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General Category => Ingredients => Topic started by: morticaixavier on April 29, 2012, 06:03:48 AM

Title: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: morticaixavier on April 29, 2012, 06:03:48 AM
I am using Bru'n water to build out my water from RO. Right now I am working on a robust porter recipe and I can hit my numbers on the sheet by adding the following minerals,

13.5 g gypsum
9.1 g calcium chloride
12.6 g chalk (to the mash, I actually mixed it in with my grain before mashing in last time)
or
9.8 g pickling lime.

so the first question is why would one choose to use pickling lime over chalk or vice versa?

If it helps, here is the VERY ROUGH draft of the grain bill.
13 lbs US pale malt
3 lbs munich 10L
1 lbs crystal 60
1 lbs chocolate


Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: hopfenundmalz on April 29, 2012, 12:33:14 PM
Chalk does not dissolve readily. You can bubble CO2 through water and chalk to dissolve it. If you have a carbonator cap and a big plasitc drink bottle, you can fill about 3/4 full, add chalk, pressurise with 30 PSI and shake. If all the chalk does not dissolve, vent, add more pressure and shake again. And so on.

Pickling lime dissolves quickly. The OH ions combine with the H ions to form water. The other thing you add is Ca, which does not impact the flavor. I point this out due to the fact that some use baking soda, but that adds Na.



Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: Hokerer on April 29, 2012, 02:34:28 PM
Chalk does not dissolve readily.

Pickling lime dissolves quickly.

This.  Also, for some reason, those amounts seem awful high compared to what I need to get my pH in range.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: hopfenundmalz on April 29, 2012, 02:45:36 PM
Forgot to say KAI has some info on dissolving chalk on braukaiser.com.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: morticaixavier on April 29, 2012, 03:11:45 PM
Re: chalk not dissolving, isn't this why you add it to the mash itself rather than to the water. but if PL is easier than i will check that out.

Re: amounts, yeah it seemed high to me as I usually only use a couple grams. I will check and see if I made an error somewhere.

**EDIT**

Ahh okay, lets try that again

4.4 g CaSO4
2.8 g CaCl2
and
4.4 g CaCO3
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: hopfenundmalz on April 29, 2012, 03:50:37 PM
You add chalk to the mash to get some of it to dissolve at mash pH. Even at finished beer pH it doesn't all dissolve. Try it!

In beer it should dissolve, but the issue according to John Palmer is that the reaction takes a long time. Same for the mash, you are done with the mash before the chalk is all dissolved, that is from a talk he gave at the WEB homebrew competition.

This is more chemistry than this engineer cares to digest - from UC Davis!
 http://lawr.ucdavis.edu/classes/ssc102/Section5.pdf

The color chart here at the bottom shows the equilibruim of the carboante species vs pH. Note that is equilibrium, which takes time.
http://research.nmsu.edu/molbio/bioinfo/tutorials/env-engr/carbonate/carbonate.html
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on April 29, 2012, 05:32:20 PM
Lime packs more "alkalinity punch" than chalk. High amounts of calcium are noticeable, to me, though I'm talking really high amounts. You'd probably be ok with around 10g of lime. Chalk tastes like chalk to me, so I don't like using it.

If you want to get really fancy, you could use caustic potash. That would just add potassium, which your yeast would probably enjoy. I agree with Hopfen re: baking soda. I don't care what the question is; in brewing, baking soda is never the answer.

Edited to add my standard pickling lime disclaimer: Gloves and goggles. Use them. That stuff is nasty and gets airborne easily. I use it all the time, and you really don't want to get it on your skin or in your eyes.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: mabrungard on April 30, 2012, 12:35:19 PM
As pointed out above, the problem with chalk is that you can't get it to dissolve and contribute its theoretical alkalinity.  Bru'n Water assumes the chalk IS properly dissolved via CO2 and water and the full theoretical alkalinity is provided.  As Kai Troester and AJ DeLange have experimentally confirmed, chalk only delivers about half its theoretical alkalinity when placed in water without proper dissolution with CO2.  Some water programs take this into account and they assume half the alkalinity is added when chalk is used this way. 

