Author Topic: Building water for pale lager  (Read 1083 times)

Offline Robert

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Building water for pale lager
« on: December 19, 2017, 01:32:52 AM »
I've been rethinking my liquor strategy lately (had at least one other thread on this board), and now I'm reconsidering the option (done it before) of RO (buying it, won't invest unless I decide to go this way regularly.)  I have a good idea from experience of the levels of calcium and additional acidification I need to hit my mash pH.   Is there any other trace mineral I should really consider building in?  In the past I've included around 20% of my natural water for trace minerals; really needed?
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Offline Big Monk

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2017, 01:56:09 AM »
I've been rethinking my liquor strategy lately (had at least one other thread on this board), and now I'm reconsidering the option (done it before) of RO (buying it, won't invest unless I decide to go this way regularly.)  I have a good idea from experience of the levels of calcium and additional acidification I need to hit my mash pH.   Is there any other trace mineral I should really consider building in?  In the past I've included around 20% of my natural water for trace minerals; really needed?

What I’ve learned in the past 18 months or so from my main collaborator is that KISS reigns supreme as far as water is concerned.

Enough CaCl2 to get to 40 ppm Ca, maybe some NaCl, all sulfates coming from antioxidants, and either Na or K coming from antioxidants as well. I will still use a targeted amount of Wyeast nutrient by dosing around 0.3 g/gal and that contributes, most notably, a touch of magnesium, zinc, and another kick of sulfate (~ 9 ppm).

And that’s it. No Epsom, no baking soda, no Gypsum, etc.
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Offline Robert

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2017, 02:15:35 AM »
KISS is what got me trying to adapt my natural supply in the first place!  That aside: I use Servomyces, which will provide only zinc unlike Wyeast nutrient. (But I always have WY on hand for when I need to propagate.)  I don't use antioxidants (sorry, man, still largely conventional brewhouse practices!)  Given those conditions, how would you proceed?  All DI  and switch to Wyeast nutrient, add calcium and then acidify as needed?  That would suit me as far as simplicity goes. 

Edit: Oh, and when do you add the nutrient? As liquor treatment, or late boil as usual?
« Last Edit: December 19, 2017, 02:18:51 AM by Robert »
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Offline Big Monk

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2017, 04:11:43 AM »
KISS is what got me trying to adapt my natural supply in the first place!  That aside: I use Servomyces, which will provide only zinc unlike Wyeast nutrient. (But I always have WY on hand for when I need to propagate.)  I don't use antioxidants (sorry, man, still largely conventional brewhouse practices!)  Given those conditions, how would you proceed?  All DI  and switch to Wyeast nutrient, add calcium and then acidify as needed?  That would suit me as far as simplicity goes. 

Edit: Oh, and when do you add the nutrient? As liquor treatment, or late boil as usual?

I would say that a mix of Calcium Chloride, Gypsum and NaCl would be fine. Acidify as needed. I add the Wyeast nutrient late boil and account for Mg, Zn, and Sulfate in my kettle water profile.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

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Offline Robert

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2017, 06:10:08 AM »
Na really needed?
Rob Stein
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Offline Big Monk

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2017, 10:13:32 AM »
Na really needed?

Not really. I would add it to taste if you want.
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2017, 03:43:24 PM »
I make a lot of pale lagers.  My source water is: Ca 34, Mg 12, Na 13, Cl 21, SO4 27 and bicarb 138.  I neutralize the bicarb with lactic acid and usually add about 3g of calcium chloride for something like a helles, pilsner, dort, American lager, etc.  My Ca ends up around 60ppm, the chloride is around 60-65 while the SO4 stays at 27 which is usually plenty of sulfate for a beer like this.  If it were any higher I might dilute 25% with distilled or something.  I do not add Na at all.  All of that plus proper pH control has made a world of difference in these styles. 

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2017, 03:47:53 PM »
Na really needed?

Absolutely not, but it is desirable. 

Brewers keep having this phobia about sodium and at the levels we typically employ, its completely unfounded. For illustration, the level of sodium needed to produce a 'salty' taste in water is about 250 ppm. That's not a likely level for any brewer (excepting Gose brewers!). I do find that keeping it below 70 ppm in dark beers is pleasant. I'd keep it below about half that level in paler beers.
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Offline hopsindahood

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2017, 04:17:16 PM »
If you are trying to stick to a particular style, you can research the water used in that region and try to mimic that.  I am fortunate to have pH ~6.5 water that is relatively free of minerals and moderately hard. I use between 40-50% distilled water blended with my tap water for lagers and Belgian style beers to good effect. Playing around with a mixture of distilled water is an easy way to dilute the minerals in your tap water.

Offline Robert

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2017, 04:18:14 PM »
Na really needed?

Absolutely not, but it is desirable. 

Brewers keep having this phobia about sodium and at the levels we typically employ, its completely unfounded. For illustration, the level of sodium needed to produce a 'salty' taste in water is about 250 ppm. That's not a likely level for any brewer (excepting Gose brewers!). I do find that keeping it below 70 ppm in dark beers is pleasant. I'd keep it below about half that level in paler beers.

