Author Topic: Another water question - too much CaCO3?  (Read 4730 times)

Offline ukolowiczd

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Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« on: August 29, 2012, 02:38:38 PM »
I'm making a 5.5 gallon batch of imperial-ish stout with 18 lbs. grain so I will use about 9.5 total gallons of water for my mash/sparge. I calculated that I need to add 5 tsp of calcium carbonate to 9.5 gallons of RO water to make it ~100ppm Ca and ~150ppm CO3. 5 tsp seems like a lot of CaCO3. Is it? Anyone ever use that much for a dark ale? Am I taking crazy pills?

Offline Headless Monk

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2012, 03:27:40 PM »
Without actually looking up any numbers ... that does seem insanely high.
Maybe your units should be grams, perhaps?
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Offline nateo

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2012, 04:52:41 PM »
Whoa, that's not a good idea to use 5 tsp of chalk. If you need that much alkalinity, use pickling lime instead. Carbonate has a weird taste when it reacts with acids. I'd go even further and say don't use chalk at all, ever, if you can use pickling lime, but that might be a bit much. 
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2012, 05:10:21 PM »
Chalk is a waste of time in brewing.  I've had plenty of brewers tell me that when they check the mash pH after adding chalk, it does not increase the pH as desired.  If several cases when I've reviewed their mash and water data with Bru'n Water, their observed pH result agreed quite well with the Bru'n Water result with all of the chalk deleted.  To me, that is pretty strong evidence that chalk does not work. 

If you need to add alkalinity to your mash to control pH, use lime.  It does work when you add it.  Be sure you use a proper analysis when figuring out if you really need to add alkalinity.  There are too many resources on the web that could have you adding too much alkalinity to your brew.  Producing a wort with too high a pH is FAR worse than having the wort pH be a little too low.
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Offline ukolowiczd

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2012, 01:48:47 PM »
Thanks guys, looks like the verdict is in - CaCO3 is pointless. It definitely doesn't dissolve in water and thus my question. So why and/or how should I increase my carbonate for darker beers? I'm going off of Palmer and the most recent BYO which had dark beers in the 150-250ppm carbonate category. Is this just pointless?

Online morticaixavier

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2012, 02:03:43 PM »
Thanks guys, looks like the verdict is in - CaCO3 is pointless. It definitely doesn't dissolve in water and thus my question. So why and/or how should I increase my carbonate for darker beers? I'm going off of Palmer and the most recent BYO which had dark beers in the 150-250ppm carbonate category. Is this just pointless?

you CAN disolve CaCO3 but you have to do it in an acidic environment. So you add chalk to water, put it in an empty keg and put gas to it. shake the beeegeeezuss out of it. I don't know for how long. I guess till the chalk disolves.  :o
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Offline nateo

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2012, 02:16:17 PM »
Thanks guys, looks like the verdict is in - CaCO3 is pointless. It definitely doesn't dissolve in water and thus my question. So why and/or how should I increase my carbonate for darker beers? I'm going off of Palmer and the most recent BYO which had dark beers in the 150-250ppm carbonate category. Is this just pointless?

There's only a very loose correlation between required alkalinity and the color of the beer. For instance, if you use a bunch of crystal 60 malt, vs a bit of black barley, it's possible the beer with the crystal malt will require more alkalinity than the beer with black barley, even though the color is darker in the latter.

In any case, I haven't ever needed more than 150ppm alkalinity in any beer I've made, and many dark beers have required more in the 100ppm range. But, without going too deep into the weeds, it also depends on the Ca/Mg concentration too.

Download Martin's spreadsheet 'Bru'n Water,' forget everything Palmer said about water chemistry, and you'll be in a much better place.
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Offline ukolowiczd

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2012, 04:48:10 PM »
Thanks guys, looks like the verdict is in - CaCO3 is pointless. It definitely doesn't dissolve in water and thus my question. So why and/or how should I increase my carbonate for darker beers? I'm going off of Palmer and the most recent BYO which had dark beers in the 150-250ppm carbonate category. Is this just pointless?

There's only a very loose correlation between required alkalinity and the color of the beer. For instance, if you use a bunch of crystal 60 malt, vs a bit of black barley, it's possible the beer with the crystal malt will require more alkalinity than the beer with black barley, even though the color is darker in the latter.

In any case, I haven't ever needed more than 150ppm alkalinity in any beer I've made, and many dark beers have required more in the 100ppm range. But, without going too deep into the weeds, it also depends on the Ca/Mg concentration too.

Download Martin's spreadsheet 'Bru'n Water,' forget everything Palmer said about water chemistry, and you'll be in a much better place.

Well I still don't understand how to get 150ppm of alkalinity w/o 5 tsp of CaCO3. How much lime adds approx. 150ppm? Is it liquid or powder (CaOH?). I did download "Bru'n Water" once but I found it mind-blowingly complicated. I'm making 5 or 10 gallon batches of beer not running a microbrewery. I didn't think putting all that effort into water would make my beer any better. My water is pretty much very soft as I used bottled water, so in some beers I want to up the Ca, alkalinity and sometimes the sulfate. I get gypsum, but again am confused about alkalinity.

Offline narcout

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2012, 06:34:54 PM »
So why and/or how should I increase my carbonate for darker beers?

A technique I picked up from Brewing Better Beer that has worked very well for me is to add the dark grains during the (batch) sparge rather than mashing them.  That way, you don't need to add chalk to your mash water to keep the pH in line.

I find that my pH always rises during sparging anyway (even when using 100% RO water), so this technique helps keep the sparge pH in line as well.

