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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: thehorse on August 10, 2010, 09:32:44 PM

Title: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on August 10, 2010, 09:32:44 PM
I'm probably jumping the gun a little, but I brewed the following...

4 Weeks Ago - Jamil Saison - About 1.065 OG, 1.002 FG - 26 IBU - 8.3% ABV
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Calcium   Magnesium   Sodium   Chloride   Sulfate      Alkalinity
(Ca ppm)   (Mg ppm)           (Na ppm)   (Cl ppm)   (SO4 ppm)      (CaCO3 ppm)
80           7                      16           87            84               54


3.5 Weeks Ago - Jamil Dubbel - About 1.070 OG, 1.007 FG - 25 IBU - 8.3% ABV
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Calcium   Magnesium   Sodium   Chloride   Sulfate    Alkalinity
(Ca ppm)   (Mg ppm)           (Na ppm)   (Cl ppm)   (SO4 ppm)    (CaCO3 ppm)
137           7                   119            76            79            357

Both beers exhibit a significant harshness. Now with that being said, the harshness DRAMATICALLY improved once I crash cooled them and transfered to the keg. Each beer was roughly primary fermented for 1 week to 1.5 weeks and then sat on the yeast cake another week once fermentation was 100% complete. Both beers turned out with a little bit higher original gravity than was expected and both attenuated more than expected.

I've read a few things about mineral content / Alkalinity, could this harshness be due to too high of alkalinity in my adjusted water? I would think that this is more likely in the Dubbel given the total Alkalinity of 357. Both beers have the same type of harshness and used 2 different yeasts (3711 & 3787).

Is it more likely that this is Alcohol Harshness, I'm not really sure what that even tastes like?
Is it just Green Beer?
Does C02 even out this harshness, or will it taste better after carbonation?

Anyway, I now know I need to bump up my efficiency calculation to at least 75% in the future. I'm just trying to understand the harshness I'm tasting.

Thanks for the help in advance!!!
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: richardt on August 10, 2010, 11:37:15 PM
Sounds like the harshness and bitterness is due to the suspended yeast (which adsorbs hop bitterness).
For me, the clue was your description of how the flavor dramatically improved after crash-cooling the beer (drops out the yeast).

The two beers you've mentioned have 25-26 IBU's.  That's assuming you're not also drinking the suspended yeast and the associated (extra) bitterness which accompanies it.

I, too, don't like the flavor of yeast in my beer--especially when I've brewed an APA or IPA (30-45 IBU or 40-70 IBU, respectively).  I find that it upsets the balance too much for the intended style.  And I don't find it to be a pleasant bitterness like one would find in an IPA.  In contrast, tasing the yeast in a hefeweizen (mit hefe) is a different experience, and more enjoyable, as bittering rates are much lower (8-15 IBU) in that style.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on August 11, 2010, 12:21:46 AM
Yep, you may have had "yeast bite".  You said harsh, not astringent.

The second batch with the high alkalinity might be a problem.  Water is one thing, but what the mash pH is at is the really important thing.  I have over done water in the past.  The brewing water profiles for cities are one thing.  What the brewers in those cities do with the water is another. Stone has a big RO system to treat the mineraly local water, and then they do a 50/50 blend according to the tour guide.  Gypsum or CaCl2 are added to adjust further - at least that is what I surmised from the stack bags on the pallet by the water tank.

A good pH meter is a great tool for the mash.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: gordonstrong on August 11, 2010, 04:22:08 AM
I agree with Jeff; first thing I thought when I read this was "yeast bite".

Alcohol has a hotness and a bitterness when young.  Could be part of it; harshness and bitterness are related.  2-3 weeks is pretty quick for trying to drink 8.3% beers.  If you want to know what alcohol bitterness tastes like, take a light lager and add some vodka to it.

I question the level of carbonates in your water.  I think I'd use relatively soft water for the dubble and relatively soft water with added gypsum for the saison.  But it's not my recipe, so I don't know what it's supposed to taste like.

Maybe it's me, but I think people mess with their water way too much.  If your beer tastes like alka-seltzer, your spreadsheet is leading you astray.  Seems like a big percentage of the beers I tasted at the NHC had this kind of a flavor to them.

So my guess is that you're getting the combined effects of three or four different things going on at once.

And that's some serious attenuation, by the way...
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: dean on August 11, 2010, 02:31:44 PM
I've wondered about yeast bite in my brews from time to time, I have a hard time getting the yeast to drop out quite often.  What is a good temperature to crash the beer at in order to accomplish this?  I've also considered installing a whole house filter canister with either a coarse filter or a 2 micron filter... haven't tried it yet though.

I'm getting better at making mineral additions so I can brew lighter colored beer but still not quite what I want, my brews are coming out too smooth now imo.  If I crank the Co2 up it generally helps add more crispness.  So I'm still dialing water adjustments in... I tend to do two or three batches over a period of a weekend rather than brewing every few weeks or month so it allows me to judge all of them about the same time. 
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on August 11, 2010, 03:54:45 PM
First of all, thanks for everyone's help.  I really appreciate it!!!

I'm not 100% sure what astringency tastes like, but I've read that it gives a puckering factor.  I don't believe that's what I'm tasting.  I think it's either Alcohol Hotness/Bitterness or Yeast Bite.  Given that the beer looks pretty darn clear, I'm almost leaning towards Alcohol Hotness/Bitterness.  Could you still taste yeast bite even if the beer is pretty clear?

If it is Alcohol Hotness, does anyone have any idea as to how long it typically takes for this to mellow?  I know it will very, I'm just looking for a guideline.

Another question would be how can I prevent this in the future.  Is this something that is caused by too low a terminal gravity?  If so, obviously I could adjust my mash temp or recipe for this in the future.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: denny on August 11, 2010, 03:57:09 PM
"Heat" from alcohol and yeast bite are 2 very different sensations in my book.  "Heat" will be kinda like nail polish remover/model airplane glue kind of thing.  One of the prime causes is fermenting at too high a temp, and high ABV exacerbates it.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on August 11, 2010, 04:07:01 PM
I've heard of Alcohol Bitterness too, how does that play into things?
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: denny on August 11, 2010, 04:09:00 PM
I'm afraid I'm not aware of alcohol bitterness.  Never heard of it, nor experienced it as far as I can recall.  Do you happen to have a reference I could look at?
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: bluesman on August 11, 2010, 04:16:42 PM
I am assuming you made an appropriate starter?  If not that would explain your problem.

If so... I think you need to give your beer some more time in order to eliminate the effect or lack of proper conditioning.

Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on August 11, 2010, 04:19:40 PM
I've only heard Jamil refer Alcohol Bitterness to it on podcasts.  I don't really have much for you.  

I'm going to hold out hope that in a month or so of aging and with carbonation that the beer will turn out alright.  Just trying to figure it out because I feel like I did everything right with the exception of coming in a little high on OG.

Made an appropriate starter
Cooled a few degrees below pitching temp
Controlled fermentation temp (Fermentation was fast and very healthy)

I appreciate all the help!!!
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: denny on August 11, 2010, 05:01:36 PM
Yeah, it sounds like you did everything right.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: bonjour on August 11, 2010, 05:08:15 PM
If it is Alcohol hotness the typical fix is to ferment at a lower wort temp.

Fred
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: gordonstrong on August 11, 2010, 08:43:51 PM
Like I said, pour a splash of vodka in some beer and see what alcohol bitterness tastes like.

Chew on some red grapes, drink a young Cabernet or make strong tea (steep for 10 minutes) to see what astringency is like. Astringency makes soft tissue contract so it feels like it's pulling all parts of you mouth.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: bluesman on August 11, 2010, 08:51:43 PM
If it is Alcohol hotness the typical fix is to ferment at a lower wort temp.

Fred

+1

Reminds me of the first time I made a Witbier and fermented at 78F.   :o

Fusel alcohol heaven.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: tschmidlin on August 11, 2010, 09:08:24 PM
Like I said, pour a splash of vodka in some beer and see what alcohol bitterness tastes like.

I'm with Denny, I've never heard of alcohol bitterness before this thread.  If I was grading an exam and someone referred to alcohol bitterness I would ding them for making stuff up.  Is this just another way of describing heat from high alcohol, or solventy flavors from fusels?
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on August 12, 2010, 03:27:23 PM
So I carbed up the Saison and had a pint last night.  It continues to get better, and I have little doubt that the bitterness I was tasting earlier was simply the yeast.  The bitterness is gone 100% now, and the only thing that I can taste now is a little Alcohol on the back of my tongue at the end.

I also kegged the dubbel last night, and the maltiness in that beer is starting to shine through also.  I also get that little bit of an alcohol harshness at the end of that beer also.

As a fairly new brewer, it's hard to pick these things out and I appreciate all the help.  As so many have said, I think the beers were/are effectively green.  I think this was made worse because they came out bigger than expected.  The yeast has totally dropped and I think they just need a little more age.

