Author Topic: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales  (Read 1554 times)

Offline BrodyR

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Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« on: April 20, 2014, 08:04:43 AM »
So I've read some conflicting thoughts on the importance of the sulfate to chloride ratio & ideal levels for hoppy pale ales. I was wondering if anyone has more first hand experience on brewing beers with different levels and the effects?

I need to add calcium anyway since my tap water is low in it but I'm torn between keeping chloride fairly low (around 50 or so) with a high sulfate level (close to 300) or going for something closer to 242 s04/75 cl which is around 3.2-1 ratio assuming that even matters. I also considered going for a Firestone Walker approach of 100-100 but then my calcium levels may be a bit low (around 80).

Speaking of calcium, is there an ideal level for pale ales/IPAs? I was shooting for around 130.

The profile I have set up at the moment for my next IPA is:

Ca: 130
Mg: 6
Na: 16
S04: 242
Cl: 75
HC03: 39

But of course I'm open to tweaking it.

« Last Edit: April 20, 2014, 08:27:38 AM by BrodyR »

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Sulphites/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2014, 08:25:21 AM »
I think you mean sulfate, as in calcium sulfate . Sulfites are used in wine and cider to kill wild yeasts. No biggie.
Anyway, if you target 50ppm calcium for ales you'll be fine - you don't need to specifically target calcium that high. Were you adding chalk, or is that your existing water?  I'd lose the chalk addition if you're adding it - you don't need it and it goes counter to your goal, reducing pH to good levels. Anyway, the Bru'nWater pale ale profile has 300ppm sulfate. According to Martin, when you have sulfate content that high, you need to be sure to keep chloride levels under 100 ppm (well under is good). So I think the sulfate and chloride levels look good. Good luck!
Jon H.

Offline BrodyR

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Re: Sulphites/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2014, 08:29:40 AM »
I think you mean sulfate, as in calcium sulfate . Sulfites are used in wine and cider to kill wild yeasts. No biggie.
Anyway, if you target 50ppm calcium for ales you'll be fine - you don't need to specifically target calcium that high. Were you adding chalk, or is that your existing water?  I'd lose the chalk addition if you're adding it - you don't need it and it goes counter to your goal, reducing pH to good levels. Anyway, the Bru'nWater pale ale profile has 300ppm sulfate. According to Martin, when you have sulfate content that high, you need to be sure to keep chloride levels under 100 ppm (well under is good). So I think the sulfate and chloride levels look good. Good luck!

Haha, good catch. Just edited it.

I'd just be adding Gypsum & CaCl, no chalk. The calcium also helps get my pH in range, I thought about trying to use acids for that but measuring them seems like a headache. Yea, my understanding is that high levels of both lead to a minerally taste?

Offline denny

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2014, 09:02:02 AM »
Research done recently by Martin Brungard seems to suggest that 50 ppm Ca is enough for ales and 20 may be enough for lagers.  it's probably better to use acid to adjust pH than Ca.  While the Ca will drop the pH some, using enough to get all the pH change you need may not be the best approach.  As far as SO4/Chloride ration, I think that's folly.  I really on the numbers themselves, not the ratio.  Have you taken a look at Bru'nwater?  Not only will it help you figure your additions, but there's a lot if useful knowledge at https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge
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Offline BrodyR

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2014, 10:05:21 AM »
Research done recently by Martin Brungard seems to suggest that 50 ppm Ca is enough for ales and 20 may be enough for lagers.  it's probably better to use acid to adjust pH than Ca.  While the Ca will drop the pH some, using enough to get all the pH change you need may not be the best approach.  As far as SO4/Chloride ration, I think that's folly.  I really on the numbers themselves, not the ratio.  Have you taken a look at Bru'nwater?  Not only will it help you figure your additions, but there's a lot if useful knowledge at https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge

That's ironic since it's the Bru'n water pale ale profile that had me targeting such high Ca levels! I would like to look into phosphoric acid, how do you go about measuring such tiny amounts tho? It happened to work out that with my low Ca levels that after adding Gypsum & CaCl to get the desired levels of S04/Cl the Ca still ended up in the 50-150 range and the pH at 5.4 so I figured I'd be ok without the acid. That being said I dunno if it's better for a pale ale to be closer to 50 or 150.

