Author Topic: a question about pickling lime v. chalk  (Read 10819 times)

Offline beersk

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2012, 11:19:39 AM »
So, why is baking soda never the answer?

Baking soda contributes a low amount of alkalinity, and contributes relatively high amount of Na. So if you add enough baking soda to change the mash pH, you've added a lot (I would argue too much) sodium. If your addition is very small, the amount of sodium would probably not be deleterious, but at that point, you'd probably be better off with a slightly low mash pH rather than the excess sodium.

I don't think there's ever a situation where baking soda is the most appropriate base to use to increase alkalinity in a mash.

Try it yourself, if you don't believe me. Dissolve 100ppm of chalk in water, and dissolve 100ppm of baking soda in a cup of water. Drink the water, then decide which flavor you'd rather have in your beer.
Adding a gram or two to my mash water only brings the sodium up to around 50ppm according to Bru'n water and it gets my pH and RA in line with what I need.  That doesn't sound like a bad thing to me.  Am I wrong here?
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Offline nateo

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2012, 11:24:40 AM »
YMMV, but from my experience, any sodium is too much sodium. My water contains about 2ppm of sodium. I've added NaCl to some of my darker beers, because I read somewhere that sodium rounds out malt sweetness. I've found I prefer the beers without added sodium.
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Offline weithman5

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2012, 12:04:23 PM »
I salt flat beers  8)
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Online narvin

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2012, 12:33:16 PM »
YMMV, but from my experience, any sodium is too much sodium. My water contains about 2ppm of sodium. I've added NaCl to some of my darker beers, because I read somewhere that sodium rounds out malt sweetness. I've found I prefer the beers without added sodium.

Tell that to San Diego  ;)

http://www.sandiego.gov/water/quality/pdf/waterqual10.pdf

Maybe the extra chloride affected the taste as well?  Adding salt contributes 1.5x chloride ppm compared to sodium.
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Offline nateo

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2012, 12:48:43 PM »
Tell that to San Diego  ;)

http://www.sandiego.gov/water/quality/pdf/waterqual10.pdf

Maybe the extra chloride affected the taste as well?  Adding salt contributes 1.5x chloride ppm compared to sodium.

Whoa, that's a lot of sodium. I use CaCl to boost my calcium to around 50ppm, so I don't think it's the chloride I find objectionable. When I think San Diego, I think IPA. Maybe sodium is more apparent in certain kinds of beer, and not others? I mostly brew Belgian and German styles, with a few UK styles occasionally.
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Offline beersk

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2012, 01:04:01 PM »
I just don't see why it's bad to add in small amounts.  I guess to each his own...
I suppose you wouldn't want too much sodium for German or Belgian styles, but for many American styles a little is fine, I would think.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #21 on: April 30, 2012, 11:49:31 PM »
I don't care what the question is; in brewing, baking soda is never the answer.
Name one thing that nateo thinks you should never add to your brewing water?
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Offline nateo

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #22 on: May 01, 2012, 04:30:23 AM »
I hate to sound so dogmatic. This past year, I've really hit my stride brewing. All of the past 10 batches or so I've done have turned out consistently better than I've ever made before. I've only been doing a couple things differently:

1. Using pickling lime for mash pH increases
2. Using the softest, least mineralized and lowest alkalinity water I can get.
3. Only using calcium chloride for calcium adjustments

I used to futz with my water a lot, and add a lot of stuff to it to hit arbitrary ranges of ions others said were desirable. The above, simpler method has worked well for a broad range of styles.

Taste is subjective, YMMV and so on. I would urge everyone to take a critical approach to what you're adding to your beer, and why. If you think it does/does not make a difference, try it both ways and see which you prefer. The proof will be in the beer.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2012, 04:42:11 AM by nateo »
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Offline weithman5

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #23 on: May 01, 2012, 06:00:01 AM »
I don't care what the question is; in brewing, baking soda is never the answer.
Name one thing that nateo thinks you should never add to your brewing water?
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Online narvin

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #24 on: May 01, 2012, 06:29:51 AM »
I hate to sound so dogmatic. This past year, I've really hit my stride brewing. All of the past 10 batches or so I've done have turned out consistently better than I've ever made before. I've only been doing a couple things differently:

1. Using pickling lime for mash pH increases
2. Using the softest, least mineralized and lowest alkalinity water I can get.
3. Only using calcium chloride for calcium adjustments

I used to futz with my water a lot, and add a lot of stuff to it to hit arbitrary ranges of ions others said were desirable. The above, simpler method has worked well for a broad range of styles.