Thanks again for all the help
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: denny on August 12, 2010, 03:44:48 PM
Great to hear you got it sussed!
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: gordonstrong on August 12, 2010, 03:50:21 PM
Quote
Like I said, pour a splash of vodka in some beer and see what alcohol bitterness tastes like.


I'm with Denny, I've never heard of alcohol bitterness before this thread.  If I was grading an exam and someone referred to alcohol bitterness I would ding them for making stuff up.  Is this just another way of describing heat from high alcohol, or solventy flavors from fusels?


No.  I'm not talking about warming mouthfeels or solventy fusels, which obviously exist and on which we most certainly agree.  I'm talking one of the five basic tastes.  Test it for yourself.  It's exactly like a spiked beer session.  It's what I tasted during such a session.  Add ethanol to a light lager.  Compare before and after. Try it; you'll see.  Look for the mouthfeel, but also look for the taste.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: denny on August 12, 2010, 03:56:22 PM
Thanks for the suggestion, Gordon.  I'll have to try that to see if I can train myself about alcohol bitterness.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: tschmidlin on August 12, 2010, 09:48:29 PM
Thanks for the suggestion, Gordon.  I'll have to try that to see if I can train myself about alcohol bitterness.
Yeah, me too - I'll try it tonight with some vodka in a Full Sail Session.

So are you saying Gordon, that it adds bitterness, or that it just gives the impression of higher bitterness in the beer?
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: gordonstrong on August 12, 2010, 09:55:13 PM
It has to be the impression of bitterness. Alcohol doesn't contain any isomerized alpha acids, so it can't add any IBUs.

Things can be bitter without having IBUs, however. Burn your coffee and it will turn bitter. I don't know how you'd measure all these differences unless you can isolate the bitter compound and test for that. I'm just talking about using your tongue, since that's all a consumer or a judge will have.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: tschmidlin on August 12, 2010, 09:59:12 PM
Well yeah, no IBUs in vodka so it is most likely the perception.  But I thought maybe you had special knowledge of something in vodka that tastes bitter but we can't detect due to the high level of alcohol and when you dilute it in beer the taste comes through. 

I know you have all sorts of mystical knowledge about alcohol, so it's not as far fetched as it sounds :)
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: gordonstrong on August 12, 2010, 10:08:54 PM
I'm sure there's some way of measuring non-hop bitterness.  I just don't know it.  So I use the "it tastes bitter" measurement.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: bluesman on August 12, 2010, 10:13:01 PM
I'm sure there's some way of measuring non-hop bitterness.  I just don't know it.  So I use the "it tastes bitter" measurement.

In your opinion how much variance do you believe can occur between judges when perceiving alcohol bitterness, diacetyl, DMS, etc..
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: tschmidlin on August 12, 2010, 10:24:35 PM
In your opinion how much variance do you believe can occur between judges when perceiving alcohol bitterness, diacetyl, DMS, etc..
I know this is directed at Gordon, but I served on multiple, highly-trained tasting panels when I worked in Starbucks R&D. And I can tell you, a large part of training was to get everyone to agree for example that "the level of bitterness in this coffee is a 5", and after enough training we were really good at the panel agreeing on the intensity of a flavor/aroma.  But at first when everyone rated the coffee on their own the scores were all over the place.  We trained on not just bitterness, but many aspects of coffee flavor and aroma.

We also had ice cream panels and reformulated the coffee for Redhook's Double Black Stout when they changed the base recipe, but that's a different story :)
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: gordonstrong on August 12, 2010, 10:49:16 PM
Quote
In your opinion how much variance do you believe can occur between judges when perceiving alcohol bitterness, diacetyl, DMS, etc..

Too much  ;)

Judging is subjective, and perceptions vary by individual. Detecting a substance and assessing how intense it is on a relative scale is difficult, and requires a fair amount of practical experience. Absent any measurement-based scale, as a judge you are trying to calibrate your palate to what is generally the norm. But individuals can be all over the place.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: tschmidlin on August 13, 2010, 04:51:25 AM
Thanks for the suggestion, Gordon.  I'll have to try that to see if I can train myself about alcohol bitterness.
Yeah, me too - I'll try it tonight with some vodka in a Full Sail Session.
Ok Gordon, here I sit trying two samples of Full Sail Session.  First I tried one straight from the bottle, and one with 1 TBS vodka added to 6 oz.  I'm pretty sure that's too much vodka.  It didn't taste more bitter to me.  It definitely had alcohol warming, but it was very smooth.

So I tried it again with 1 tsp vodka in 6 ozs of Session.  The alcohol warming is much less evident, but it doesn't seem any more bitter to me.

This leads me to three hypotheses:
1.  I'm doing it wrong - wrong amount of vodka, need to use a different beer, etc.
2.  I suck at tasting "alcohol bitterness".  It wouldn't be the first blind spot I have on my palette.
3.  This is all some elaborate practical joke that I don't understand. :)

Any suggestions for next time?
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: gordonstrong on August 13, 2010, 11:26:52 AM
Yeah, that's probably too much but I don't know how much that matters. I tasted it when I was an exam proctor; they used a light lager of some sort.  Something that really didn't have recognizable bitterness, or was at threshold at best.  Then they added vodka and it was bitter.  That's what I tasted, at least.  There shouldn't have been bitterness, but there was.  It was unbalanced.

If it were a joke, I'd have you try putting an escalating level of offensive things into beer you'd never buy.  Wait, it doesn't seem that far off.  No, I was being serious.

Perceptions are difficult things; if two people aren't actually tasting the same thing side by side, it's hard to say if it's there or not.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: mabrungard on August 13, 2010, 01:01:16 PM
In reviewing the water profiles used in those beers, its appears less likely that alkalinity is the source of harshness percieved in the beers. 

The profile used for the Saison is balanced ionically and the residual alkalinity is near zero.  Conversely, the profile used for the Dubbel is not balanced ionically, suggesting that there is an error in the reported ionic concentrations.  Additionally, the residual alkalinity for the Dubbel profile is an astronomic 256 ppm, which is far too high for good mash performance and taste perception.  That high residual alkalinity could be a contributor to harshness perception and poor mashing performance in any beer.

The indication from the brewer that both of these beers were percieved as harsh suggest that there is some other problem impacting the taste perception. 

I am curious why the brewer used the water profiles he listed.  The Saison profile appears somewhat appropriate for that style, but the sulfate concentration is a bit high for that style and the slighty elevated chloride concentration can contribute to harshness in conjunction with the sulfate.  I would recommend significantly reduced sulfate and chloride for this style.

Understandably, the brewer used a more alkaline water profile for the darker Dubbel style.  I agree with that change, but the level of alkalinity used in that profile was far too high.  Assuming that the hardness remained as he shows, the alkalinity should be reduced to about half the concentration that was used.  Additionally, the sulfate concentration is still too high for a style that is not hop-focused and the chloride concentration in conjunction with the sulfate can also produce a hashness perception.   

I am in agreement with Gordon regarding the overuse of water profile adjustment with some waters.  He and I are currently working on a project for BJCP.  There are some water sources that just are not going to provide a good result, no matter the adjustment with minerals or acids.  Its sometimes best to just start with a distilled or RO source and add only the desired minerals.
   
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: MDixon on August 13, 2010, 01:11:19 PM
Jeez, you ignore a thread for a few days and miss the party.

I'd probably ding for alcohol bitterness as well, but can certainly understand why lessening the body and boosting the alcohol might lead to an impression on increased bitterness. The converse is certainly true for using maltodextrine to boost body and perceived sweetness to counteract an overly bitter or slightly thin or overly dry beer. Of course if the examinee explained "alcohol bitterness" a little I'd be inclined to credit the answer  ;)
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: tschmidlin on August 13, 2010, 03:56:44 PM
Jeez, you ignore a thread for a few days and miss the party.

I'd probably ding for alcohol bitterness as well, but can certainly understand why lessening the body and boosting the alcohol might lead to an impression on increased bitterness. The converse is certainly true for using maltodextrine to boost body and perceived sweetness to counteract an overly bitter or slightly thin or overly dry beer. Of course if the examinee explained "alcohol bitterness" a little I'd be inclined to credit the answer  ;)
Hi Mike!

I think the problem I have with calling it "alcohol bitterness" is that that's not what it is.  If it's the increased perception of bitterness due to alcohol that's fine, but we don't have terms like "attenuation bitterness" or "body bitterness".  Alcohol bitterness just seems misleading.

Gordon, I'll try it again with some different beers, there might be some BMC at a party I'm going to in a few weeks.  I don't think I have anything suitable in the fridge, the Session was as close as I had.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on August 13, 2010, 06:04:34 PM
Here is my attempt answer the questions below...

