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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 01:52:00 PM

Title: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 01:52:00 PM
I've brewed extract for 20 years.  I've been living in my current house for the last 12 of those 20 years.  My extract brews always tasted great.   ;D  Until now, I've never had any reason to question the quality of my well water for brewing.

But, a year ago I finally switched over to all-grain brewing.  I've brewed a half dozen or so all-grain batches and no matter how hard I've tried, my mash efficiency has been horribly low.  I've been discussing this problem with other homebrewing friends and may post a thread specific to that problem, but that's not the purpose of this thread. 

At the advice of many, I sent a sample of my water to Ward Labs for analysis.  Here's the report I got back.  Now, I know NOTHING about water chemistry.  As I said, my water tastes good and have never had a problem with extract batches.

My question is this: 

Is my water the cause of my poor mash efficiency? 

(http://firststatebrewers.com/wp-content/upload/2012/06/Water.jpg)

Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: aa7yy on June 12, 2012, 02:01:42 PM
Well, I'll be the first one to say, nope, doesn't look like it to me. A lot better then I have in Tucson. There are lot smarter people on here then me, but without picking up a book, you might be a little short on things like sodium and magnesium. But, somebody smarter will chime in.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 02:06:07 PM
Well, I'll be the first one to say, nope, doesn't look like it to me. A lot better then I have in Tucson. There are lot smarter people on here then me, but without picking up a book, you might be a little short on things like sodium and magnesium. But, somebody smarter will chime in.
Thanks!  I hope everyone agrees with you.  If my water is not the culprit, I can forget about it and focus on fixing other areas of my brewing process.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: aa7yy on June 12, 2012, 02:14:37 PM
Now, I did go look at my numbers.
My Bicarbonate is 124   yours 127
    Calcium            72             50
     ph                  8.2             8
Total Alkalinity       117           114

I am better for amber ales and darker, without treatment.  You would have a problem with pale ales.

Qualifier, I am just trying to double check what I think I am learning. Feel free to straighten me out.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: kramerog on June 12, 2012, 02:16:30 PM
At first glance it looks fine.  The water has a mild alkalinity which is suitable with little to no adjustment for making most beers (a little acid may be necessary for pale beers and a little alkalinity may be necessary for dark beers).  For troubleshooting mash efficiency, check out Kai's website http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Troubleshooting_Brewhouse_Efficiency (http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Troubleshooting_Brewhouse_Efficiency).
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on June 12, 2012, 02:22:07 PM
Throw it in to Bru'n Water and see what you get! You can always dilute and doctor w/ salts.

WORD OF CAUTION: In many areas of the US (and especially mine), the municipal water quality can vary quarterly, monthly, even weekly in some cases. I wouldn't blindly trust one report without comparing it to other homebrewers' from the same area taken at different times in the year. The best way is to have a sample analyzed quarterly.

This is a good club project - have everyone take water samples at different times in the year and then map the data.

If you want some help charting your water data, let me know. I used to do water quality presentations for my company when I worked in Utilities.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 02:28:20 PM
At first glance it looks fine.  The water has a mild alkalinity which is suitable with little to no adjustment for making most beers (a little acid may be necessary for pale beers and a little alkalinity may be necessary for dark beers).  For troubleshooting mash efficiency, check out Kai's website http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Troubleshooting_Brewhouse_Efficiency (http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Troubleshooting_Brewhouse_Efficiency).
Thanks!  I'll read that.

I have well-water, so I think it should remain consistent.  I was in Home Depot the other day and saw some "Free Water Analysis" kits to be mailed to my country government for analysis.  I had just purchased the Ward Labs kit and was a little miffed that I could have used this free one.  However, I might just use that free kit as well to compare it with the on I payed for.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: Hokerer on June 12, 2012, 03:33:23 PM
I have well-water, so I think it should remain consistent.  I was in Home Depot the other day and saw some "Free Water Analysis" kits to be mailed to my country government for analysis.  I had just purchased the Ward Labs kit and was a little miffed that I could have used this free one.  However, I might just use that free kit as well to compare it with the on I payed for.