I've used chalk in the past and found it to be too unreliable for mash pH control.  Lime is highly soluble and it is very complete in neutralizing excess acidity.  If you have the capability to measure out the small amounts of lime needed in the typical 5 gal grist, then its a no-brainer for use.  Its cheap and its very effective.  But its quite hazardous as Nate points out above.  Measure and use with care! 
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on April 30, 2012, 12:42:40 PM
I've found for mash adjustments it's good to make large amount of 5% lime solution, and keep that on hand if you need more alkalinity. Once it's dissolved in water it's a lot less trouble to handle and dispense, so you'd only need to handle and measure the powder occasionally.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: beersk on April 30, 2012, 02:00:40 PM
Lime packs more "alkalinity punch" than chalk. High amounts of calcium are noticeable, to me, though I'm talking really high amounts. You'd probably be ok with around 10g of lime. Chalk tastes like chalk to me, so I don't like using it.

If you want to get really fancy, you could use caustic potash. That would just add potassium, which your yeast would probably enjoy. I agree with Hopfen re: baking soda. I don't care what the question is; in brewing, baking soda is never the answer.

Edited to add my standard pickling lime disclaimer: Gloves and goggles. Use them. That stuff is nasty and gets airborne easily. I use it all the time, and you really don't want to get it on your skin or in your eyes.
So, why is baking soda never the answer?
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on April 30, 2012, 02:04:00 PM
So, why is baking soda never the answer?

Baking soda contributes a low amount of alkalinity, and contributes relatively high amount of Na. So if you add enough baking soda to change the mash pH, you've added a lot (I would argue too much) sodium. If your addition is very small, the amount of sodium would probably not be deleterious, but at that point, you'd probably be better off with a slightly low mash pH rather than the excess sodium.

I don't think there's ever a situation where baking soda is the most appropriate base to use to increase alkalinity in a mash.

Try it yourself, if you don't believe me. Dissolve 100ppm of chalk in water, and dissolve 100ppm of baking soda in a cup of water. Drink the water, then decide which flavor you'd rather have in your beer.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: morticaixavier on April 30, 2012, 02:46:37 PM
As pointed out above, the problem with chalk is that you can't get it to dissolve and contribute its theoretical alkalinity.  Bru'n Water assumes the chalk IS properly dissolved via CO2 and water and the full theoretical alkalinity is provided.  As Kai Troester and AJ DeLange have experimentally confirmed, chalk only delivers about half its theoretical alkalinity when placed in water without proper dissolution with CO2.  Some water programs take this into account and they assume half the alkalinity is added when chalk is used this way. 

I've used chalk in the past and found it to be too unreliable for mash pH control.  Lime is highly soluble and it is very complete in neutralizing excess acidity.  If you have the capability to measure out the small amounts of lime needed in the typical 5 gal grist, then its a no-brainer for use.  Its cheap and its very effective.  But its quite hazardous as Nate points out above.  Measure and use with care!

okay, I will look into getting some lime, shouldn't be hard, the hardware store in town has a good pickling section. So my current scale only has a 1 g precision. and I would guess (I don't have the sheet available to me right now) that I want ~3 g PL for this next brew. if I am within 1 g of that is that close enough or do I need to get a more exact scale?
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: narvin on April 30, 2012, 02:47:13 PM
So, why is baking soda never the answer?

Baking soda contributes a low amount of alkalinity, and contributes relatively high amount of Na. So if you add enough baking soda to change the mash pH, you've added a lot (I would argue too much) sodium.

