HOMEBREW Digest #5682 Thu 20 May 2010

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  Agua ("A. J. deLange")
  Na ("Darrell G. Leavitt")
  Re: agua (mossview5)

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---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Wed, 19 May 2010 23:51:15 -0400 From: "A. J. deLange" <ajdel at cox.net> Subject: Agua Can you brew with water from your softener? Yes, but the results are not probably anything you would find desirable. As you can see from the numbers you posted the typical home water softener replaces desirable calcium and magnesium (desirable, but not to the extent calcium is) with undesirable sodium. Calcium is desirable for many reasons but at issue here is that the calcium reacts with malt phosphate to offset the alkalinity of the water to some extent and thus prevent mash pH from rising as high as it would if calcium were not present. Magnesium has this same effect but is half as potent as calcium in this regard. Remove the calcium and magnesium and you are completely at the mercy of the alkalinity (bicarbonate). Now as you note Bohemian Pilsner is brewed with very soft water i.e. water with no calcium or magnesium but it also has no bicarbonate (alkalinity) to offset and thus you can brew a Boh Pils with soft water without treatment and this would be the most authentic way to make it. RO water is fine for this but will not, by itself, give a mash pH as low as desired. Acid will be required to do that. Continental lager breweries get acid from lactic acid bacteria (found on the surface of malt corns and plenty of other surfaces as well) which are used to ferment malt or wort thus producing, respectively, sauermalz (acidulated malt) and sauergut. It is possible to brew Pilsner without either of these and if neither is to be used then calcium suplementation with the chloride is probably the best way to go. The calcium, as mentioned above, reacts with malt phosphate to produce hydrogen ions which offset, in this case, the natural alkalinity of the malt itself (even distilled water has an alkalinity: 2.5 ppm as CaCO3) in addition to aiding runoff, giving brighter wort, serving as a cofactor for enzymes, precipitating oxalate... As to an amount, 1 tsp per 5 gallons of the dihydrate should be fine. But for greatest authenticity and (IMO) the best Pils, use just RO water blended with a small portion of your tap water (say 10%) and rely on sauermalz to set mash pH. As for the water's pH - that matters very little. What is important is the alkalinity. You don't say what that is but we can guess that it would be about 120 or so depending on how much sulfate you have (and yes, sulfate is generally undesirable in continental beers). That level of alkalinity isn't terrible especially with the level of hardness you have but if you brew with the straight water you would have to do something about it (add acid or supplement calcium or both) for best results. Return to table of contents
Date: Thu, 20 May 2010 07:06:38 -0400 (EDT) From: "Darrell G. Leavitt" <leavitdg at plattsburgh.edu> Subject: Na Looks to me that your sodium is high, and should be closer to 5 or 6. I am not sure how to reduce this, please let us know on HbD if you find out. Darrell Return to table of contents
Date: Thu, 20 May 2010 18:01:18 -0400 From: mossview5 <mossview5 at gmail.com> Subject: Re: agua Brewer Joe posed a question about using his water for Pilsner brewing. As Joe pointed out, hard water does not make brewing a Pilsner impossible. It only alters the taste perception. The Bohemian Pils is more delicate, but the German Pils gets by with harder water. I've consulted for one of the American mega brewers and have seen that their prefered brewing water profile is about twice as hard as Pilsen water and they adjust the residual alkalinity to about zero. This makes sense since Pilsen water is typically considered too calcium-free for good yeast health and the low RA is in line with brewing a pale beer. That brewer uses nanofiltration for their water treatment since it does not strip out desirable ions to the degree that reverse osmosis does and it is more efficient (energy and water usage) than RO. I wish I could get a small nanofiltration system myself, but the smallest units are going to set you back about $8000. No way can I justify that cost for a homebrewer but it might be justifiable to a 30 bbl brewer like Joe. I'd say that homebrewers with crappy water would just have to put up with the cheap and inefficient home RO systems (or they run out and buy water by the jug from someone). The 175 ppm sodium concentration in Joe's softened water may be perceptable to some, but most people will taste sodium when it exceeds 200 ppm. Its interesting that some people don't mind drinking high sodium water. Hard water is endemic across much of the Midwest US. In fact, a number of municipal water systems perform large-scale water softening with ion-exchange. That means that every drop of water that their systems produce are teaming with sodium. Locally, a water system has up to 250 ppm sodium in their water. I recently had an opinion article published in the Indianapolis Star regarding this practice. You can read it here: (I had to cut the address into 2 lines to comply with HBD's stupid line length limit) http://www.indystar.com/article/20100505/OPINION01/5050316/1002/OPINION/ The-hard-truth-Don-t-drink-the-soft-water OK, enough pontificating about salt water softening. I think Joe would be wise not to use his softened water for brewing. The sodium content that he quotes is a bit too high for good yeast health and in conjunction with any sulfate in the water, would probably create a significant harshness in the flavor perception of a preferably delicate beer. 50 ppm is the typically preferred upper limit for sodium and 100 ppm is generally an absolute upper limit. Unfortunately, Joe only provided the cationic content of his water. The anionic content is also needed to be able to recommend a good solution to his hardness concerns. The primary reason to review the anionic content is to determine if the hardness that Joe is dealing with is Temporary or Permanent. If it turns out that the hardness is predominately temporary (high carbonates), then there may be a cheap alternative for hardness reduction for Joe. In this case, an Excess Lime treatment of his brewing water would be workable and relatively cheap for this occassional Pilsner brewing. For the Excess Lime treatment, pickling lime (aka slaked lime) is added to a batch of water until the pH of the solution is raised to at least 11. I've noted that there are references on the web that recommend that you only raise the pH to between 9.5 and 10 for lime treatment. There are several reasons why that is poor advice. The first is that the degree of hardness reduction and remaining calcium varies with pH. The second reason is that when the pH exceeds 10.5, you get the added benefit of magnesium reduction. The third reason is that at very high pH, there is a lower limit to which calcium and magnesium concentrations can fall to and a brewer can rely on a relatively consistent calcium and magnesium concentration in their finished water if they perform this treatment process properly. Brewers will need a large vessel to hold their entire mash and sparge water volume. You will also need, pickling lime, a pH meter, and a strong acid (preferably high strength phosphoric acid). Mix pickling lime in the water until the 11 pH target is reached or slightly exceeded. You must use a calibrated pH meter for this step. I would not rely on pH strips. Allow the sediment in the water to settle out completely. Decant the clear water off the sediment and place in another vessel. Add strong acid until the pH is brought down to under 8.5. This may leave the residual alkalinity a little too high for a pale beer, so the brewer should be ready to add a little more acid if the room temperature pH of the mash does not drop into the prefered range of 5.5 to 5.8. The sparge water should be acidified to a room temperature pH between 5.5 and 6.0. This treatment will result in a calcium content between 12 and 20 ppm and a magnesium content between 3 and 5 ppm. These results assume that there isn't any sulfate or chloride in the water. Since this isn't likely, I can calculate what the additional calcium and magnesium is in the treated water, but that's way beyond the information I can convey here. I normally provide this sort of analysis for municipal and industrial clients in my job as a professional engineer with specialization in water treatment. I trust that this information will help out Joe and other brewers that are faced with high temporary hardness and they want a quick and easy hardness reduction method. The company I work for does provide professional engineering services to large and craft brewers across the country, so anyone with a more pressing problem is welcome to contact me for additional help. Martin Brungard, P.E. Indianapolis, IN Return to table of contents
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