Author Topic: Distilled v. RO water  (Read 1549 times)

Offline yso191

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Distilled v. RO water
« on: August 03, 2013, 02:17:13 PM »
In my year of home brewing, about every other batch is an IPA.  I've made small adjustments in the recipe along the way trying to zero it in to what I am really looking for.

My latest experiment/adjustment is to use 100% Distilled water instead of 100% RO water. 

With the RO, my IPAs come out like a very fruity Pale Ale, with no discernible bitterness.  This is the case even though I'm right at 300 ppm Sulfate using Brun' Water's Pale Ale profile, and always over 100 IBUs according to BeerSmith.  This latest iteration has a calculated 136 IBUs.

The change in taste between the Distilled and RO water is that now with the distilled, the bitterness is spot-on where I want it, but the hop flavor that I want (and was spot-on with the RO) has receded.  This, in spite of 4 oz. dry hopping, and 7.75 oz. of late addition/ flame-out additions.

I am assuming (and this is why I did the experiment) that I have some amount of salt getting past my Culligan RO system, softening the bitterness of previous batches.  But what accounts for the receding hop flavor?

I am going to send a sample of my RO water in to Ward Labs to be sure of the salt thing.

For perspective, the current Distilled water batch is VERY close to what I am looking for, but would like to bump the hop flavor a bit.  I can't help but think that nearly 12 ounces of flavor hops are sufficient though.  What am I missing in this?
Steve

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2013, 05:00:31 PM »
How are you adding the alkalinity needed in that Pale Ale profile?  Remember that due to the large amount of hardness being added to the water, some alkalinity is necessary to keep the mash pH from dropping too low.  Creating too low a wort pH will reduce the hop expression and bittering. 

Assuming that the RO water was actually at the low mineralization it's supposed to have, moving to distilled water shouldn't really make much difference.  Both have very low or zero mineralization.
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Offline yso191

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2013, 07:46:23 PM »
Martin,

I'm still getting my head around all of this.  I absolutely rely on your spreadsheet to do water additions, and I only assume I am doing them correctly.  So here is what the last batch additions looked like:

Gypsum (CaSO4)                        8.5         5.4      
Epsom Salt (MgSO4)         3.7         2.4      
Canning Salt (NaCl)         0.0         0.0      
Baking Soda (NaHCO3)         0.0         Not Recommended      
Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)         1.1         0.7

Batch Volume (gallons)      9.00   
Hardness (ppm as CaCO3)      347   
RA (ppm as CaCO3)      -89
Estimated Mash pH      5.3   
Alkalinity (ppm as CaCO3)      0   
SO4/Cl Ratio      11.7

So according to the above Alkalinity was a goose egg.  Apparently I need to go back and read up on this.      
Steve

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2013, 08:29:20 AM »
Ah, yes.  As I suspected, the mash and kettle pH are probably a little lower than desirable due to the lack of alkalinity. That extra tenth or two of pH depression can make the difference in the hop expression.  As we all know, hops have alpha and beta ACIDS in them.  Because of the acid dissociation effect (pKa), the greater the difference in pH between the reactants, the more likely they are to dissociate and react.  In the case of wort, if it is more acidic, its less likely to react (extract) those alpha acids.  That is the likely reason behind the muted hop expression and bittering.   

Since Steve has the supporter's version of Bru'n Water, he has the ability to use baking soda effectively to provide alkalinity in the mash and assess the total sodium it delivers to the overall wort.  As I've preached, alkalinity is not added to sparging water since elevated alkalinity is one of the factors that increases tannin extraction during sparging.  Therefore when using baking soda, the concentration in the final wort is diluted when the low alkalinity sparging water is added into the system.  The supporter's version includes that  calculation and it predicts what the overall concentration of Mg, Na, SO4, and Cl are in the final wort due to these unequal mash and sparging concentrations.  (The Ca and HCO3 concentrations are only calculated for the mashing water since there are a variety of reactions that alter their concentrations for the final wort.)

Baking soda is readily available and soluble and suitable for brewing usage.  In the mash, you can boost the alkalinity by about 100 ppm as CaCO3 while only adding 40 ppm sodium.  Depending on the dilution from sparging, the net Na concentration in the kettle is likely to be much less than that.  Since there are virtually no beers that need more than 150 ppm alkalinity for their mash, its pretty easy to see that the penalty from adding baking soda to the mash could be quite modest. 

Say you needed that 150 ppm alkalinity and had to add baking soda that increased the mash's Na content to 60 ppm.  With sparging dilution, that could easily be half of that in the kettle.  Not too bad.

Brewers are far too dismissive of adding sodium to their wort.  Fears of saltiness and harshness abound.  I can assure you that modest sodium levels in wort are BENEFICIAL to beer flavor.  If you review the large list of water profiles in Bru'n Water, you may notice that the Na level in many desirable brewing waters are in the 40 to 50 ppm range.  In my opinion, allowing (or even promoting) that much sodium in brewing water is OK.  During our research for the Water book, Palmer did a set of taste tests with a finished beer.  Even when the Na level was at 100 ppm, he felt the flavor was improved in some cases.  As I recall, AJ, Colin, and I did finally recommend that a more modest limit for Na be included in the book.  My reasoning was that we needed to keep the Na level more moderate since it can create antagonistic flavor effects with sulfate and chloride.  Bru'n Water users will note that I have included sodium in many of the color or style based profiles.  In general, Na is at 25 ppm or less.  I do find that it aids beer flavor.  Anyone who salts their watermelon or tomatoes will know that sweetening effect of moderate table salt. 

