Author Topic: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?  (Read 13408 times)

Offline ipaisay

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #60 on: September 09, 2010, 03:32:05 PM »
I agree that this is the most well thought out forum post.  so, here is a question I need ask:

Has anyone have an analysis for HOLY WATER?
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Offline dean

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #61 on: September 10, 2010, 05:10:27 AM »
The thing that interests me about this subject is GS's statement about people doing too much with their water.  I know for a fact that once I decided to adjust my water, I went headlong into it adding a minimum of two salts and as many as four.  Why?  Because I went by the reported "ideal" ranges that we see on some of the spreadsheets, one in particular being EZ Calc.  If your numbers are in the accepted range they are green, if not they are red.  What I ended up with was beer but not the taste I wanted in my beer even though the ratios showed it should be.

I'm not saying the calculators are bad, but just because you put everything within range doesn't mean you'll make a better beer.  jmo...

I prefer to use Kai's spreadsheet because it tells me what my pH should be and more importantly what it Doesn't tell me.  With that said my next batch will have only one brewing salt added this time... gypsum, and I'll use either lactic acid or acidulated malt for pH adjustments as needed.

Another topic I remember reading about somewhere that mash pH balances as low as 4.5 and that it may have had higher efficiencies?   I thought about that a lot too, and it just confused the hell out of me so I'm deleting that out of the hardrive in my head... too many conflicts for my little brain.     :D

Offline mrcceo

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #62 on: September 10, 2010, 06:35:30 AM »
Another topic I remember reading about somewhere that mash pH balances as low as 4.5 and that it may have had higher efficiencies?   I thought about that a lot too, and it just confused the hell out of me so I'm deleting that out of the hardrive in my head... too many conflicts for my little brain.     :D

A pH of 4.5 is where a beer usually finishes up after fermentation.

Offline bluesman

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #63 on: September 10, 2010, 09:38:33 AM »
Beer has a pH of about 4 when fresh, but this can drop to 3.5 or below if the beer is exposed to oxygen such that it sours, as is inevitable in a cask after dispense. Fresh ciders may have a pH as low as 3.3 and, when oxidized, even below 3.

Acidity is generally reported in terms of lactic acid, though other organic and inorganic acids are involved. The acidity figure should be reasonably constant, though slight fluctuations can be expected. Various strains of yeast, as well as lack of proper wort aeration, can affect acidity.

Abnormally high acidity can be an indication of bacterial infection of the wort and/or beer.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #64 on: September 10, 2010, 10:31:21 AM »
Many beers are in the 4.1 to 4.5 range. 

I can see cask ales going to a lower value with time, as I have had a few that were starting to turn.

Lambics are lower.  I have read of those in the 2.9 to 3.5 range.  Tart and sour those can be.

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Offline hike20

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #65 on: September 16, 2010, 11:53:09 AM »
I can now report that the correlation between RA and SRM that is shown in the How to Brew nomograph is inappropriate.  At low SRM, the nomograph recommends too low a RA target value and at high SRM it recommends too high a RA target value.  I do not know why John Palmer selected that correlation for his nomograph, but a more appropriate relationship between SRM and RA follows. 

RA = SRM x 4.5 

This provides an appropriate ballpark target RA for brewing water.  And that 4.5 factor should not be taken as exact.  A factor between 4 and 5 is also suitable when estimating your brewing water RA.  There is not an exact value for RA, but I do feel that your brewing water should be in the ballpark.  Light beers should have low RA water and dark beers should have higher RA water.  Unfortunately, the How to Brew nomograph has the ability to overdo the RA adjustment.  For really pale beers, it recommends too low a RA and for dark beers, it recomends too high a RA. 
Martin Brungard
Carmel, IN

Martin, someone else asked but I never saw it answered: Are you saying that we should never use a negative RA value for our water calculations? I just want to be clear on this, as it seems you are saying that RA values should generally fall between 4.5 and 180.

Thanks!

Offline hike20

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #66 on: September 16, 2010, 01:35:35 PM »
I am curious why the brewer used the water profiles he listed.  The Saison profile appears somewhat appropriate for that style, but the sulfate concentration is a bit high for that style and the slighty elevated chloride concentration can contribute to harshness in conjunction with the sulfate.  I would recommend significantly reduced sulfate and chloride for this style.

Understandably, the brewer used a more alkaline water profile for the darker Dubbel style.  I agree with that change, but the level of alkalinity used in that profile was far too high.  Assuming that the hardness remained as he shows, the alkalinity should be reduced to about half the concentration that was used.  Additionally, the sulfate concentration is still too high for a style that is not hop-focused and the chloride concentration in conjunction with the sulfate can also produce a hashness perception.   

Martin Brungard, PE
Carmel, IN     

Another question for Martin;
Most of the popular recommendations list the suggested range for sulfate between 50-350 ppm. Both to the beers listed by thehorse are on the lower end of that scale, yet you felt they were still too high, especially combined with the chlorides. So what would you recommend as a guide for appropriate chloride and sulfate ranges?

Thanks again for your advice.

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #67 on: September 21, 2010, 09:31:55 PM »
Well this is what I do, my SO4  and Cl2 stay gernerally below 100ppm, the only thing that goes above 100ppm is CO3 for stouts then it can reach 300 ppm. but this is softened water and RO mixed.