Offline Kaiser

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2012, 07:42:31 PM »
ukolowiczd,

I finally got to run your numbers. 5 tsp chalk is about 19g and in 9.5 gal water this amounts to 100 ppm Ca and 320 ppm bicarbonate or 260 ppm alkalinity as CaCO3. The residual alkalinity is about 190 ppm. That's on the high side and I doubt that you need that much in your stout.

When you say you want to get to 150 ppm alkalinity, do you mean residual alkalinity? Most likely you do, since that's what matters for us brewers.

Since chalk is actually not all that efficient in raising mash pH it may not matter if you add too much. If half or more of the added chalk doesn't dissolve it will be left behind in the spent grain.

Do you have means of testing mash pH?

Kai

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2012, 11:04:54 PM »
lime can be found at any hardware store or grocery/homegoods type store. I would guess in  burlingotn, City market  might have it and ace hardware might, kiss the cook (are they still around) might have it to. It's in the canning aisle, and it costs about 2 bucks for a life time supply
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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2012, 04:41:57 AM »
I'm not so sure about the recommendation to use lime. I used it on a recent batch and the pH rose more than expected. I don't know why.

chalk does raise the mash pH. Maybe not as much as expected, but that might be a good thing.

Kai

Offline nateo

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2012, 06:05:07 AM »
Kai - I only use lime for raising alkalinity, and I follow Bru'n water. Sometimes actual mash pH is 0.1-0.2 higher than expected. I don't know if it's just a measuring issue. I have a pretty good scale (0.01g) but it's not the best. I think it'd be better to double-check with a pH meter if you're using lime, but I think Bru'n water does a reasonable job of getting you "close enough" as long as you aim for the low end of the mash pH.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2012, 06:29:42 AM »

Well I still don't understand how to get 150ppm of alkalinity w/o 5 tsp of CaCO3. How much lime adds approx. 150ppm? Is it liquid or powder (CaOH?). I did download "Bru'n Water" once but I found it mind-blowingly complicated. I'm making 5 or 10 gallon batches of beer not running a microbrewery. I didn't think putting all that effort into water would make my beer any better. My water is pretty much very soft as I used bottled water, so in some beers I want to up the Ca, alkalinity and sometimes the sulfate. I get gypsum, but again am confused about alkalinity.

Your finding on Bru'n Water is common for those who spend a minute or two looking at it.  Far too many inputs and pages.  As all the users who took the couple of more minutes to learn, once you have the program set up for your water source, it is quite easy and requires no more input than any other program out there.  Unfortunately, there isn't an EZ solution to brewing water chemistry.  To adjust your brewing water effectively, you actually need to have either knowledge or have something like Bru'n Water that tries to look over your shoulder and keep you from screwing up. 

The quoted message hits on the most important aspect of brewing water chemistry. Its not hardness or softness of the brewing water, its alkalinity.  Learning how to properly adjust brewing water alkalinity should be a brewer's primary concern.  Keeping the overall mineralization of the brewing water at moderate to low level is the secondary goal.  Nate correctly points out in his message above that its unlikely that brewing water will need more than about 150 ppm alkalinity for even the most acidic grists.  So any guidance that tells you to add more than that to your brewing water, may be suspect.

The technique mentioned in Brewing Better Beer where roasted grain is withheld until the late stage of the mash can be effective in reducing the need for alkalinity in the mash, but it can still leave the pH of the wort in the kettle a little lower than desirable.  So its not always a panacea for proper alkalinity adjustment. 

Lime is one of the most effective and sure methods of controlling mash pH.  But as Kai points out, if you don't properly calculate the lime addition and know the requirements of the mash beforehand, you can easily overdo it.  And the consequences of overdoing a lime addition are much more detrimental to beer quality than to not adjust at all.  When in doubt, leave it out or at least err on the low side when adding lime.  Lime is a very strong base and it absolutely requires careful measurement and dosing.  Do not think that you can just add a little and check pH.  I find that this is a sure way to fail.  I don't know of another program that provides a calculation for lime addition, so to brewers that don't use Bru'n Water, you may be out of luck.

For a large segment of water customers across the US, they don't typically have to worry about adding alkalinity in the first place.  Their tap water has plenty of alkalinity and acidification or dilution is probably their primary concern.  If you have water like that, consider blending a portion of your tap water with RO or distilled water when making a beer that needs more alkalinity to avoid an excessive pH drop.  That might be a better alternative to adding lime.  A lot of programs provide calculations for when RO or distilled water is used to dilute the tap water.  That should provide an option to having to learn a mind-blowingly complicated program!
   
Martin B
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Offline Kaiser

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Re: Another water question - too much CaCO3?
« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2012, 07:07:35 AM »
Kai - I only use lime for raising alkalinity, and I follow Bru'n water. Sometimes actual mash pH is 0.1-0.2 higher than expected. I don't know if it's just a measuring issue. I have a pretty good scale (0.01g) but it's not the best. I think it'd be better to double-check with a pH meter if you're using lime, but I think Bru'n water does a reasonable job of getting you "close enough" as long as you aim for the low end of the mash pH.

I was using my own recommendations of 0.25 g lime per kg of grist and 0.1 pH drop (http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Mash_pH_control#Salt_and_acid_additions_to_the_mash). The chemistry behind that is pretty solid. I had 4 kg malt and wanted to raise pH by 0.2, so I added 2g. I think the pH rose by 0.4. At this point I'm blaming this on an aging pH electrode. The measured initial mash pH was much lower than expected. I have since gotten a new electrode and will have to try this again. I spent a lot of time on figuring out mash pH mechanics and doubt that the calculations were wrong.

Kai