Author Topic: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?  (Read 10234 times)

Offline FirstStateBrewer

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 220
  • Delaware
    • View Profile
    • First State Brewers
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2012, 10:31:00 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.
Thanks.  I'm working on that aspect, as well.
Scott B

Online morticaixavier

  • I must live here
  • **********
  • Posts: 7494
  • Underhill VT
    • View Profile
    • The Best Artist in the WORLD!!!!!
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #16 on: June 12, 2012, 10:32:40 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.

okay now I am confused. Calcium creates a more acidic solution? I thought it was an acid buffer. hmmm. well learn something new everyday.
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time"
-A Einstein

"errors are [...] the portals of discovery"
- J Joyce

Offline mmitchem

  • Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 360
  • Suffolk, VA
    • View Profile
    • http://www.barfclub.org
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2012, 10:41:24 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.

Denny is right - we may be going about this the wrong way. Crush is huge! I think you also like to run your wort out of mash tun fast...right Denny?
Michael P Mitchem
Beer and Ale Research Foundation (B.A.R.F.)
AHA Member since 2011

Offline FirstStateBrewer

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 220
  • Delaware
    • View Profile
    • First State Brewers
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2012, 10:45:02 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.

Denny is right - we may be going about this the wrong way. Crush is huge! I think you also like to run your wort out of mash tun fast...right Denny?
The crush is something I am working on.  Just purchased a barebones JSP Maltmill.  Need to construct a hopper & stand for it. 
Scott B

Offline weithman5

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1681
  • naperville, il
    • View Profile
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2012, 11:06:03 AM »
i am sorry if i missed this, but in the op you state your efficiency is horrible. but nowhere can i find what you define as horrible?
Don AHA member

Offline hopfenundmalz

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 6312
  • Milford, MI
    • View Profile
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2012, 11:16:51 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.

okay now I am confused. Calcium creates a more acidic solution? I thought it was an acid buffer. hmmm. well learn something new everyday.
From howtobrew.com by John Palmer.
'In 1953, P. Kohlbach determined that 3.5 equivalents (Eq) of calcium reacts with malt phytin to release 1 equivalent of hydrogen ions which can "neutralize" 1 equivalent of water alkalinity. Magnesium, the other water hardness ion, also works but to a lesser extent, needing 7 equivalents to neutralize 1 equivalent of alkalinity. Alkalinity which is not neutralized is termed "residual alkalinity" (abbreviated RA). On a per volume basis, this can be expressed as:
mEq/L RA = mEq/L Alkalinity - [(mEq/L Ca)/3.5 + (mEq/L Mg)/7]
where mEq/L is defined as milliequivalents per liter."
Jeff Rankert
Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, AHA Member, BJCP Certified
Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline FirstStateBrewer

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 220
  • Delaware
    • View Profile
    • First State Brewers
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #21 on: June 12, 2012, 11:17:02 AM »
i am sorry if i missed this, but in the op you state your efficiency is horrible. but nowhere can i find what you define as horrible?
In the 50% efficiency range.

Based on the comments, it doesn't seem like my water alone is bad enough to cause efficiency like that.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2012, 11:19:20 AM by FirstStateBrewer »
Scott B

Offline weithman5

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1681
  • naperville, il
    • View Profile
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #22 on: June 12, 2012, 11:29:47 AM »
50 may be a little low.  my efficiency runs around 65 %.  i would blame crush first then water
Don AHA member

Online morticaixavier

  • I must live here
  • **********
  • Posts: 7494
  • Underhill VT
    • View Profile
    • The Best Artist in the WORLD!!!!!
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #23 on: June 12, 2012, 11:31:21 AM »
50 does seem low, +1 on crush, also stirring, I know I used to get dough balls that would really crash efficiency.
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time"
-A Einstein

"errors are [...] the portals of discovery"
- J Joyce

Online denny

  • Administrator
  • Retired with too much time on my hands
  • *****
  • Posts: 13976
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • View Profile
    • Dennybrew
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #24 on: June 12, 2012, 11:36:12 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.

Denny is right - we may be going about this the wrong way. Crush is huge! I think you also like to run your wort out of mash tun fast...right Denny?

Yep.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

Offline bluesman

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 8808
  • Delaware
    • View Profile
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #25 on: June 12, 2012, 11:37:59 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?

Sure can.

Here's the meter I use, and it works flawlessly.

http://compare.ebay.com/like/230500779352?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar

As I stated previously, your mash pH is one of several things to consider for troubleshooting mash efficiency.  I think your crush is a real easy thing to fix.  I also have the JSP maltmill with a .032"gap, and I get about 80% efficiency on a routine basis. It should come factory set from JSP between .030-.040", which is a good setting.  This should take care of your crush variable.

If that doesn't fix your efficiency issue then you will need to consider other variables...like mash pH. :) 
Ron Price

Offline FirstStateBrewer

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 220
  • Delaware
    • View Profile
    • First State Brewers
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #26 on: June 12, 2012, 11:40:31 AM »
50 does seem low, +1 on crush, also stirring, I know I used to get dough balls that would really crash efficiency.
Unfortunately, I'll have to wait a couple weeks before I can brew again.  I'm extremely busy right now.  Daughter just had a dance recital.  Son is graduating HS tomorrow.  Flying to Orlando for vacation Thursday morning! 

I brewed last Saturday morning when I was pressed for time.  I just received my new barebones JSP Maltmill the day before.  Quickly rigged up a base and hopper for it, but my drill bogged down during the crush.  I think there was too much grain flowing into the rollers from the hopper.  As a result, it's possible the crush was poor.  I didn't take the time to examine it.  When I get back from vacation, I'll construct a better hopper and be sure everything is adjusted properly.
Scott B

Offline FirstStateBrewer

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 220
  • Delaware
    • View Profile
    • First State Brewers
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #27 on: June 12, 2012, 11:43:21 AM »
Can you recommend a good pH meter that a dummy can use?

Sure can.

Here's the meter I use, and it works flawlessly.

http://compare.ebay.com/like/230500779352?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar

As I stated previously, your mash pH is one of several things to consider for troubleshooting mash efficiency.  I think your crush is a real easy thing to fix.  I also have the JSP maltmill with a .032"gap, and I get about 80% efficiency on a routine basis. It should come factory set from JSP between .030-.040", which is a good setting.  This should take care of your crush variable.

If that doesn't fix your efficiency issue then you will need to consider other variables...like mash pH. :)
Thanks!  If an improved crush doesn't fix my problem, I will consider this.
Scott B

Offline jmcamerlengo

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 625
    • View Profile
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #28 on: June 12, 2012, 11:57:50 AM »
I will also chime in and say acidifying your sparge water may help increase efficiency. Acidify with lactic or phosphoric acid to get to a ph of 5.5 or so.  But I agree crush and doughballs are the first place the look. Your water looks pretty decent for most beers except maybe like Kolsch or Wit or Heff or the really light beers like that. THose you may find you have to acidify in the mash as well.
Jason
-Head Brewer, Brewtus Brewers in the Shenango Valley. Hopefully opening a brewpub/nano brewery in the next couple years.

Offline skyler

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 658
    • View Profile
    • Brewing After Law School
Re: Is my water any good for all-grain brewing?
« Reply #29 on: June 15, 2012, 02:25:52 PM »
Another possibility is that you are measuring your gravity at a higher temperature without converting it. If you are getting a reading of 1.052 and the wort is 80 degrees F, your gravity is actually 1.054. That and unaccounted-for wort (like that absorbed by your hops) can give people unnaturally low efficiency readings.