Don't really agree with this, especially since you're going to get half (or less) of the theoretical bicarbonate contribution of chalk in reality, while baking sodium is readily soluble.  According to Palmer, one teaspoon adds about 75 ppm of sodium and 191 ppm of bicarbonate.  I'd feel comfortable adding half of this amount to a dark beer when starting with RO water.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on April 30, 2012, 02:50:05 PM
okay, I will look into getting some lime, shouldn't be hard, the hardware store in town has a good pickling section. So my current scale only has a 1 g precision. and I would guess (I don't have the sheet available to me right now) that I want ~3 g PL for this next brew. if I am within 1 g of that is that close enough or do I need to get a more exact scale?

At that precision, given how strong of a base lime is, I would probably dissolve 100g of lime in 900ml of water. If Bru'n water tells you to use 9.8 grams, you could then pretty safely use 98ml or 98g of the lime solution, assuming I have my decimals correct.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: morticaixavier on April 30, 2012, 02:52:06 PM
okay, I will look into getting some lime, shouldn't be hard, the hardware store in town has a good pickling section. So my current scale only has a 1 g precision. and I would guess (I don't have the sheet available to me right now) that I want ~3 g PL for this next brew. if I am within 1 g of that is that close enough or do I need to get a more exact scale?

At that precision, given how strong of a base lime is, I would probably dissolve 100g of lime in 900ml of water. If Bru'n water tells you to use 9.8 grams, you could then pretty safely use 98ml or 98g of the lime solution, assuming I have my decimals correct.

excellent, that is a very pragmatic solution (no pun intended) to the problem.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: beersk on April 30, 2012, 06:19:39 PM
So, why is baking soda never the answer?

Baking soda contributes a low amount of alkalinity, and contributes relatively high amount of Na. So if you add enough baking soda to change the mash pH, you've added a lot (I would argue too much) sodium. If your addition is very small, the amount of sodium would probably not be deleterious, but at that point, you'd probably be better off with a slightly low mash pH rather than the excess sodium.

I don't think there's ever a situation where baking soda is the most appropriate base to use to increase alkalinity in a mash.

Try it yourself, if you don't believe me. Dissolve 100ppm of chalk in water, and dissolve 100ppm of baking soda in a cup of water. Drink the water, then decide which flavor you'd rather have in your beer.
Adding a gram or two to my mash water only brings the sodium up to around 50ppm according to Bru'n water and it gets my pH and RA in line with what I need.  That doesn't sound like a bad thing to me.  Am I wrong here?
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on April 30, 2012, 06:24:40 PM
YMMV, but from my experience, any sodium is too much sodium. My water contains about 2ppm of sodium. I've added NaCl to some of my darker beers, because I read somewhere that sodium rounds out malt sweetness. I've found I prefer the beers without added sodium.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: weithman5 on April 30, 2012, 07:04:23 PM
I salt flat beers  8)
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: narvin on April 30, 2012, 07:33:16 PM
YMMV, but from my experience, any sodium is too much sodium. My water contains about 2ppm of sodium. I've added NaCl to some of my darker beers, because I read somewhere that sodium rounds out malt sweetness. I've found I prefer the beers without added sodium.

Tell that to San Diego  ;)

http://www.sandiego.gov/water/quality/pdf/waterqual10.pdf

Maybe the extra chloride affected the taste as well?  Adding salt contributes 1.5x chloride ppm compared to sodium.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on April 30, 2012, 07:48:43 PM
Tell that to San Diego  ;)

http://www.sandiego.gov/water/quality/pdf/waterqual10.pdf

Maybe the extra chloride affected the taste as well?  Adding salt contributes 1.5x chloride ppm compared to sodium.