Taste is subjective, YMMV and so on. I would urge everyone to take a critical approach to what you're adding to your beer, and why. If you think it does/does not make a difference, try it both ways and see which you prefer. The proof will be in the beer.

I'd just be careful about over-generalizing.  I'm not trying to sound skeptical, but I'm just really surprised that the water adjustments above were the thing that pushed your beer over the line from good to great.  You seem to hint that overdoing salt additions was something that didn't work out for you, which is often considered a "rule" of brewing and one that I'd agree with.  Keep experimenting for another year, and I bet you'll find that hard and fast rules don't always work out.  ;)

I'd also like to point out that #1 and #2 above contradict, and that there are a lot of styles where more sulfate than chloride is appropriate.
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Offline weithman5

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #25 on: May 01, 2012, 06:36:16 AM »
1 and 2 only contradict at the start.  if you start with the lowest mineral/alkalinity then add the lime, you get what you are looking for.  similar to guys, i would imagine, that always start with RO water and then build their water for a particular style.
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Offline nateo

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #26 on: May 01, 2012, 07:04:45 AM »
I'd just be careful about over-generalizing.  I'm not trying to sound skeptical, but I'm just really surprised that the water adjustments above were the thing that pushed your beer over the line from good to great.  You seem to hint that overdoing salt additions was something that didn't work out for you, which is often considered a "rule" of brewing and one that I'd agree with.  Keep experimenting for another year, and I bet you'll find that hard and fast rules don't always work out.  ;)

I'd also like to point out that #1 and #2 above contradict, and that there are a lot of styles where more sulfate than chloride is appropriate.

I brew a few British bitters and IPAs each year, and I've found I prefer using CaCl over CaSO4 for calcium additions in those. I'm assuming those are the kinds of styles you're referring to, where more sulfate would be appropriate. I haven't found that to be the case, but your tastes may vary. I tend to brew drier beers, so maybe my IPAs don't need any "bitterness firming," if sulfate does what people claim it does. I also don't brew American-style IPAs anymore, so maybe that style needs more sulfate?

I'm not claiming my water advice is applicable in every conceivable situation, but if you can make good beer with hard/mineralized water, it's worth investigating whether or not you could make better beer with softer/less mineralized water.

I almost rearranged the order on 1 and 2. As Don pointed out, when appropriate, I use pickling lime for increasing pH. I don't add it to every batch.

Sorry for derailing the thread, back on topic:
I just don't see a reason why adding chalk or baking soda is better than adding lime. Some people have claimed negative flavors form from neutralized bicarbonate. As far as I'm concerned that's just conjecture. I'm not ready to firmly support that, but I'm leaning toward believing it.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2012, 07:23:49 AM by nateo »
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Offline beersk

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #27 on: May 01, 2012, 07:15:13 AM »
your tastes may vary.
That would be YTMV.
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Online narvin

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #28 on: May 01, 2012, 07:42:33 AM »
1 and 2 only contradict at the start.  if you start with the lowest mineral/alkalinity then add the lime, you get what you are looking for.  similar to guys, i would imagine, that always start with RO water and then build their water for a particular style.

I guess, but I don't see any difference in water that started with low alkalinity and ended up with a lot of it versus a base water with high bicarbonate.

Or, you could just take AJ Delange's advice and never add alkalinity.   :)
« Last Edit: May 01, 2012, 07:48:18 AM by narvin »
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Online narvin

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Re: a question about pickling lime v. chalk
« Reply #29 on: May 01, 2012, 07:47:53 AM »

Sorry for derailing the thread, back on topic:
I just don't see a reason why adding chalk or baking soda is better than adding lime. Some people have claimed negative flavors form from neutralized bicarbonate. As far as I'm concerned that's just conjecture. I'm not ready to firmly support that, but I'm leaning toward believing it.

I think it's more a question of "Is lime better than chalk or baking soda"?  I think it does have some advantages over both, but disadvantages as well.  I would never recommend anyone use lime unless they have a pH meter, as the strips (even colorPhast) are just not accurate enough.  Even with that, use safety precautions and err on the low side.  I personally don't think any beer benefits from a mash pH of over 5.5, and even a beer with lots of roasted malts will be very easy to get above this with a strong base like lime.
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