Author Topic: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets  (Read 3534 times)

Offline ccfoo242

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Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« on: February 21, 2012, 07:11:19 PM »
Hey all,

I'm looking for some help getting started with either Palmer's Mash RA, EZ Water, Bru'n Water, or Kai's.

I've tried the first 3 and the end result is I now have no clue what to do.

Is one spreadsheet more accurate than the other?

For the sake of argument, lets say I wanted to brew 5 gallons of oatmeal stout. Can anyone give me a nudge in the right direction?

Here's my Ward Labs report:
pH 7.9
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 495
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.82
Cations / Anions, me/L 8.5 /  7.8
ppm
Sodium, Na 38
Potassium, K 2
Calcium, Ca 78
Magnesium, Mg 34
Total Hardness, CaCO3 337
Nitrate, NO3-N 0.1 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 55
Chloride, Cl 77
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 134
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 110


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Offline nateo

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2012, 07:50:12 PM »
I wouldn't make my enemies use the first two. Bru'n water is good for estimating mash pH based on grain bill. I tend to use Kai's more because of the option to enter values in German degrees and it supports lime softening, but neither of those features should matter to you.

I don't really see anything "wrong" with your water for what you're doing. You may have issues brewing light beers, but an oatmeal stout should be fine with your water as-is. Your water is fairly hard, but doesn't look horrid.
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Offline richardt

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2012, 08:25:43 AM »
Is your water profile stable year-around?  If not, you can't rely too much on your report.
You'll need to deal with the chloramines (or chlorine)--slow charcoal filtering and/or campden tabs.

Many folks buy their water for brewing rather than take a chance on municipal or well water variances.

Another option is just to buy RO water (use old water cooler jugs to transport) and build your own profile using brew salts--this is where bru'n water software really shines.  This is what I do.  Water is an underappreciated, yet critical, component of your beer recipe/brewing process.

Take the time to learn it.  HTB (by John Palmer) is a good reference, but I admit it made my eyes glaze over and my thoughts often drifted--try to understand the basics.  Don't get bogged down in the excessive calculations and conversions.  There's also a "Water" book coming out.

Offline ccfoo242

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2012, 08:57:45 AM »
I don't know how stable it is year round. I just had that sample done 2 weeks ago so it should be OK for now. I'm in Jacksonville, Florida and we get our water from various underground aquifers.

I realize now that I fat fingered some number's in Palmer's spreadsheet, and this lead me to have wildly different results when comparing that to Bru'n. Once I corrected that my residual alkalinity numbers were similar (thought still not identical).

It will be interesting to see just how closely Bru'n predicts mash ph. I'm mixing 50% distilled with filtered tap water and this helps me get close to his "black bitter" profile by adding a smidge of baking soda and chalk. For my filter I have a whole-house filter connected in-line with RV hoses and it has a charcoal filter.

It sure feels like I'm playing whack-a-mole though when trying to adjust things.


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Offline narvin

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2012, 09:25:11 AM »
I can give you a case study, if you want.  My water is a little bit softer than yours, but I just brewed an oatmeal stout in November and the information could be useful.

One key takeaway is that most calculators will tell you to over treat your water, at least for darker beers. This is especially true of Palmer's and EZ Water Caculator.   Some also push a chloride to sulfate ratio that can have you over-salting your water if both of them are already high.  A better recommendation is to keep one or both of those below 100, diluting your base water if necessary.

This is what I did for my oatmeal stout.

Water profile:

pH 7.6
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est 203
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.34
Cations / Anions, me/L 3.0 / 2.8
ppm
Sodium, Na 21
Potassium, K 2
Calcium, Ca 28
Magnesium, Mg 8
Total Hardness, CaCO3 103
Nitrate, NO3-N 2.3 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 4
Chloride, Cl 48
Carbonate, CO3 < 1
Bicarbonate, HCO3 59
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 49

Note that SO4-S is sulfate as sulfur, which is how Ward Labs reports it; multiply by 3 to get PPM sulfate.


The grain bill for 12 gallons was:

2-row             16.75 lb
Flaked Barley    3 lb
Roasted Barley  2.5 lb
Flaked Oats      2 lb
CaraVienna       1 lb

I mashed with 10 gallons of water (1.56 qts/lb).  The predicted color using ProMash and the Morey algorithm was 39.8 SRM. 

For Kai's calculator, the step that takes more work is to calculate the color percentage from roasted malts versus crystal malts.  Basically, you ignore all base malt and take the ratio of SRM contributed by roasted malts to the contribution from all color malts.  In this case, I only had to include the caravienne and the roasted barley.

roasted % = (roasted weight * srm) / (roasted weight * srm + crystal weight * srm)
 = (2.5 * 550) / (2.5 * 550 + 1 * 20)
 = 98.6 %

Kai's calculator predicted a pH of 5.34 without any salt or acid adjustments.


[click to enlarge]

For Brun'Water, I entered the same water profile and mash size.  There's then a screen where you put your recipe in, and it calculates SRM and estimated mash pH for you.  Brun'Water predicted a pH of 5.2.


