Author Topic: Using very hard water for all beer styles???  (Read 1599 times)

Offline braufessor

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Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« on: July 07, 2017, 06:16:24 AM »
I have a question...... basically curious..... How feasible is it to attempt to use high bicarbonate water for all brewing styles?  Can it be done well/successfully?

**I use 100% RO water and B'run Water - so not looking for advice on not using tap water.  I am more or less curious if a person could make consistently excellent lighter styles of beer with my water profile WITHOUT using RO.  Not "drinkable" beer - but, actually, great beer.

This is my water profile
Ca = 65
Mg = 23
NA = 5
Sulfate = 39
Chloride = 2
K = 2
Bicarbonate = 294
Total Hardness = 257
Alkalinity = 242
Permanent Hardness = 14
Temporary Hardness = 242
Water pH = 7.0

If I plug my IPA for instance into B'run Water and put in modest gypsum/CaCl additions I end up with 130 calcium, 130 Sulfate, 50 Chloride and a project pH of 6.1.  1.5ml/gallon of lactic acid is needed in mash and sparge to bring that in at 5.3.  My pilsner would require about 1.8-2.0 ml/gallon of lactic in mash and sparge to come in between 5.2-5.3 with calcium around 80 and sulfate around 70...

Can you just "acidify" away the problem of alkalinity and end up with really great pale beers?  I know you could probably boil the water to drop some of the alkalinity.  That would be one route and would be better than adding so much acid.  But, could you successfully forgo boiling the water and just add acid?

Like I said, I am primarily curious  - If I brewed two pale beers, one with RO, one with my water and then used acid to get the pH in check and try to balance minerals as close as possible - would they be "the same" beers in the end, or would the hard water one come off as significantly different?

Thanks

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2017, 06:49:12 AM »
I'm not a total expert on water, but..... I'm pretty certain you can acidify most of your bicarbonate away.  Carbonate loves to turn to CO2 and fizz away if there's enough H+ ions hanging around.
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Offline JJeffers09

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2017, 06:51:29 AM »
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2017, 07:00:37 AM »
Another thing - depending on the style and grist, you could need to add a fair amount of acid to drop pH. If it's a lot of lactic, there is a taste threshold there. Phosphoric could come in handy there. Personally I'd rather use RO at least for the pale styles.
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Offline kramerog

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2017, 07:10:48 AM »
Another thing - depending on the style and grist, you could need to add a fair amount of acid to drop pH. If it's a lot of lactic, there is a taste threshold there. Phosphoric could come in handy there. Personally I'd rather use RO at least for the pale styles.
+1.  Phosphoric acid is more taste neutral than lactic acid.  I use lactic but in the range of 0.5-0.75 ml/gallon.

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2017, 07:45:42 AM »
Hardness is not the problem. Its the alkalinity that is the problem. As pointed out in that other thread that I started, boiling can take care of some of your problem, but not all. Lime softening is actually very well suited for your water and it will also reduce your Mg content to a degree.

In any case, your water isn't that bad for brewing once you reduce the alkalinity. You can acidify, but you may need to employ some phosphoric acid instead of all lactic acid use, in order to avoid creating flavor impacts from lactic acid.
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Offline lupulus

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2017, 10:14:27 AM »
+1 on Martin's advice. Do lime treatment. Your water profile is very Munich like and lime worked great for me. The Speidel 30L is great for this as you will have the water volume you need for a 5g batch and given the spigot you do not need to siphon the water.

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Offline braufessor

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2017, 10:22:48 AM »
+1 on Martin's advice. Do lime treatment. Your water profile is very Munich like and lime worked great for me. The Speidel 30L is great for this as you will have the water volume you need for a 5g batch and given the spigot you do not need to siphon the water.

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Thanks folks...   Generally I am just using 100% RO - which is probably just easier.  However, I might try it out of curiosity. 
« Last Edit: July 07, 2017, 10:24:35 AM by braufessor »

Offline braufessor

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2017, 05:12:38 PM »
So, I am going to do a couple experimental pale hoppy beers tomorrow.  One I am going to just use mineral and acid additions to counteract the temporary hardness of my tap water.  The other, I am going to pre-boil the water to drop some of the temporary hardness. 

I looked at the Munich profile in B'run Water and my water really is very similar.  So...... that leads me to this question.  Would I be reasonably safe to assume that if I boil my water, I will get a profile similar to the "Munich Boiled" profile listed in B'run water ...... could I basically use something similar to that in regard to calculating the additions I would want to add back in regard to gypsum, CaCl and Acid for pH?


Offline mabrungard

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2017, 04:58:48 AM »
That water is likely to drop a lot of sediment after boiling. Given that a lot of the content is temporary hardness, the profile could be similar to Munich.
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Offline zwiller

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2017, 08:16:38 AM »
Good idea, it's always best to try things for yourself. 

I recall Gordon Strong saying that while phosphoric acid is neutral but using more of it in high alkalinity water leads to a soda pop type flavor.  I agree.  I think acid is best used with water under 100ppm ALK or so.  If that were my water, I'd cut 50/50 with RO for ales and do 100% RO on lagers.  I fooled with lime treatment but felt it was too time consuming.  Really cool to see the science though... 
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2017, 10:08:31 AM »
Good idea, it's always best to try things for yourself. 

