Water calculators giving different results

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wsmith1625

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I'm trying to figure out how much 88% lactic acid to add to my brew water for a Cream of 3 Crops recipe I want to brew on Sunday. I've tried 3 water calculators and have 3 different answers to reach a target mash PH of 5.4. I'm shooting for a light lager water profile so I wasn't adding any additional minerals to the water.

Brewer's Friend says to add 7.01ml
BrunWater says to add 3.8ml
EZ Water Calculator says to add 3ml.

Here is my water profile (ppm) from Ward Labs
Calcium Ca - 18.7
Magnesium Mg - 4
Sodium Na - 8
Chloride Cl - 6
Sulfate SO4 - 9
Bicarbonate HCO3 - 101
Measured PH 7.5

Grain Bill
5.5 lbs. 2 Row 1.8
2.5 lbs. flaked corn .8
1 lb. instant rice 1

All 3 calculators don't really allow for flaked rice or flaked corn in the grain bill, so I was manually adding it and setting the color, .8 for the corn and 1 for the rice. I don't know if that's correct, but I found those numbers on the MoreBeer.com.
 

eric19312

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That is not an unusual spread. Every calculator will give a somewhat different result. For that matter if you are on city water it probably comes from more than one well/source and changes throughout the course of the year so the Ward Labs single data point is only useful as an estimate, and you should be prepared that the actual water you are using may be very different from those results. Personally I'd add 4mL and take a pH reading 15 min into the mash. Not too late to add a bit more if you are much higher than your target at that point.
 

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If you are certain you entered everything correctly on each to mirror the same conditions, then pick one and go with it. On your next batch of the same, try one of the others and see if you think the resulting beer better or worse.
 
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wsmith1625

wsmith1625

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That is not an unusual spread. Every calculator will give a somewhat different result. For that matter if you are on city water it probably comes from more than one well/source and changes throughout the course of the year so the Ward Labs single data point is only useful as an estimate, and you should be prepared that the actual water you are using may be very different from those results. Personally I'd add 4mL and take a pH reading 15 min into the mash. Not too late to add a bit more if you are much higher than your target at that point.
I was thinking the same thing. I just wasn't sure if I was throwing off my numbers with the flakes corn and rice values.
 

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This is interesting. I've also used all 3 of those calculators and for me, the BF and EZ calculators tended to predict pH values that were pretty close to one another, with BrunWater being the outlier, usually coming in a good bit lower [edit to correct previous error]. I've stuck with BF; it generally puts me in the right neighborhood. It's entirely possible there's some user error involved with me and BrunWater; I just never took a liking to it (sorry Martin!). And I also get that differences between the 3 is par for the course. Also, 2 row at 1.8L is almost always my base malt but I've never used flaked corn or instant rice.

All that being said, Eric's suggestion of 4ml sounds good to me!
 
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Silver_Is_Money

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How many gallons of your source water are going into the mash proper? There is no means whereby I might attempt to assist you in determining how much 88% Lactic Acid to add without knowing the volume of your mash water. Also, are you adding any additional mineralization, or going with straight source water within the mash (whereby if you are adding minerals, the addition grams are also needed) ? And lastly, what is your desired mash pH target?

The presumption of assuming a color of 0.8 whereby to correct for corn merely moves the pHDI (flaked corns deionized [DI] water mash pH value) closer to the 'nominal' reality for flaked corn. But the real problem is that the BC (buffering capacity) of flaked corn is far lower than that of a typical base malt, so in applying this kludge whereby to drive up the pH for corn without lowering the BC (a lot) you are actually making things well worse as to the softwares output advice rather than better. If there is no input for flaked corn, or no end user software means whereby to apply a nominally more proper BC, there is no factual hope of attaining reasonable software adjustment advice output (sans by luck), and this output error becomes particularly more apparent (as to it's magnitude) when flaked corn makes up a great percentage of the grist, such as for your recipe.

