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Water profile adjustment advice needed for Oktoberfest (please)

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ILMSTMF

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Preface - The water profile concepts are over my head. Your patience is appreciated!

I have had some success using a calculator to adjust my strike water. Generally, a conservative (I think?) use of gypsum and epsom salt goes into my recipes. About 1 teaspoon of one or the other, sometimes less.

I found my municipality's water report and I plug those values into the source minerals' fields of the calculator. Here is what it suggests I add to the water for a "dark beer".

Screen Shot 2020-10-19 at 4.11.07 PM.png


My biggest fear is that, because I don't have a good understanding of the fundamentals, I might ruin the mash / beer with these additions. It's easy for me to think "Oh, a half teaspoon of this, a teaspoon of that... what could go wrong?" That is possibly flawed logic. Case in point, why do I only add half of one Campden tablet to treat ~7 gallons of water? Small (physical) addition, potential major result.

That said, how does this addition schedule look? Thanks in advance.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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Knock out the additions of the 6 g. Baking Soda and the 2 g. Epsom Salt completely. You don't want all that alkalinity, and magnesium tastes awful. Plus you don't likely want all of that sodium.
 
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ILMSTMF

ILMSTMF

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Knock out the additions of the 6 g. Baking Soda and the 2 g. Epsom Salt completely.
This would have been the first time I considered adding baking soda. I was tinkering with the calculator to get the levels in line with the intended profile target and that BS brought me there. Thanks for the tip.

You don't want all that alkalinity, and magnesium tastes awful. Plus you don't likely want all of that sodium.
I appreciate that you put this in layman's terms!
Unless anyone else weighs in with a reasonable argument, 1 gram of gypsum and 3 grams of calcium chloride it shall be.
 

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Knock out the additions of the 6 g. Baking Soda and the 2 g. Epsom Salt completely. You don't want all that alkalinity, and magnesium tastes awful. Plus you don't likely want all of that sodium.
Exactly- do not add anything like baking soda to increase the mash pH unless you know you need it (and why). You don't usually want sulfate added with noble hops. Those "targets" are not exactly a target, if that makes sense.
Munich water should be soft, and making an oktoberfest means very little needed in the way of any additions.
Gypsum probably won't hurt in tiny amounts, but it's not a good idea to add sulfate to malty beers.
 

Holden Caulfield

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You actually have very good water for brewing.

Knock out the additions of the 6 g. Baking Soda and the 2 g. Epsom Salt completely. You don't want all that alkalinity, and magnesium tastes awful. Plus you don't likely want all of that sodium.
First, do exactly as Silver is Money said.

Just a couple other thoughts:
  1. Never add baking soda to try and hit a city water profile - most of the breweries treat their water. Adding baking soda just raises ph and adds sodium. Adding baking soda is really only needed when brewing with very large percentages of highly acidic malts (roasted, crystal)
  2. You may want to add a little Calcium Chloride to bring your Ca into the 50 ppm range
 
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ILMSTMF

ILMSTMF

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You actually have very good water for brewing.
Imagine that? :ghostly:

Never add baking soda to try and hit a city water profile
This bit is being echo'd. Really glad I started this thread.

You may want to add a little Calcium Chloride to bring your Ca into the 50 ppm range
I've got 3 grams of that which would bring profile to 58ppm (or so says the calculator). That good or reduce (or add)?

Thanks all!
 

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I've got 3 grams of that which would bring profile to 58ppm (or so says the calculator). That good or reduce (or add)?

Thanks all!
Just watch the chloride level when you add CaCl- because you want the chloride to be modest. Making a lager requires very little calcium in the water, but 40-50 ppm does help with yeast flocculation and helps reduce beerstone formation.
 

Holden Caulfield

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I've got 3 grams of that which would bring profile to 58ppm (or so says the calculator). That good or reduce (or add)?
Below is some information from Bru'n water on Calcium.

Keeping it simple - as you are making a dark lager, 58 ppm is just fine. Also, removing a little to reduce the ppm to 40-50 is just fine too.

If it were me, the only minerals I would add are a little gypsum and cacl so that the calcium level was about 40-50, and the ppm of Cl and SO4 is about the same (maybe just a bit more Cl than SO4)


Calcium is typically the principal ion creating hardness in water. It is beneficial for mashing and enzyme action and is essential for yeast cell composition. Typical wort produced with wheat or barley contains more than enough calcium for yeast health. In the mash, calcium reacts with the malt phosphates (phytins) to lower the mash pH by precipitating calcium phosphate and liberating protons (H+). Calcium improves the flocculation of trub and yeast and limits the extraction of grain husk astringency. It also reduces haze and gushing potential, improves wort runoff from the lauter tun, and improves hop flavors. The ideal range for calcium ion concentration in ales may be 50 to 100 ppm although exceeding this range may cause phosphorus (an essential yeast nutrient) to precipitate excessively out of solution.

