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Brews & Views Bulletin Board Service * Brews and Views Archive 2003 * October 10, 2003 * Water Chemistry questions < Previous Next >

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Tacoma Brewers (67.160.107.216)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 03:47 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm finally looking at my water chemistry, because my beer is okay, but not spectacular. So, I've got the water analysis report in hand, and now just need some help reading it. I read through most of John Palmer's How To Brew, and researched a bit through other websites.

First, here is the amounts from the report. All amounts are listed on their report in mg/L. How does this equate to ppm?

Calcium - 5.8
Acidity - as CaCO3 - <10
Alkanlinity - as CaCO3 - 20 (this is bicarbonates, right?
Chloride - <20
Magnesium - 0.9
Sodium - <5.0
Sulfate - <10
Hardness - as CaCO3 - 18

As I read more typing this, it looks to me that mg/L, and ppm are exactly the same. Is that a correct assessment?

Looking at the comparison he (Palmer) has published for Pilsen and Dublin, here is how my water measures up:

CA2 Mg HCO3 CL Na SO
Pilsen 10 3 3 4.3 4 -
Dublin 119 4 319 19 12 53
Tacoma(me) 8 .9 20 <20 <10 <5

Seems to me that for lighter beers, I'm slightly higher on HCO3, CL, and Na, but not enough worth worrying about. My water should be ideal as is, right?

Darker beers, I need calcium (chlorides), bicarbonates, and a bit of sodium.

My problem is, how do I know how much? Palmer discusses it, but I believe his is based on a 100% base malt, for an example sake.

Thanks for any help or insight!
 

Fredrik (213.114.44.237)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 04:56 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Yes, ppm is by mass, and since 1 L is ~ 1000g for water you could put mg/L = ppm.

The easiest way is to get a pH meter. Measure the pH and adjust up or down as needed. The water report may be nice to have but to actually calculate the pH when you mix the water with the malt seems like an akward and complex way to make sure your pH is right. That is quite complicated. I read Fix chapters on water treatment and it didn't make sense to me. It was just page after page playing with numerical examples using empirical findings. I would consider attempting modelling it this way if a pH meter was 300 USD or something. The specs of my tap water also varies slightly with seasons.

A pH meter isn't that that expensive after all.

/Fredrik
 

Tacoma Brewers (67.160.107.216)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 07:45 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I will eventually get the ph meter, but what I was reading was that Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum) helps give a crisper hop flavor, while another (Magnesium) is an important yeast nutrient. Quoting Palmer, "Magnesium is an important yeast nutrient in small amounts (10 -20 ppm), but amounts greater than 50 ppm tend to give a sour-bitter taste to the beer. Levels higher than 125 ppm have a laxative and diuretic affect."

Add to much Magnesium to lower the ph, and you might spend your day on the throne, I suppose. I'm sure that's extreme, but you get my point.

Also, according to the info in "How to Brew," certain amount of each are more desirable in certain styles.

Another quote, on bicarbonates: "Brewing Range = 0-50 ppm for pale, base-malt only beers.
50-150 ppm for amber colored, toasted malt beers, 150-250 ppm for dark, roasted malt beers."

So, yes I completely agree that for the ph, the meter would be great. That being said, I think knowing what's already in the water is important to know before you start adding anything to it.
 

Fredrik (213.114.44.237)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 08:50 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Regarding that style issues I don't know anything about that. Possibbly there is something in here I didn't understand yet.

As I understand, yeast needs minerals, magnesium and zinc and other stuff. But I don't consider those requirements pH related. (Although adding salts does affect pH.)

About the pH. And as I understand it doesn't matter how you attain the pH, by adding carbonates or by adding anything else? (provided you have the correct buffering capacity to keep the pH right througout the mashing) But perhaps this is wrong. I asked a similiar question here some time ago.

Tacoma, if you find some anwers let me know. Those water treatment chapters in Fix book was the most unreadable and unstructured chapter in the whole book IMO. My conclusion was that he was just making things more complicated than necessary OR he was trying to elaborate a numerical procedure to calcultate the pH in a multivariable system, in which case it was an oversimplification.

Can someone explain if I made the wrong conslusion?