I've read some writing from credible sources on both sides of the ratio debate but don't have first hand experience with it. Maybe I'll brew the same recipe a few times with different levels of S04/Cl and see what I prefer. 

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2014, 10:12:14 AM »
I've had good results using lactic acid and it's convenient to have it included in Bru'nWater's calculations. I weigh it out @ 1.21g/ml since it calls for ml - that's the density of lactic acid 88% btw. So obviously if the software calls for say 2 ml of lactic, it's 2 x 1.21 to get gram weight.
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Offline yso191

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2014, 10:13:09 AM »
Research done recently by Martin Brungard seems to suggest that 50 ppm Ca is enough for ales and 20 may be enough for lagers.  it's probably better to use acid to adjust pH than Ca.  While the Ca will drop the pH some, using enough to get all the pH change you need may not be the best approach.  As far as SO4/Chloride ration, I think that's folly.  I really on the numbers themselves, not the ratio.  Have you taken a look at Bru'nwater?  Not only will it help you figure your additions, but there's a lot if useful knowledge at https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge

Sometimes I have a little trouble getting the calcium up to where it should be according to Brun water, which has me wondering if the Wyeast yeast food I use helps,with that.  Does anyone know if it adds calcium, and if so, maybe how much?
Steve
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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2014, 10:17:01 AM »
I've read some writing from credible sources on both sides of the ratio debate but don't have first hand experience with it. Maybe I'll brew the same recipe a few times with different levels of S04/Cl and see what I prefer.

When credible sources talk about a ratio, what they actually mean is "the ratio given that one of the numbers is fixed". I doubt anyone really thinks that 3 ppm sulfate and 1 ppm chloride would taste the same as 150 ppm and 50 ppm.

Personally, I find that a little sulfate really perks up my pale ales, but I can't taste the difference between 150 ppm and 300.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2014, 10:21:54 AM »
Research done recently by Martin Brungard seems to suggest that 50 ppm Ca is enough for ales and 20 may be enough for lagers.  it's probably better to use acid to adjust pH than Ca.  While the Ca will drop the pH some, using enough to get all the pH change you need may not be the best approach.  As far as SO4/Chloride ration, I think that's folly.  I really on the numbers themselves, not the ratio.  Have you taken a look at Bru'nwater?  Not only will it help you figure your additions, but there's a lot if useful knowledge at https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge

Sometimes I have a little trouble getting the calcium up to where it should be according to Brun water, which has me wondering if the Wyeast yeast food I use helps,with that.  Does anyone know if it adds calcium, and if so, maybe how much?

I have no idea Steve. Good question. Sometimes with Bru'nwater , if the salt and acid additions hit my target mash pH, I'll add the balance to hit 50ppm calcium (for ales) to the kettle.
Jon H.

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2014, 10:37:48 AM »
Sometimes I have a little trouble getting the calcium up to where it should be according to Brun water, which has me wondering if the Wyeast yeast food I use helps,with that.  Does anyone know if it adds calcium, and if so, maybe how much?

If you're talking about normal yeast nutrient, that's just DAP and urea, so no calcium salts other than maybe as a binder. The proprietary blends might have some/more, but they're focused on the micronutrients.

At typical usage rates, I don't think any of them would add enough calcium to worry about.
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Offline denny

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2014, 10:41:00 AM »
That's ironic since it's the Bru'n water pale ale profile that had me targeting such high Ca levels! I would like to look into phosphoric acid, how do you go about measuring such tiny amounts tho? It happened to work out that with my low Ca levels that after adding Gypsum & CaCl to get the desired levels of S04/Cl the Ca still ended up in the 50-150 range and the pH at 5.4 so I figured I'd be ok without the acid. That being said I dunno if it's better for a pale ale to be closer to 50 or 150.

I've read some writing from credible sources on both sides of the ratio debate but don't have first hand experience with it. Maybe I'll brew the same recipe a few times with different levels of S04/Cl and see what I prefer.