So, don't be afraid of sodium and be sure to become a Bru'n Water supporter (shameless plug) if you want to use baking soda in your brewing practice.
Martin B
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Offline yso191

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2013, 02:44:42 PM »
Martin,

Thank you for such a detailed, instructive response.  It is true, I have been avoiding adding sodium to beers that are light and hoppy.  I'll experiment with baking soda!
Steve

Offline narcout

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2013, 03:55:56 PM »
Ah, yes.  As I suspected, the mash and kettle pH are probably a little lower than desirable due to the lack of alkalinity. That extra tenth or two of pH depression can make the difference in the hop expression. 

Are you saying that a mash pH of 5.3 (measured at room temperature) is lower than desirable for an IPA?

If so, what would you recommend?

Is there a resource available that lists the optimal mash pH by style? 

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2013, 06:13:20 PM »
Ah, yes.  As I suspected, the mash and kettle pH are probably a little lower than desirable due to the lack of alkalinity. That extra tenth or two of pH depression can make the difference in the hop expression. 

Are you saying that a mash pH of 5.3 (measured at room temperature) is lower than desirable for an IPA?

If so, what would you recommend?

Is there a resource available that lists the optimal mash pH by style?
i suggest you read the water knowledge page in Bru'nwater. Not every style is listed, but some guidelines are given.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2013, 07:01:27 PM »
5.3 to 5.4 should be fine for an IPA.  But if the hops aren't coming through for you in a beer that you've brewed a couple of times, try bumping the mash pH by a tenth to see if the expression is improved.  I wouldn't go above 5.5 under any condition in a pale style.
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Offline narcout

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2013, 07:59:35 PM »
5.3 to 5.4 should be fine for an IPA.  But if the hops aren't coming through for you in a beer that you've brewed a couple of times, try bumping the mash pH by a tenth to see if the expression is improved.  I wouldn't go above 5.5 under any condition in a pale style.

Thanks.  Your spreadsheet, along with Kai's, has made it pretty easy for me to hit my desired mash pH, so I will definitely keep that in mind.

Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2013, 05:08:58 AM »
For perspective, the current Distilled water batch is VERY close to what I am looking for, but would like to bump the hop flavor a bit.  I can't help but think that nearly 12 ounces of flavor hops are sufficient though.  What am I missing in this?

Its not always the size of your hop charge that counts...

But seriously: When you're adding hops and how you're storing them are usually the two biggest factors in consistency drift.

When are your late hops added? Have you changed equipment that would change their total contact time with the wort (i.e. changed heat exchanger, whirlpool technique, or transfer process)? You're not done extracting hop compounds at KO, and your post-KO process plays a big role in what you get (or don't get) out of your late hop additions.

How about dry hops? When are you adding them? At what temp? What is the contact time like? Maybe instead of one 4 oz dry hop, you could split them into two additions (one at the end of primary, one in the keg).

How are your hops stored? Are you picking them up batch-wise from a LHBS/online store or ordering in bulk? Either way, how are they handled/stored from the time they arrive from the supplier to the time you use them? If you don't know - find out!

Also - What is your pitching rate like? Overpitching will reduce hop flavor/bitterness.

Water definitely has an impact on flavor in IPA, but with relatively consistent ion content, the above factors will be more significant.
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Offline yso191

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2013, 11:50:47 AM »
For perspective, the current Distilled water batch is VERY close to what I am looking for, but would like to bump the hop flavor a bit.  I can't help but think that nearly 12 ounces of flavor hops are sufficient though.  What am I missing in this?

Its not always the size of your hop charge that counts...

But seriously: When you're adding hops and how you're storing them are usually the two biggest factors in consistency drift.

When are your late hops added? Have you changed equipment that would change their total contact time with the wort (i.e. changed heat exchanger, whirlpool technique, or transfer process)? You're not done extracting hop compounds at KO, and your post-KO process plays a big role in what you get (or don't get) out of your late hop additions.

How about dry hops? When are you adding them? At what temp? What is the contact time like? Maybe instead of one 4 oz dry hop, you could split them into two additions (one at the end of primary, one in the keg).

How are your hops stored? Are you picking them up batch-wise from a LHBS/online store or ordering in bulk? Either way, how are they handled/stored from the time they arrive from the supplier to the time you use them? If you don't know - find out!

Also - What is your pitching rate like? Overpitching will reduce hop flavor/bitterness.

Water definitely has an impact on flavor in IPA, but with relatively consistent ion content, the above factors will be more significant.

Good questions but I don't think the answer lies there.  I have not changed equipment; I've kept the same schedule as to when the hops are added, same dry-hopping rate at the same time/temperature.  I live in Yakima so there are no long, hot shipping times for my hops.  I am anal about keeping them in the freezer and sealed - for each batch of beer I only use freshly opened hops.  I also have used the same yeast in the same way.  Really the only variable changed was the distilled water.
Steve

Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2013, 12:12:45 PM »
Good questions but I don't think the answer lies there.  I have not changed equipment; I've kept the same schedule as to when the hops are added, same dry-hopping rate at the same time/temperature.  I live in Yakima so there are no long, hot shipping times for my hops.  I am anal about keeping them in the freezer and sealed - for each batch of beer I only use freshly opened hops.  I also have used the same yeast in the same way.  Really the only variable changed was the distilled water.

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Re: Distilled v. RO water
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2013, 02:49:21 PM »
Steve, I say go with Martin (always smart with water issues).  On my last IPA I went with the Pale Ale profile in Bru'nWater which I love because of the high sulfate content.  After plugging in the 300 ppm sulfate additions for the profile, I plugged in enough baking soda to raise pH back up to 5.4. Came out perfect - hop bitterness and flavor popped big time. 5.4 seems to be at or near the sweet spot for hoppy beers. Whether or not you use RO or distilled shouldn't matter as long as you declare it in Bru'nWater and build up to that pH. Good luck!
Jon H.