Whoa, that's a lot of sodium. I use CaCl to boost my calcium to around 50ppm, so I don't think it's the chloride I find objectionable. When I think San Diego, I think IPA. Maybe sodium is more apparent in certain kinds of beer, and not others? I mostly brew Belgian and German styles, with a few UK styles occasionally.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: beersk on April 30, 2012, 08:04:01 PM
I just don't see why it's bad to add in small amounts.  I guess to each his own...
I suppose you wouldn't want too much sodium for German or Belgian styles, but for many American styles a little is fine, I would think.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: tschmidlin on May 01, 2012, 06:49:31 AM
I don't care what the question is; in brewing, baking soda is never the answer.
Name one thing that nateo thinks you should never add to your brewing water?
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on May 01, 2012, 11:30:23 AM
I hate to sound so dogmatic. This past year, I've really hit my stride brewing. All of the past 10 batches or so I've done have turned out consistently better than I've ever made before. I've only been doing a couple things differently:

1. Using pickling lime for mash pH increases
2. Using the softest, least mineralized and lowest alkalinity water I can get.
3. Only using calcium chloride for calcium adjustments

I used to futz with my water a lot, and add a lot of stuff to it to hit arbitrary ranges of ions others said were desirable. The above, simpler method has worked well for a broad range of styles.

Taste is subjective, YMMV and so on. I would urge everyone to take a critical approach to what you're adding to your beer, and why. If you think it does/does not make a difference, try it both ways and see which you prefer. The proof will be in the beer.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: weithman5 on May 01, 2012, 01:00:01 PM
I don't care what the question is; in brewing, baking soda is never the answer.
Name one thing that nateo thinks you should never add to your brewing water?
and on to final jeopardy
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: narvin on May 01, 2012, 01:29:51 PM
I hate to sound so dogmatic. This past year, I've really hit my stride brewing. All of the past 10 batches or so I've done have turned out consistently better than I've ever made before. I've only been doing a couple things differently:

1. Using pickling lime for mash pH increases
2. Using the softest, least mineralized and lowest alkalinity water I can get.
3. Only using calcium chloride for calcium adjustments

I used to futz with my water a lot, and add a lot of stuff to it to hit arbitrary ranges of ions others said were desirable. The above, simpler method has worked well for a broad range of styles.

Taste is subjective, YMMV and so on. I would urge everyone to take a critical approach to what you're adding to your beer, and why. If you think it does/does not make a difference, try it both ways and see which you prefer. The proof will be in the beer.

I'd just be careful about over-generalizing.  I'm not trying to sound skeptical, but I'm just really surprised that the water adjustments above were the thing that pushed your beer over the line from good to great.  You seem to hint that overdoing salt additions was something that didn't work out for you, which is often considered a "rule" of brewing and one that I'd agree with.  Keep experimenting for another year, and I bet you'll find that hard and fast rules don't always work out.  ;)

I'd also like to point out that #1 and #2 above contradict, and that there are a lot of styles where more sulfate than chloride is appropriate.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: weithman5 on May 01, 2012, 01:36:16 PM
1 and 2 only contradict at the start.  if you start with the lowest mineral/alkalinity then add the lime, you get what you are looking for.  similar to guys, i would imagine, that always start with RO water and then build their water for a particular style.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on May 01, 2012, 02:04:45 PM
I'd just be careful about over-generalizing.  I'm not trying to sound skeptical, but I'm just really surprised that the water adjustments above were the thing that pushed your beer over the line from good to great.  You seem to hint that overdoing salt additions was something that didn't work out for you, which is often considered a "rule" of brewing and one that I'd agree with.  Keep experimenting for another year, and I bet you'll find that hard and fast rules don't always work out.  ;)

I'd also like to point out that #1 and #2 above contradict, and that there are a lot of styles where more sulfate than chloride is appropriate.

I brew a few British bitters and IPAs each year, and I've found I prefer using CaCl over CaSO4 for calcium additions in those. I'm assuming those are the kinds of styles you're referring to, where more sulfate would be appropriate. I haven't found that to be the case, but your tastes may vary. I tend to brew drier beers, so maybe my IPAs don't need any "bitterness firming," if sulfate does what people claim it does. I also don't brew American-style IPAs anymore, so maybe that style needs more sulfate?

