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Messages - mabrungard

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That's ironic since it's the Bru'n water pale ale profile that had me targeting such high Ca levels!

The high calcium level is a by-product of wanting so much sulfate in the Pale Ale profile. Since you can't add sulfate without adding some other cation, we are going to end up with one of those cations (Ca, Mg, Na, K) high. Calcium just happens to be a rather innocuous ion, so letting its concentration rise is OK.

Calcium is really helpful in getting yeast to flocculate and it can help beers clear. But there is little reason to raise it above about 50 ppm for ales. The only reason to take it higher is to add those flavor ions (SO4 and Cl) to the water. In the case of the Pale Ale profile, it is a necessary thing.

However, this brings up another VERY important point about magnesium in brewing water. Mg is not a bad component in brewing water. In the case of creating a high sulfate content water like the Pale Ale profile, an Epsom Salt addition can really boost sulfate with a modest boost in Mg content (20 ppm Mg from Epsom provides 79 ppm SO4). That is a pretty good payoff in my opinion. In addition, the flavor from Mg is actually complementary to the overall bittering that we want in pale ales and IPAs. Including that Epsom Salt addition also reduces the total calcium that you will have to add if you are targeting a high sulfate content. This is a win-win in my view.

The Sulfate/Chloride ratio is purely informational and its only useful when the chloride content is at a modest level (say 25 to 125 ppm). Beyond those limits, the ions are either too low to really taste or too minerally for brewing.

Other Fermentables / Re: optimum pH for mead.
« on: April 17, 2014, 10:18:05 AM »
I think the main thing is the flavor produced by the acidity of the finished mead. If you are diluting with an alkaline water when making up the must, then a portion of that yeast's acid production will be consumed by the alkalinity. I don't know if using a low alkalinity water like RO or distilled is an advantage or not in mead making.

The Pub / Re: 23 things homebrewers are tired of hearing....
« on: April 17, 2014, 05:57:18 AM »
It's pretty cool to already have the "meth-stigma" broken down AND have a little neighborhood joke going.

Yes, "Crystal Eth" is what I tell my neighbors.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Mash efficiency survey
« on: April 17, 2014, 05:53:05 AM »
In my experience, crush is always the first thing to look at. 

+1 on crush being the first variable to consider and its probably one of the most influential on efficiency. I have to say that the second most important variable is the runoff rate. The slower you go, the higher the efficiency. Even with batch sparging, I'd have to say that extending the duration should have a positive effect. A mashout temperature step to the high 160's is also worth a couple of points increase.

Even though I'm a proponent of getting your water chemistry right for mashing, I'm not really sure that it is a big factor in improving efficiency. A number of brewers have told me that it made a difference for them, but I don't understand why that would be. The only thing I can imagine is that their mashing chemistry conditions were so far off that it was negatively effecting their efficiency.

With that said, I used to get around 80 to 82 percent efficiency with my old system. Then I upgraded my system and my efficiency dropped well into the 70's while I learned what my water volumes needed to be. My LHBS also was having mill troubles and I knew they had poor crush. That moved me to buy a good mill. I now pre-condition the malt before the crush and have been able to crush fairly fine. Since I've figured out the water volume issue and been using a good crush, my efficiency is nearly 90 percent. That is not a good thing when you have figured your recipe based on 82% !!


All Grain Brewing / Re: Batch vs Fly Sparge - water treatment
« on: April 15, 2014, 07:09:30 AM »
The need to treat sparging water has more to do with its initial alkalinity than its mode of sparging. I don't acidify my sparging water because it is RO water with very low alkalinity. However back in Tallahassee, it was pretty important that I acidified my sparging water due to the somewhat high alkalinity of the tap water.

Be careful with assuming that titrating sparging water down to a certain pH will be sufficient for reducing tannin extraction. In Matt's case, I recall that he uses RO and that 5.8 pH target is safe. For someone with really high alkalinity tap water, that 5.8 pH may still leave a LOT of alkalinity in the sparging water and there could be tannin extraction. That is why a pH target is not ideal. A better target is to reduce the sparging water alkalinity to somewhere around 25 ppm (as CaCO3) or less. Depending upon the starting water alkalinity, the ending pH might be much lower than 5.8. However, since we don't need to take the sparging water pH any lower than the mash pH target, a lower pH target of around 5.2 might be the lowest any brewer would need to take their sparging water...regardless of the resulting alkalinity.

