Author Topic: Water Analysis Question  (Read 13317 times)

Offline Wildrover

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Water Analysis Question
« on: March 20, 2011, 11:26:18 PM »
I attached a spreadsheet I made to help me with my water adjustments.  I live in Grand Forks ND and hence the Grand Forks water profile.  What I'm curious about is the levels of recommended bicarbonate from the various authors.  It seems like the range is really wide across authors.  I was wondering what people's thoughts are on that particular water chemistry component.  I'm drinking a brown ale now that I don't think I made any adjustments for and it seems like there is a slight harshness at the end.  I'm wondering if that is because of my recipe or my water adjustment (or lack there of).  I also have a pretty hoppy Pale Ale on tap that I'm pretty sure I made adjustments for but I don't think I made a dillution for.  I just added salts to my tap water and it too has a slight harshness at the end.  Having said that, I have an Amber on tap as well that does not seem to have this slight harshness at the end.  Perhaps its just the recipe or a million other things but I'm curious as to how much my water needs to be diluted for most non dark beer styles?  

Thanks for the inputed
« Last Edit: March 21, 2011, 02:58:58 PM by Wildrover »

Offline HBHB

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2011, 09:14:52 PM »
Not that this helps, but here's a lesson on why you should always take notes and record everything you do (or don't do) with every brew.

Process control.

Imagine making the ultimate beer that makes the clouds rain bikini babes and you can't remember the recipe or what you did that was different.

 ;D

Martin

Offline Wildrover

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2011, 09:28:57 AM »
Yeah,  I do keep pretty good notes, right down to my exact water adjustment for each beer.  Those notes aren't answering my question about the levels of bicarboante in beer and the effect it is having.

If you look at the spreadsheet you'll see Foster recommends that your bicarbonate should never go above 50 ppm for any of the Pale Ale Styles (Amber, IPA, Bitter, etc.).  But Palmer says that for an amber colored beer 50-150 is acceptable.  Since I'm right at 110 give or take throughout the year I'm wondering if I should be diluting my water to bring the level of bicarbonate down? 

Offline DaveinPa

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2011, 06:00:05 PM »
According to the nomongraph in "How to Brew", your water profile is best suited to dark ambers to stouts because of the high alkalinity.  The brown ale should have been ok because the specialty malts used would have dropped you mash pH into the right range.  Anything lighter than an amber ale would have leached tannins from the hulls and caused a harsh taste.  Diluting with distilled water would work or adjusting the pH with an organic acid.  

Just so you understand, I've personally only brewed one batch of beer so far - but I did stay in a Holiday Inn last night (and read most of "How to Brew" while killing time  ;D.  Hope this helps.  I have the same water problem X2.

« Last Edit: March 23, 2011, 06:03:28 PM by DaveinPa »

Offline tmc32

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2011, 06:51:55 AM »
I have always wondered just how much water chemistry affects the finished brew, and after tasting, how to tell what adjustments need to be made in future batches.

My approach to date is to "Do No Harm", so I use distilled water for all my brews.  However, I would like to adjust water chemistry if I knew more about the effect of various additives.  My most recent brew is an all grain Irish Stout that included recommended adjuncts for creating a Dublin water profile.  I was tempted to use this profile, but at the last minute decided to stick with my distilled water. 

Someone had told me that unless I had all of my grains and hops grown in Ireland and shipped fresh to my door, that those variations would be much greater than that of the water profile.  His statement makes sense, but I would still like to have as much control over the finished product as I can. 

My problem is that I don't know enough about the effects of various water additives.  Where can I find a good explanation and reference on beer water chemistry?

Tim

Offline Wildrover

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2011, 09:20:05 AM »
According to the nomongraph in "How to Brew", your water profile is best suited to dark ambers to stouts because of the high alkalinity.  The brown ale should have been ok because the specialty malts used would have dropped you mash pH into the right range.  Anything lighter than an amber ale would have leached tannins from the hulls and caused a harsh taste.  Diluting with distilled water would work or adjusting the pH with an organic acid.  