I'm not claiming my water advice is applicable in every conceivable situation, but if you can make good beer with hard/mineralized water, it's worth investigating whether or not you could make better beer with softer/less mineralized water.

I almost rearranged the order on 1 and 2. As Don pointed out, when appropriate, I use pickling lime for increasing pH. I don't add it to every batch.

Sorry for derailing the thread, back on topic:
I just don't see a reason why adding chalk or baking soda is better than adding lime. Some people have claimed negative flavors form from neutralized bicarbonate. As far as I'm concerned that's just conjecture. I'm not ready to firmly support that, but I'm leaning toward believing it.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: beersk on May 01, 2012, 02:15:13 PM
your tastes may vary.
That would be YTMV.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: narvin on May 01, 2012, 02:42:33 PM
1 and 2 only contradict at the start.  if you start with the lowest mineral/alkalinity then add the lime, you get what you are looking for.  similar to guys, i would imagine, that always start with RO water and then build their water for a particular style.

I guess, but I don't see any difference in water that started with low alkalinity and ended up with a lot of it versus a base water with high bicarbonate.

Or, you could just take AJ Delange's advice and never add alkalinity.   :)
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: narvin on May 01, 2012, 02:47:53 PM

Sorry for derailing the thread, back on topic:
I just don't see a reason why adding chalk or baking soda is better than adding lime. Some people have claimed negative flavors form from neutralized bicarbonate. As far as I'm concerned that's just conjecture. I'm not ready to firmly support that, but I'm leaning toward believing it.

I think it's more a question of "Is lime better than chalk or baking soda"?  I think it does have some advantages over both, but disadvantages as well.  I would never recommend anyone use lime unless they have a pH meter, as the strips (even colorPhast) are just not accurate enough.  Even with that, use safety precautions and err on the low side.  I personally don't think any beer benefits from a mash pH of over 5.5, and even a beer with lots of roasted malts will be very easy to get above this with a strong base like lime.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on May 01, 2012, 03:10:25 PM
I guess, but I don't see any difference in water that started with low alkalinity and ended up with a lot of it versus a base water with high bicarbonate.

Just the conjecture that neutralized bicarbonate (like what would happen in your acidic mash) lends an unpleasant flavor. I'm not an expert mead maker, but I've noticed it's definitely true when making mead, and also when making Belgian candi syrup. You can use much larger amounts of lime than chalk before you hit the taste threshold. How applicable that is to beer I couldn't say with certainty, but I strongly suspect similar flavor issues.

I think it's more a question of "Is lime better than chalk or baking soda"?  I think it does have some advantages over both, but disadvantages as well.  I would never recommend anyone use lime unless they have a pH meter, as the strips (even colorPhast) are just not accurate enough.  Even with that, use safety precautions and err on the low side.  I personally don't think any beer benefits from a mash pH of over 5.5, and even a beer with lots of roasted malts will be very easy to get above this with a strong base like lime.

Agreed. I think using a 10% or 5% solution will address some of those concerns, but I'd agree to never use lime unless you have a pH meter.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: narvin on May 01, 2012, 07:01:18 PM
I guess, but I don't see any difference in water that started with low alkalinity and ended up with a lot of it versus a base water with high bicarbonate.

Just the conjecture that neutralized bicarbonate (like what would happen in your acidic mash) lends an unpleasant flavor. I'm not an expert mead maker, but I've noticed it's definitely true when making mead, and also when making Belgian candi syrup. You can use much larger amounts of lime than chalk before you hit the taste threshold. How applicable that is to beer I couldn't say with certainty, but I strongly suspect similar flavor issues.


I agree, and am not a big fan of chalk either.  Beers I haven't added chalk to are almost always better than the ones I have.  The possible reasons are:

1) No need for additional alkalinity.  This is definitely possible; AJ Delange thinks that few, if any, circumstances warrant adding alkalinity.  My water has a bicarbonate content of 59 ppm. I've checked the mash pH with my meter on beers like a 60 SRM stout, and found that the contributions from a mostly roasted malt grainbill still result in a mash pH of 5.5.  The same mash read at about 4.9 with the colorphast strips, which, even with the 0.3 margin of error that Kai found, do not seem to be at all reliable for dark beers.