Oxalates are natural component of brewing grains. Since oxalates are precipitated through complexing with ionic calcium, insufficient calcium in brewing water may leave excess oxalate in the wort which can contribute to beerstone (calcium oxalate) formation. A minimum concentration of 40 ppm calcium is recommended to reduce beerstone formation potential. Calcium concentration of less than 40 ppm can be tolerated in brewing water for beers that benefit from less mineralization (ie. pilsners and light lagers) with the understanding that additional measures may be needed to ensure adequate beer clarification, and beerstone removal.

Brewing with very low calcium content water does not impair fermentation since barley and wheat provide sufficient calcium for yeast health. The primary difficulties with brewing with very low calcium water is that yeast flocculation may be impaired and beerstone formation may affect equipment. Both of these problems can be alleviated through practices such as lagering, filtering, and active maintenance for beerstone removal. The calcium content of brewing water should generally conform to the calcium content that the original yeast evolved to. Therefore, an English ale yeast might expect high calcium content water while a Czech lager yeast might expect very low calcium content. (Brungard, 2015)

Another consideration is that the calcium content for brewing water may be tailored to increase or decrease yeast flocculation. For example, if a yeast is known to drop out prematurely, then reducing calcium content could be employed to reduce that tendency. For most lager brewing, low calcium content water is more likely to produce better results. Brewing water with low or no calcium content can be OK for Lagers.

Increasing the calcium content of mash water is a useful tool for reducing the pH of the mash water. Calcium content has little effect on beer flavor but it is paired with anions that may increase the minerally flavor of the water when present at elevated concentrations. A problem with high calcium content brewing water is that the calcium displaces magnesium from yeast and that can have a negative effect on yeast performance. Avoid excessive calcium content when yeast performance is below expectations. (Note: adding calcium to sparging water does not reduce the water’s pH or alkalinity since there are few malt phytins present to complete that reaction. An acid must be used to reduce the alkalinity and pH of sparging water.)
 

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One way to approach this is to adjust the water only for calcium and pH, and not aim for a "profile" as it were.

Start by adding enough CaCl so that Ca is ~50 ppm. Then take a look at the predicted mash pH, which you'll want to have roughly in the 5.4 range. If the predicted pH is lower than 5.4, add a little bit of baking soda to raise it. This amount will likely be insignificant to flavor and is a means to an end. In any case, a little sodium is good for mouthfeel with brown beers, including a copper colored O-fest.

If for some reason the predicted pH is higher than 5.45, you can either add another pinch of CaCl, a bit of gypsum, or avoid minerals altogether and use either lactic acid or acidulated malt to lower pH.

Oh, and one more really important thing: Buy a small scale capable of measuring 0.1 gram. Teaspoons are an absolutely useless means of measuring. 1.36 teaspoons? Who can accurately measure that - nobody. The margin of error with these lightweight salts is extremely small. Get a scale.
 
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ILMSTMF

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Well, not to be picky but an Oktoberfest is definitely NOT a dark beer. So there is that.
You know, I'm really glad you brought that up. Had it in my head that this was going to sit higher in the SRM range*** but just checked... Recipe states SRM 11.

It's MB's kit. For reference, here's the grain bill:

9 lbs Pilsner
2 lbs Munich
8 oz CaraMunich
8 oz Caravienne
8 oz Abbey

***because I did an OF a couple years ago, different kit, different grain bill (duh) that yielded a rather dark amber beer.

Asking the calculator to use the "light colored and malty" target designates this as a "pale beer with 0-50ppm alkalinity". I think we have now set this up to be more accurate. Still putting in 1 gram of gypsum and 3 grams of calcium chloride. How are we doing here?
 

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You know, I'm really glad you brought that up. Had it in my head that this was going to sit higher in the SRM range*** but just checked... Recipe states SRM 11.

It's MB's kit. For reference, here's the grain bill:

9 lbs Pilsner
2 lbs Munich
8 oz CaraMunich
8 oz Caravienne
8 oz Abbey

***because I did an OF a couple years ago, different kit, different grain bill (duh) that yielded a rather dark amber beer.

Asking the calculator to use the "light colored and malty" target designates this as a "pale beer with 0-50ppm alkalinity". I think we have now set this up to be more accurate. Still putting in 1 gram of gypsum and 3 grams of calcium chloride. How are we doing here?
If you are adding the gypsum in that small amount, so that the sulfate is still really low, that's fine. I'd try to do 40 ppm or so of calcium, less than 80 for chloride, low sulfate, and get a mash pH of 5.3-5.4.
 
