Author Topic: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?  (Read 9262 times)

Offline FirstStateBrewer

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Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« on: June 12, 2012, 06:52:00 AM »
I've brewed extract for 20 years.  I've been living in my current house for the last 12 of those 20 years.  My extract brews always tasted great.   ;D  Until now, I've never had any reason to question the quality of my well water for brewing.

But, a year ago I finally switched over to all-grain brewing.  I've brewed a half dozen or so all-grain batches and no matter how hard I've tried, my mash efficiency has been horribly low.  I've been discussing this problem with other homebrewing friends and may post a thread specific to that problem, but that's not the purpose of this thread. 

At the advice of many, I sent a sample of my water to Ward Labs for analysis.  Here's the report I got back.  Now, I know NOTHING about water chemistry.  As I said, my water tastes good and have never had a problem with extract batches.

My question is this: 

Is my water the cause of my poor mash efficiency? 



Scott B

Offline aa7yy

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2012, 07:01:42 AM »
Well, I'll be the first one to say, nope, doesn't look like it to me. A lot better then I have in Tucson. There are lot smarter people on here then me, but without picking up a book, you might be a little short on things like sodium and magnesium. But, somebody smarter will chime in.

Offline FirstStateBrewer

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2012, 07:06:07 AM »
Well, I'll be the first one to say, nope, doesn't look like it to me. A lot better then I have in Tucson. There are lot smarter people on here then me, but without picking up a book, you might be a little short on things like sodium and magnesium. But, somebody smarter will chime in.
Thanks!  I hope everyone agrees with you.  If my water is not the culprit, I can forget about it and focus on fixing other areas of my brewing process.
Scott B

Offline aa7yy

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2012, 07:14:37 AM »
Now, I did go look at my numbers.
My Bicarbonate is 124   yours 127
    Calcium            72             50
     ph                  8.2             8
Total Alkalinity       117           114

I am better for amber ales and darker, without treatment.  You would have a problem with pale ales.

Qualifier, I am just trying to double check what I think I am learning. Feel free to straighten me out.

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2012, 07:16:30 AM »
At first glance it looks fine.  The water has a mild alkalinity which is suitable with little to no adjustment for making most beers (a little acid may be necessary for pale beers and a little alkalinity may be necessary for dark beers).  For troubleshooting mash efficiency, check out Kai's website http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Troubleshooting_Brewhouse_Efficiency.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2012, 07:22:07 AM »
Throw it in to Bru'n Water and see what you get! You can always dilute and doctor w/ salts.

WORD OF CAUTION: In many areas of the US (and especially mine), the municipal water quality can vary quarterly, monthly, even weekly in some cases. I wouldn't blindly trust one report without comparing it to other homebrewers' from the same area taken at different times in the year. The best way is to have a sample analyzed quarterly.

This is a good club project - have everyone take water samples at different times in the year and then map the data.

If you want some help charting your water data, let me know. I used to do water quality presentations for my company when I worked in Utilities.
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Offline FirstStateBrewer

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2012, 07:28:20 AM »
At first glance it looks fine.  The water has a mild alkalinity which is suitable with little to no adjustment for making most beers (a little acid may be necessary for pale beers and a little alkalinity may be necessary for dark beers).  For troubleshooting mash efficiency, check out Kai's website http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Troubleshooting_Brewhouse_Efficiency.
Thanks!  I'll read that.

I have well-water, so I think it should remain consistent.  I was in Home Depot the other day and saw some "Free Water Analysis" kits to be mailed to my country government for analysis.  I had just purchased the Ward Labs kit and was a little miffed that I could have used this free one.  However, I might just use that free kit as well to compare it with the on I payed for.
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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2012, 08:33:23 AM »
I have well-water, so I think it should remain consistent.  I was in Home Depot the other day and saw some "Free Water Analysis" kits to be mailed to my country government for analysis.  I had just purchased the Ward Labs kit and was a little miffed that I could have used this free one.  However, I might just use that free kit as well to compare it with the on I payed for.

