Do you really need that extract? If you stopped earlier at 1.020 it would be about 50 grams per liter. Depending on how fast the gravity drops as runoff progresses you might want to think about stopping collection at a higher gravity but really a pH measurement is the best guide.

As for the 5.2 - it will buffer low ionic content water to pH 5.8 - a bit below 6 and should bring higher ionic content water to near that (it is a buffer after all if a weak one). I think we may have found a second use for 5.2 (the other being checking pH meters).
Old. Never done this, but then, I've never had to do a 3:1 RO dilution and doctor up from there. Typically, I added in phosphoric to drop sparge water down to 5.7. And sparged at 170F. Pretty simple.

Do I understand you correctly, AJ, if salts have been used to treat the water - and I do treat the "brewhouse water," not the MLT and HLT as a separate concern - one should probably be fine, that even the weak mash wort at this point is acidic enough and has enough buffering capacity to avoid any tannin leaching issues? (I should add, I do intend on treating with HCL to some extent, just to try it out. So it's not only salts).
 

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If you sparge with warm water instead of hot, does the sparge water pH matter at all?

I usually sparge with RO water -- or I do a full volume mash with no sparge. This time I'm using tapwater for both mash and sparge, and I acidified the sparge water (missed my pH target, but it's still below 6)
 

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Bob, I sparge with water at that temp for two reasons, mainly - one, the higher heat lowers wort viscosity and I leave less in the mash; and two, I want to make sure the sugar composition I set during conversion is maintained as I wanted it, and not altered by any residual enzymes that made it out of mashout.
 

Gadjobrinus

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I need to get lost in Kai's site. I have to admit, I'm a bit confused by:

Brqaukaiser said:
Low alkalinity sparge water: The buffer capacity (alkalinity) of soft water is not strong enough to counteract the buffer of the mash even at high dilution rates. If brewing water is build from distilled or reverse osmosis water the salt additions destined for the sparge water can be made in the kettle while &#8220;plain&#8221; water is used for sparging. For brewers who care, this method is not approved by the Reinheitsgebot.
Not sure what he means. Originally I thought he meant to make up the treated water in the kettle then transfer to the HLT for sparging, but then he indicates using "plain" water for sparging. I'm probably leaping over a very obvious point. Can someone chime in?
 

Brewsader1

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By "plain", I assume he means if you are adding salts to adjust ions, don't add the salts to the sparge water, but wait to add them in the boil. Since you are building up from distilled or RO (aka "plain") water, there will not be a significant buffer capacity and will therefore not raise the pH. So adding salts to your sparge won't benefit, you just may end up leaving some behind in the mash. Does that make sense?
 

Gadjobrinus

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Makes perfect sense, Brewsader, and thanks for clearing it up. This whole approach is a new thing for me, and something I'll have to work out if I'm to do it. Kettle additions, for instance - when you treat mash water, those salts are reacting with mash-based compounds, and in addition they're being retained behind. What sorts of calculations do you use, if you're adding in minerals to the kettle?

And this is going to sound ridiculous, but using RO water only in the sparge just...bugs me, lol. Doesn't feel right and I've no earthly reason why, yet. Go figure. The only thing I can come up with aligns with some of what AJ said above - one water, just used throughout the brewhouse. Unlike AJ's, however, grounded in science, mine is more of the myth of virginal brewing water, I'm afraid. Stuff comes out of the ground perfect for bitters, etc.
 

z-bob

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And this is going to sound ridiculous, but using RO water only in the sparge just...bugs me, lol. Doesn't feel right and I've no earthly reason why, yet. Go figure. The only thing I can come up with aligns with some of what AJ said above - one water, just used throughout the brewhouse. Unlike AJ's, however, grounded in science, mine is more of the myth of virginal brewing water, I'm afraid. Stuff comes out of the ground perfect for bitters, etc.
I'm determined to brew a tasty light-colored beer using my local tapwater, without running to Walmart to schlep home even a gallon of RO water. The water here tastes good, so I know it's possible to brew good beer with it. Might be stupid, but it's a personal challenge :)

I got a lot closer when I started adding acid malt to my mash, and using RO water just for the sparge. If it wasn't for just my pigheadedness, that would be a perfectly acceptable endpoint, and I could go on to working on temperature control.
 

Gadjobrinus

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I'm excited to hear how it develops, z-bob. I'm not kidding when I say once our son is in college (1 1/2 years), my nose is sniffing for good water...job is to entice my wife with the things that float her boat, too!

Looking forward to your developing story!
 

Brewsader1

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Makes perfect sense, Brewsader, and thanks for clearing it up. This whole approach is a new thing for me, and something I'll have to work out if I'm to do it. Kettle additions, for instance - when you treat mash water, those salts are reacting with mash-based compounds, and in addition they're being retained behind. What sorts of calculations do you use, if you're adding in minerals to the kettle?

And this is going to sound ridiculous, but using RO water only in the sparge just...bugs me, lol. Doesn't feel right and I've no earthly reason why, yet. Go figure. The only thing I can come up with aligns with some of what AJ said above - one water, just used throughout the brewhouse. Unlike AJ's, however, grounded in science, mine is more of the myth of virginal brewing water, I'm afraid. Stuff comes out of the ground perfect for bitters, etc.
If it makes sense to add your salts to the sparge water, then go for it as long as if you are fly sparging your pH doesn't get above 6. Like you said, brewers have been using the same water throughout for centuries...though even the Germans found a way to adjust the pH that is reinheitsgrebot approved (acidulated malt). The reason I add salts to the boil is because I don't see any benefit to adding them to the sparge water.

As for calculations, I use the Bru'n Water spreadsheet. It can seem complex, but if you read through the instructions tab and just add in all the accurate information (your tap water profile, malt bill, appropriate volumes, etc.), it'll get you where you want.

It's easy to get fixated on water profiles and such, especially folks who want to perfectly recreate an areas profile. But remember, they may have treated their water to get it where they wanted it. So focus on hitting a good mash pH, get enough calcium in there, and get the chloride:sulfate that you want. Once those things are figured, keep reading, exploring, and tweaking if you want!
 

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