Author Topic: Na levels in brewing...  (Read 1436 times)

Offline Village Taphouse

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Na levels in brewing...
« on: October 27, 2016, 01:25:56 PM »
I just read a Brulosophy water article and we're having a discussion on it over on my main board.  I have wondered about Na levels in the brewing water many times as a number of people have mentioned that it's like salting your food to bring out flavor.  I feel like I have a good handle on where the other ions (Ca, Cl, SO4, Mg, Bicarb) should be but I generally overlook Na.  My water has modest numbers except for the bicarb (Ca 34, Mg 12, Na 13, Cl 21, SO4 27, bicarb 138).  I have never added any sea salt or kosher salt, etc. to my brewing water.  Someone on our main board suggested adding a bit of it to a glass of beer to test it which I will do.  Does anyone here add a bit to their water for flavor improvement?  Does anyone have a guideline where they use it more for darker beers or maltier beers, etc?  What is a good level to target?  Does my 13ppm of Na suggest that my beers might do better with a smidge more Na?  I'm not looking to correct anything I'm noticing but it's a piece of the water puzzle I generally ignore.  Thoughts?

Offline JJeffers09

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2016, 01:47:33 PM »
I get enough sodium by raising the pH with baking soda.  The 5.5-6 pH ~3.3 grams of baking soda gets me to the right place for my dark beers. But I'm using RO

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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2016, 02:01:42 PM »
I often add a little Na just to hit the parameters of a water profile in Brunwater. I know in theory it's a flavor enhancer, but I'm not honestly sure how much difference it makes to my palate.
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2016, 02:07:51 PM »
Thanks guys.  I'm not heavy into the sciences so bear with me on this question... calcium chloride and calcium sulfate are referred to as "salts", right?  Does the addition of CaCl and/or CaSO4 contribute to Na?  My guess is NO because when I add those to something like BNW or EZ_Water, the Na level does not increase.  So where do you guys see your Na levels (ppm) for some of the beers you make? 

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2016, 02:13:56 PM »
Thanks guys.  I'm not heavy into the sciences so bear with me on this question... calcium chloride and calcium sulfate are referred to as "salts", right?  Does the addition of CaCl and/or CaSO4 contribute to Na?  My guess is NO because when I add those to something like BNW or EZ_Water, the Na level does not increase.  So where do you guys see your Na levels (ppm) for some of the beers you make? 


No, gypsum and CaCl2 won't impact Na. For beers where I bother to add any, ~ 12 ppm for paler beers is common in some of my profiles, a good bit more for stout and porter because I like to raise pH with baking soda. A roasty stout is just over 45ppm with the Na coming from the baking soda. Martin recommends to try to stay under 50ppm Na (and definitely under 100) so I'm ok there.

Edit - I'll add that I use RO water on beers, so there's no existing Na to be overdone by the Na from baking soda. Municipal water often has noticeably higher Na and might not work well with baking soda.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2016, 02:16:15 PM by HoosierBrew »
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Offline Todd H.

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2016, 02:24:46 PM »
I have added kosher salt a couple of times to amber beers, but in miniscule amounts, something like 0.9g to 15L of water for a 2.5 gallon batch if I remember correctly, which I might not.  Considering I add more than that when I'm cooking (in a much smaller volume), I had a tough time believing it was doing anything, so I've been leaving it out.  I've never done a +/- experiment before, so who's to say?  It might be noticable.  At the level I think I was adding, you'd have to add something like 50 milligrams of salt to a pint to test it in a beer.

I just measured 0.9 g NaCl at work, it's roughly 1/4 tsp max.  So I guess try adding 1/16th of 1/4 tsp salt to a beer and see what happens.

Edit:  I checked at home... my amount was 0.4g not 0.9 g.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2016, 03:25:03 AM by Todd H. »

Offline The Beerery

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2016, 02:26:37 PM »
I would agree, but for some northern german pilsner examples, I would say NA is at or above 100ppm for those minerally/salty characteristics. Adding 50ppm to a helles, does not make it off putting in any way shape or form.

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2016, 02:36:16 PM »
Would anyone care to guess (or explain) what the difference might be if I made a helles (for example) my normal way with 13ppm of Na in the water and what I might taste if I were to bump that number to 30ppm, 40ppm, etc?  I have read some things that suggest that higher levels of Na actually create a sweetness in the finished beer.  My upcoming batches include a pale ale, a red lager and also a helles (both of those lagers will be made with WLP830)... should I experiment a little bit by increasing the Na?  Also, what products should be used... kosher salt, sea salt, etc?  Stay away from standard iodized salt (I saw that somewhere)?

