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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: Tristan on March 14, 2011, 08:07:38 pm

Title: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Tristan on March 14, 2011, 08:07:38 pm
My water only has 5 ppm of Magnesium.  I typically dilute with 40-60% RO water when I brew anything lighter than 10 SRM and also for any lagers.  That means my magnesium content is even less.  The last two beers I brewed were identical to beers brewed in the past except I added 2-3 grams of magnesium sulfate to bump up my magnesium to 10 PPM.  One was a Munich Helles and the other was a APA.  They both fermented like "gangbusters" in comparison to previous batches of lagers and ales.

Tonight, I just finished Continental Pilsener by David Miller.  He states that under no circumstances should a brewer add magnesium to his brewing liquor.  However, I've seen advice to the contrary.  For example, Kai, who has a great grasp on water chemistry, lists recipes for building water profiles on his website which include magnesium sulfate as well as the usual suspects.  Despite hearing that a sufficient quantity of magnesium will come from the malt itself, John Palmer states brewing liquor should contain > 10 PPM of magnesium.

What are your thoughts?
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: tschmidlin on March 14, 2011, 11:52:39 pm
It's an important enzyme co-factor and could explain why your beer fermented so well.

Is is also a diuretic, so you don't want too much.

I don't know how much Mg is in malt, it probably depends on the barley variety and where it was grown.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: mabrungard on March 15, 2011, 07:04:06 am
Mg is available from the malt, but I have a paper that researched yeast performance and they confirmed that yeast flocculation performance is significantly enhanced with at least 5 ppm Mg in the wort.  It would seem to me that this researcher's results would have already had Mg in it if they used a malt wort, but I don't remember if it did.

This doesn't provide definitive guidance on Mg's effect of yeast growth and performance, but I believe that it doesn't hurt as long as the Mg concentration is kept moderate.  You will start to have taste impact at concentrations of 30 ppm.  Therefore, I recommend that a preferred Mg range is 5 to 30 ppm in the mash and sparging water. 

I am still impressed with Dave Miller's Homebrewing Guide, even though its over 15 years old.  The Continental Pilsener book is another situation and aimed at a particular style.  In the Homebrewing Guide, he does say that 10 to 20 ppm is desirable and the max is 30 ppm.   I agree that in that style, it has delicate flavors that would probably be affected by the harshness that Mg might apply.  I agree with the recommendation for that style, but not in general. 
 
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: denny on March 15, 2011, 09:34:01 am
What are your thoughts?

My thoughts are that the Miller books are extremely dated and there's much better info available these days.

There's a bit of info on Mg (among other nutrients) in Tobias Fischborn's 2009 NHC presentation...

http://www.ahaconference.org/wp-content/uploads/presentations/2009/Tobias-Fischborn-NHC2009-Yeast%20nutrition.pdf
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Tristan on March 15, 2011, 10:36:16 am
Thanks Denny!  Fascinating material!
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: tomsawyer on March 15, 2011, 03:38:49 pm
I usually use a little of Northern Brewer's nutrient blend in my starters and ferments.  I'll have to double check what they put in it but I'm ifarly sure it'll have zinc, biotin and amino acids.  Less certain about Mg.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Tristan on March 15, 2011, 04:03:28 pm
I've been using the LD Carlson yeast nutrient from the local B&M and it doesn't have an ingredient list.  A Google search yielded no usefully info.  I might have to order some Wyeast or White Labs nutrients that contain zinc after reading that PowerPoint Denny posted.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: a10t2 on March 15, 2011, 05:39:37 pm
This doesn't provide definitive guidance on Mg's effect of yeast growth and performance, but I believe that it doesn't hurt as long as the Mg concentration is kept moderate.  You will start to have taste impact at concentrations of 30 ppm.  Therefore, I recommend that a preferred Mg range is 5 to 30 ppm in the mash and sparging water.

Based on the only controlled study I've seen on it, there isn't an impact on fermentation performance until you get over 200-300 ppm anyway. I'll try to dig up the paper when I get home.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Kaiser on March 18, 2011, 10:09:16 pm
Tristan, my insight into a lot of things brewing keeps evolving. I now think there is no need to add Mg since the malt brings enough into the wort. This is why I have been skipping Mg salts lately. 

Kai
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: mabrungard on March 19, 2011, 08:15:19 am
I just listened to Palmer's Brew Strong series on brewing water this week.  There were some minor errors in what John mentioned in his shows, but not too bad.  One of the things that John did mention was that his co-author Colin Kaminsky has found that minor Mg additions were very beneficial to flavor in some styles. 

In addition, Tobias Fischborn with Lallemand (the yeast people) specifically called out Mg as a desirable nutrient for yeast. 