If you find some more info on this Tacoma please let me know too!

/Fredrik
 

Brandon Dachel (216.177.117.110)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 11:55 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

> but what I was reading was that Calcium Sulfate
> (Gypsum) helps give a crisper hop flavor,

It accentuates the *bitterness*, not the flavor.
 

mikel (152.163.252.67)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 01:47 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tacoma,
Your water is very soft! With a bit of calcium, your ph will most likely fall into the right range. Some suggestions:

For hoppy styles try adding gypsum, enough to raise the calcium level to 50-100ppm, this will give you enough sulfate to accentuate a nice crisp bitterness. How much to add. you'll have to look that up, it's something like 1 gram per gallon adds 60ppm calcium/120ppm sulfate, but do look it up.

For other beers where you want a maltier profile, try using calcium chloride. The chloride will accentuate a sense of "roundness/fullness/sweetness". Think of what salt does to food.

For dark beers you will most likely need to use calium carbonate, in that, the dark malts will over power the buffering capacity of your water and swing the ph too low. Here the carbonate will serve to buffer the acidity of the dark malts. A way to check ph will really help here.

My personal preference would be to try brewing a lager, (helles/pils/vienna-marzen?) with this water and not use any water salts. If neccesary, use some type of acid to adjust the ph of the mash, but otherwise go with it. There's just something about soft water and smooth, clean lagers!

I like what gypsum does for hoppy beers, so I use it for that. I don't like what chloride does, to me it makes the beer taste salty, I'm sure it's in my head, but I prefer to use acid to lower the ph in beers where I would not want extra sulfates. The beer just seems to taste better to me.

Hope this helps-
 

Jim Layton (67.202.29.236)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 02:31 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tacoma - you are lucky to have such nice water.

>My problem is, how do I know how much? Palmer >discusses it, but I believe his is based on a >100% base malt, for an example sake.

I guess I don't understand where your question is coming from. How are you brewing - all grain, partial mash, extract + steeped grains?
 

Tacoma Brewers (67.160.107.216)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 04:11 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I am brewing all grain. What I meant by my 100% base malt statement, was that with all base malt, it effects the ph differently than if you were making a porter, for example, and were using darker malts. I probably should have written it better in my first post.
 

Tom Gardner (152.163.252.67)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 04:24 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

ProMash has a great water chemistry calculator and the water profiles of the famous brewing cities. You can enter your water profile and ProMash will help you figure out how much of the other salts to add. It comes down to the mash pH and the flavor from the salts.
 

Bill Tobler (216.62.156.113)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 05:00 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tom is right on about Promash. The water profile calculator works great. My water is very hard, so I have to dilute it with RO water to get the minerals down to an acceptable level. Promash has a dilution factor which really helps.

Tacoma, if you don't have Promash, you can get a free trial download and try it out. It really lets you do a lot with your water. Some brewers in my club just use RO water and add minerals to get to the profile they want. I like to dilute my water down to a profile, then add anything that is lacking.

Building and Brewing in Texas
Bill Tobler
My Brewery
 

Jim Layton (67.203.83.80)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 05:04 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tacoma - OK, I think I get it now. You're wanting to know "what is a good water profile for beer N?" and "how much x, y, z... do I add to my water to acheive that profile?"

Tom's right about ProMash. It has a nifty water calculator that lets you load your tap water profile, compare it to any water profile in the ProMash database, and twiddle the salt additions until you get a close approximation of the target water profile. You can figure it out without ProMash, of course. BreWater is freeware that does the job, or you can do it with hand calculations if that's your thing. Both ProMash and BreWater come with a lot of water profiles already loaded.
 

Bill Pierce (24.141.63.119)
Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 05:54 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I second mikel's recommendations. You have nice soft water for brewing many styles. It's much easier to add mineral salts than remove them. In most cases you won't want or need to do anything to your water, apart from perhaps filtering with an activated charcoal filter to remove added chlorine.

Go slowly with water adjustments; you can easily do more harm than good. It's possible to brew great beers without knowing anything about water chemistry. I consider this an advanced brewing topic and something to consider only if you have really bad water or have a serious technical interest.

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