[click to enlarge]

So, what was the actual pH of the mash?  I measured it twice with my meter (Milwaukee MW102) and both readings were around 5.48 - 5.50.  I even recalibrated before the second reading, because my colorphast strips were reading much lower: 4.8 ish, which when adjusted for their assumed error is still 5.1 at room temperature.  The first reading was after 15 minutes of mashing, and the second (and the strip check) after 30 minutes.  My takeaways from this is that 1) I won't be using the strips anymore, and 2) What AJ Delange has been saying for a while is right -- you rarely need to add chalk to your water.
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Offline richardt

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2012, 10:51:36 AM »
ccfoo242,
I'm also in Jacksonville.  The water is horrible and does fluctuate a little year around.
I've had variable experiences with the in-line RV charcoal filter hooked up to the garden hose.

I recommend buying RO water in bulk from the machines in the front entrance of most grocery stores.  It costs $0.30 per gallon.  And just build your water profile with brew salt additions.  You'll need a small scale that can weigh things in grams and ounces.

I use bru'n water and have hit mash and sparge pH's within 0.1-0.2 everytime, regardless of recipe.

Offline ccfoo242

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2012, 11:21:33 AM »
I can give you a case study, if you want.
Wow, thanks!

ccfoo242,
I'm also in Jacksonville.  The water is horrible and does fluctuate a little year around.
I've had variable experiences with the in-line RV charcoal filter hooked up to the garden hose.

I recommend buying RO water in bulk from the machines in the front entrance of most grocery stores.  It costs $0.30 per gallon.  And just build your water profile with brew salt additions.  You'll need a small scale that can weigh things in grams and ounces.

I use bru'n water and have hit mash and sparge pH's within 0.1-0.2 everytime, regardless of recipe.
Good to know, thanks!

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Offline ccfoo242

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2012, 07:43:30 PM »
So, my next brew will be a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone (you can find it here)

In Bru'n Water I set the target water profile to Pale Ale and this is what I came up with (50% mash water is distilled):



Any critiques? Suggestions?

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Offline nateo

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2012, 07:49:57 PM »
You're adding both chalk and acid to the mash. One negates the other. I never add alkalinity to the mash. Calcium and sulfate are a bit higher than I would go, but not awful.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2012, 07:52:11 PM by nateo »
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Offline ccfoo242

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2012, 08:06:47 PM »
You're adding both chalk and acid to the mash. One negates the other. I never add alkalinity to the mash. Calcium and sulfate are a bit higher than I would go, but not awful.

Well, this is where I feel like I'm playing whack-a-mole. In trying to match up calcium and residual alkalinity with the target profile, and then get the mash pH down, this was my result.


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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2012, 07:05:26 AM »
Adding alkalinity and acidity to the water is counterproductive as Nate points out.  The next version of Bru'n Water already has more error checking capabilities and adding alkalinity and acidity is one of those warning flags that were built in. 
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Offline ccfoo242

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2012, 07:35:47 AM »
Adding alkalinity and acidity to the water is counterproductive as Nate points out.  The next version of Bru'n Water already has more error checking capabilities and adding alkalinity and acidity is one of those warning flags that were built in.

Oh, nice. I look forward to that. In the mean time I'll go back and try this again.

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Offline nateo

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2012, 08:11:34 AM »
In trying to match up calcium and residual alkalinity with the target profile, and then get the mash pH down, this was my result.

For yellow-to-brown beers, think of residual alkalinity as your enemy that prevents you from hitting your mash pH. Alkalinity only becomes beneficial when making dark beers, and even then you need to be careful not to overdo it.

As for calcium, 50ppm minimum is the rule-of-thumb for proper yeast health, flocculation, and protein coagulation, but I don't know of any benefits for going over that amount.

Briggs says "Perhaps the concentration of calcium ions should not greatly exceed 100 mg/l in the mashing liquor as no great advantage is gained from higher doses and there is the risk that too much phosphate may be removed from the wort, and the yeast may then have an inadequate supply."

FYI when working with very low concentrations of substances in water, mg/L is close enough to ppm as to be interchangeable, although they're not strictly the same thing.

Also, not to muddy the waters or anything, but malts contain minerals too. I've seen a figure of 35ppm of Ca+ contributed by the malt during the mash. So if your water contains 160ppm, plus the 35ppm from the malt, that puts you way over the recommended range for calcium. I also suspect the calcium content of the malt is why some people claim good results brewing with extremely soft water.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2012, 08:18:55 AM by nateo »
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Offline ccfoo242

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2012, 11:35:59 AM »
OK, went back and did something a bit more simple (again, this is for an american pale ale). No dilution of my filtered tap water, just added a little gypsum:


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Offline nateo

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Re: Deciphering the various water spreadsheets
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2012, 01:01:07 PM »
OK, went back and did something a bit more simple (again, this is for an american pale ale). No dilution of my filtered tap water, just added a little gypsum:


That looks much more reasonable. One other thing to keep in mind is that magnesium sulfate is epsom salt. In German it's called bittersalz. It might be an issue to have high sulfates and also a bit high magnesium. It may cause the bitterness to be harsher than it otherwise would be.

Actually, now that I look at it, I'd probably just brew with your existing profile.
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