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ILMSTMF

ILMSTMF

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If you are adding the gypsum in that small amount, so that the sulfate is still really low, that's fine. I'd try to do 40 ppm or so of calcium, less than 80 for chloride, low sulfate, and get a mash pH of 5.3-5.4.
OK, to get there, I'll be adding 1 gram gypsum and 2 grams calcium chloride. Calculator gets me into the range you're suggesting. Sound good?

Oh, and one more really important thing: Buy a small scale capable of measuring 0.1 gram. Teaspoons are an absolutely useless means of measuring. 1.36 teaspoons? Who can accurately measure that - nobody.
Haha indeed. I have a scale that measures down to grams but not decimal. Should work well enough though.

One way to approach this is to adjust the water only for calcium and pH, and not aim for a "profile" as it were.
The problem I have with pH is that my meter is cheap garbage. I've got test strips too but, no kidding, I find them difficult to interpret. The meter is so damn inconsistent - recently, the final wort measured 4.9 and the pre-boil mash measured 5.7 The samples were collected for gravity and pH reading late in the day. IOW, they were cooled to room temp before taking those readings. So? So, the brew I did before that gave a 4.4 reading on both the mash and final wort.

I apologize but I won't be investing in a more accurate, lab-grade pH meter. Unless something like that can be had for < $40 ? I understood that those were in the $130+ range. Then the cleaning solution...
 

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OK, to get there, I'll be adding 1 gram gypsum and 2 grams calcium chloride. Calculator gets me into the range you're suggesting. Sound good?
No, there would be a gross error margin of 50% or larger, for the 1 gram amount.
But you can use a 1/4, 1/2, or 1 teaspoon measure.

I can give you the exact weight/volume conversion for each of those. That is, as long as our teaspoon measures are the same or close.
 

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I don't have a pH meter, either. I'm relying entirely on software to estimate pH. I simply use it as an input into the water prep formula. I decided, based on watching what people go through with their pH measuring protocols, that I simply don't want to worry about that.

Besides, if you're adjusting on the fly after measuring pH in real time, it's a mad dash and subject to error and confusion. Not to mention change in the pH as the mash homogenizes, etc. - like I said, I do NOT want to deal with that.

There are several software tools that estimate pH, including Mash Made Easy, Bru'n Water, and Brewfather.
 
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ILMSTMF

ILMSTMF

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No, there would be a gross error margin of 50% or larger, for the 1 gram amount.
But you can use a 1/4, 1/2, or 1 teaspoon measure.
What's mice about this calculator (Brewer's Friend) is that it lays out grams and equivalent tsp measurement. For each salt! For the 1 gram gypsum, it's telling me 0.25 tsp. For the 2 grams CaCl, 0.59 tsp. Great! I do have a set of baking measuring spoons that take some guesswork out of the equation.

I decided, based on watching what people go through with their pH measuring protocols, that I simply don't want to worry about that.

Besides, if you're adjusting on the fly after measuring pH in real time, it's a mad dash and subject to error and confusion. Not to mention change in the pH as the mash homogenizes, etc. - like I said, I do NOT want to deal with that.
I feel compelled to say "Amen".

There are several software tools that estimate pH, including Mash Made Easy, Bru'n Water, and Brewfather.
Have heard of all of them and it's about time I had a look. Thanks!
 

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What's mice about this calculator (Brewer's Friend) is that it lays out grams and equivalent tsp measurement. For each salt! For the 1 gram gypsum, it's telling me 0.25 tsp. For the 2 grams CaCl, 0.59 tsp. Great! I do have a set of baking measuring spoons that take some guesswork out of the equation.



I feel compelled to say "Amen".



Have heard of all of them and it's about time I had a look. Thanks!
I used to use Beersmith and EZ water, but those are not very accurate. EZ was always .3 off- that's a LOT! Bru'nwater was really good, but has a bit of a learning curve.
I currently use Brewer's Friend and it's usually really close.
 

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Definitely check out Brewfather. It's got such a nice, modern UI compared to (especially) BeerSmith but even Brewer's Friend. It integrates many aspects of brewing so well, and the cloud implementation is great. But that's beyond the scope of this thread.

I prefer to start with my raw source water and grain bill, see what the predicted mash pH is, and then add salts one at a time to the calculation by trial and error. Stick with CaCl and gypsum for your Ca, Cl, and SO4 and see where the pH lies after the ppm numbers are to your liking. Use baking soda to raise the pH (adds Na) if necessary. On the other side, revert to acid if you don't want to increase your minerals but pH is still too high.

