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Sulphur?

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dean:
Anybody tried using straight sulphur in their mash?  Its very inexpensive and easily available at most farm feed stores.  The last time I looked it was about $15 for a 25 or 50 pound sack.

Kaiser:
I don’t think it will work. What we need in the water are sulfur oxide ions. The agricultural sulfur you are talking about seems to be pure sulfur. To get sulfur oxide it would have to oxidize. Once you add sulfur oxide to water you create sulfuric acid which should affect your mash pH.

Kai

dean:
Okay, thanks.  The reason I asked was because Epsom salt also contributes magnesium which may or may not be wanted if a person isn't diluting their tap water.

Can you explain in a round about way (or technically  ;D ) whether it would be detrimental to use sulphur to lower the pH and what you might expect from it? 

a10t2:
If you wanted to use it to adjust mash pH, I think you'd be better off buying the sulfuric acid itself. H2SO4 is pretty hazardous to work with though, so I'm not sure there would be any practical advantage over lactic acid.

Even if you did want to use sulfur, you'd be talking about milligram quantities, not a 25 pound sack. ;)

Kaiser:
If you don’t want to affect the pH you’ll all ion additions have to be in balance. I.e. if you add sulfate ions you have to add a magnesium, calcium, sodium … etc. ion as well.

You may also add ions from acid. hydrochloric acid adds chloride, sulfuric acid adds sulfate and lactic acid adds lactate. In most cases that addition of an acid neutralizes existing bicarbonate and carbonate. E.g. the added sulfate ion replaces an existing bicarbonate ion.

Unless you know what you are doing you should not mess with hydrochloric or sulfuric acid. They very aggressive. Lactic acid is much safer and, according to Narziss, results in a better flavor profile compared to mineral acids (which hydrochloric and sulfuric acids are). There might be limits though, since you may taste the lactate if you had to use a lot of lactic acids to neutralize an extremely high alkalinity (300+ ppm as CaCO2). I’m guessing here, so don’t hold me to it.

If Mg is not desired when you add sulfate you have to use gypsum. If you don’t want to do that b/c you feel that the calcium is already too high you need to lower the calcium content through dilution. This will also bring your chloride down which is desired since you are likely trying to affect the chloride/sulfate ratio anyway.

It’s important to remember that the ions have to remain in balance: you need as many (+) as (-). But don’t do that by adding up their ppm numbers. That won’t work since the individual ions have different weights. Some are heavier than others.

Kai


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