Those "free" reports usually don't give you all the numbers you want for brewing - just the basics
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: mmitchem on June 12, 2012, 03:44:53 PM
As I have learned recently learned, the main thing you want to focus on is your mash pH at room temp. You want it to be between 5.2 and 5.5. Bru n' Water is great because you can plug in your water profile, your recipe, and any water additions you make. Be sure to list if the grain you are putting in is a roasted grain or a crystal grain, as this will help to acidify the mash. You can use Calcium to help lower your pH along with delusion using RO water or distilled water. Once you get your pH in that range (found on the 'Mash Acidification' sheet) you will be good to go.
Another thing is to look at your sulfate to chloride ratio. You get these from calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum). A .5 ratio will give you a beer that highlights malt. Flip that ratio or even widen it (4:1 or even 7:1) and you will get the hop flavor you want.
Mash pH and Sulfate to Chloride ratio - those are the biggies.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: morticaixavier on June 12, 2012, 03:50:17 PM
As I have learned recently learned, the main thing you want to focus on is your mash pH at room temp. You want it to be between 5.2 and 5.5. Bru n' Water is great because you can plug in your water profile, your recipe, and any water additions you make. Be sure to list if the grain you are putting in is a roasted grain or a crystal grain, as this will help to acidify the mash. You can use Calcium to help lower your pH along with delusion using RO water or distilled water. Once you get your pH in that range (found on the 'Mash Acidification' sheet) you will be good to go.
Another thing is to look at your sulfate to chloride ratio. You get these from calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum). A .5 ratio will give you a beer that highlights malt. Flip that ratio or even widen it (4:1 or even 7:1) and you will get the hop flavor you want.
Mash pH and Sulfate to Chloride ratio - those are the biggies.

I don't think that calcium lowers your pH, it buffers acids and thus can raise your pH. Roasted and crystal malts, acid malt, or just acid are used to lower pH. Salts, pickling lime, chalk, gypsum are used to either buffer acids or raise pH and to provide needed trace minerals to the yeast.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: mmitchem on June 12, 2012, 04:08:04 PM
Oops, sorry - you are right! I meant to say it will lower your residual alkalinity.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: bluesman on June 12, 2012, 04:54:33 PM
Your water is workable and can be balanced to work with varying beer styles.  Your efficiency issue may be coming from a few different things like crush, mash temp (calibrate thermometer), mash pH and mash time.  Then there's your lautering efficiency to also consider.

The one thing I often suggest to homebrewers for consideration when it comes to water chemistry and mash efficiency is you mash pH.  Keeping your mash pH between 5.2-5.7 is one key to increased mash efficiency.  Your water pH is on the higher side, which can come into play if you're brewing pale or lighter beers. I suggest getting a handle on that for starters.  You may have to adjust your mash pH with some phosphoric acid, lactic acid or acidulated malt to bring your mash pH down into acceptable limits when producing lighter beers.  This is where a pH meter comes into play.  :)
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on June 12, 2012, 05:09:40 PM
As I have learned recently learned, the main thing you want to focus on is your mash pH at room temp. You want it to be between 5.2 and 5.5. Bru n' Water is great because you can plug in your water profile, your recipe, and any water additions you make. Be sure to list if the grain you are putting in is a roasted grain or a crystal grain, as this will help to acidify the mash. You can use Calcium to help lower your pH along with delusion using RO water or distilled water. Once you get your pH in that range (found on the 'Mash Acidification' sheet) you will be good to go.
Another thing is to look at your sulfate to chloride ratio. You get these from calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum). A .5 ratio will give you a beer that highlights malt. Flip that ratio or even widen it (4:1 or even 7:1) and you will get the hop flavor you want.
Mash pH and Sulfate to Chloride ratio - those are the biggies.

I don't think that calcium lowers your pH, it buffers acids and thus can raise your pH. Roasted and crystal malts, acid malt, or just acid are used to lower pH. Salts, pickling lime, chalk, gypsum are used to either buffer acids or raise pH and to provide needed trace minerals to the yeast.

Calcium lowers the pH, and to a lesser extent Mg. The Ca reacts with phytin from the malt and produces an H+ ion, more H+ ions by definition result in a lower pH. Gypsum doesn't raise pH.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 05:14:58 PM
Your water is workable and can be balanced to work with varying beer styles.  Your efficiency issue may be coming from a few different things like crush, mash temp (calibrate thermometer), mash pH and mash time.  Then there's your lautering efficiency to also consider.

