Author Topic: Sparge salts vs kettle salts vs no salts at all ?? (except for mash salts)  (Read 1120 times)

Offline jjflash

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Just got done reading the Brewers Publication "Water" hoping to enlighten me on this question.  Couldn't extract the answer.  Mash salts I well understand.  Calcium 50 - 100ppm, perhaps 85ppm is best target for most my beers using my hard water pH 7.8.  Acidify the sparge to <5.8.  Any benefit to adding sparge salts or kettle salts?  Perhaps only if you use RO water or have really soft water?  I have the impression, in my beers, either sparge salts or kettle salts just make the beer taste minerally.  Don't think it adds any flavor benefit to my hard water. So mash salts only for the hard water brewer?  RO / soft water then add kettle salts?  Is this the conventional wisdom to date?
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Offline HydraulicSammich

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I "no sparge" and use Bru'n Water spreadsheet.  I do a late infusion of sparge water and run it all off at once.  So, I adjust the sparge water for pH which is slightly different than mash adjustment.  The most important thing is to measure pH of the kettle at runoff.  If it is where you want it, no matter how you arrived there, your good to go or you will need to adjust the sparge.
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Offline jjflash

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Found this from A J DeLange at HomeBrewTalk responding to the same question.

"Most breweries do not treat the sparge and mash water separately. Why would they go to extra effort (costing more money) if they didn't have to? If they treat the water at all they treat the whole volume and just brew with it. Similarly most don't make kettle additions if they don't have to.

I think it's the same in home brewing. If you don't have to treat separately, why bother with it?

So perhaps the better questions are "When do you have to treat sparge water separately?" and "When do you need to make additions to the kettle?" The obvious answer to the first question is "When pH rises too rapidly during sparge such that pH is above 6 before runoff extract is as low as desired." This would happen with alkaline water but if you have alkaline water you should be taking steps to reduce alkalinity for mashing so you shouldn't need to treat the sparge water separately. The usual method by which today's home brewer "decarbonates" water is by diluting it with low ion content water. If that's how you are doing it you could prepare your mash water with whatever dilution you need to get the alkalinity you want for mashing and then dilute whatever is left over further for sparging. Or just sparge with RO water. I think it preferable to make the sparge water as much like the mash water as you can as you presumably had stylistic considerations in mind when you came up with the mash water profile.

As to the second question: the answer would be essentially the same i.e. don't do anything unless the pH is too high. Very few home brewers even check kettle pH let alone adjust for it. As long as it is less than 5.2 (or perhaps even 5.3) everything should be fine. If it rises higher than that then some acid can be added.

Of course if one is doing something special, such a making a Gose, extra salts can be dosed into the kettle to get the desired flavor(s)."

and this post from Martin Brungard also at HomeBrewTalk:

"I feel that mashing and sparging water should generally be treated the same. The only difference is the amount of alkalinity in each water. The alkalinity in the mashing water should be keyed to the needs of the grist, while the sparging water should always have low alkalinity."

These are the two best experts I know of for water issues.

Bottom line:  Treat mash water and sparge water equally with appropriate salts.  Kettle salt additions are rarely done / needed.

---JJ---

I don't know half of you half as well as I should, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
- Bilbo Baggins

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Get the mash pH right. If you want more flavor ions add to the kettle. I have seen this at Sierra Nevada, for example. Have a picture of the salt addition container somewhere.
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Offline denny

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Get the mash pH right. If you want more flavor ions add to the kettle.

Yep, works for me.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Picture of the hops (in the big green bins on wheels, Irish Moss, and Kettle Salts) ready for the Pale Ale at the Sierra Nevada 200 bbl west brewhouse.


As an added bonus, the stacks of gypsum, and I assume CaCL2 in the storage room we walked by on the tour.


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Offline mabrungard

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Found this from A J DeLange at HomeBrewTalk responding to the same question.

"Most breweries do not treat the sparge and mash water separately. Why would they go to extra effort (costing more money) if they didn't have to? If they treat the water at all they treat the whole volume and just brew with it. Similarly most don't make kettle additions if they don't have to.


and this post from Martin Brungard also at HomeBrewTalk:

"I feel that mashing and sparging water should generally be treated the same. The only difference is the amount of alkalinity in each water. The alkalinity in the mashing water should be keyed to the needs of the grist, while the sparging water should always have low alkalinity."



Bottom line:  Treat mash water and sparge water equally with appropriate salts.  Kettle salt additions are rarely done / needed.

A few qualifiers to note here.  First regarding AJ's comment above.  When AJ mentions "most breweries", remember that its light-colored beers that most of those breweries produce.  In that situation, treating all brewing liquor the same is likely to be OK.  However when the beer production 'strays' into the darker styles, that is when it can become very important to treat the mashing and sparging water differently.  I get the impression from JJ's comment that he overlooked my comment that the mashing water alkalinity needs to be keyed to the grist.  Darker colored grists and those with more crystal malts are likely to need more alkalinity than sparging water should have. So while I agree that the flavor ions in mashing and sparging water should be similar, the alkalinity can be quite different.   
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Offline hoser

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Kettle additions are basically your sparge additions.  So you can either add them to the sparge water or wait until all of your wort is collected and add it then.

Your only real concern is the pH of the sparge water which is a non-issue if using RO water.  Otherwise, a pH around 6 generally a good rule of thumb when using pre-treated tap water.

Offline hopfenundmalz

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One other thing, when we went on the new Sierra Nevada tour, I asked the guide about the water, and if there is an RO system. We had walked by a room full of equipment labeled "Water Treatment". She said there was an RO system, but it was not used. She had been well trained in the brewing process and facility, never said something that made me raise my eyebrows, so I accepted the answer.
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Offline jjflash

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Thank you everyone for your valuable input.  The proper mash pH and sparge pH is a given, no arguments there.  I have failed to qualify my question, by salts I am referring to the most common water additions most home brewers use- CaCl2 and CaSO4.  There seems to be three different addition methods.
1)  Additions to the mash and sparge.
2)  Additions to the mash and kettle.
3)  Additions to the mash, sparge and kettle.
I still don't understand the reasons to use one method over the other.  I understand most calcium additions become bonded to the mash, approximately 65%-75%.  So only 25%-35% of calcium salt additions to the mash and sparge actually make it to the kettle.  What benefit do I get from switching my calcium salts additions from the sparge to the kettle?  More calcium in the kettle obviously.  Benefits the yeast.  Does this result in some type of flavor benefit also? 
---JJ---

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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Sparge salts vs kettle salts vs no salts at all ?? (except for mash salts)
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2013, 07:54:21 AM »
Chico water has fairly low mineralization under most conditions. So I'm not surprised that SN does not use their RO system.  I assume that they employ it during those times when the incoming water quality is degraded.  They do have a relatively intensive incoming water QC process to make sure they keep tabs on the water.  This was documented in the Water book.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Sparge salts vs kettle salts vs no salts at all ?? (except for mash salts)
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2013, 08:04:28 AM »
Chico water has fairly low mineralization under most conditions. So I'm not surprised that SN does not use their RO system.  I assume that they employ it during those times when the incoming water quality is degraded.  They do have a relatively intensive incoming water QC process to make sure they keep tabs on the water.  This was documented in the Water book.

The tour guide did talk about what they do, and it matched the water book's run down.

They might us RO for the limited times they are doing the Summerfest or the Pilsners they have in the taproom. Or they may have got it and found they didn't really need it?
Jeff Rankert
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Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!