First of all, I am very new to adjusting my water.  I figured I should dive right in and try to learn something, and have no assumption that I am 100% correct.  I've read quite a bit on the forums and listed to the podcasts from the BN on water adjustments.  As a VERY BIG generalization here is what I was able to put together and what was used in the water calculations used in the Saison and Dubbel.  I've been using the water calculation spreadsheet from homebrewtalk (EZ Water Adjustment Spreadsheet) that everyone seems to be using .

1.)  Adjust your RA so that the SRM target is that of your beer
2.)  Adjust the Chloride to Sulfate ratio so that it's in the target range of the beer
3.)  I haven't used acid to adjust PH, and have simply been using salts for that

In the case of the dubbel, my residual Alkalinity was calculated to be 255 which "supposedly" is good for beers in the SRM range of 26 to 31.  My Dubbel recipe calculated out at 30 SRM.  My Chloride to sulfate ratio is .97 (Balance).

I'm assuming that my thinking is probably a little to simplistic, and I would love to know what I am missing?  Is the spreadsheet wrong about needing an RA of 255 for a 30 SRM beer?  Is it just a case of my total Alkalinity being to high, in which I should use some acid to lower the PH for dark beer instead of all salts?

In reviewing the water profiles used in those beers, its appears less likely that alkalinity is the source of harshness percieved in the beers. 

The profile used for the Saison is balanced ionically and the residual alkalinity is near zero.  Conversely, the profile used for the Dubbel is not balanced ionically, suggesting that there is an error in the reported ionic concentrations.  Additionally, the residual alkalinity for the Dubbel profile is an astronomic 256 ppm, which is far too high for good mash performance and taste perception.  That high residual alkalinity could be a contributor to harshness perception and poor mashing performance in any beer.

The indication from the brewer that both of these beers were percieved as harsh suggest that there is some other problem impacting the taste perception. 

I am curious why the brewer used the water profiles he listed.  The Saison profile appears somewhat appropriate for that style, but the sulfate concentration is a bit high for that style and the slighty elevated chloride concentration can contribute to harshness in conjunction with the sulfate.  I would recommend significantly reduced sulfate and chloride for this style.

Understandably, the brewer used a more alkaline water profile for the darker Dubbel style.  I agree with that change, but the level of alkalinity used in that profile was far too high.  Assuming that the hardness remained as he shows, the alkalinity should be reduced to about half the concentration that was used.  Additionally, the sulfate concentration is still too high for a style that is not hop-focused and the chloride concentration in conjunction with the sulfate can also produce a hashness perception.   

I am in agreement with Gordon regarding the overuse of water profile adjustment with some waters.  He and I are currently working on a project for BJCP.  There are some water sources that just are not going to provide a good result, no matter the adjustment with minerals or acids.  Its sometimes best to just start with a distilled or RO source and add only the desired minerals.

Martin Brungard, PE
Carmel, IN

     
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: dean on August 15, 2010, 01:36:11 PM
Wow this thread is getting great!  Martin, when you talk about ionic balance, how are you determining whether its balanced or not assuming he is using the same source water?  Is there a ratio between two numbers used to calculate this?  I'm one of those people that learns best by having it beat into me or mistakes made.  Somebody needs to write one of those "for dummies" books and it might do the trick for water/beer chemistry.   :D  If anybody does write one... just write it real slow so I can keep up.   ;D
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: mabrungard on August 19, 2010, 10:42:55 PM
Sorry for the delay in responding to this item.  Work interfered.

From Thehorse's response, I note that there may be some misinformation out there that is leading brewers down the wrong path.  This response may help clear that up. 

I had not used the EZ Water spreadsheet since I have more technical tools that I use in my professional capacity as a water resources engineer.  I like the user interface that the EZ Water tool provides, but I note that the results the spreadsheet provides are flawed in several ways. 

I see that the spreadsheet recommends a Residual Alkalinity (RA) target value based on beer color.  In reading the notes in the spreadsheet, the RA recommendation comes from the nomograph shown in How to Brew. 

Several months ago, while working with Gordon Strong on the revision to the water section of the BJCP Study Guide, he mentioned that he has been repeatedly disappointed by brewers that mess too much with their water due to trying to tie RA with SRM.  I am a strong believer in the concept that the brewing water RA should be coordinated with the beer color, so I was taken back by his statement.   Unfortunately, I had not looked closely at the How to Brew nomograph prior to this question.   I now know why he was skeptical with the method.

I can now report that the correlation between RA and SRM that is shown in the How to Brew nomograph is inappropriate.  At low SRM, the nomograph recommends too low a RA target value and at high SRM it recommends too high a RA target value.  I do not know why John Palmer selected that correlation for his nomograph, but a more appropriate relationship between SRM and RA follows. 

RA = SRM x 4.5 

This provides an appropriate ballpark target RA for brewing water.  And that 4.5 factor should not be taken as exact.  A factor between 4 and 5 is also suitable when estimating your brewing water RA.  There is not an exact value for RA, but I do feel that your brewing water should be in the ballpark.  Light beers should have low RA water and dark beers should have higher RA water.  Unfortunately, the How to Brew nomograph has the ability to overdo the RA adjustment.  For really pale beers, it recommends too low a RA and for dark beers, it recomends too high a RA. 

Gordon's concern regarding messing with RA may be justified, but I think that he has only seen the results of this rule of thumb misapplied.  My RA/SRM recommendation should help correct that. 

The other thing that all brewers should also know is that sparge water alkalinity should be reduced to low to moderate levels in order to reduce the possibility of tannin extraction.  So when brewing a dark beer, you do not need to raise the RA of the sparge water.  Add acid to bring the pH of sparge water down to around 6 to 7.  That should be sufficient for all beers.

The other result from the EZ Water spreadsheet that is flawed is the chloride to sulfate ratio recommendation.  I have never seen this ratio used previously, but I can state that it is not based on any texts or journals that I have reviewed.  It is not a proper indicator of the brewing water promoting a malty or bitter character.  In fact, high chloride and sulfate concentrations in brewing water are known to produce harshness.  High sulfate concentration with low chloride concentration can provide smooth accentuated bittering.  Conversely, high chloride concentration with low sulfate concentration can provide an improved sweetness perception.  The concept of a target ratio between these ions is very flawed and should not be used.  I think the spreadsheet author was trying to convey my point that chlorides improve maltiness and sulfate improves bitterness, he just misapplied it.

Regarding Dean's question regarding the ion balance that I mentioned.  The balance is calculated from the millliequivalents of the major cations and anions in the water.  The milliequivalient value for each ion is calculated from the concentration of each ion , the ion's molecular weight and its ionic charge.  The cations and anions should roughly balance if the water report is correct.

I hope this information is useful.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: tschmidlin on August 19, 2010, 10:57:44 PM
RA = SRM x 4.5 

This provides an appropriate ballpark target RA for brewing water.
Great stuff Martin, thanks.  What do you would recommend if you have negative RA, since the equation doesn't work in that range.  Just either brew really light beer or adjust your water? :)

Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on August 19, 2010, 11:24:07 PM
Martin,

Thank you for these posts.  Earlier in this thread, I had stated that I had been over thinking my mineral additions to RO water, based on score sheets from competitions.  For some beers the score sheets from competitions said that the beers were too astringent.  I have fixed any issues there folowing all the guidelines, but still have lower scores than I was used to.  Except for a N. German Pils that I used the water profile - more or less from Kai's site - which did really well in a local competition and first round NHC.

This thread has helped.  I will be following some of your guidellines in the future.  It also must be said that the water sections from howtobrew.com were what made water chemistry more clear for this engineer who had chemistry a long time ago in a universe far away.  In the future I will follow more of your guidelines and what my pH meter is telling me to do.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: richardt on August 20, 2010, 01:51:57 AM
Martin,
Thanks for the post.  I like simple rules of thumb (e.g., RA = SRM x 4.5).
How is RA calculated?  Do you have a simple equation or rule of thumb for RA?
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thcipriani on August 22, 2010, 07:52:48 AM
Quote
RA = SRM x 4.5 

This provides an appropriate ballpark target RA for brewing water.

This is ridiculous for so many reasons. First, the relationship between SRM, RA and mash pH is tenous at best. That is to say there is correlation here but most brewing water spreadsheet draw very strong conclusions from this weak correlation. The net effect being that the entire homebrewing community suffers. If Gordon Strong doesn't want want anything in style guidelines about the relationship between RA and beer SRM it's because he's had to taste too many of the salty "Alka Selzer" beers that result from the jump of logic.
Some reading that is worth while about the subject of RA, Color and mash pH:

http://ajdel.wetnewf.org:81/Brewing_articles/BT_Alkalinity_II/AlkalinityPtII.pdf
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Beer_color,_alkalinity_and_mash_pH

Second, while I agree that many contemporary sources for RA and subsequent water adjustments are flawed those sources were created by many individuals who have devoted a great deal of time an effort into this work - oversimplifying their work into this equation doesn't serve any purpose except to mislead those people who are ignorant about water chemistry and RA.