Just so you understand, I've personally only brewed one batch of beer so far - but I did stay in a Holiday Inn last night (and read most of "How to Brew" while killing time  ;D.  Hope this helps.  I have the same water problem X2.



See, now you've stumbled on my real question I guess.  When I start messing with salts, as if often the case, does that negate the need to dilute?  Does a dash of this and a smidge of that keep me from having to dilute my water? 

Offline Wildrover

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2011, 09:21:37 AM »
I have always wondered just how much water chemistry affects the finished brew, and after tasting, how to tell what adjustments need to be made in future batches.

My approach to date is to "Do No Harm", so I use distilled water for all my brews.  However, I would like to adjust water chemistry if I knew more about the effect of various additives.  My most recent brew is an all grain Irish Stout that included recommended adjuncts for creating a Dublin water profile.  I was tempted to use this profile, but at the last minute decided to stick with my distilled water. 

Someone had told me that unless I had all of my grains and hops grown in Ireland and shipped fresh to my door, that those variations would be much greater than that of the water profile.  His statement makes sense, but I would still like to have as much control over the finished product as I can. 

My problem is that I don't know enough about the effects of various water additives.  Where can I find a good explanation and reference on beer water chemistry?

Tim

Tim,

In my opinion the best discussion on the topic is in Palmer's How to Brew.  You can read it right online but I have the booksince I'm constantly referring to it.  He explains it in a way that makes it very easy to understand.

Offline tmc32

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2011, 04:09:15 PM »
Wildrover,
 
Thanks for the reference.
I went to the online version and read up on his water discussions, and it convinced me of the importance of of considering water chemistry in a brew.  I scanned other sections of the book, and I think I will also purchase the hard copy to keep on hand as a reference.   

Tim

Offline DaveinPa

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2011, 04:27:16 PM »
Quote
See, now you've stumbled on my real question I guess.  When I start messing with salts, as if often the case, does that negate the need to dilute?  Does a dash of this and a smidge of that keep me from having to dilute my water? 

From a chemical standpoint, not necessarily.  Water chemistry is a lot more complex than you might think (I'm a chemical engineer so I do know something about it).  Making adjustments with salts doesn't have unlimited degrees of freedom.  Some of the components of water affect pH (like bicarbonate) and many have common ion effects and buffering effects that limit how much adjustments you can make.

The two reasons for adjusting water chemistry that I can think of are trying to copy a particular profile to better match the taste of the beer to wherever it comes from or trying fix an imbalance that might cause a mash problem.  If your water is fairly soft or reasonably balanced to begin with then adding salts or using dilution with distilled water can reasonably be used to copy the profiles of other areas but if you have one or two high concentration components then making adjustments is not so reasonable.   My water has 250ppm bicarbonate and is, according to How to Brew, no problem for dark beers but not much good for anything else.  I tried adjusting it with various salts and dilution factors using the calculator in BrewSmith and ultimately realized I can't adjust my water far enough to make it worth my while trying; its easier to start with RO or distilled or with bottled water with a better starting profile for a light colored beer and then adding salts in minor quantities as needed. 

Offline Wildrover

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2011, 07:45:23 PM »
Dave,

Let me run this idea by you.  I've been doing some more reading and my interpretation of what I've been reading would lead me to think that if, you have high levels of bicarbonate you should be able to add enough Ca to your brewing water to neutralize it's effects and bring the mash pH to the appropriation range.  In other words, in theory (and that's actually a pretty important point) high bicarbonate levels in and of itself doesn't keep you from brewing a pils provided you add enough calcium to the mash to make it more acidic and bring the mash ph back down to the desired range. 

Here's the but, with water like yours that has bicarbonate of over 200 there is no way you could add enough calcium, I'm guessing, to the mash without it being over the desired 150 ppm.  If you have balanced water then you should probably dilute (or start from scratch with RO or distilled) because not only is your level of bicarbonate too high, so is your level of Ca and let's assume Mg as well. 