I usually use 5 gallons of strike water and 3 gallons of sparge water.  I see that .5g would raise my Na from 13 to 20.  1g brings me to 26.  1.5g brings me to 33 and 2.0g brings me to 39ppm.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2016, 02:40:36 PM by Village Taphouse »

Offline The Beerery

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2016, 03:08:04 PM »
Would anyone care to guess (or explain) what the difference might be if I made a helles (for example) my normal way with 13ppm of Na in the water and what I might taste if I were to bump that number to 30ppm, 40ppm, etc?  I have read some things that suggest that higher levels of Na actually create a sweetness in the finished beer.  My upcoming batches include a pale ale, a red lager and also a helles (both of those lagers will be made with WLP830)... should I experiment a little bit by increasing the Na?  Also, what products should be used... kosher salt, sea salt, etc?  Stay away from standard iodized salt (I saw that somewhere)?

I usually use 5 gallons of strike water and 3 gallons of sparge water.  I see that .5g would raise my Na from 13 to 20.  1g brings me to 26.  1.5g brings me to 33 and 2.0g brings me to 39ppm.

I would experiment with it... I would say its masks bitterness, so sweetness can come out.

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2016, 06:00:34 PM »
"Nuance" that is what the typical Na dose brings to beer. There is virtually no chance of saltiness when the Na level is less than 40 ppm and I find that up to 70 ppm works in Porters. I almost always add table salt to my beers, but its typically at less than 20 ppm in most styles. The Na is just the bonus since I'm really adding the salt for the Cl without the Ca. I'm not going to state that this minor salt addition really makes a difference in the flavor... but it's my beer and my attempt at artistry!
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Offline Stevie

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2016, 06:12:28 PM »
I normally add 1 gram per batch.  I setup my default Bru'n water template to do this by default. It uses a formula so it's always 1 gram. I adjust as needed.

Offline erockrph

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2016, 05:25:13 PM »
Like most food recipes, a little bit of salt just under the taste threshold seems to enhance flavor in beer. I've been out of CaCl2 and been using a combo of gypsum and kosher salt for all my mineral additions for a few beers. I've gotten as high as 70ppm of sodium and haven't had an issue.

In my experience, I think sodium works best at enhancing toast and caramel notes in beer.

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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2016, 05:39:38 PM »
Like most food recipes, a little bit of salt just under the taste threshold seems to enhance flavor in beer. I've been out of CaCl2 and been using a combo of gypsum and kosher salt for all my mineral additions for a few beers. I've gotten as high as 70ppm of sodium and haven't had an issue.

In my experience, I think sodium works best at enhancing toast and caramel notes in beer.

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Good info, Eric. Like I've posted before, I like my stouts roasty and the amount of baking soda needed to hit 5.6pH puts me ~ 50 Na. And those beers are great. But I've never purposely let my Na get that high for paler beers. I may see what I think of higher Na in some other styles.
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Offline skyler

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2016, 07:24:18 PM »
Guys, I have found this discussion pretty compelling. It has been my experience that beers with tons of sulfate (200+ ppm) are unpleasantly bitter, regardless of the amount of chloride. I am wondering now if added sodium is the reason why I always found Tasty McDole's pale ales (and others) to taste pleasant and not overly mineral-bitter. And I absolutely loved the good-quality traditional English ales I had in Britain. Perhaps the additional sodium rounds out the whole profile of the beer?

Anyway, I am going to try this out soon for an AIPA (shooting for 5.4 pH): 100 ppm Ca, 5 ppm Mg, 40 ppm Na, 100 ppm Chloride, 200 ppm Sulfate, 9 ppm Bicarbonate. It's not as hard as some common pale ale profiles, but it is a lot harder than my usual ~(50 ppm Ca, 5 ppm Mg, 3 ppm Na, 40 ppm Chloride, 60 ppm Sulfate, 9 ppm Bicarbonate).

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Na levels in brewing...
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2016, 07:43:00 PM »
Guys, I have found this discussion pretty compelling. It has been my experience that beers with tons of sulfate (200+ ppm) are unpleasantly bitter, regardless of the amount of chloride. I am wondering now if added sodium is the reason why I always found Tasty McDole's pale ales (and others) to taste pleasant and not overly mineral-bitter. And I absolutely loved the good-quality traditional English ales I had in Britain. Perhaps the additional sodium rounds out the whole profile of the beer?

Anyway, I am going to try this out soon for an AIPA (shooting for 5.4 pH): 100 ppm Ca, 5 ppm Mg, 40 ppm Na, 100 ppm Chloride, 200 ppm Sulfate, 9 ppm Bicarbonate. It's not as hard as some common pale ale profiles, but it is a lot harder than my usual ~(50 ppm Ca, 5 ppm Mg, 3 ppm Na, 40 ppm Chloride, 60 ppm Sulfate, 9 ppm Bicarbonate).
Skyler, keep us posted on what happens.  You could also take a beer and add some Na to the glass to see if you can pick up any perceived difference.  I haven't done that yet but it seems like a good way to tell if pushing the Na is taking the beer in the direction you want.  Cheers.