One quick example to prove my point. I have a RIS that has a calculated SRM (Morey) of 67. According to your formula that would require a RA of 301.5. In order to achieve this RA (ppm as CaCO3) in my water (which represents a best case scenario since my water has 0 hardness from Ca++ or Mg++) I would have to add 1312ppm CaCO3 which is close to 50g of Chalk in 10gallons of treated water. I brew my Black IPA with water that has a RA of 0 and the mash pH on the last batch was 5.5 - which is on the high end for me. I have no doubt that following this "formula" and using the RA value of 153 and subsequently adding 24 grams of Chalk to my water would have not only put my mash pH out of range it would have made my beer taste like hop-flavored tums.

If people are really concerned with mash pH they have to drop $80 and get a pH meter. If you're concerned with hitting the mash pH correctly every time then you ought to be doing a test mash before your brew day and scaling up your findings (which I don't do because my mash pH needs no adjustment 90% of the time). I'm going to say the one thing everyone hates to see in a forum discussion about water - the vast majority of water needs no adjustment. Brewers that suspect problems with their water are most often misidentifying another problem in their process. Sanitation and fermentation before water adjustment - always! If you want to tinker then build a yeast library not a salt library. I adjust my water to acheive 50 mg/L Ca++ with, typically, equal parts Calcium Chloride and Gypsum. Speaking of which...

Quote
The other result from the EZ Water spreadsheet that is flawed is the chloride to sulfate ratio recommendation.  I have never seen this ratio used previously, but I can state that it is not based on any texts or journals that I have reviewed.  It is not a proper indicator of the brewing water promoting a malty or bitter character.

Handbook of Brewing [Ed. Fergus Priest and Graham Stewart] p. 111 - "It appears that, in many cases, it is the relative ratio of the two ions that has the major flavor influence, often irrespective of the accompanying cations."

(note that I haven't read that text either - AJ Delange has, and was kind enough to post this citation here: http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=21450&start=0)

Quote
The balance is calculated from the millliequivalents of the major cations and anions in the water.  The milliequivalient value for each ion is calculated from the concentration of each ion , the ion's molecular weight and its ionic charge.  The cations and anions should roughly balance if the water report is correct.

This is the problem with trying to achieve many regional water specifications found around the internet - they are not physically realizable because the the me/L of cations and anions don't balance - like at all...but they don't on my most recent Ward Labs report either so whatever...

End Rant.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on August 24, 2010, 02:49:09 PM
First of all, I can't tell you how much I've learned from this thread and I believe I'm starting to understand a little.  Here is my next question...

My dubbel recipe stated above using my standard water profile comes out to a pH of 5.0 using Kai's spreadsheet.  The only way to get the pH to around 5.2 (which seems to be a little low based on his writing) is to add around 200 PPM of chalk and baking soda to  the water.  This results in the following water profile.  Would you guys make this addition for the pH shift or leave the pH at 5.0 and just be done???

range*      
50-150   107.1   Ca mg/l
10-30   7.0   Mg mg/l
0-150   70.8   Na mg/l
0-350   49.0   SO4 mg/l
0-250   18.0   Cl mg/l
   337.5   HCO3 mg/l
   276.6    as CaCO3
      
RA   196.00    as CaCO3
pH shift   0.21


Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thcipriani on August 25, 2010, 05:33:14 PM
Quote
Would you guys make this addition for the pH shift or leave the pH at 5.0 and just be done?

I would make the adjustment if, while in the process of doing the mash, I had taken a pH reading of 5.0 - Kai's spreadsheet can provide an estimate to get you close to the actual pH of the mash - what the spreadsheet calculates isn't always exact. This is especially true of dark beers.

If you want an exact answer to your question and you have a pH meter or colorpHast strips (less reliable) do a test mash and take a pH reading and then make the decision.

Based on the information you have currently made available I would not make any additions. RA values North of 150ppm as CaCO3 are rarely necessary to adjust pH.

If you provide your starting water profile I may be able to give you a different answer based on my experience, but I probably wouldn't end up changing my answer. Just my $0.02.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on August 25, 2010, 07:48:10 PM
thcipriani, I would love to know what you would do for a water profile.  I live in Denver and we have pretty good water with the exception of low CA.  I think I mentioned it earlier, but I used Kai's spreadsheet and I come up with about 5.0 PH.  I was under the impression I should probably up the pH?  Just seeing an example would be a huge help

Thanks!!!

Water Profile
Calcium   Magnesium   Sodium   Chloride   Sulfate           
(Ca ppm)   (Mg ppm)           (Na ppm)   (Cl ppm)   (SO4 ppm)        Alkalinity (CaCO3 ppm)   
    27                   7                16       18             49                       54   



Belgium Dubbel #1 - Belgian Dubbel
================================================================================
Batch Size: 11.000 gal
Boil Size: 12.650 gal
Boil Time: 1.500 hr
Efficiency: 70%
OG: 1.072
FG: 1.072
ABV: 0.0%
Bitterness: 25.5 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 31 SRM (Morey)

Fermentables
================================================================================
                   Name  Type    Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
       Colorado Pilsner Grain 21.200 lb    Yes   No   80%   2 L
      Munich Malt - 10L Grain  2.000 lb    Yes   No   77%  10 L
          Aromatic Malt Grain 16.000 oz    Yes   No   78%  26 L
         Special B Malt Grain 16.000 oz    Yes   No   65% 180 L
      Candi Sugar, Dark Sugar  2.000 lb     No   No   78% 275 L
        Caramunich Malt Grain 16.000 oz    Yes   No   72%  56 L
 Sugar, Table (Sucrose) Sugar  8.000 oz     No   No  100%   1 L
Total grain: 28.700 lb

Hops
================================================================================
      Name Alpha   Amount  Use     Time   Form  IBU
 Hallertau  3.3% 5.500 oz Boil 1.000 hr Pellet 25.5
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thcipriani on August 26, 2010, 04:37:38 AM
thehorse, I am by no means an expert on anything - perhaps especially water, but I can tell you what I would do given your situation.

The best course of action depends on your goals.

If you're attempting to hit a mash pH in the range of 5.2 - 5.8 then I wouldn't do anything to your water. I would go and buy a pH meter or colorpHast strips, dough in, and take a pH reading - if that reading is out of your ideal range THEN add CaCO3 or lactic acid and test again. While brew water spreadsheets can be helpful in calculating necessary additions to reach a certain mash pH no spreadsheet will be right 100% of the time (they are especially prone to error in a beer like a Belgian dubbel where the SRM value is somewhat of a red herring) - I hold no actual answers for what to do to your water to achieve a perfect mash pH every time you brew. All I know is that I know nothing - and that's more than most people can say.

If you're looking to meet minimum requirements set forth by popular opinion then add enough CaCl2 to your water to achieve Ca++ content of ~50mg/L (equivalent to ppm). This will help to shield enzymes in the mash and help certain aspects of fermentation (Fix, Principles of Brew Science pg 5-6).

If you're worried about both of these things I would add enough Calcium Chloride to achieve 50ppm Ca++ as the ion and then perform your mash and check to see if your pH is in the correct range.

If your goal is historical accuracy then I would attempt to synthesize the water of a Westvleteren or another Trappist monastery - all of these water profiles are available in Brew Like a Monk (Chapter 7 has a subchapter devoted entirely to the subject of water for brewing Trappist style beers) - caveat emptor, I haven't checked to see if any of the water profiles in BLAM are electrically balanced.

If I were brewing this beer, given my current philosophy of how I do my water, I would simply add 1 or 2 grams of Calcium Chloride per 5 gallons of water to get my Calcium level to around 50ppm and then check my mash pH against my target range and adjust. If I didn't have a pH meter then I probably wouldn't do anything with your water - just brew the beer and if it tastes off and all the other parts of my process were done well then I might look at water adjustments.

My understanding is that you're using Kai's spreadsheet correctly, and, if you would like to follow that spreadsheet it'd be a route that Kai has put a lot of time and effort into and it is very well researched. However, if you do decide to follow the prescription set forth on the spreadsheet what I said above still applies, check your mash pH and adjust up or down with CaCO3 and Lactic acid (or gypsum or calcium chloride) respectfully.

Let us know what you decide.