The one thing I often suggest to homebrewers for consideration when it comes to water chemistry and mash efficiency is you mash pH.  Keeping your mash pH between 5.2-5.7 is one key to increased mash efficiency.  Your water pH is on the higher side, which can come into play if you're brewing pale or lighter beers. I suggest getting a handle on that for starters.  You may have to adjust your mash pH with some phosphoric acid, lactic acid or acidulated malt to bring your mash pH down into acceptable limits when producing lighter beers.  This is where a pH meter comes into play.  :)
Thanks!  Can you recommend a good pH meter that a dummy can use?
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: denny on June 12, 2012, 05:26:25 PM
Being pragmatic, I've gotta ask if you've worked on your crush.  That's generally the biggest variable and it's a hell of a lot easier to deal with than water chemistry!  But if you have experimented with crush, water is the next place to look.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 05:31:00 PM
Being pragmatic, I've gotta ask if you've worked on your crush.  That's generally the biggest variable and it's a hell of a lot easier to deal with than water chemistry!  But if you have experimented with crush, water is the next place to look.
Thanks.  I'm working on that aspect, as well.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: morticaixavier on June 12, 2012, 05:32:40 PM
As I have learned recently learned, the main thing you want to focus on is your mash pH at room temp. You want it to be between 5.2 and 5.5. Bru n' Water is great because you can plug in your water profile, your recipe, and any water additions you make. Be sure to list if the grain you are putting in is a roasted grain or a crystal grain, as this will help to acidify the mash. You can use Calcium to help lower your pH along with delusion using RO water or distilled water. Once you get your pH in that range (found on the 'Mash Acidification' sheet) you will be good to go.
Another thing is to look at your sulfate to chloride ratio. You get these from calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum). A .5 ratio will give you a beer that highlights malt. Flip that ratio or even widen it (4:1 or even 7:1) and you will get the hop flavor you want.
Mash pH and Sulfate to Chloride ratio - those are the biggies.

I don't think that calcium lowers your pH, it buffers acids and thus can raise your pH. Roasted and crystal malts, acid malt, or just acid are used to lower pH. Salts, pickling lime, chalk, gypsum are used to either buffer acids or raise pH and to provide needed trace minerals to the yeast.

Calcium lowers the pH, and to a lesser extent Mg. The Ca reacts with phytin from the malt and produces an H+ ion, more H+ ions by definition result in a lower pH. Gypsum doesn't raise pH.

okay now I am confused. Calcium creates a more acidic solution? I thought it was an acid buffer. hmmm. well learn something new everyday.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: mmitchem on June 12, 2012, 05:41:24 PM
Being pragmatic, I've gotta ask if you've worked on your crush.  That's generally the biggest variable and it's a hell of a lot easier to deal with than water chemistry!  But if you have experimented with crush, water is the next place to look.

Denny is right - we may be going about this the wrong way. Crush is huge! I think you also like to run your wort out of mash tun fast...right Denny?
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 05:45:02 PM
Being pragmatic, I've gotta ask if you've worked on your crush.  That's generally the biggest variable and it's a hell of a lot easier to deal with than water chemistry!  But if you have experimented with crush, water is the next place to look.

Denny is right - we may be going about this the wrong way. Crush is huge! I think you also like to run your wort out of mash tun fast...right Denny?
The crush is something I am working on.  Just purchased a barebones JSP Maltmill.  Need to construct a hopper & stand for it. 
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: weithman5 on June 12, 2012, 06:06:03 PM
i am sorry if i missed this, but in the op you state your efficiency is horrible. but nowhere can i find what you define as horrible?
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on June 12, 2012, 06:16:51 PM
As I have learned recently learned, the main thing you want to focus on is your mash pH at room temp. You want it to be between 5.2 and 5.5. Bru n' Water is great because you can plug in your water profile, your recipe, and any water additions you make. Be sure to list if the grain you are putting in is a roasted grain or a crystal grain, as this will help to acidify the mash. You can use Calcium to help lower your pH along with delusion using RO water or distilled water. Once you get your pH in that range (found on the 'Mash Acidification' sheet) you will be good to go.
Another thing is to look at your sulfate to chloride ratio. You get these from calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum). A .5 ratio will give you a beer that highlights malt. Flip that ratio or even widen it (4:1 or even 7:1) and you will get the hop flavor you want.
Mash pH and Sulfate to Chloride ratio - those are the biggies.

I don't think that calcium lowers your pH, it buffers acids and thus can raise your pH. Roasted and crystal malts, acid malt, or just acid are used to lower pH. Salts, pickling lime, chalk, gypsum are used to either buffer acids or raise pH and to provide needed trace minerals to the yeast.

Calcium lowers the pH, and to a lesser extent Mg. The Ca reacts with phytin from the malt and produces an H+ ion, more H+ ions by definition result in a lower pH. Gypsum doesn't raise pH.

okay now I am confused. Calcium creates a more acidic solution? I thought it was an acid buffer. hmmm. well learn something new everyday.
From howtobrew.com by John Palmer.
'In 1953, P. Kohlbach determined that 3.5 equivalents (Eq) of calcium reacts with malt phytin to release 1 equivalent of hydrogen ions which can "neutralize" 1 equivalent of water alkalinity. Magnesium, the other water hardness ion, also works but to a lesser extent, needing 7 equivalents to neutralize 1 equivalent of alkalinity. Alkalinity which is not neutralized is termed "residual alkalinity" (abbreviated RA). On a per volume basis, this can be expressed as:
mEq/L RA = mEq/L Alkalinity - [(mEq/L Ca)/3.5 + (mEq/L Mg)/7]
where mEq/L is defined as milliequivalents per liter."
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 06:17:02 PM
i am sorry if i missed this, but in the op you state your efficiency is horrible. but nowhere can i find what you define as horrible?
In the 50% efficiency range.