I use lactic acid.  I bought a syringe marked in ml to measure it.
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Offline denny

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2014, 10:44:03 AM »
Sometimes I have a little trouble getting the calcium up to where it should be according to Brun water, which has me wondering if the Wyeast yeast food I use helps,with that.  Does anyone know if it adds calcium, and if so, maybe how much?

Based on what's on their website, I don't think so....

"A blend of vitamins, minerals, inorganic nitrogen, organic nitrogen, zinc, phosphates and other trace elements that will benefit yeast growth and complete fermentation. "
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2014, 11:31:46 AM »

That's ironic since it's the Bru'n water pale ale profile that had me targeting such high Ca levels!

The high calcium level is a by-product of wanting so much sulfate in the Pale Ale profile. Since you can't add sulfate without adding some other cation, we are going to end up with one of those cations (Ca, Mg, Na, K) high. Calcium just happens to be a rather innocuous ion, so letting its concentration rise is OK.

Calcium is really helpful in getting yeast to flocculate and it can help beers clear. But there is little reason to raise it above about 50 ppm for ales. The only reason to take it higher is to add those flavor ions (SO4 and Cl) to the water. In the case of the Pale Ale profile, it is a necessary thing.

However, this brings up another VERY important point about magnesium in brewing water. Mg is not a bad component in brewing water. In the case of creating a high sulfate content water like the Pale Ale profile, an Epsom Salt addition can really boost sulfate with a modest boost in Mg content (20 ppm Mg from Epsom provides 79 ppm SO4). That is a pretty good payoff in my opinion. In addition, the flavor from Mg is actually complementary to the overall bittering that we want in pale ales and IPAs. Including that Epsom Salt addition also reduces the total calcium that you will have to add if you are targeting a high sulfate content. This is a win-win in my view.

The Sulfate/Chloride ratio is purely informational and its only useful when the chloride content is at a modest level (say 25 to 125 ppm). Beyond those limits, the ions are either too low to really taste or too minerally for brewing.
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Offline BrodyR

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2014, 12:40:41 PM »
I use lactic acid.  I bought a syringe marked in ml to measure it.
[/quote]

That makes a lot of sense, sounds easier than using my gram scale - I'll have to pick one of those up.

Offline BrodyR

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Re: Sulfate/Chloride & Calcium in Pale Ales
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2014, 12:46:01 PM »

That's ironic since it's the Bru'n water pale ale profile that had me targeting such high Ca levels!

The high calcium level is a by-product of wanting so much sulfate in the Pale Ale profile. Since you can't add sulfate without adding some other cation, we are going to end up with one of those cations (Ca, Mg, Na, K) high. Calcium just happens to be a rather innocuous ion, so letting its concentration rise is OK.

Calcium is really helpful in getting yeast to flocculate and it can help beers clear. But there is little reason to raise it above about 50 ppm for ales. The only reason to take it higher is to add those flavor ions (SO4 and Cl) to the water. In the case of the Pale Ale profile, it is a necessary thing.

However, this brings up another VERY important point about magnesium in brewing water. Mg is not a bad component in brewing water. In the case of creating a high sulfate content water like the Pale Ale profile, an Epsom Salt addition can really boost sulfate with a modest boost in Mg content (20 ppm Mg from Epsom provides 79 ppm SO4). That is a pretty good payoff in my opinion. In addition, the flavor from Mg is actually complementary to the overall bittering that we want in pale ales and IPAs. Including that Epsom Salt addition also reduces the total calcium that you will have to add if you are targeting a high sulfate content. This is a win-win in my view.

The Sulfate/Chloride ratio is purely informational and its only useful when the chloride content is at a modest level (say 25 to 125 ppm). Beyond those limits, the ions are either too low to really taste or too minerally for brewing.


Thanks Martin - High Calcium as a byproduct of increased Sulfate makes sense. I was thinking you needed that higher level to produce a clearer pale ale.

Given that a higher concentration of Ca is innocuous though do you think I'm fine jacking it up to 130 or so to help with pH & hit the desired level of S04? Or would I be a lot better off keeping it closer to the 50 side (by swapping out some gypsum for epsom) & using phosphoric acid to decrease the pH?