The Denver profile is pretty different from the water our here in Longmont - our water makes yours look like Burton on Trent. Lower numbers than Pilsen, it's weird. I didn't even believe the water authority when he said that it was practically distilled - did a Ward labs test and sure enough...
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thcipriani on August 30, 2010, 04:15:20 PM
Also, as an aside/tangent, all of the profiles for water listed in Chapter 7 of BLAM seem to be electrically balanced at a reasonable pH with the exception of Achel - which I was only able to bring to electrical balance at a pH of 9.3 - which is not a reasonable pH for water.

thehorse, the profile you provided is also not electrically balanced at a reasonable pH, this is indicative of incomplete or inaccurate data in your source water report. However, event my Ward labs report is not balanced (and it says so right at the top [in cation/anion balance]) - if you'd like to begin to synthesize water profiles you'll likely have to fudge your profile a bit to start with in order to achieve a reasonable result - but it doesn't seem like you have to tweak your profile too much to get it to balance as seen here:

Denver water profile is (in ppm as the ion unless otherwise indicated):

pH: 7.0
Calcium: 27
Magnesium: 7
Alkalinity (as CaCO3): 56.65
Sulfate: 49
Chloride: 18
Sodium: 16

Another aside to calculate RA use a spreadsheet or this formula:

RA = alkalinity - ([Ca++]/7 + [Mg++]/3.5)
All in the same units either as ppm as CaCO3, Meq/L or dH

1 dH = 17.848 CaCO3 mg/L * (Molar Weight of an ion) / (Molar Weight of CaCO3)

(also FYI 1 milliequivalent per liter (mEq/l) = 2.8 dH = 50 ppm)

1 dH Ca++ = 17.848 * 40 / 100
          = 7.1392
27 ppm Ca++ as the ion in dH = 27/7.1392
                             = 3.78194 ppm Ca as CaCO3
                     
1 dH Mg++ = 17.848 CaCO3 mg/L * 24.3 / 100
          = 4.33706
7 ppm Mg++ as the ion in dH = 7/4.33706
                     = 1.614
                     
1 dH CaCO3 = 17.848 mg/L CaCO3 * 100/100 = 17.848
56.65 ppm CaCO3 in dH = 56.65/17.848
                 = 3.17403

RA = 3.17403 - (3.78194 + .5(1.614))/3.5
   = 1.8629042857142857142857142857143 dH

RA as CaCO3 = 1.8629042857142857142857142857143 dH * 17.848 mg/L CaCO3
         = 33.249115691428571428571428571429
         ~= 33.25 ppm as CaCO3
         
or calculate Meq/L of all ions and multiply by 50 to get to ppm as CaCO3

Here's the Westmalle profile (in ppm as the ion unless otherwise specified):

pH: 7.4
Calcium: 41
magnesium: 8
Alkalinity (as CaCO3): 70.84
Bicarbonate: 91.31
Sulfate: 62
Chloride: 26
Sodium: 16
RA ~= 36.91ppm as CaCO3

Hopefully this info'll help you with your current water question and your future water endevors.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: ipaisay on August 31, 2010, 02:17:59 AM
This is an awesome thread.  For all of those that have been giving the AHA forum a bad rap have not even bothered to read the AHA forum.

However, I would like to add that one can get too carried away with the science of brewing and in the end, you need to respect the beer as an art.  All of the brewing that has occurred to give us the brewing styles we covet were "mistakes" that just happen to be favorable to the local water.  You should all find a beer, or beer style that works with your local water and enjoy that beer, understand why that beer works, and then go out and make other beer styles by tweaking your water.  In the end, you will learn more from brewing with using your local water report (assuming you adjust the chlorine content) than trying to mimic some beer style from a far off land.
Title: Electrically Balanced Water?
Post by: thehorse on September 01, 2010, 01:16:12 PM
So what happens if the water I put together isn't balanced?  Do some of the minerals fall out of the water?  Do I end up with water that isn't what I think?

Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: bluesman on September 01, 2010, 01:34:14 PM
This is an awesome thread.  For all of those that have been giving the AHA forum a bad rap have not even bothered to read the AHA forum.

It makes me happy to hear statements like that.  This forum has a wealth of information and so many knowlegeable homebrewers.  This thread alone proves it IMHO.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: richardt on September 01, 2010, 01:43:21 PM
If used, the chalk (Calcium Carbonate) and baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) have to be added directly to the mash.
Due to poor solubility and the tendency to precipitate with boiling, it does not dissolve in the hot liquor (i.e. strike, infusion, or sparge water will contain less calcium and carbonate than you think because it will be precipitated and sitting on the bottom of the HLT).
All the other salts:  Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate [Epsom salt], Sodium Chloride [iodine free table salt], and Calcium Sulfate [gypsum] can be added directly to (and will dissolve in) the hot liquor.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on September 01, 2010, 06:14:19 PM
I guess I wasn't talking about the solubility of the solids I was putting into my brewing water but whether the water was ionically/electrically balanced and if it isn't what does that mean?

Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: tschmidlin on September 01, 2010, 06:55:25 PM
Your water is automatically balanced ionically, it's not really possible for it not to be.  The salts you add are also balanced, so you'll still have a balanced system.

I think the question of ionic balance came up when reviewing someone's data on water from a certain city, where the balances of ions didn't make sense at a reasonable pH.  Real life water is balanced.  Water on paper, not always.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on September 03, 2010, 03:47:31 AM
I guess that's my point.  I calculate I need to add x grams of ingredient 1 and y grams of ingredient 2 according to a spreadsheet.  According to that same spreadsheet it isn't balanced but I add those ingredients anyway.

What happens, do some not dissolve?
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: tschmidlin on September 03, 2010, 04:06:09 AM
What spreadsheet are you using?  Does it say your water is out of balance without any additions?  What does it mean by "balance"?  Is there some formula it is using that you can past in here?
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thcipriani on September 03, 2010, 05:03:18 AM
Quote
What happens, do some not dissolve?

Most salts will dissolve (with the exception of CaCO3 if the water becomes super-saturated for its pH). It wasn't my intention to be confusing when I said that your water profile is electrically unbalanced - what I meant is that the numbers that you posted here can not actually exist in real water with a reasonable pH. Your water does not correlate absolutely to the numbers for mg/L of ions in your water because it cannot.

Do you remember in chemistry when you'd have to balance a molecule based on its constituent ions electrical charge? That is electrical balance. All water has a neutral electrical charge - therefore every positively charged cation must have an equally negatively charged anion - that's why the formula for calcium chloride is CaCl2 and not CaCl - because Calcium must loose two electrons to achieve a full valiance shell of 8 e- and therefore has a positive charge of 2 (that's why I've been noting Calcium as Ca++). Chlorine, on the other hand, must gain an electron to have a full valiance shell of 8 electrons - and since electrons carry a negative charge that means the ion will carry a negative charge of 1 (since it has gained 1 electron [it's like adding -1 to 0 - you end up at -1 - think of loosing and gaining electrons as adding and subtracting negative numbers). All electrically neutral molecules must have a sum charge of 0 - therefore, since calcium carries a charge of positive 2 and chlorine carries a charge of negative 1 it takes twice as many chlorine ions to electrically balance 1 calcium ion. Water is like that only it's a whole bunch of those cations and anions. Examples of cations in water are calcium and magnesium while chloride and sulfate are anions. the total electrical charge of these ions must equal 0.

Your actual physical water (if we were able to perfectly measure all of its constituent anions and cations) is balanced - the numbers that you posted here as your water report are not balanced.

Water is like Descartes - it exists therefore it is electrically balanced. Starting with the numbers on the water report that you posted will give you a profile that is not "real" water on any spreadsheet because you are starting from something that is unbalanced and almost no spreadsheets out there test for electrical balance before they allow you to adjust your unbalance profile.

Nothing will happen, but you aren't brewing with the water that the spreadsheet has calculated. AJ Delange has a spreadsheet on his site that accounts for balance within a solution (and notifies you of imbalances with regard to atmospheric pressure and CaCO3 super saturation). That's the spreadsheet I typically use when looking at water. It's the Nearly Universal Brewing Water Spreadsheet available at http://ajdel.wetnewf.org:81 - I'd recommend reading the entire manual for that spreadsheet, available on that site - it's not the most intuitive spreadsheet in the world.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: mabrungard on September 03, 2010, 01:14:09 PM
Excellent discussion on this issue.  Sorry for the delay in my reply since I continue to see misinformation tossed about in the Forum.

I note that thcipriani has pointed out some inconsistencies that should be addressed.  He did correctly point out a flaw in the rule of thumb that I proposed between RA and SRM.  He pointed out that if you design a really dark beer, the required RA goes through the roof.  I was using the typical maximum SRM for beers of 40 that is described in the BJCP Style Guidelines.  With that color limit, the maximum RA that a brewer should need to use is about 180 ppm.  That is supported by all the water profile information from the world's historical brewing centers.  For instance, the brewing centers with alkaline profiles have RA's as follow:  Munich = 180, Dublin = 170, Edinburgh = 150.  Limiting the maximum RA used for brewing to 200 ppm is sound. 

