Author Topic: AG brewing and soft water  (Read 6100 times)

Offline Paindoc

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AG brewing and soft water
« on: February 19, 2012, 09:35:29 AM »
I've read thru some of the topics involving water treatment  (as well as chapters in home brewing books) and I still have a question about mineral content in brewing water.

I have a well and ion exchange type water softener. I assume that there is some amount of sodium in my tap water but it and the beers i've made using it do not taste salty. I use pH 5.2 buffer in my mash and sparge water and Wyeast yeast nutrient in every starter and boil. Assuming that my mash water has little or no Ca++ or Mg++ do I need to be concerned about the effect of this on enzyme activity during the mash and on yeast health? If so, how much of what would be appropriate to add?

Thanx

Offline piper55

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Re: AG brewing and soft water
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2012, 02:27:48 PM »
 i have very soft water and I get really long fermentations until I started adding gypsum to my mash ,I am going to start adding the yeast nutrient also but you might want a little gypsum in there for hardness

Offline RiverBrewer

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Re: AG brewing and soft water
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2012, 07:18:33 PM »
Get your water test to get a base starting point. Don't start making additions until you get it done. Ward Labs is very reasonable for the home brewer (around $20) For that price it is reasonable to get the well water and the softened water tested to see which to go with depending on beer type.
http://wardlab.com/images/SampleForms/wsis.pdf
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 07:21:01 PM by RiverBrewer »
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Offline pcollins

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Re: AG brewing and soft water
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2012, 04:29:21 AM »
"Assuming that my mash water has little or no Ca++ or Mg++ do I need to be concerned about the effect of this on enzyme activity during the mash and on yeast health? If so, how much of what would be appropriate to add?"

My pat response to this question from local brewers is that if you're making good beer there is no need to mess with your water chemistry. If there is something in your beer that is questionable or you're getting off flavours or extremely low efficiency, then maybe you should have a look at the water.

I tend to keep things as simple as possible in my brewing. I get good beer from my tap water. I have a water softener and have brewed with bypassing the softener and have brewed with straight soft water. There is no discernible difference to my palate so I'm always brewing with soft water straight from the tap. (The horror! LOL )

I'm not saying don't get your water tested or don't consider adding salts or whatnot to your brewing water, I'm just suggesting that sometimes what you have coming out of the tap is just fine and there's no need to over think process or ingredients. If you're making good beer with what you have then stick with it!

Offline Paindoc

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Re: AG brewing and soft water
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2012, 09:19:34 AM »
Thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to try the lab analysis so at least I'll know how much Na+ is in there and what I need to add.

Offline piper55

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Re: AG brewing and soft water
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2012, 12:34:01 PM »
good advice from pcollins, try it first then you can mess with it if you have a problem

Offline RiverBrewer

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Re: AG brewing and soft water
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2012, 03:37:33 PM »
     If you are new to brewing or content with the beer you are making, I agree keep it simple. My well water, after analysis had a high bicarbonate / hardness level which I have learned to brew around. I have to use DW to dilute my base water for pilsners. So I am glad to know what I got going into my beer. My palate can tell the difference in whether or not the water has gone through my carbon filter or my water softener. The beers I love best are IPA'S which require only small additions to get to the PPM's I target. (Ca 70 ppm; So4 170 ppm; HCo3 200-250) You can improve on taste after you know YOUR system. With experience you will start to predict outcome. Taste your mash and wort throughout the entire brewing process. Extract brewers don't have to worry about mashing and I don't have to worry about thin tasting beer!
Enjoy brewing, so don't geek out over more than one thing at a time, It is learn as you go! :)
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Offline MaltLicker

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Re: AG brewing and soft water
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2012, 04:55:38 PM »
While it's true that most tap water is "fine" or easily fixed by diluting if needed, all yeast need a certain amount of calcium and magnesium to perform their best.  A certain amount of calcium in the boil makes a big difference with hot break, and enough calcium in the mash aids conversion and other reactions.  Conversion works best at the optimal pH, etc. 

If you did nothing else but ensure Mg was ~15 and Calcium ~100 in the mash, you may see benefits you did not expect in several areas.  And minerals are cheap, so we're talking pennies per batch, excluding the gram scale to weigh them. 

 

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