Author Topic: Water chemistry for BIAB  (Read 384 times)

Offline ANDREW.GROGAN1

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Water chemistry for BIAB
« on: February 23, 2021, 02:29:10 PM »
Most of my brewing right now is with a buddy with a full electric system.  He has all 3 vessels.  When we brew, we always add salts to the mash to achieve our desired mash PH.  We also always add salts to the boil to match the style we are brewing.  I am planning to go out on my own and purchase a BIAB system.  How do people calculate brewing salts when you only have one vessel?  Would I add to the mash and then add to the boil again when the grains have been removed?   

Offline majorvices

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Re: Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2021, 02:40:17 PM »
The mash pH is all you need to worry about. If your buddy adds salts to the boil to make adjustments you could just copy his brewing philosophy if that is what you feel comfortable with. I adjust for the mash and there's not usually any reason to make adjustments in the kettle for the way I brew.

Offline BrewBama

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Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2021, 03:49:54 PM »
Most of my brewing right now is with a buddy with a full electric system.  He has all 3 vessels.  When we brew, we always add salts to the mash to achieve our desired mash PH.  We also always add salts to the boil to match the style we are brewing.  I am planning to go out on my own and purchase a BIAB system.  How do people calculate brewing salts when you only have one vessel?  Would I add to the mash and then add to the boil again when the grains have been removed?   

I have been experimenting with exactly what your friend does. I found this technique laid out in Gordon Strong’s Brewing Better Beer. I imagine there are other places the technique is described.

He advocates focusing solely on pH in the mash by adding either 1 tsp CaCl for a malty beer or 1 tsp Gypsum for a bitter beer directly to the mash.

He also preconditions his RO brewhaus liquor with phosphoric acid to 5.5 pH and only mashes those malts that require it. He holds dark grains and crystal malts until after the 60 min mash is complete. He discusses hot steeping and cold steeping those dark and crystal grains in his book.

If further salts are added for flavor, he adds them to the brew kettle.

I’ve done this twice and both times my mash was spot on 5.2 pH. I have only used a 30 min hot steep for dark grains but that beer is still in the fermenter so the jury is still out.

To figure salts, I have approached it the same way as I would if I were going to add them all to the mash but simply subtract the 1 tsp CaCl or Gypsum from the total.


I can see a BIAB brewer adding the 1 tsp to the mash, hold at mash temp for 60 min and pull the bag. Heat (if required) then hold the wort at 150-170*F and steep the dark grains in a grain bag for 30 min.  Then pull the steeping grains and continue to a boil and add the remainder of the salts at the beginning of the boil.

That would mean adding ~30 min to a brewday. I add the dark grain at mash out/vorlauf (~15 min) and a 15 min sparge for a total of 30 min hot steep so it doesn’t add time to my brewday (I did those things anyway).

There are numerous water profiles out there so selecting one can get overwhelming. I keep it pretty simple. No one can tell you what you like so there will be some trial and error there.

Several calculators will help do the thinking for you: BeerSmith v3, Grainfather, Bru’n Water, Brewer’s Friend, and on and on.

Hope this helps.


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« Last Edit: February 24, 2021, 11:02:02 PM by BrewBama »
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Offline spurviance

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Re: Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2021, 04:31:45 PM »
Most of my brewing right now is with a buddy with a full electric system.  He has all 3 vessels.  When we brew, we always add salts to the mash to achieve our desired mash PH.  We also always add salts to the boil to match the style we are brewing.  I am planning to go out on my own and purchase a BIAB system.  How do people calculate brewing salts when you only have one vessel?  Would I add to the mash and then add to the boil again when the grains have been removed?   

I have been experimenting with exactly what your friend does. I found this technique laid out in Gordon Strong’s Brewing Better Beer. I imagine there are other places the technique is described.

He advocates focusing solely on pH in the mash by adding either 1 tsp CaCl for a malty beer or 1 tsp Gypsum for a bitter beer directly to the mash.

He also preconditions his RO brewhaus liquor with phosphoric acid to 5.5 pH and only mashes those malts that require it. He holds dark grains and crystal malts until after the 60 min mash is complete. He discusses hot steeping and cold steeping those dark and crystal grains in his book.

If further salts are added for flavor, he adds them to the brew kettle.

I’ve done this twice and both times my mash was spot on 5.2 pH. I have only used a 30 min hot steep for dark grains but that beer is still in the fermenter so the jury is still out.

To figure salts, I have approached it the same way as I would if I were going to add them all to the mash but simply subtract the 1 tsp CaCl or Gypsum from the total.