2) Neutralizied alkalinity.  Possible, but I don't see the same effect when using lactic acid in light lagers.

3) Residual chalk.  Could impart flavors, given that it doesn't dissolve completely.  Also possible that we are adding twice as much as we need, given the poor solubility, and the rest dissolves/reacts in the boil and causes a high wort pH.  This is generally never good.

I just want people to be careful with adding alkalinity.  In most cases, alkalinity is a bad thing.  I'm still looking for "the answer", as well; even though generalizations about water are hard to make, there are some best practices.  It seems to me that they are style based, and based on flavor.  100 ppm of bicarbonate have very little effect on the conversion, given the mash pH shift is less than 0.1, but have a large effect on flavor.

Keep experimenting!
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on May 01, 2012, 07:41:35 PM
Narvin - I completely agree. I don't know if you saw the thread where I was heckling John Palmer, but if I had to make a sweeping generalization, I'd agree with DeLange way before Palmer.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: mabrungard on May 01, 2012, 10:14:46 PM

I would never recommend anyone use lime unless they have a pH meter, as the strips (even colorPhast) are just not accurate enough.  Even with that, use safety precautions and err on the low side.  I personally don't think any beer benefits from a mash pH of over 5.5, and even a beer with lots of roasted malts will be very easy to get above this with a strong base like lime.

I'm not willing to go quite that far.  If you have the capability to dose your water accurately with lime, there is no more need to have a pH meter for that addition than with any other mineral addition. 

If you are starting with a low alkalinity water like distilled or RO, then you know that you will need some alkalinity for highly acidic grists with significant crystal or roast content.  If you have any confidence in the acidity correlations for various grain types, you can certainly have some confidence that you can calculate what the total acidity you are adding via your grist.  With that knowledge, you can estimate what alkalinity your mash will need to produce an appropriate mash pH. 

The great thing about lime is that you will get exactly the quantity of alkalinity in your water with respect to your dosing.  And with that alkalinity being delivered in the hydroxl form, it is going to react with whatever proton donor it encounters.  Its especially going to react with and neutralize those available acids (those sluts!). 

So you can depend on this reaction to proceed fully to completion, unlike chalk.  If you dose lime right and understand your mash acidity, the pH will be right.  You don't have to worry about the buffering capacity like when you're adding acid to an alkaline water.  Adding lime into an acidic solution is a straight one to one response when you are starting with little or no alkalinity in the water.   

Nate, I have to disagree that 'in most cases alkalinity is a bad thing'.  I've found just the opposite.  I find that inappropriate alkalinity content is a bad thing.  That goes both ways.  Too low an alkalinity produces a thin, body-less beer that is likely to be tart.  That might be a good thing in a Berliner Weisse, but not so good in other styles.  Too high an alkalinity creates a litany of faults through excessive mash pH and wort pH.  But the appropriate alkalinity produces a better beer every time. 

There are brewers that brew beers like stouts using RO water and maybe some calcium mineral.  They are making beer. But in the hundreds of darker beers that I've judged that have an acidic twang and thin body, I can only assume they were brewed with low alkalinity water.  In some cases, I've been able to confirm from the brewer that they used low alkalinity water for the brew. 

Conversely here in the land of very alkaline water, I've tasted some truly wonderful dark beers that I've queried the brewers as to their water adjustements.  They typically do little to their water.  (of course their lighter beers stink unless they've learned the magic of alkalinity reduction).   Aiming for the appropriate alkalinity to coordinate with the needs of the grist is the path to better beer. 