Unfortunately, thcipriani goes on to say that the correlation between RA and SRM is tenuous at best.  Unfortunately he is quite wrong with that statement.  He did provide a couple of references from AJ and Kai that actually do provide a correlation between roasted malt acidity and their color.  Malt acidity consumes alkalinity in the mash, pushing the pH down.  He is correct that there is not a precise correlation between beer color and RA, but there is a loose correlation that is adequately described and accounted for by the rule of thumb where: RA = SRM x 4.5.  That correlation (along with a maximum RA of 200 ppm) will go a long way to correct the inappropriate correlations that exist out on the Web.

thcipriani goes on to say that the vast majority of water needs no adjustment.  That statement is quite incorrect.  The historical beer styles that grew out of the world's brewing centers are cases in point.  There is no way that a brewer in Dublin could EVER hope to brew a good pale beer with their water and conversely, there is no way that a brewer in Burton could ever brew a good dark beer with their water WITHOUT ADJUSTING THEIR RESPECTIVE WATERS.  The same thing applies to homebrewers where ever they are.  Their water is probably suited to a limited color range of beers and if they want to improve their beers that don't fall within that color range, they will have to adjust their water chemistry.  The only path to brewing a wide range of beers is to understand and adjust your water. 

Now there is a slight flaw in what I stated above. My statement for needing to adjust waters from Dublin or Burton to brew other color beers is overly simplified.  This is because there are many waters that already have too much ionic content and they cannot be adequately altered by ADDING minerals or acids to make them suited for brewing some styles.  Sometimes you need to forget about using your local water if it has too high an ion content and you will need to resort to using distilled or RO water.  This will help you avoid the alka seltzer or other odd flavored brewing results. 

Its also humorous that thcipriani goes on to state that if brewers are worried about their mash pH they should get a pH meter and then adjust their mineral or acid content.  He is espousing exactly the same thing that I'm stating with chemistry adjustment excepting that he is expecting a brewer to figure out what to do while potentially destroying a few mashes in the process.  I'm more of a knowledge-based guy and I think that most brewers can figure out this stuff with the help of properly written guidance.  My pH meter is a handy tool to have for double checking. But I found long ago that once you have figured out your water's characteristics, the pH meter will rarely be needed. 

I appreciate the reference regarding the chloride/sulfate balance.  I did read the reference that AJ posted on Brewing Network.  I also researched the author of the water section of the Handbook of Brewing that the balance was mentioned in.  Although the author, David Taylor, is an eminent brewing chemist and he worked at a number of fine breweries, I don't see a body of work in the brewing literature that suggest that he or others have actually researched and proven this.  In reading further in that Brewing Network thread, AJ also tends to dismiss the applicability of that chloride/sulfate relationship.  He suggests that maybe it works for English beers with English hop varieties.  I will reaffirm that the use of the chloride/sulfate ratio is certainly not appropriate when either the chloride or sulfate concentrations exceed 100 ppm. 

Regarding ionic balance, Tom Schmidlin is correct.  Water reports or water profiles may not be balanced, but the ionic balance in water is ALWAYS balanced.  Any imbalance in a water report is due to rounding error, detection error, or the presence of other ions that were not evaluated in the lab testing.  Minor errors (say 5%) between anion and cation milliequivalents are fairly typical for water reports. If you find more than that difference in the anion/cation balance, then you should be questioning the results. 

Regarding published water profiles for various world brewing centers, there are a bunch of water profiles published in a variety of texts and on the internet that are GARBAGE.  Even though it is printed in a book does not make it correct.  I have performed extensive research into the historic water sources and the water quality of those sources in resolving the appropriate constituents for those brewing center water profiles.  That information will be published in the future.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: bluesman on September 03, 2010, 01:43:42 PM
Martin...thanks for the water chemistry critique.  I have always believed water is self balancing otherwise there would be a precipitation of sorts.  Your knowlege of water chemistry in regards to brewing is a very valuable resource here.  I certainly appreciate your efforts.  I am interested in seeing your publication of historic brewing center water profiles.  This is very interesting information.  Hope to hear from you again. 
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: denny on September 03, 2010, 03:41:36 PM
Another big thanks to Martin, and I too look forward to your profiles.  I'm always curious about how and when "typical profiles" for various regions are derived and I hope you'll address that, too.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: bonjour on September 03, 2010, 03:47:32 PM
all I can say is wow, 

thanks Martin,  keep it up.

Fred
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thcipriani on September 04, 2010, 06:39:29 AM
Quote
He did correctly point out a flaw in the rule of thumb that I proposed between RA and SRM. He pointed out that if you design a really dark beer, the required RA goes through the roof.

The other obvious flaws being that your calculation cannot conceive of a negative RA value and that the calculation needlessly oversimplifies a complicated concept when many people have dedicated countless hours to developing applications to model non-ideal solutions.

Quote
Unfortunately, thcipriani goes on to say that the correlation between RA and SRM is tenuous at best. Unfortunately he is quite wrong with that statement. He did provide a couple of references from AJ and Kai that actually do provide a correlation between roasted malt acidity and their color.

I agree roasted malt is acidic; however, SRM is not indicative of the amount of roasted malt used in a mash - that's what I found in Kai's research; however, I guess you always find that for which you are searching. You have not offered any proof that there is any sort of strong correlation between SRM and and pH. Can you point to any studies thats conclusion is that mash pH can be predicted solely on SRM? It's like predicting the weather - I'm not arguing there is science to support that SRM has some correlation to mash pH. I'm arguing that if I test my mash pH I'm always right about my mash pH. If I use one of the available spreadsheets on the internet (especially if I'm starting with a profile that can't exist) I'm not going to be right 100% of the time. If I go outside and it's raining it doesn't matter what the weatherman says.

Quote
thcipriani goes on to say that the vast majority of water needs no adjustment. That statement is quite incorrect. The historical beer styles that grew out of the world's brewing centers are cases in point. There is no way that a brewer in Dublin could EVER hope to brew a good pale beer with their water and conversely, there is no way that a brewer in Burton could ever brew a good dark beer with their water WITHOUT ADJUSTING THEIR RESPECTIVE WATERS.

I never claimed that Dublin water needed no adjustment to brew a pale beer. I said that the majority of water needs no adjustment - extremes are exceptions. I don't think anyone would disagree with the statement that Dublin and Burton-on-Trent are very extreme waters. If there's a brewer out there with that kind of water then, yeah, they'll need adjustment - the 800ppm SO4 as the ion would be a good tip that your water is atypical.

Quote
Its also humorous that thcipriani goes on to state that if brewers are worried about their mash pH they should get a pH meter and then adjust their mineral or acid content. He is espousing exactly the same thing that I'm stating with chemistry adjustment excepting that he is expecting a brewer to figure out what to do while potentially destroying a few mashes in the process.

I'm glad I can humor you. I don't espouse anything with that statement other than a pH meter can give a brewer that's worried about their pH piece of mind. I think that once a brewer has a pH meter they'll be able to make informed decisions about which ions to add to their water to give them an appropriate mash pH and not blindly add salts and acids that needlessly destroy their mash by taking it out of the correct pH range. You seem to think that by measuring mash pH and adding CaCO3 or Lactic acid that it somehow ruins a mash when, in fact, adding a huge amount of CaCO3 without measuring your mash pH would do the same thing.

I really feel we're circling the same point - water's complicated and brewers need to be conscious of their pH. The difference here is that you espouse that a spreadsheet is highly accurate while I believe that a properly calibrated pH meter is the best tool.

Non-ideal solutions (like water) are complicated systems to model. If a brewer makes additions based on readings they get from a calibrated pH meter they're going to be right 100% if the time. If they use a spreadsheet, or worse yet, an oversimplified formula they could be wrong. I'm just asking brewers to look outside before they decide they don't need an umbrella.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thcipriani on September 06, 2010, 02:35:13 PM
I emailed A.J. Delange and asked and asked him if he had any additional thoughts on this thread. I felt that almost everything he sent back was relevant to this discussion so here is his reply in its entirety:
Quote
Tyler,

Let me preface by saying thank you! I'm really gratified that someone is able to use this stuff.

Now, on to the thread.

I really think you and Martin have pretty much got it covered. There are a couple of points where you guys disagree a bit but they are almost philosophical.  One is on the correlation between beer color and RA. There is, of course, a correlation. Everyone knows that styles that originated in places where the water was hard tended to be darker. The question is as to how strong that correlation is. To determine that, of course, you have to have data and that's hard to get. The reason its hard to get is because you don't have good knowledge of either the SRM or the RA for a particular beer. If I were to try to determine what the correlation actually is I would have little choice except to use my own beers and that is hardly a subset which would result in an informative model as I do, for example, Bocks, which are darker than my ESB with water that has lower RA.