It seems as if there is also a high correlation between levels of bicarbonate and hardness as contributed by Ca and Mg.  So, if your level of bicarbonate is too high it is likely you'll need to dilute just to bring everything back into the desired range. 

Having said that, I believe (your opinion is welcome here) that for people like me whose level of bicarbonate is usually around 110 but Ca levels are low, usually 35-40, that it is possible for me to add enough Ca and Mg (its a little low too) that I can brew a lighter colored beer, successfully, than what my tap water would suggest simply by adding enough of the balancing Ca and Mg, assuming I don't add so much of both of those that I actually go above their desired range.  In other words, I can probably brew a lighter colored beer simply by making mineral additions but I only have so much room to work with before I'll add too much and the have to start dealing with the detrimental effects of having too much Ca and Mg? 

Thanks for the input

Offline DaveinPa

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2011, 04:23:03 PM »
Actually, my water has only 12 ppm Ca and 2 ppm Mg.  Most of the alkalinity in my water comes from sodium bicarbonate.  

You can reduce bicarbonate alkalinity by adding calcium hydroxide but it isn't as simple as just adding it.  It works by precipitating out calcium carbonate.  You need to monitor the pH as the addition is made. Adding calcium hydroxide will raise your pH.  At about a pH of 10, you will begin to precipitate calcium carbonate.  The pH then needs to be dropped by adding acid to balance the hydroxide.  The amount of acid used will be less than if acid alone was used to neutralize the bicarbonate because you eliminated the buffering effect of the bicarbonate.  The calcium carbonate needs to be removed from the water.  Most will settle out, but depending on the final pH some may stay suspended.  This is best left to the water companies with chem labs.

You would be better off trying to reduce the alkalinity by adding acid to balance off.  Your pH is pretty high - higher than mine.  Muriatic acid or lactic acid are recommended in How to Brew.  I'm considering lactic acid as a possible fix for my water.  Muriatic acid might make mine taste salty with the high Na levels.  The acid neutralizes the bicarbonate by giving off CO2.  How to Brew gives a method for calculating the addition.  You can also monitor results with a pH test strip, litmus paper or a cheap pH analyzer.

Like I said before, water chemistry is really a complex science.  Most of the salts additions talked about in How to Brew are for taste rather than correcting actual chemistry problems.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2011, 05:11:50 PM by DaveinPa »

Offline MaltLicker

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2011, 07:43:37 PM »
My approach to date is to "Do No Harm", so I use distilled water for all my brews.  However, I would like to adjust water chemistry if I knew more about the effect of various additives.  Tim


Looks like you got there already, but water chemistry is critical and not only for style.  The yeast need minimum amounts of calcium and magnesium to perform well, so distilled water is not great either. 

I have very low-mineral water almost like Plzen, CR and add some of every type mineral for yeast health, and then shape the C:S for the bitterness:maltiness ratio. 

Offline robininski

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2011, 08:45:45 AM »
Here is  a link to an in dept water caclulator that we use and have been quit happy with the results.

http://www.ezwatercalculator.com/EZ_water_calculator_1.6.htm

Offline Wildrover

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2011, 11:04:45 AM »
robinski

I actually use that water calculator all the time.  I've been wondering though about my levels of bicarbonate and how using salts influence them.  According to the EZ water calculator, I can brew lighter colored beers simply by adding more calcium.  I'm wondering though its thats more academic or driven by the formula as opposed to good practice. 

I'm also wondering about treating the mash vs. sparge volumes.  the EZ water calculator says to add the salts to the boil, not the sparge additions?  Why is this?  does my sparge water really not need to be treated, doesn't that go against conventional wisdom? 

Offline DaveinPa

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Re: Water Analysis Question
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2011, 06:46:14 PM »
How calcium additions affect your carbonate level depends on what kind of calcium salt you use.  Calcium carbonate will increase your alkalinity by adding carbonate.  Calcium chloride will decrease it by precipitating calcium carbonate.

I think the reason they say not to add additions to the sparge water is because you may screw up the pH of the mash if the salts you are adding act to increase alkalinity.  Since you are trying to make additions to decrease it I don't think it would apply to you.