Those "free" reports usually don't give you all the numbers you want for brewing - just the basics
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Offline mmitchem

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2012, 08:44:53 AM »
As I have learned recently learned, the main thing you want to focus on is your mash pH at room temp. You want it to be between 5.2 and 5.5. Bru n' Water is great because you can plug in your water profile, your recipe, and any water additions you make. Be sure to list if the grain you are putting in is a roasted grain or a crystal grain, as this will help to acidify the mash. You can use Calcium to help lower your pH along with delusion using RO water or distilled water. Once you get your pH in that range (found on the 'Mash Acidification' sheet) you will be good to go.
Another thing is to look at your sulfate to chloride ratio. You get these from calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum). A .5 ratio will give you a beer that highlights malt. Flip that ratio or even widen it (4:1 or even 7:1) and you will get the hop flavor you want.
Mash pH and Sulfate to Chloride ratio - those are the biggies.
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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2012, 08:50:17 AM »
As I have learned recently learned, the main thing you want to focus on is your mash pH at room temp. You want it to be between 5.2 and 5.5. Bru n' Water is great because you can plug in your water profile, your recipe, and any water additions you make. Be sure to list if the grain you are putting in is a roasted grain or a crystal grain, as this will help to acidify the mash. You can use Calcium to help lower your pH along with delusion using RO water or distilled water. Once you get your pH in that range (found on the 'Mash Acidification' sheet) you will be good to go.
Another thing is to look at your sulfate to chloride ratio. You get these from calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum). A .5 ratio will give you a beer that highlights malt. Flip that ratio or even widen it (4:1 or even 7:1) and you will get the hop flavor you want.
Mash pH and Sulfate to Chloride ratio - those are the biggies.

I don't think that calcium lowers your pH, it buffers acids and thus can raise your pH. Roasted and crystal malts, acid malt, or just acid are used to lower pH. Salts, pickling lime, chalk, gypsum are used to either buffer acids or raise pH and to provide needed trace minerals to the yeast.
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Offline mmitchem

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2012, 09:08:04 AM »
Oops, sorry - you are right! I meant to say it will lower your residual alkalinity.
Michael P Mitchem
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2012, 09:54:33 AM »
Your water is workable and can be balanced to work with varying beer styles.  Your efficiency issue may be coming from a few different things like crush, mash temp (calibrate thermometer), mash pH and mash time.  Then there's your lautering efficiency to also consider.

The one thing I often suggest to homebrewers for consideration when it comes to water chemistry and mash efficiency is you mash pH.  Keeping your mash pH between 5.2-5.7 is one key to increased mash efficiency.  Your water pH is on the higher side, which can come into play if you're brewing pale or lighter beers. I suggest getting a handle on that for starters.  You may have to adjust your mash pH with some phosphoric acid, lactic acid or acidulated malt to bring your mash pH down into acceptable limits when producing lighter beers.  This is where a pH meter comes into play.  :)
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2012, 10:09:40 AM »
As I have learned recently learned, the main thing you want to focus on is your mash pH at room temp. You want it to be between 5.2 and 5.5. Bru n' Water is great because you can plug in your water profile, your recipe, and any water additions you make. Be sure to list if the grain you are putting in is a roasted grain or a crystal grain, as this will help to acidify the mash. You can use Calcium to help lower your pH along with delusion using RO water or distilled water. Once you get your pH in that range (found on the 'Mash Acidification' sheet) you will be good to go.
Another thing is to look at your sulfate to chloride ratio. You get these from calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum). A .5 ratio will give you a beer that highlights malt. Flip that ratio or even widen it (4:1 or even 7:1) and you will get the hop flavor you want.
Mash pH and Sulfate to Chloride ratio - those are the biggies.

I don't think that calcium lowers your pH, it buffers acids and thus can raise your pH. Roasted and crystal malts, acid malt, or just acid are used to lower pH. Salts, pickling lime, chalk, gypsum are used to either buffer acids or raise pH and to provide needed trace minerals to the yeast.

Calcium lowers the pH, and to a lesser extent Mg. The Ca reacts with phytin from the malt and produces an H+ ion, more H+ ions by definition result in a lower pH. Gypsum doesn't raise pH.
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Offline FirstStateBrewer

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2012, 10:14:58 AM »
Your water is workable and can be balanced to work with varying beer styles.  Your efficiency issue may be coming from a few different things like crush, mash temp (calibrate thermometer), mash pH and mash time.  Then there's your lautering efficiency to also consider.

The one thing I often suggest to homebrewers for consideration when it comes to water chemistry and mash efficiency is you mash pH.  Keeping your mash pH between 5.2-5.7 is one key to increased mash efficiency.  Your water pH is on the higher side, which can come into play if you're brewing pale or lighter beers. I suggest getting a handle on that for starters.  You may have to adjust your mash pH with some phosphoric acid, lactic acid or acidulated malt to bring your mash pH down into acceptable limits when producing lighter beers.  This is where a pH meter comes into play.  :)
Thanks!  Can you recommend a good pH meter that a dummy can use?
Scott B

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Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2012, 10:26:25 AM »
Being pragmatic, I've gotta ask if you've worked on your crush.  That's generally the biggest variable and it's a hell of a lot easier to deal with than water chemistry!  But if you have experimented with crush, water is the next place to look.
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