The other approach is to look at beers for which I have measured the SRM that are brewed in cities for which I have a water profile. For example Guiness and Dublin and Bass ale iand Burton. Trouble with that is that Guiness is not brewed in Dublin any more and Bass isn't brewed in Burton either. But PU is brewed in Pilsen and Kölsch in Köln so we are perhaps not all wet if we assume that Guiness is still brewed with a Dublin-like profile and Bass with a Burton-like profile (which it clearly isn't - modern Bass isn't anything like as minerally as an ale brewed with "traditional" Burton water). The other problem is, of course, that I have about 6 mineral profiles for Burton. You all have been commenting on the fact that most published profiles are hooey and indeed so are most of these (I think 2 balance fairly well) and the range of RA's is -13 - 85 for the two profiles that balance. Caveats aside, I took 17 beers and did the correlation. It shows that the relationship between SRM and RA is RA = 5.6 + 1.05*SRM. This would predict that, for example, my 70 SRM Irish stout should be brewed with water of RA 80. This is certainly more reasonable than the 300 some number that the popular spreadsheets come up with but we still haven't looked at the tightness of fit. That's measured by "Pearsons r", a measure which indicates how much of the variation in observed data comes from the model (the model here is RA = 5.6 + 1.05*SRM). For the data I played with r = 46%  (100% means the model is perfect, 0% means there is no correlation whatsoever between SRM and RA). So the correlation is there but it is weak. If this were a game where you tell me the SRM and I bet on the RA predicted by the model I wouldn't take the bet!

I think what John did when he first came up with these was get data from brewers about water treatment and grain bill. I believe he calculated RA and color from this data and then did the regression. I'm pretty sure about the color part because I remember seeing a comment in a post of his concerning which color model he used. I'm not so sure about the RA. Whatever he did the resulting slope defies common sense (and he acknowledges this).

So given all the pitfalls of the curve fit approach (and who said it had to be linear?) I recommend that the spreadsheet developers take this "feature" out of their spreadsheets.

Imbalance seems to be another question that didn't seem quite resolved. You all said it without saying it explicitly: imbalance represents a measure of the quality of a water report. If the report exhibits large imbalance that means errors were made in measurement, the sample changed while the measurements were going on, bicarbonate was calculated incorrectly from alkalinity, ionic strength was ignored, or some relatively prevalent ion or ions were not measured. The way I often put it is to say that mother nature cannot make imbalanced water and neither can you so if you are trying to match an imbalanced profile you will not succeed.

Finally, the philosophy of owning a pH meter: Given all the variables I do not believe it is possible to accurately predict mash pH and that, therefore, it is essential that you measure it to see if your treatment and grist formulation combine to land you in the right pH range. But I agree that once you have determined that they do you should come back to pretty close to the same pH every time you brew a particular beer and don't really need to check pH. Being the sort I am I do and I also check at the return of each decoction, out of the kettle and throughout the course of the ferment. I don't advocate this for everyone but those pH readings are like familiar landmarks on the road home to me. Each time you see one in the right place you are further assured that your journey will come to a successful end.

Now one thing that has not been mentioned (or emphasized)  is that most beers will require the addition of acid in some form to reach proper mash pH. For German/continental brewers this is sauermalz or sauergut (i.e. lactic acid). For British brewers it is "Carbonate Reducing Solution" (a mix of sulfuric and hydrochloric acids).

Hope this is of some help. Feel free to quote it if you like.

Cheers, A.J.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: mrcceo on September 06, 2010, 03:25:42 PM
I want to echo Dean's earlier comment that this is the best thread I think I've ever read. I have been following it since it started and it has morphed into something which is quite exceptional.  I have my own pragmatic approach as to how to deal with water chemistry and this discussion has helped to confirm my theories.

P.S You just can't get this type of dynamic exchange on TT.  Hopefully this thread will demonstrate the value of this forum and change some minds.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: ipaisay on September 09, 2010, 10:32:05 PM
I agree that this is the most well thought out forum post.  so, here is a question I need ask:

Has anyone have an analysis for HOLY WATER?
 ;D
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: dean on September 10, 2010, 12:10:27 PM
The thing that interests me about this subject is GS's statement about people doing too much with their water.  I know for a fact that once I decided to adjust my water, I went headlong into it adding a minimum of two salts and as many as four.  Why?  Because I went by the reported "ideal" ranges that we see on some of the spreadsheets, one in particular being EZ Calc.  If your numbers are in the accepted range they are green, if not they are red.  What I ended up with was beer but not the taste I wanted in my beer even though the ratios showed it should be.

I'm not saying the calculators are bad, but just because you put everything within range doesn't mean you'll make a better beer.  jmo...

I prefer to use Kai's spreadsheet because it tells me what my pH should be and more importantly what it Doesn't tell me.  With that said my next batch will have only one brewing salt added this time... gypsum, and I'll use either lactic acid or acidulated malt for pH adjustments as needed.

Another topic I remember reading about somewhere that mash pH balances as low as 4.5 and that it may have had higher efficiencies?   I thought about that a lot too, and it just confused the hell out of me so I'm deleting that out of the hardrive in my head... too many conflicts for my little brain.     :D
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: mrcceo on September 10, 2010, 01:35:30 PM
Another topic I remember reading about somewhere that mash pH balances as low as 4.5 and that it may have had higher efficiencies?   I thought about that a lot too, and it just confused the hell out of me so I'm deleting that out of the hardrive in my head... too many conflicts for my little brain.     :D

A pH of 4.5 is where a beer usually finishes up after fermentation.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: bluesman on September 10, 2010, 04:38:33 PM
Beer has a pH of about 4 when fresh, but this can drop to 3.5 or below if the beer is exposed to oxygen such that it sours, as is inevitable in a cask after dispense. Fresh ciders may have a pH as low as 3.3 and, when oxidized, even below 3.

Acidity is generally reported in terms of lactic acid, though other organic and inorganic acids are involved. The acidity figure should be reasonably constant, though slight fluctuations can be expected. Various strains of yeast, as well as lack of proper wort aeration, can affect acidity.

Abnormally high acidity can be an indication of bacterial infection of the wort and/or beer.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on September 10, 2010, 05:31:21 PM
Many beers are in the 4.1 to 4.5 range. 

I can see cask ales going to a lower value with time, as I have had a few that were starting to turn.

Lambics are lower.  I have read of those in the 2.9 to 3.5 range.  Tart and sour those can be.

Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: hike20 on September 16, 2010, 06:53:09 PM
I can now report that the correlation between RA and SRM that is shown in the How to Brew nomograph is inappropriate.  At low SRM, the nomograph recommends too low a RA target value and at high SRM it recommends too high a RA target value.  I do not know why John Palmer selected that correlation for his nomograph, but a more appropriate relationship between SRM and RA follows. 

RA = SRM x 4.5 

This provides an appropriate ballpark target RA for brewing water.  And that 4.5 factor should not be taken as exact.  A factor between 4 and 5 is also suitable when estimating your brewing water RA.  There is not an exact value for RA, but I do feel that your brewing water should be in the ballpark.  Light beers should have low RA water and dark beers should have higher RA water.  Unfortunately, the How to Brew nomograph has the ability to overdo the RA adjustment.  For really pale beers, it recommends too low a RA and for dark beers, it recomends too high a RA. 
Martin Brungard
Carmel, IN

Martin, someone else asked but I never saw it answered: Are you saying that we should never use a negative RA value for our water calculations? I just want to be clear on this, as it seems you are saying that RA values should generally fall between 4.5 and 180.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: hike20 on September 16, 2010, 08:35:35 PM
I am curious why the brewer used the water profiles he listed.  The Saison profile appears somewhat appropriate for that style, but the sulfate concentration is a bit high for that style and the slighty elevated chloride concentration can contribute to harshness in conjunction with the sulfate.  I would recommend significantly reduced sulfate and chloride for this style.

Understandably, the brewer used a more alkaline water profile for the darker Dubbel style.  I agree with that change, but the level of alkalinity used in that profile was far too high.  Assuming that the hardness remained as he shows, the alkalinity should be reduced to about half the concentration that was used.  Additionally, the sulfate concentration is still too high for a style that is not hop-focused and the chloride concentration in conjunction with the sulfate can also produce a hashness perception.   

Martin Brungard, PE
Carmel, IN     

Another question for Martin;
Most of the popular recommendations list the suggested range for sulfate between 50-350 ppm. Both to the beers listed by thehorse are on the lower end of that scale, yet you felt they were still too high, especially combined with the chlorides. So what would you recommend as a guide for appropriate chloride and sulfate ranges?

Thanks again for your advice.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: boulderbrewer on September 22, 2010, 04:31:55 AM
Well this is what I do, my SO4  and Cl2 stay gernerally below 100ppm, the only thing that goes above 100ppm is CO3 for stouts then it can reach 300 ppm. but this is softened water and RO mixed.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: narvin on September 22, 2010, 02:37:23 PM
I think another important point is that the range of mash pH that works for conversion is quote large, but you may be shooting for a specific kettle pH for flavor purposes.  I'm leaning toward lower pH/RA for my water with lagers now, but I love the "rustic" flavor of Saisons brewed with water that would normally be considered too alkaline for a beer of their color (despite that fact that the mash falls well within the 5.1 - 5.5 range).
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: mabrungard on September 22, 2010, 07:05:41 PM
Residual Alkalinity is a rough correlation relating the water characteristics to the resulting mash pH of a Pale beer grist.  A RA of zero is ideally suited to brewing the palest of beers.  In my opinion, there is no need to produce negative RA values for any beer styles.  A negative RA means that your mash is more likely to descend into a lower than optimal pH range which can produce a more acidic taste, a more fermentable wort, and less body.  The charts or algorthyms that present negative RA are only there to show that you can produce that condition.  I have seen no reference that suggests that a brewer should try to mash under that condition.