I have been advocating an elevated mash pH target for darker beers for probably 3 years now.  I always found that if I over-neutralized my high alkalinity brewing water when I was in Tallahassee or my under-alkalinity RO water here in Carmel, my dark beers were sharp and unpleasant.  Whereas, when the mash pH was a little bit high at 5.5 to 5.6, then those same beer recipes were much smoother.  Recently, I was trolling through Kai's Braukaiser site and noted that he had pointed out a reference (I think it was either Kunze or Briggs) that said that a slightly higher mash pH helps improve the extraction of color and flavor from roast malts.  That was an Ah Ha moment for me!  It corroborated my empirical findings above. 

That higher pH target also helps me understand why so many brewers using RO or distilled water have to reserve their roast grains from the main mash.  That process helps moderate the problems of a too low mash and also allows the mash to naturally increase its pH as the mash progresses.  That moves the pH closer to a range that the roast color and extraction is going to appreciate. 

Appropriate alkalinity should always be a brewers goal, not 'no alkalinity'.  That no alkalinity water recipe does not hold true for all beers.  You can also fault Palmer's original nomograph and spreadsheet.  It was the downfall of many a dark beer brewer since it recommends far too much alkalinity.  But, don't go to the extreme in aiming for too little alkalinity.

Enjoy! 
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on May 01, 2012, 10:31:51 PM
Martin - As always, thank you for being the voice of reason.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: garc_mall on May 02, 2012, 12:26:48 AM
These conversations are where I learn the most. I still don't understand water chemistry as much as I would like, but every time one of these threads come up, I learn a bit more, or a different way of understanding my water chemistry. Thanks you guys.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: weithman5 on May 02, 2012, 01:11:12 AM
so next time i brew my dark (probably not until the fall or winter) i will brew back to back batches. one i will use pickling lime to correct my alkalinity. this brings up two questions.

1.  where do i get it?
2.  why can i not just use strips and correct for the difference over using a meter?  this is similar to when everyone comments about weighing priming sugar over using a measuring cup.  i once checked the repeatability of my 3/4 cup and i was consistently withing 1-2 grams of 153g.  granted a 1% error but within the accuracy of my scale.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: bo on May 02, 2012, 01:45:23 AM
so next time i brew my dark (probably not until the fall or winter) i will brew back to back batches. one i will use pickling lime to correct my alkalinity. this brings up two questions.

1.  where do i get it?
2.  why can i not just use strips and correct for the difference over using a meter?  this is similar to when everyone comments about weighing priming sugar over using a measuring cup.  i once checked the repeatability of my 3/4 cup and i was consistently withing 1-2 grams of 153g.  granted a 1% error but within the accuracy of my scale.

You can get it at a supermarket by the canning supplies. One bag is a lifetime supply and it's only a few dollars.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on May 02, 2012, 01:49:24 AM
You can get it at a supermarket by the canning supplies. One bag is a lifetime supply and it's only a few dollars.

The closest Walmart to me used to carry lime with their canning stuff, but they don't anymore. Sometimes hardware stores carry canning stuff, but none of the hardware stores around me carry lime. All of the Mennonite stores by me carry it, though. Just FYI, it might be hard to find.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: Hokerer on May 02, 2012, 02:14:21 AM
Our supermarkets tend to be very seasonal with canning supplies so it's hit or miss whether you'll find it.  I can reliably find it year round at our local Southern States Co-op, though.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: ccfoo242 on May 02, 2012, 02:19:37 AM
I find shaking a chicken's foot at my mash tun helps keep my pH in a range between 5.1 and 6.2.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: weithman5 on May 02, 2012, 02:35:42 AM
You can get it at a supermarket by the canning supplies. One bag is a lifetime supply and it's only a few dollars.

The closest Walmart to me used to carry lime with their canning stuff, but they don't anymore. Sometimes hardware stores carry canning stuff, but none of the hardware stores around me carry lime. All of the Mennonite stores by me carry it, though. Just FYI, it might be hard to find.

well then, the amish store near my mom's probably will have it too.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: hopfenundmalz on May 02, 2012, 12:27:37 PM
You can get it at a supermarket by the canning supplies. One bag is a lifetime supply and it's only a few dollars.

