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Messages - mabrungard

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All Grain Brewing / Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« 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.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« 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.

All Grain Brewing / Re: My water is a changing...
« on: July 14, 2010, 09:20:07 PM »
That water profile is typical of a lime-softening treatment process.  Lime is added to bring the pH to about 11 and that causes the excess calcium and magnesium to precipitate out of the water.  Some Ca and Mg still remains due to its solubility, but most of it is settled out.  The clear water is then taken off the sediment.  The acid addition is necessary to bring the pH back down within drinking water standards after treatment. 

I am a little surprised to hear that the utility is using phosphoric acid for the neutralization since its typically more costly than hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.  Maybe they got a good deal or they have some other concern they need to address. 

You've got good water there.  Enjoy.

Martin Brungard, P.E., D.WRE
Indianapolis, IN

All Grain Brewing / Re: question about a mash schedule
« on: May 19, 2010, 06:18:41 PM »
I'm in total agreement regarding not performing a protein rest for almost every beer since modern malts are already highly modified. 

In the case of a Weissbier, there is a need for a low temperature rest to promote the formation of Ferulic Acid that will be used to create the 4 vinylguacol that is responsible for the clove character in these beers.  If I'm not mistaken, a rest in the 120 to 125 F range is good for Ferulic Acid formation.  If you don't really want cloveiness in your weissbier, then you don't need to do this step.

Since I don't want to overly degrade the barley component of my Weissbier grists, I typically mash only the wheat malt at the low temp and then add the barley as a separate doughin at a higher temp.


Regarding Honey:

All brewers should visit the BJCP website where there is a new Mead Study Guide that is an incredible resource for any mead maker and anyone using honey in their beer.  One of the authors was Ken Schramm who authored the book "The Compleat Meadmaker".  There is a very good summary of honey characteristics in the study guide.


Equipment and Software / Re: Conical Fermenters
« on: May 19, 2010, 05:35:01 PM »
I've had a 12 gal SS conical for about 5 years.  I don't think they make my beer better.  The main reason I use one is to avoid glass carboys and the inherent danger they pose if dropped. 

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