I don't like the software telling me to add this much of this, this much of that, as some of them seem to do, although of course one is free to ignore that. I've been able to brew anything I want with only three minerals and acid, from Pilsner to stout.
 
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Definitely check out Brewfather. It's got such a nice, modern UI
Undeniable.
At the risk of going far off-topic... The trouble I'm immediately having is that the calculations are quite far off from what I get from my usual calculator. I BIAB and I use Priceless to determine strike volume. Basing that on an estimated 1.3gal/hr boil off with this recipe, Priceless tells me I need 7.91 gallons of strike. I trust that. The calculator has consistent helped me arrive at or very close to the expected 5.5 gallons of chilled wort into FV.
If I tell BF the same boil off rate, it wants me to use only 7.16 gallons of strike.
This is in BF's equipment field. After plugging in the grain and hop bill, I see the Water field shows 8.21 gallons of mash water. OK, that's closer to what I'd expect though still a bit off from Priceless.
I had to fiddle with the Lavibond values of the grains I was adding. I really appreciate all of the data that is available in the database though. Good starting point!

I'll explore the water chemistry section next. I want to make this software work for me so, if I'm doing anything wrong, please let me know. Yeah, I went off topic, sorry. lol Thanks!
 
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Alright, BF is pretty cool.

Screen Shot 2020-10-22 at 12.52.54 PM.png


If you are adding the gypsum in that small amount, so that the sulfate is still really low, that's fine. I'd try to do 40 ppm or so of calcium, less than 80 for chloride, low sulfate, and get a mash pH of 5.3-5.4.
Can I / should I add the phosphoric acid to the mash to drive that pH down more? In addition to the salts, I mean. If yes, that acid gets added to mash 5 minutes after dough in, right?

I'd still like to know why the strike water discrepancy between this and Priceless is 0.3 gallons...
 

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Regarding the strike water volume; did you also update the grain absorption and any losses to match your Priceless settings? Also make sure your batch volume target is set correctly (kettle vs. fermenter).
 
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• Batch volume target is 5.5 gallons into FV. I've set that in both calculators.
• I found on BF that I was calculating for kettle / trub losses! I transfer everything from BK to FV so, that number was changed to 0.
• The equipment setting also had a brewhouse efficiency different than Priceless; changed that to match. Though, that doesn't seem to affect strike volume.
• BF is now asking for 8.07 gallons versus 7.91 at Priceless. The lazy guy in me says "That's close enough." but the paranoid guy in me says "Yo HBT folks, what should I do?"

About those salts + phosphoric acid additions...
 

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The efficiency setting is not going to change the volumes. It only changes the prediction of your pre-boil gravity.

Starting water volume is pretty simple to calculate on your own, because there are just a few losses to account for:

Absorption in the grain, expressed as gal/lb. With BIAB, I have found that it's about 0.09 gal/lb for a slow gravity drain (my preference), and 0.06 gal/lb for an aggressive squeeze. With 12.5 lb grain, that's a range of 0.75 - 1.125 gal.

If your boil-off rate is 1.3 gal/hr and you boil for 60 minutes, and your goal is to get 5.5 gal into the fermenter, then:

5.5 + 1.3 + 1.125 = 7.925 gallons

Factor in even a nominal amount of kettle loss, say a cup of trub (0.06 gal), and you're at 7.985. So the two are incredibly close. Does that kind of difference matter to you in terms of filling a 5 gallon keg? I'm going with "no" but we're all different in our degree of OCD. :)

I will say that BF does have a setting to "Ignore Boil Expansion" in the mash/sparge water calculation method setting under the equipment profile, which I prefer using, because I dislike compensating for that - I judge all liquid volume when cooled. I think trying to adjust introduces unnecessary error.

Go with 8 gallons and have yourself a brew day!
 

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About those salts + phosphoric acid additions...
Yes. But since it will take a while for the mash to equalize, you don't want to make any changes early in the mash. By the time you take the mash pH, it's really too late to make any meaningful adjustments, so do the best you can with the estimation, and then make notes for the next time. The pH predictions are generally pretty good, so you can usually predict the pH within .1 or so.
 