Using the mineral additions to reduce pH is not a good way to approach water adjustments. You are correct that limiting the total mineral content of the brewing water is often desirable for beer flavor. That helps avoid creating a minerally water that hides other malt flavors that you want to exhibit.

This is not to say that you would not add a lot of minerals for brewing some styles. Its just that for most brewing, less mineral content can produce a nicer beer flavor.

In the case above, reducing the mineral additions to produce only the mineralization you want in your beer and then adding an acid to produce the pH and alkalinity conditions you need for brewing is more likely to produce better beer. Don't be afraid of using acid in brewing. It is a standard component of most great brewer's tool kit.

Equipment and Software / Re: Looking for electronics help
« on: April 13, 2014, 07:13:02 PM »
It is a neon bulb. Those neon bulbs run on 120v. I don't think that all LEDs do. I'm not sure the conversion will be painless.

(Neva) Parker (of White Labs) says putting a fresh vial of yeast into 500 ml of wort and letting such a small starter go to completion can actually leave the yeast less ready to ferment a batch of beer. The yeast do not rebuild their reserves and have very little increase in cell mass.

I can believe this if the vial already had high viability and yeast count. However, its questionable if that slurry has either condition. I wouldn't consider adding that slurry unless it was proofed with a starter. In addition, that starter should be continuously aerated to enable the yeast to improve their sterol reserves.

A 1 liter starter makes sense for a fresh vial, but a smaller starter could be OK for a less viable slurry.

Yes, the late addition does avoid the effect on the mash. But the effect on the wort pH in the kettle remains. This same thing is a concern when the brewer delays adding hardness minerals like gypsum or calcium chloride from the mash and adds them all into the kettle. The wort pH in the kettle WILL be reduced. In some cases, too low a kettle wort pH will effect hop utilization and can depress the beer pH a bit more than the brewer may want.

Getting the mash pH correct, helps produce proper pH conditions in the later brewing and fermentation stages.

Depending on the quantity and type of steeped grains, the pH reduction may be notable or not. In an Irish dry stout, the pH reduction is an important flavor component. In other beers, it may not be appealing to drop the kettle pH by a few tenths. Whether the grain is added in the main mash, at the end of mash, or the kettle, the pH will be reduced. You will have to decide if that drop makes the beer more appealing or not.

Ingredients / Re: Using Lactose in RIS
« on: April 06, 2014, 02:54:36 PM »
I'm with Tom on this issue. If the RIS was properly done, it shouldnt need an accessory like lactose. If anything, it should be needing some more attenuation. If it needs more sweetness, add malt!

Equipment and Software / Re: Conical lessons
« on: April 03, 2014, 12:20:20 PM »
I have one of the original 12 gal Blichmann's and I typically make 6 gal batches. I never dump the yeast since the yeast and trub generally fill the cone below the limits of the rotating racking arm. If I was doing larger batches, I might have enough of the cone filled to need to draw some stuff off. But no need so far and if I did empty the cone of the trub and yeast, then I wouldn't be able to draw off all the beer. So I think that leaving the cone filled as much as possible is a good idea.

It does look like the raking port on that fermenter is lower in the cone than my system. Maybe its too low and you do have to draw yeast off in your system.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Sulfate Iso-Alpha Acid Extraction
« on: March 31, 2014, 05:08:10 AM »
That is a new one on me. I had not heard of sulfate improving the extraction of iso-alpha acids, but I'm not going to dismiss that it may or may not exist. I do know that sulfate helps dry the palate and that has the effect of improving the perception of bittering to the drinker.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Temperature controllers
« on: March 30, 2014, 01:33:20 PM »
I have several of the Johnson A-419 controllers and they have been rock solid. I do like the electronic readout and controls.  I've seen several postings about the questionable reliability of the Ranco controllers and that swayed me from them.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Consensus while judging?
« on: March 30, 2014, 05:02:36 AM »
I had a similar situation at a recent contest. I scored the beer at 41 and my judging partner scored it at 29...didn't like the hop character. I'm not one to say I'm infallible, so I did drop my score and they compromised a bit too. That beer was eventually pushed to mini BOS and won the category.

An important thing is to make sure that beers that might be good enough to push, get their chance to shine in another forum. When you have large contests with multiple flights, there is a greater chance that other palates will have the opportunity to judge it. The beers in question, just need the opportunity!

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