Did you know that your water mineralization values as stated derive that your waters mEq/L Anions are a whopping ~25% greater than your waters mEq/L Cations? This is not possible for "real" water, as for all real water the anion and cation mEq's must perfectly balance. Does your local water authority use multiple sources, or does it have seasonal swings, and did you attempt to average among the differing analyticals for these? Getting the waters mineralization and alkalinity right is critical as to the softwares ability to derive its best output/adjustment advice. I suspect that many suffer from this highly grievous issue, and being unawares they blame the software. As the proverbial software saying goes, "garbage in, garbage out".
 
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Silver_Is_Money

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You stated your measured pH. So add the least amount your calculators suggest, stir it up and measure it again!
That was the measured pH of the water. Water pH is very close to being totally irrelevant to mash pH. Its impact is well more than dwarfed by the grist's inherent acidity (which in some cases, such as the one being looked at here, appears basic with respect to the targeted mash pH), combined with the waters Alkalinity and mineralization values in mg/L (ppm). With regard to mash pH, software doesn't even look at water pH, but instead it looks at the waters Alkalinity and mineralization.

For example, my well water has (per Ward Labs) a pH value of a highly neutral 7.6, but it has an nigh-on off the charts high Alkalinity of 377 mg//L (ppm).
 
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Silver_Is_Money

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Why is water pH irrelevant:

Looking at this overly simplistically, let's presume that all of the minerals floating around as ions within 5 gallons of your source water weigh in at 3 grams. And let's also presume that only some of these ions (mainly HCO3- ions in most cases) are driving the waters pH to 8. Perhaps 1 gram (or less) of the 3 grams present contribute to the waters pH.

So we have 1 gram against a grist of (let's say) 5 Kg. (which is 5,000 grams). And each of these 5,000 grams is acidic to some degree. The "dwarfing factor" from this highly simplified viewpoint of things is 5000 to 1. So effectively the waters pH has relevance to only the degree of ~1/5000, which is the measure of its irrelevance.
 
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Silver_Is_Money

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It should be added here that no mater how perfectly one inputs all of their recipe, water analytical, water volume, etc... data, no two softwares will output the same adjustment advice. If they do, suspect copying.

For that matter, the exact same recipe and process and water right down to analyticals and volumes will not achieve the same measured mash pH if the grists various of ingredients are drawn from different lots, or perhaps even from the same lots, albeit months apart.

And also proper CaCL2 mineralization (as to ppm Ca++ ion contribution) requires that one knows how much water has attached itself to each CaCL2 molecule over time. Whereby CaCL2 (calcium chloride) continuously affiliates water each time it is exposed to air (with all air having humidity to some degree).
 

Silver_Is_Money

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Ah, I see now where Ward Labs did your water analysis.

What did they report as your Cations / Anions, me/L values?

What is the ppm for Potassium (K)? And ditto the NO3-N value?

Did you multiply their SO4-S value by 3 whereby to derive SO4 proper?
 

tracer bullet

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I don't have a ph meter, so I was hoping that software would get me closer to a desired mash ph of 5.4 than not treating my water at all.
I've found that when you start to pay attention to water, the pH meter is almost required at the same time. There's a distinct chance you can make things worse before they are better.

Mash Made Easy is a 4th option as well. Silver_Is_Money above developed it.

If it were my fist batch with additions, I'd probably go on the lower side of the results. If you don't normally add acid at all, go into the additions slowly so you don't overshoot and make it worse.
 
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Silver_Is_Money

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I was thinking that given the high amount of Flaked Corn plus the waters high Alkalinity, Brewer's Friend is likely going to be the best bet for accuracy here. But to attempt verification I need the info that I requested above.

I would go with Brewer's Friend for any recipe if I did not have my own software offering. But entries must be made correctly across the board for any of such software.
 