With regard to chloride and sulfate ranges, I agree with Marc that when both chloride and sulfate are in the water, their concentrations should be kept below 100 ppm.  Sulfate should generally not exceed 150 ppm excepting when the beer is highly hopped and then it can go much higher.  But when the sulfate is really high, then chloride should be kept well below the 100 ppm level.  The shallow Sand and Gravel aquifer that was historically used by the Burton brewers has a chloride content of about 60 ppm while the sulfate content is around 600 ppm. I'd say that keeping the chloride levels at 60 ppm or less would be a good idea for burtonized water profiles.   
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: brushvalleybrewer on September 24, 2010, 01:59:39 AM
There better be an article coming out of this!  :)
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: thehorse on September 24, 2010, 09:27:05 PM
Martin,
     Are you saying that you should NEVER have an RA of less than 0?  If you were to use Kai's spreadsheet, many times it suggests for pale beers you need a negative RA to get the correct mash ph.  Do you believe that this is incorrect?  Just looking at the Chimay water profile for example, it would have a RA of just over 0 I believe.  I adjusted my water to be close to that then add Calcium Chloride to up the Calcium to around 50 ppm.  This adjusts the RA down below 0 to around -61.  If I then adjust for the mash ph by adding roughly 2% sauer malz it drops the RA even further.

There seems to be a trade, at least with the Calcium content.  Is it better to have 50 ppm calcium for yeast health or is it better to have a RA closer to 0?

I'm assuming you would say the project ph for very pale beers using Kai's spreadsheet is probably off and to take a ph reading.  Unfortunately I don't have a ph meter so I'm trying to make a best guess.

Very interesting read!
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: narvin on September 24, 2010, 11:06:22 PM
A RA of zero is ideally suited to brewing the palest of beers.  In my opinion, there is no need to produce negative RA values for any beer styles.  A negative RA means that your mash is more likely to descend into a lower than optimal pH range which can produce a more acidic taste, a more fermentable wort, and less body.  The charts or algorthyms that present negative RA are only there to show that you can produce that condition.  I have seen no reference that suggests that a brewer should try to mash under that condition.


Distilled water and pilsner malt produces a room temperature mash pH of 5.7-5.8.  While this is within the range for conversion, it is towards the top end of it, and for many pale beers I would suggest going a bit lower.  For Pilseners, acid malt or a decoction is often used to lower pH.  Hoppy beers also benefit from a lower pH for increased smoothness.  I wouldn't be afraid to aim for negative RA with your salt and acid additions.  I'm sure people like Kai could provide some Narziss references :)
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: malzig on September 25, 2010, 08:17:48 PM
I'm sure people like Kai could provide some Narziss references :)
Maybe he'll come out of retirement to clear up some of the inconsistencies in this discussion.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: johnf on September 30, 2010, 02:14:00 AM
A RA of zero is ideally suited to brewing the palest of beers.  In my opinion, there is no need to produce negative RA values for any beer styles.  A negative RA means that your mash is more likely to descend into a lower than optimal pH range which can produce a more acidic taste, a more fermentable wort, and less body.  The charts or algorthyms that present negative RA are only there to show that you can produce that condition.  I have seen no reference that suggests that a brewer should try to mash under that condition.


Distilled water and pilsner malt produces a room temperature mash pH of 5.7-5.8.  While this is within the range for conversion, it is towards the top end of it, and for many pale beers I would suggest going a bit lower.  For Pilseners, acid malt or a decoction is often used to lower pH.  Hoppy beers also benefit from a lower pH for increased smoothness.  I wouldn't be afraid to aim for negative RA with your salt and acid additions.  I'm sure people like Kai could provide some Narziss references :)

+1. Defining 5.8 as optimum mash pH, as Martin appears to be doing, is outside of the mainstream to say the least.
Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: The Rabid Brewer on October 06, 2010, 04:34:27 AM
I can now report that the correlation between RA and SRM that is shown in the How to Brew nomograph is inappropriate

I'd be curious on getting your opinion on the "New and Improved Residual Alkalinity Spreadsheets" that Palmer has posted on his site (http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-3.html) dated September 2009.

Spreadsheet using U.S. Units (http://howtobrew.com/section3/Palmers_Mash_RA_ver2e.xls)
Spreadsheet using Metric Units (http://howtobrew.com/section3/Palmers_Metric_RA_ver2e.xls)

In these spreadsheets, the input is SRM and the output is a range of RA. In the instructions he states:
Quote from: Palmer
Darker malts have more natural acidity, and therefore require more residual alkalinity to balance them to arrive at the optimum pH. However, the relationship is a general one – different malts of the same Lovibond color value can have different amounts of acidity. You can use the calculated color of a beer recipe as a guide, but don’t rely on it as gospel to determine the appropriate amount of residual alkalinity; it is a general relationship, like cloud color and rain.

He goes on to say:
Quote from: Palmer
Remember, roastier grain bills will have a higher acidity than grain bills composed of caramel and toasted malts. Look at the range of RA present and choose a number that you feel is appropriate to the style of beer you want to brew.

Right or wrong (feel free to comment) this is the way I've been using the spreadsheet. For a desired SRM, use the spreadsheet to calculate a range of RA. Choose an RA target based on the roast level of the malts, then tweak salt additions to accomplish three things simultaneously:

- Hit the target RA which should help get close to the appropriate mash pH
- Stay within appropriate limits for the important ions
- Target a level for the "flavor ions" (Na, Cl, SO4) based on what flavor profile I'm trying to achieve

Palmer also gives the following guidelines (from How to Brew (http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-1.html)) for the "brewing range" for each ion:
Quote from: Palmer
Ca = 50-150
Mg = 10-30
HCO3 = 0-50 for pale, base malt only
          = 50-150 for amber-colored, toasted malt beers
          = 150-250 for dark, roasted malt beers
Na = 0-150 (sweetness, round smoothness)
Cl = 0-250 (fullness)
SO4 = 50-150 normally bitter
        = 150-350 very bitter


For my water (Ca/Mg/HCO3/Na/Cl/SO4 ~=  35/16/120/34/21/18) I find that when making a light beer (e.g. SRM=5) I often can't achieve the target RA using salt additions without exceeding the "brewing range". In those cases, I add acidulated malt as a source of lactic acid to drive the pH lower. (The spreadsheet allows one to enter mL of Lactic Acid, and one can calculate the amount of acid malt to use assuming it has 2.5% lactic acid by weight.)

Finally, Palmer also notes that
Quote from: Palmer
"[T]he chloride to sulfate ratio is known to be a strong factor for the taste of the beer. A beer with a ratio of chloride to sulfate of 1-2 will have a maltier balance, while a beer with a chloride to sulfate ratio of 0,5-1 will have a drier, more bitter balance."

Too bad he doesn't provide a reference, but I'm not inclined to dismiss it out of hand, either. For now, I treat it as a interesting data point, but haven't been using it to target RA or salt additions.

Thoughts?






Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: johnf on October 06, 2010, 01:53:38 PM
The important part of Palmer's spreadsheet instructions, and the part few people follow, is not to rely on the model.

The part I disagree with is that acidity requires alkalinity to balance. Distilled water pH with the palest malt is 5.8. If you want the pH to be, say, 5.4 you need quite a bit of acidity to get there before you worry about adding alkalinity to balance.

In my experience, I've found that I never actually need to add alkalinity and I almost always need to add acid. If I relied on the spreadsheet (which it tells me not to do) rather than checking mash pH with a meter, my pH would normally be much higher than desired.

Title: Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
Post by: beersk on December 16, 2010, 04:05:39 PM
I've wondered about yeast bite in my brews from time to time, I have a hard time getting the yeast to drop out quite often.  What is a good temperature to crash the beer at in order to accomplish this?  I've also considered installing a whole house filter canister with either a coarse filter or a 2 micron filter... haven't tried it yet though.

I'm getting better at making mineral additions so I can brew lighter colored beer but still not quite what I want, my brews are coming out too smooth now imo.  If I crank the Co2 up it generally helps add more crispness.  So I'm still dialing water adjustments in... I tend to do two or three batches over a period of a weekend rather than brewing every few weeks or month so it allows me to judge all of them about the same time. 

Man I know what you mean about your beer being "too smooth".  I have the same thing going on in my brews, and it's not a bad thing, but I want more crispness in my darker beers and a little more bite in my IPA's.  Of course I'm just using straight up Iowa City tap water, which is pretty good water, but I'm pretty sure I need to make some mineral additions to get the water I need for the styles I like to brew (which are mainly IPA's and dark beers).