The closest Walmart to me used to carry lime with their canning stuff, but they don't anymore. Sometimes hardware stores carry canning stuff, but none of the hardware stores around me carry lime. All of the Mennonite stores by me carry it, though. Just FYI, it might be hard to find.

well then, the amish store near my mom's probably will have it too.
I found my bag at a farm supply store that had a canning section. It was the dead of winter.
Walmart may have a canning section that is seasonal in the Midwest.

You could also search for "Mrs. Wages" and buy online.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: hopfenundmalz on May 02, 2012, 12:43:44 PM
Read through Martins thoughtful post. One should be aware that some of the successful Michgan breweries known for their Porters and Stouts have highly alkaline water.  Disclaimer - I don't know what they do for water adjustment. I did want to point out that the tap water in Kalamazoo has >400 ppm of bicarbonate if I remember the discussion with another homebrewer.

My tap water is from wells in town, and has a 364 ppm bicarbonate level. See the "post your water report thread" in the Ingredients section for my report if interested.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: narvin on May 02, 2012, 01:20:01 PM
Totally agree with you, Martin, about not all alkalinity being bad.  Just saying that since most water already has some, more may not always be necessary, even for dark beers.  YMMV.

The reason I recommend against the strips is that I don't find them to be accurate.  I wouldn't want to raise mash pH by 0.2 or more in error.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on May 02, 2012, 02:01:05 PM
The reason I recommend against the strips is that I don't find them to be accurate.  I wouldn't want to raise mash pH by 0.2 or more in error.

Bru'n, if followed correctly with accurate water inputs, always gets me within +/-0.1 of my target mash pH. The issue I think is operator error. If you're trusting a water report that might be outdated, or if you mis-measure a water volume or mineral addition, it's pretty easy to mess up your mash. There have been a few times where I missed something and my results were worse than +/-0.1 and required further futzing to get in the proper range.

I think precision pH strips much better than nothing, and are accurate enough for a "go/no go" evaluation of the general mash range, but not nearly accurate to target a specific mash pH. 
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: narcout on May 02, 2012, 03:45:22 PM
That higher pH target also helps me understand why so many brewers using RO or distilled water have to reserve their roast grains from the main mash.  That process helps moderate the problems of a too low mash and also allows the mash to naturally increase its pH as the mash progresses.  That moves the pH closer to a range that the roast color and extraction is going to appreciate.

I started experimenting with that technique a few months ago after reading about it in Brewing Better Beer, and I think it has significantly improved my darker beers.  It also has the beneficial side effect of keeping my sparge pH in line.

Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: positiverpr on May 03, 2012, 09:23:43 PM
since reading everything that i could from aj/kai/martin about 18 months ago and switching from palmers spreadsheet to bru'n water(and from chalk to lime) my mash ph has been much more predictable(+-0.1) and both my light and dark beers have improved significantly(no lime in the lighter beers obviously). no side by sides done but the difference was obvious enough to me so as not to need one to convince me. go ahead and switch and never look back- you wont be sorry.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: beersk on May 04, 2012, 03:26:21 PM
So, basically what Martin is saying is that shooting for a higher mash pH of 5.5 or so, makes roasted grains taste smoother?
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: nateo on May 04, 2012, 04:05:56 PM
So, basically what Martin is saying is that shooting for a higher mash pH of 5.5 or so, makes roasted grains taste smoother?

Yep. I think it's like how apple cider can taste limp and boring if it's not acidic enough.
Title: Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
Post by: beersk on May 04, 2012, 06:12:01 PM
So, basically what Martin is saying is that shooting for a higher mash pH of 5.5 or so, makes roasted grains taste smoother?

Yep. I think it's like how apple cider can taste limp and boring if it's not acidic enough.
Sweet, I'm picking this up, little by little.  Chemistry was never my strong suit.