While I agree that malt does supply some Mg, I've seen too many references that indicate small Mg additions can be desirable to the overall performance and flavor of beer.  The malt had to be adding some Mg for those other brewers, so I suggest that a minimum of 5 ppm of additional Mg should be included in any brewing water (ie, minimum brewing water Mg content should be 5 ppm).  Brewers should be careful and recognize that the desirable Mg range is small and going above 30 ppm is probably going to negatively affect their beer.

Enjoy.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Tristan on March 20, 2011, 11:14:54 am
Thanks for all the responses!  It seems like malt adds a high amount of magnesium to the equation.  It leaves me to wonder if epsom salt additions are more critical in a beer with a high percentage of adjuncts as these would dilute the magnesium content in the wort.

One of the things that John did mention was that his co-author Colin Kaminsky has found that minor Mg additions were very beneficial to flavor in some styles.  

Thanks!  I caught the comment on Colin adding epsom salt to his porter.  I'm going to take your advice on having minimum 5ppm magnesium going forward.

I tasted a sample of my Munich Helles (I added 3 grams to my HLT to get 10ppm magnesium for the brewing liquor).  I didn't taste anything odd or out of place.  For a very young beer it tasted wonderful!
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: a10t2 on March 20, 2011, 11:39:37 am
I forgot to post the link to the paper: http://www.scientificsocieties.org/jib/papers/1997/1997_103_5_287.pdf

The effects they saw, even at 500 ppm Mg, were so minor that I don't think there's any point in adding Mg solely for yeast health or performance.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Tristan on March 20, 2011, 12:44:47 pm
I forgot to post the link to the paper: http://www.scientificsocieties.org/jib/papers/1997/1997_103_5_287.pdf

The effects they saw, even at 500 ppm Mg, were so minor that I don't think there's any point in adding Mg solely for yeast health or performance.

Thanks, that was an excellent read.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: johnf on March 21, 2011, 11:28:01 am
One of the things that John did mention was that his co-author Colin Kaminsky has found that minor Mg additions were very beneficial to flavor in some styles.

Given that all barley malt wort will likely have 100+ ppm Mg with non from the water, at first glance it seems unlikely that a marginal few ppm would make much difference to flavor.

Assuming Colin did not add elemental Mg, how does he know the flavor impact was not from the anion? How does he know it exists? I guess I need more than an anecdote to accept such a huge violation of Occam's Razor.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Kaiser on March 21, 2011, 11:47:36 am
could it be that the flavor came from the sulfate and not the added Mg?

Kai
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Kit B on March 21, 2011, 01:03:55 pm
Tristan, my insight into a lot of things brewing keeps evolving. I now think there is no need to add Mg since the malt brings enough into the wort. This is why I have been skipping Mg salts lately. 

Kai

I use R/O or distilled, for all my brews.
I've been skipping magnesium additions, lately.
And, there are no apparent problems or repercussions.
Flavor is great, yeast health is great.
I have seen no negatives, so far.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Tristan on March 21, 2011, 06:40:49 pm
could it be that the flavor came from the sulfate and not the added Mg?

Kai

I wonder if kilning/roasting malt to various degrees alter magnesium content?  Based on the article posted, it seems that an all malt wort has more than enough Magnesium.  Perhaps something else in their process (at Colin's brewery) changed that altered the flavor profile of the beer?

I did a bit of playing around with my water profile for an upcoming Oktoberfest.  During that time I began to doubt adding a minute amount of epsom salts would be a game changer in light of what the malt provides. 

Sometimes there is so much information available that there is a tendency to miss the "big picture."  Maybe this is an example?

Off topic, I'm transitioning from John Palmer's spreadsheet to Kai and Martin's spreadsheets.  You guys both did a great job of creating comprehensive tools.
Title: Re: Adding Magnesium to Brewing Liquor
Post by: Kaiser on March 22, 2011, 09:34:27 am

I wonder if kilning/roasting malt to various degrees alter magnesium content?  Based on the article posted, it seems that an all malt wort has more than enough Magnesium.  Perhaps something else in their process (at Colin's brewery) changed that altered the flavor profile of the beer?
Unless you can make atomic fusion or fission happen you won’t change the Mg content in the malt :).

Unless I can see for myself what Mg does to the taste and or yeast performance it remains speculation on my side that the amount we usually add doesn’t make much of a difference.

Quote
Off topic, I'm transitioning from John Palmer's spreadsheet to Kai and Martin's spreadsheets.  You guys both did a great job of creating comprehensive tools.

In the last few years there has been quite some progress in the understanding how grist and water settle at a given mash pH and how that pH can be affected, which is why updated tools are definitely helpful. I did however notice that Martin and my spreadsheet can come with widely different mash pH predictions in particular for mash thickness and alkalinity values that are not commonly used. Based on Martins comments only my acidity numbers were used there and not the other results of my research.

Kai