So if I add some NaCl,  then should I use some combination of CaCl2 and gypsum to get my calcium, in order to keep the chloride down? Or is chloride just brewers'  phobia too?
Rob Stein
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Offline Big Monk

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2017, 04:26:58 PM »
If you are trying to stick to a particular style, you can research the water used in that region and try to mimic that.  I am fortunate to have pH ~6.5 water that is relatively free of minerals and moderately hard. I use between 40-50% distilled water blended with my tap water for lagers and Belgian style beers to good effect. Playing around with a mixture of distilled water is an easy way to dilute the minerals in your tap water.

The problem with this advice, as many have stated before, is that regional/municipal water profiles tell you almost nothing about the brewing water for that region unless, as is stated about some of the Trappists in a book like BLAM, that the brewery uses the water "as-is" with relatively no modification.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

"Messieurs, c’est les microbes qui auront le dernier mot." Louis Pasteur

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Offline Robert

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2017, 04:29:46 PM »
I make a lot of pale lagers.  My source water is: Ca 34, Mg 12, Na 13, Cl 21, SO4 27 and bicarb 138.  I neutralize the bicarb with lactic acid and usually add about 3g of calcium chloride for something like a helles, pilsner, dort, American lager, etc.  My Ca ends up around 60ppm, the chloride is around 60-65 while the SO4 stays at 27 which is usually plenty of sulfate for a beer like this.  If it were any higher I might dilute 25% with distilled or something.  I do not add Na at all.  All of that plus proper pH control has made a world of difference in these styles.

Your water sounds good to me.  Mine varies wildly especially in what I feel are the two most important parameters:  Ca 20-45ppm, total alkalinity 50-110ppm. I test these every time I brew (2-3 times a month) and realize I'm spending a small fortune on indicators and reagents. And with Na north of 40ppm, Cl and SO4 both 50-120, I don't have a lot of room for adjustment for pale lagers (just about all I brew.)  I'm checking Amazon for stand-alone RO systems!
Rob Stein
Akron, Ohio

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Offline Robert

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2017, 05:27:45 PM »
If you are trying to stick to a particular style, you can research the water used in that region and try to mimic that.  I am fortunate to have pH ~6.5 water that is relatively free of minerals and moderately hard. I use between 40-50% distilled water blended with my tap water for lagers and Belgian style beers to good effect. Playing around with a mixture of distilled water is an easy way to dilute the minerals in your tap water.

The problem with this advice, as many have stated before, is that regional/municipal water profiles tell you almost nothing about the brewing water for that region unless, as is stated about some of the Trappists in a book like BLAM, that the brewery uses the water "as-is" with relatively no modification.

Further problem, water report only tells you the composition at the particular time and place the sample was drawn.  Water can vary seasonally, daily, and at various points in the system (what does it pick up in the pipes, if it's tested at the plant tap?)
Rob Stein
Akron, Ohio

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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2017, 05:39:26 PM »
I make a lot of pale lagers.  My source water is: Ca 34, Mg 12, Na 13, Cl 21, SO4 27 and bicarb 138.  I neutralize the bicarb with lactic acid and usually add about 3g of calcium chloride for something like a helles, pilsner, dort, American lager, etc.  My Ca ends up around 60ppm, the chloride is around 60-65 while the SO4 stays at 27 which is usually plenty of sulfate for a beer like this.  If it were any higher I might dilute 25% with distilled or something.  I do not add Na at all.  All of that plus proper pH control has made a world of difference in these styles.

Your water sounds good to me.  Mine varies wildly especially in what I feel are the two most important parameters:  Ca 20-45ppm, total alkalinity 50-110ppm. I test these every time I brew (2-3 times a month) and realize I'm spending a small fortune on indicators and reagents. And with Na north of 40ppm, Cl and SO4 both 50-120, I don't have a lot of room for adjustment for pale lagers (just about all I brew.)  I'm checking Amazon for stand-alone RO systems!

I started looking at in-home RO systems very hesitantly.  But that was before I knew how to deal with the higher bicarb level in my water.  Once I got that part figured out I realized that the other numbers in my water were pretty modest.  I think one decent option for you would be to dilute your water with some percentage of distilled (which you know will have ZERO ions) and if you deplete something to the point that it's too low, you can add it back.  Personally I don't care for beers with a lot of sulfate in it so I use more CaCl than I do CaSO4.  In pale styles you can have a smidge of sulfate for crispness, etc. but I have no issues having 3x the amount of chloride in the water (over sulfate).  It seems like my conclusion after looking into this for years is that the best brewing water is soft because it's much easier to add things than remove them. 

Offline Robert

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Re: Building water for pale lager
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2017, 05:57:32 PM »
Indeed easier to add.  I actually just placed my order for a RO unit, and I'm getting a TDS meter too for good measure.  I know the small units leave some trace minerals I've heard they're about 90% efficient)  but that's fine. With this I'll be able to build from scratch or dilute my source, depending on the beer.  Still need to know the targets though!  At least I won't be totally at the mercy of my source.
Rob Stein
Akron, Ohio

I'd rather have questions I can't answer than answers I can't question.