Offline narvin

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #68 on: September 22, 2010, 07:37:23 AM »
I think another important point is that the range of mash pH that works for conversion is quote large, but you may be shooting for a specific kettle pH for flavor purposes.  I'm leaning toward lower pH/RA for my water with lagers now, but I love the "rustic" flavor of Saisons brewed with water that would normally be considered too alkaline for a beer of their color (despite that fact that the mash falls well within the 5.1 - 5.5 range).
« Last Edit: September 22, 2010, 07:39:56 AM by narvin »
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #69 on: September 22, 2010, 12:05:41 PM »
Residual Alkalinity is a rough correlation relating the water characteristics to the resulting mash pH of a Pale beer grist.  A RA of zero is ideally suited to brewing the palest of beers.  In my opinion, there is no need to produce negative RA values for any beer styles.  A negative RA means that your mash is more likely to descend into a lower than optimal pH range which can produce a more acidic taste, a more fermentable wort, and less body.  The charts or algorthyms that present negative RA are only there to show that you can produce that condition.  I have seen no reference that suggests that a brewer should try to mash under that condition.

With regard to chloride and sulfate ranges, I agree with Marc that when both chloride and sulfate are in the water, their concentrations should be kept below 100 ppm.  Sulfate should generally not exceed 150 ppm excepting when the beer is highly hopped and then it can go much higher.  But when the sulfate is really high, then chloride should be kept well below the 100 ppm level.  The shallow Sand and Gravel aquifer that was historically used by the Burton brewers has a chloride content of about 60 ppm while the sulfate content is around 600 ppm. I'd say that keeping the chloride levels at 60 ppm or less would be a good idea for burtonized water profiles.   
« Last Edit: September 23, 2010, 11:26:17 AM by mabrungard »
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Offline brushvalleybrewer

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #70 on: September 23, 2010, 06:59:39 PM »
There better be an article coming out of this!  :)
In a humble log cabin off an unregarded back road, somewhere, deep in the heart of Pennsylvania’s hill country, we find our intrepid hero — the Brush Valley Brewer.

Offline thehorse

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #71 on: September 24, 2010, 02:27:05 PM »
Martin,
     Are you saying that you should NEVER have an RA of less than 0?  If you were to use Kai's spreadsheet, many times it suggests for pale beers you need a negative RA to get the correct mash ph.  Do you believe that this is incorrect?  Just looking at the Chimay water profile for example, it would have a RA of just over 0 I believe.  I adjusted my water to be close to that then add Calcium Chloride to up the Calcium to around 50 ppm.  This adjusts the RA down below 0 to around -61.  If I then adjust for the mash ph by adding roughly 2% sauer malz it drops the RA even further.

There seems to be a trade, at least with the Calcium content.  Is it better to have 50 ppm calcium for yeast health or is it better to have a RA closer to 0?

I'm assuming you would say the project ph for very pale beers using Kai's spreadsheet is probably off and to take a ph reading.  Unfortunately I don't have a ph meter so I'm trying to make a best guess.

Very interesting read!

Offline narvin

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #72 on: September 24, 2010, 04:06:22 PM »
A RA of zero is ideally suited to brewing the palest of beers.  In my opinion, there is no need to produce negative RA values for any beer styles.  A negative RA means that your mash is more likely to descend into a lower than optimal pH range which can produce a more acidic taste, a more fermentable wort, and less body.  The charts or algorthyms that present negative RA are only there to show that you can produce that condition.  I have seen no reference that suggests that a brewer should try to mash under that condition.


Distilled water and pilsner malt produces a room temperature mash pH of 5.7-5.8.  While this is within the range for conversion, it is towards the top end of it, and for many pale beers I would suggest going a bit lower.  For Pilseners, acid malt or a decoction is often used to lower pH.  Hoppy beers also benefit from a lower pH for increased smoothness.  I wouldn't be afraid to aim for negative RA with your salt and acid additions.  I'm sure people like Kai could provide some Narziss references :)
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Offline malzig

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #73 on: September 25, 2010, 01:17:48 PM »
I'm sure people like Kai could provide some Narziss references :)
Maybe he'll come out of retirement to clear up some of the inconsistencies in this discussion.

Offline johnf

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #74 on: September 29, 2010, 07:14:00 PM »
A RA of zero is ideally suited to brewing the palest of beers.  In my opinion, there is no need to produce negative RA values for any beer styles.  A negative RA means that your mash is more likely to descend into a lower than optimal pH range which can produce a more acidic taste, a more fermentable wort, and less body.  The charts or algorthyms that present negative RA are only there to show that you can produce that condition.  I have seen no reference that suggests that a brewer should try to mash under that condition.


Distilled water and pilsner malt produces a room temperature mash pH of 5.7-5.8.  While this is within the range for conversion, it is towards the top end of it, and for many pale beers I would suggest going a bit lower.  For Pilseners, acid malt or a decoction is often used to lower pH.  Hoppy beers also benefit from a lower pH for increased smoothness.  I wouldn't be afraid to aim for negative RA with your salt and acid additions.  I'm sure people like Kai could provide some Narziss references :)

+1. Defining 5.8 as optimum mash pH, as Martin appears to be doing, is outside of the mainstream to say the least.