Based on the comments, it doesn't seem like my water alone is bad enough to cause efficiency like that.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: weithman5 on June 12, 2012, 06:29:47 PM
50 may be a little low.  my efficiency runs around 65 %.  i would blame crush first then water
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: morticaixavier on June 12, 2012, 06:31:21 PM
50 does seem low, +1 on crush, also stirring, I know I used to get dough balls that would really crash efficiency.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: denny on June 12, 2012, 06:36:12 PM
Being pragmatic, I've gotta ask if you've worked on your crush.  That's generally the biggest variable and it's a hell of a lot easier to deal with than water chemistry!  But if you have experimented with crush, water is the next place to look.

Denny is right - we may be going about this the wrong way. Crush is huge! I think you also like to run your wort out of mash tun fast...right Denny?

Yep.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: bluesman on June 12, 2012, 06:37:59 PM
Your water is workable and can be balanced to work with varying beer styles.  Your efficiency issue may be coming from a few different things like crush, mash temp (calibrate thermometer), mash pH and mash time.  Then there's your lautering efficiency to also consider.

The one thing I often suggest to homebrewers for consideration when it comes to water chemistry and mash efficiency is you mash pH.  Keeping your mash pH between 5.2-5.7 is one key to increased mash efficiency.  Your water pH is on the higher side, which can come into play if you're brewing pale or lighter beers. I suggest getting a handle on that for starters.  You may have to adjust your mash pH with some phosphoric acid, lactic acid or acidulated malt to bring your mash pH down into acceptable limits when producing lighter beers.  This is where a pH meter comes into play.  :)
Thanks!  Can you recommend a good pH meter that a dummy can use?

Sure can.

Here's the meter I use, and it works flawlessly.

http://compare.ebay.com/like/230500779352?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar

As I stated previously, your mash pH is one of several things to consider for troubleshooting mash efficiency.  I think your crush is a real easy thing to fix.  I also have the JSP maltmill with a .032"gap, and I get about 80% efficiency on a routine basis. It should come factory set from JSP between .030-.040", which is a good setting.  This should take care of your crush variable.

If that doesn't fix your efficiency issue then you will need to consider other variables...like mash pH. :) 
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 06:40:31 PM
50 does seem low, +1 on crush, also stirring, I know I used to get dough balls that would really crash efficiency.
Unfortunately, I'll have to wait a couple weeks before I can brew again.  I'm extremely busy right now.  Daughter just had a dance recital.  Son is graduating HS tomorrow.  Flying to Orlando for vacation Thursday morning! 

I brewed last Saturday morning when I was pressed for time.  I just received my new barebones JSP Maltmill the day before.  Quickly rigged up a base and hopper for it, but my drill bogged down during the crush.  I think there was too much grain flowing into the rollers from the hopper.  As a result, it's possible the crush was poor.  I didn't take the time to examine it.  When I get back from vacation, I'll construct a better hopper and be sure everything is adjusted properly.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on June 12, 2012, 06:43:21 PM
Can you recommend a good pH meter that a dummy can use?

Sure can.

Here's the meter I use, and it works flawlessly.

http://compare.ebay.com/like/230500779352?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar

As I stated previously, your mash pH is one of several things to consider for troubleshooting mash efficiency.  I think your crush is a real easy thing to fix.  I also have the JSP maltmill with a .032"gap, and I get about 80% efficiency on a routine basis. It should come factory set from JSP between .030-.040", which is a good setting.  This should take care of your crush variable.

If that doesn't fix your efficiency issue then you will need to consider other variables...like mash pH. :)
Thanks!  If an improved crush doesn't fix my problem, I will consider this.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: jmcamerlengo on June 12, 2012, 06:57:50 PM
I will also chime in and say acidifying your sparge water may help increase efficiency. Acidify with lactic or phosphoric acid to get to a ph of 5.5 or so.  But I agree crush and doughballs are the first place the look. Your water looks pretty decent for most beers except maybe like Kolsch or Wit or Heff or the really light beers like that. THose you may find you have to acidify in the mash as well.
Title: Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
Post by: skyler on June 15, 2012, 09:25:52 PM
Another possibility is that you are measuring your gravity at a higher temperature without converting it. If you are getting a reading of 1.052 and the wort is 80 degrees F, your gravity is actually 1.054. That and unaccounted-for wort (like that absorbed by your hops) can give people unnaturally low efficiency readings.