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Absorption in the grain, expressed as gal/lb. With BIAB, I have found that it's about 0.09 gal/lb for a slow gravity drain (my preference), and 0.06 gal/lb for an aggressive squeeze. With 12.5 lb grain, that's a range of 0.75 - 1.125 gal.
Ah, math... my old friend.
On Priceless, I was telling it 0.08 gal/lb. However, I squeeze that bag. BF is asking for qt/lb so, I adjusted to 0.32 qb/lb in BF. Then I thought about it some more... adjusted to 0.28 qt/lb which is between your suggested 0.06 gal/lb and my old calculation.
Side note - Priceless also offers a hop absorption calculation. Yes, it's a small factor but it does play some role in calculating the strike volume. I can't find where to enter that calculation on BF.
Now I'm just being meticulous where I really have no business to be... haha

If your boil-off rate is 1.3 gal/hr and you boil for 60 minutes, and your goal is to get 5.5 gal into the fermenter, then:

5.5 + 1.3 + 1.125 = 7.925 gallons
MATH! lol

Factor in even a nominal amount of kettle loss, say a cup of trub (0.06 gal), and you're at 7.985. So the two are incredibly close. Does that kind of difference matter to you in terms of filling a 5 gallon keg? I'm going with "no" but we're all different in our degree of OCD. :)
It all boils down to (pun intended) to making sure I achieve target gravity or higher. So, not putting obsessive thought and planning into it but still concerned that I don't drastically FK it up. If that makes sense. FWIW, I've generally not screwed up huge. Might have been one batch that was supposed to hit 1072 and wound up at like 1054? Years ago, my first AG / BIAB.


I judge all liquid volume when cooled. I think trying to adjust introduces unnecessary error.

Go with 8 gallons and have yourself a brew day!
Amen. I appreciate that Priceless gives volume levels at specific temperatures but you won't catch me dunking a ruler into the boiling wort. For me, it's not worth the trouble. A damn useful feature for other brewers, I'm sure.

Edit - After making those adjustments in BF (BTW, that's my abbr. for Brewfather, not Brewer's Friend), she is asking for 7.94 gallons of strike. NOW we've got it!

Yes. But since it will take a while for the mash to equalize, you don't want to make any changes early in the mash. By the time you take the mash pH, it's really too late to make any meaningful adjustments, so do the best you can with the estimation, and then make notes for the next time.
That's just it; my process for measuring pH is so awful that even bothering to do it won't do much good anyway. Add to that your very true points above and we now have little more reason to test pH besides for "seeing where it wound up". But these points...

The pH predictions are generally pretty good, so you can usually predict the pH within .1 or so.
Nope, add your projected minerals and acid to your strike water!
nailed it. I'm going to tell BF how much phosphoric acid I plan to add and see where it predicts the pH to land. Will add that with the salts to strike water and away we shall go!
Great tips everyone, thanks!
 

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Sounds like you're in good shape! I agree about the lack of hop absorption being accounted for. I use the kettle/chiller loss section for that small amount.

I used to really obsess about volumes, weighing wort in kg to get liters, then dividing by gravity to derive the amount of water in that volume, things like that. At this point, provided I keep my equipment and process stable, my brews are within a couple of gravity points of target. And batch size is anywhere from dead on to a pint off in terms of volume.

The bonus is that I relax a lot more and focus on other aspects of the process. But I admit, this laissez-faire attitude would never have happened without 100+ batches of being meticulous and learning how all the variables intertwine.

I think the best way to always hit your target OG or higher is to under-estimate efficiency. If you're likely to get 75% mash efficiency, put in 70% and adjust your grain bill against that. If you are consistently over-shooting OG after a few brews, you can always tweak it.
 
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I agree about the lack of hop absorption being accounted for. I use the kettle/chiller loss
Good tip!

I used to really obsess about volumes
Glad to hear you've relaxed that policy. I (very much) respect the folks who put the time in but that's just too much effort for me. I mean, it's not life or death stuff.

The bonus is that I relax a lot more and focus on other aspects of the process.
Again, AMEN!

If you are consistently over-shooting OG after a few brews, you can always tweak it.
Generally, that's what happens. I chalk that off to fine crush, squeezing the bag, and even boil off. I almost always wind up with target volume into FV or very close to it. The gravity difference is never drastic so I haven't given much thought to adjusting practices. Cheers!
 

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Do you have any imported marzens that you thoroughly enjoy? If so look online for a estimated water profile for the town or area the brewery is located and build to that profile.
 

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Do you have any imported marzens that you thoroughly enjoy? If so look online for a estimated water profile for the town or area the brewery is located and build to that profile.
There we go again... :p
In short, we don't know what they do to their brewing water. Historically, even less, unless there's some documentation.
 

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There we go again... :p
In short, we don't know what they do to their brewing water. Historically, even less, unless there's some documentation.
Yes, but beer styles originated in certain areas for a reason. Could they of done something to the water sure. you know they aren’t starting with RO, so the areas water profile would be a great starting point. Then you would make adjustments by taste. That’s where I am getting at.
 
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