HOMEBREW Digest #5665 Thu 25 February 2010

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  RO Water ("A.J deLange")
  RE:  Vienna Water ("David Houseman")
  Vienna Water ("A.J deLange")
  RE: RO Water (Jim.Cairns)
  Re: RO Water (mossview5)

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---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 07:50:53 -0500 From: "A.J deLange" <ajdel at cox.net> Subject: RO Water Is RO water too pure? I'd say "no". You can brew with distilled water. In fact the extract values corresponding to 100% efficiency that we all strive for are based on a distilled water mash. Minerals are required for a variety of purposes but the malt itself contains quite a bit of mineral - enough to supply enzyme co-factor needs, for example. If you brew with very soft (RO) water you will certainly avoid the pitfalls of sulfate, magnesium, sodium and bicarbonate but you will miss out on the benefits of calcium and chloride. It's obvious what the solution to that problem is. As I think back over my recent brewing (stimulated by this question) I find that I am using RO water with a bit of well water and calcium chloride supplementation in more and more brews. I do primarily lagers and I find out that they come out smoother and all around more pleasant to drink if I do that. For ales I'll go with the well water which is 19 mg/L sulfate and even with English hops I find those beers a bit rough (though very tasty still). I have experimented with gypsum additions in ales for "authenticity" and find that most who sample the results find them more authentic but not as good as the same beer brewed with softer water. For the lagers the calcium chloride supplement is small as I think, despite the well known benefits of calcium, those beers are best when brewed with soft water. I'm getting bolder now in this regard. Pils I have always done with very soft water. I did a Vienna, despite evidence that Vienna water was, at least at one time, hard and gypseous, with very soft water and it turned out to be one of the best beers I have ever done. A recent bock was done with some RO water blended in and I wish I'd used more. Low calcium levels mean that you will need to control pH with sauermalz (preferred - the grain imparts additional subtle flavor elements) or lactic acid but that's probably what many continental brewers do (and it's even catching on in this country). A.J. Return to table of contents
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 08:22:44 -0500 From: "David Houseman" <david.houseman at verizon.net> Subject: RE: Vienna Water Martin, You say you find Vienna lagers are softer and more malt focused. That is true for the Vienna lagers as we have come to know them here. But how about in Vienna? When I was last in Vienna I looked everywhere for what we would call a Vienna lager. I couldn't find even 1, from pubs/bars, to breweries. They certainly had lager but it looked and tasted much like European lagers (Grosch, Heineken, etc.). Even went to Vienna grocery stores. I bought some bottles that appeared to be what I was seeking, but on tasting they were not...as I recall more of a Helles with crystal malt added. So have things changed there? Should we even be equating water from Vienna with the style we know as a Vienna Lager? Or rather, what idea water would result in the beer we know as a Vienna Lager, ignoring if that actually now is a water from Vienna? Dave Houseman Return to table of contents
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 09:49:35 -0500 From: "A.J deLange" <ajdel at cox.net> Subject: Vienna Water As I see it there are three (and probably more) approaches to brewing a beer in a given style. The first is to make the best (tastiest - I don't care that much about winning ribbons) beer you can. For a Vienna style what I would recommend is to use very soft water and control pH with sauermalz and the reason I recommend that is that it makes delicious beer. It's not really quite a Vienna, though but rather a strong Pils made with some (quite a bit in truth) Vienna and Munich Malt in it and using a yeast strain which we accept as being good for this style of beer. A second approach would be to try to duplicate the water of the region as it comes out of the plant today under the assumption that the result will resemble what comes out, in the case of Vienna, the Schwechat brewery and I think this is the approach Martin is advocating. There's nothing wrong with that approach except that what comes out of Schwechat today isn't really Vienna beer. That style emigrated to Mexico and I suppose, therefore, if one wants to mimic the water used in brewing Vienna beer today he should try to find out what the Mexican breweries that do (or did) the style might be using. In either case it is not sufficient to know the parameters of the water supplied by the town but also whether the brewery obtains its water from the city and what treatment, if any it applies to it whatever its source. If I've ever had Schwechater I can't say I remember it but I'll bet the water is decarbonated because today's Vienna water is pretty hard (245 - 334 ppm as CaCO3 - varies by district and whether ground water feed is being taken) and pretty alkaline (230 ppm as CaCO3). The third approach would be to try to duplicate the water that defined the style i.e. the water that old Franz Anton had to work with when he opened up in 1796 in the hope that you might get to taste what a real Vienna tasted like in the days it was first brewed. This is the approach I outlined in my previous post but not because I advocate it. The fact that I have in hand three water profile descriptions for Vienna (a fourth if you include the one in Noonan's book but it is very close to one I got from elsewhere and no, I don't have provenance on any of them) which are not electrically balanced and therefore suspect from day one, but which are consistent between them in that they all describe a hard, carbonaceous, gypseous water with low chloride suggests to me that at some time in the past the water available for brewing in Vienna was hard, gypseous, cabonaceous and low in chloride. It doesn't prove that, by any means, but it does suggest it. It also doesn't say anything about whether Franz Anton or Anton decarbonated that water but given the grist composition associated with Viennas they either decarbonated or used a lot of sauermalz/sauergut. Also Anton was a real brewing pioneer - first steam, first refrigeration - and I expect he knew how to decarbonate water. Hence my approach of balancing with carbonate and then softening. Well, to be honest I did it that way because