I recall Gordon Strong saying that while phosphoric acid is neutral but using more of it in high alkalinity water leads to a soda pop type flavor.  I agree.  I think acid is best used with water under 100ppm ALK or so.  If that were my water, I'd cut 50/50 with RO for ales and do 100% RO on lagers.  I fooled with lime treatment but felt it was too time consuming.  Really cool to see the science though...

I'm probably misunderstanding or oversimplifying something regarding the pH of aqueous solutions or whatever, however I do also feel compelled to share a thought with you all, which you can feel free to research and validate or refute....

A very long time ago, I think I learned in college a general "rule of thumb": that nearly all phosphates (except hydrogen phosphate, a.k.a. phosphoric acid) are insoluble in water.  As such, I have always figured that this is likely why phosphoric acid is so flavor neutral, because anything it touches, at least in water/aqueous solutions, turns into some insoluble solid mass that precipitates out of solution, which unless you eat it on purpose, you should not taste at all in your final beer, because it cannot be in the beer!

So, if you can taste a "soda pop" character from too much phosphoric, then you've likely succeeded in completely obliterating any and all cations that may be dissolved in the water, leaving behind nothing but H3O+ hydronium (a.k.a., H+) with the phosphate (PO4---) and maybe some other anions, which is I think is very unlikely unless you were to use just a ton of it.

Martin or others, feel free to fix me where I'm wrong.

Cheers.

EDIT: Looks like sodium and potassium also play nice with phosphate, as well as ammonium.  Not that it matters much for most beers besides like gose or something like that.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 10:54:41 AM by dmtaylor »
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Offline zwiller

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2017, 12:51:51 PM »
Dave, I have no real idea and am curious about it too, but is it possible these phosphates could later bind with other things in the mash or boil since it is acidic?  Kinda like having to rack off chalk that was precipitated from preboiling? 
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2017, 01:54:35 PM »
Dave, I have no real idea and am curious about it too, but is it possible these phosphates could later bind with other things in the mash or boil since it is acidic?  Kinda like having to rack off chalk that was precipitated from preboiling?

I'm no expert, but as I indicated above, I *believe* phosphate, IF it were to be present in beer in detectable quantities, will only re-dissolve into the beer in presence of:

1) more acid / lower pH -- this happens naturally during fermentation, but with adequate vorlauf is unlikely to remain in the wort in detectable quantities;

2) ammonium -- could occur during fermentation as a result of yeast death, again only with inadequate vorlauf;

3) sodium -- more likely to occur with a purposely salted beer such as gose, or with bad source water;

4) potassium -- well uh.... I don't think potassium is really a big thing in most beer, excepting gose again, or maybe oyster stout or something goofy like that.

Which leads me to believe that unless you've got really cloudy wort at the start of fermentation, or maybe if your Brewing in a Bag (BIAB) and just letting all your crud go right into your boil kettle, a phosphoric flavor in the finished beer is very unlikely.  This is interesting to think about...... it might be reason for a BIAB'er to consider recirculating or filtering somehow, IF they use phosphoric and notice any add twang to the final beer.  My guess is that it's probably very very rare, if it happens to anyone at all ever.

Sort of interesting to think about all this.  That said, I'm probably way off, and would be interested to hear Dr. Brungard's thoughts on all this.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 01:56:24 PM by dmtaylor »
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Offline charles1968

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Re: Using very hard water for all beer styles???
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 02:20:44 PM »
I have a question...... basically curious..... How feasible is it to attempt to use high bicarbonate water for all brewing styles?  Can it be done well/successfully?

**I use 100% RO water and B'run Water - so not looking for advice on not using tap water.  I am more or less curious if a person could make consistently excellent lighter styles of beer with my water profile WITHOUT using RO.  Not "drinkable" beer - but, actually, great beer.

This is my water profile
Ca = 65
Mg = 23
NA = 5
Sulfate = 39
Chloride = 2
K = 2
Bicarbonate = 294
Total Hardness = 257
Alkalinity = 242
Permanent Hardness = 14
Temporary Hardness = 242
Water pH = 7.0

If I plug my IPA for instance into B'run Water and put in modest gypsum/CaCl additions I end up with 130 calcium, 130 Sulfate, 50 Chloride and a project pH of 6.1.  1.5ml/gallon of lactic acid is needed in mash and sparge to bring that in at 5.3.  My pilsner would require about 1.8-2.0 ml/gallon of lactic in mash and sparge to come in between 5.2-5.3 with calcium around 80 and sulfate around 70...

Can you just "acidify" away the problem of alkalinity and end up with really great pale beers?  I know you could probably boil the water to drop some of the alkalinity.  That would be one route and would be better than adding so much acid.  But, could you successfully forgo boiling the water and just add acid?

Like I said, I am primarily curious  - If I brewed two pale beers, one with RO, one with my water and then used acid to get the pH in check and try to balance minerals as close as possible - would they be "the same" beers in the end, or would the hard water one come off as significantly different?

Thanks

My water is similar to yours and makes good beer. I tend to dilute a little with soft, almost mineral-free water as well as adding gypsum and CRS (carbonate reducing solution - a mixture of acids). How much soft water, gypsum & CRS depends on the beer style. Pale lagers should have lower mineral levels so need more soft water, but British ales can take a lot of sulphate so I use more gypsum for those.

If you use a water calculator like the bru'n water spreadsheet or the online thing at brewersfriend, you can tweak your water to your heart's content. Definitely don't need to keep using RO for everything.

Also, I wouldn't bother boiling - you need to do it for at least 30 mins to get rid of most of the bicarb - a waste of time, fuel and money when there are much simpler solutions.