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wsmith1625

wsmith1625

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How many gallons of your source water are going into the mash proper? There is no means whereby I might attempt to assist you in determining how much 88% Lactic Acid to add without knowing the volume of your mash water. Also, are you adding any additional mineralization, or going with straight source water within the mash (whereby if you are adding minerals, the addition grams are also needed) ? And lastly, what is your desired mash pH target?
My strike water volume is 7.94 gallons which I'll round up to 8. I typically use gypsum and calcium chloride in my water, but I was trying to imitate a light lager profile which has a low mineral count. I thought my source water had enough mineral already for that profile. My CA+2 and HCO3 seemed high and I considered cutting with 50% distilled water, but decided to leave it alone.

I'm probably way off with some of my conclusions, I have no chemistry background. I do read a little and try to get a better understanding of water chemistry but it makes my head spin a bit.

I want to learn water chemistry and I assume as I work at it more I will, but for now I'm just looking to improve on my tap water so I can get a clean crisp lager profile for my light ale.
 
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wsmith1625

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Ah, I see now where Ward Labs did your water analysis.

What did they report as your Cations / Anions, me/L values?

What is the ppm for Potassium (K)? And ditto the NO3-N value?

Did you multiply their SO4-S value by 3 whereby to derive SO4 proper?
Here is the full report.
 

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Silver_Is_Money

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For the (likely incorrect) presumption that Ca++ and Mg++ drive down Mash pH the way the other of softwares see it, I get 6.94 mL of 88% Lactic Acid addition.

For the (perhaps more likely) presumption that only about half or less of 'Kolbach' (I.E., mineralization impact within the mash proper, whereby Kolbach measured the pH drop due to Calcium and Magnesium only post boil and cooling and not within the mash at all, whereas the software others presume he measured the drop within the mash) expresses itself I get 7.41 mL of 88% Lactic Acid required.

I could further refine this if I knew your mill-gap (crush).
 
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Silver_Is_Money

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The Potassium value of 6 ppm improves the Cation/Anion mEq balance. The error is now on the order of ~14% as opposed to ~25%.
 
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wsmith1625

wsmith1625

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I mill at .25 and do BIAB with no sparge. It has worked well and I've been hitting my volumes and SG pretty consistently. I want to have a look at the Mash Made Easy calculator. I'm confident that if I stick with a single calculator and work on understanding water chemistry better I'll start seeing improvements in my beer.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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I mill at .25 and do BIAB with no sparge. It has worked well and I've been hitting my volumes and SG pretty consistently. I want to have a look at the Mash Made Easy calculator. I'm confident that if I stick with a single calculator and work on understanding water chemistry better I'll start seeing improvements in my beer.
The values I gave you should then likely be close enough. I guessed at 0.032" mill gap, and 0.025" would slightly increase the acid addition amounts.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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What impact do you find that mill-gap has on pH? Why is this?
In short, the degree of crush impacts as to how much of the sum total extant malt acidity embedded within the grains of the aggregate grist are nominally capable of being reached by the mash water and thereby released (or liberated) into the evolving Wort. Kai Troester (Braukaiser) first recognized and quantified this.

It is similar to mash efficiency with regard to sugars liberation leading to OG. The better the crush the more sugars are reached and liberated into the wort.
 
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Silver_Is_Money

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@wsmith1625, I just noticed that merely to reduce the 83 ppm Alkalinity of your water down to 8 ppm, whereby to bring a volume of 7.5 gallons of this water to ~pH 5.40 (before even considering the quite basic nature of the grist) requires 3.7 mL of 88% Lactic Acid. This should be another sign that ~7 mL of Lactic Acid will be the best answer.
 
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wsmith1625

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I collected my water Saturday night and treated it with 7ml 88% lactic acid and 1/2 a campden tablet. Brewed on Sunday and had a great day. Hit my mash temp perfectly, SG was right on, and 5.5 gallons in the fermenter as planned. Pitched US-05 at 67 degrees and fermentation was very active this morning when I checked it at 7:00am. I can't wait to pour my first pint. Thanks.

I'm going to try and get a copy of Water by John Palmer. Any other books on brew water you would suggest?
 

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