I just put the ability to do softening calculations into the spread sheet I use for water calculations and this was a great opportunity to try it out. One of the shortcomings of the spreadsheet, however, is that you must tell it what fraction of the mEq of alkalinity you want removed is going to come from calcium and what from magnesium. I think I used 70% for calcium which resulted in a high Mg residual. In the real world split treatment would probably have been used in the softening process and the Mg would be at a lower level after softening than what I came up with. As this approach begins by requiring that a balanced profile be synthesized, there are, of course, an infinite number of ways to do this. As balance is low on the anion side one can increase any anion or anions or decrease any cation or cations or both. So what, by way or wrap up, do I recommend for brewing Vienna? The first approach. It will make the best beer. In fact I think perhaps the last Vienna I made this way may be the best beer I ever brewed. But I gave some to a style Nazi and he said it wasn't what he thought of as Vienna. As it was late in the session I can't remember what his detailed comments were. Suppose he said the hops weren't assertive enough. I would fix that by adding some sulfate to the blend (I'm brewing it again soon and I ain't adding any damn sulfate - this is just an example). If he said too dry I might add some more calcium chloride and so on. Both these assume that I'm more interested in winning a ribbon that having a beer I really like to drink. It would be fun to experiment with the other 2 approaches but I don't brew that often. Great to have some discussion going on here again! A.J. Return to table of contents
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 10:41:39 -0500 From: <Jim.Cairns at mt.com> Subject: RE: RO Water The use of RO water in the brewing industry is actually very common. Almost all large brewers use RO water in most of there process. Having said that the do add back minerals and salts to the water prior to mashing it help "balance" the water back to the ideal environment for their particular style but they usually want to start at "0". Water chemistry is actually more important to the mashing part of the process and not the fermentation. The mineral and salts in the mash water react with the enzymes and proteins to help balance the pH. In turn this help pull required nutrients that will be required later in fermentation and that will impact flavor. True RO water IS too pure but that doesn't mean it won't work. It usually translates less efficiency in the wort production (i.e. can diminish the effectiveness the grain bed to act as a buffer for some off flavor compounds) and because of this can impact flavor later on in the process. >From your description of flavor character it sounds like you have a high phosphorus content in your local water. (Not uncommon now a days) An RO system will definitely remove this along with everything else. Also...what are you calling RO water? Do you have a true RO system? Home RO systems are usually very inefficient and waste way more water then its worth. The reason is for a true RO system (one that removes 99.9% of impurities) needs at least 40psi and most homes don't come anywhere near that. If it is a true RO system it will have a Conductivity measurement system with it. What value are you getting? You should be seeing 5uS or less. Return to table of contents
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 14:42:04 -0500 From: mossview5 <mossview5 at gmail.com> Subject: Re: RO Water Bob questioned if RO water was too pure to brew with since he does brew with RO successfully. RO water is rarely pure. Distilled water is typically more pure than RO water. The membrane process used to separate the ions from the water in the RO process is not absolutely effective. Typically, the removal efficiency is a function of the ion size and charge. Monovalent ions such as sodium and chloride pass through in higher percentage than divalent ions such as calcium and magnesium. Removal efficiency is typically a percentage of the ion content of the raw water. For instance, a RO membrane might remove calcium at about 95 percent efficiency (5 percent passing into the product water) while sodium is removed at 90 percent (10 percent passing into the product water. Depending upon the concentrations in the raw water, the ion concentrations in the product water could vary. >From the water reports that I've seen for Southern California, the raw water is pretty mineralized. RO treatment is likely to leave an appreciable quantity of various ions in the product water. It is going to be significantly purer than the raw water. Additionally, Bob questioned if the yeast nutrient could actually provide enough minerals to make a difference. The most important ion for yeast health is calcium. The typical minimum preferred calcium concentration is about 50 ppm (mg/L). In a typical 5 gallon batch (19L), that means that a supplement would need to provide almost 1 gram of calcium. That's not that much and I'd say that those supplements could be providing enough to keep the yeast healthy. Considering that the RO product water probably has some concentration of calcium already in it, the likelihood of success improves. Another thing to remember is that RO membranes are very thin and subject to eventual failure. If Bob's system is old and hasn't had its membrane cartridges changed, he could be passing more ions than he expects. That might be OK for the yeast, but possibly a detriment to taste. I suspect that is not the case...yet. As I recall, Southern California water can have significant sulfate and chloride content, so that might be what was detracting from the quality of Bob's beer. Removing a significant amount of those components might be a key to his success. But, I suggest that inadequate control of his raw water alkalinity might have played a larger role in producing grainy and astringent perceptions. Hopefully, he was practicing good acidification for his mashes and sparging. A little background about myself. I am a professional engineer with a specialty in water and water treatment. I typically work for municipalities, but I have consulted for AB on one of their nanofiltration systems (a less intense form of RO treatment) at one of their breweries. The company I'm now with has worked for MC and an assortment of craft breweries. I can't say the names of the breweries, so you'll need to use your imagination. Martin Brungard Indianapolis, IN Return to table of contents
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