I can see a BIAB brewer adding the 1 tsp to the mash, hold at mash temp for 60 min and pull the bag. Heat (if required) then hold the wort at 150-170*F and steep the dark grains in a grain bag for 30 min.  Then pull the steeping grains and continue to a boil and add the remainder of the salts at the beginning of the boil.

That would mean adding ~30 min to a brewday. I add the dark grain at mash out/vorlauf (~15 min) and a 15 min sparge for a total of 30 min hot steep so it doesn’t add time to my brewday (I did those things anyway).

There are numerous water profiles out there so selecting one can get overwhelming. I keep it pretty simple. No one can tell you what you like so there will be some trial and error there.

Several calculators will help do the thinking for you: BeerSmith v3, Grainfather, Bru’n Water, Brewer’s Friend, and on and on.

Hope this helps.


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Interesting, I had never considered adding salts to the boil kettle after making adjustments for pH in the mash tun.
I switched to BIAB over 3 years ago and have been simply adjusting my mash water per a brewing water spreadsheet to reach a target mineral composition and pH.  For a typical 5 gallon batch using 10-12 lbs of grain I mash with 8 gal of water treated per the spreadsheet.  With absorption this typically leaves 7 gallons to boil.  After a 60 min boil I'm left with 5.5 gallons for the fermenter.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2021, 05:59:30 PM »
I've always just added everything (salts and acid) to the strike water. The more complicated I make things, the more likely I am to screw it up. For me, simplicity = consistency
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2021, 10:15:00 PM »


He advocates focusing solely on pH in the mash by adding either 1 tsp CaCl for a malty beer or 1 tsp Gypsum for a bitter beer directly to the mash.



I need to read his book. Not sure why I haven't. I assume that this "1 tsp" is for 5G batches? And it doesn't matter the size of the mash? That seems odd.

Offline Silver_Is_Money

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Re: Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2021, 10:29:25 PM »
When it comes to water additions I've always said:  "If you don't know where you are, how do you expect to get where you want to go?"

The first thing that scares me and raises an alarm is when I hear water adjustment advice such as: Add CaCl2 and/or CaSO4 until you achieve the desired mash pH.  That could be anywhere from no addition(s) to a proverbial boat load, or anything between.

It's often better to add minerals to personal taste and mouthfeel and/or style satisfaction, and then acidify to achieve a targeted mash pH.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2021, 10:32:31 PM by Silver_Is_Money »

Offline BrewBama

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Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2021, 11:50:09 PM »
I am sure I didn’t do the book justice.

He says, “As practical advice for homebrewers using RO water, in a nominal 5-gallon (19-liter) batch, I find the following volume-based additions are a good starting point and a rough approximation useful for most brewing situation:
• 1 tsp. (5 ml) CaCl2 to malty beers
• 1 tsp. (5 ml) CaSO4 to hoppy beers”

When it comes to water additions I've always said:  "If you don't know where you are, how do you expect to get where you want to go?"

The first thing that scares me and raises an alarm is when I hear water adjustment advice such as: Add CaCl2 and/or CaSO4 until you achieve the desired mash pH. That could be anywhere from no addition(s) to a proverbial boat load, or anything between.

It's often better to add minerals to personal taste and mouthfeel and/or style satisfaction, and then acidify to achieve a targeted mash pH.

He talks about RO and I use distilled.

I don’t think anyone said anything about adding a boat load. Only 1 tsp. Maybe I’m mistaken.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2021, 12:47:40 AM by BrewBama »
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Re: Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2021, 01:07:23 AM »
I just started doing more water adjustments beyond those for mash pH using Bru'n Water.  I batch sparge 5 gallon batches and decided to adjust all of my brewing liquor the same as I often can heat the water I need for an entire batch all at once.  I draw off what I need for the mash from the kettle full of liquor, turn the heat back on to heat my sparge liquor & draw that off, and then finally heat the last volume for mash-out (usually this is boiling).  If I recall correctly, Bru'n Water will separate out the amounts of salts and/or acid for mash versus boil.  I just add them together and go

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2021, 02:06:20 AM »
When you're doing a BIAB mash, you usually aren't performing any sort of sparging operation.  In Bru'n Water, just enter your full water volume as the Mashing volume and the Sparging volume as zero.
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Offline BrewBama

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Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2021, 01:28:20 PM »
When you're doing a BIAB mash, you usually aren't performing any sort of sparging operation.  In Bru'n Water, just enter your full water volume as the Mashing volume and the Sparging volume as zero.
This is a question I’ve always had in the back of my mind:  if the salts remain in the wort after the boil, shouldn’t the treatment be for the post-boil wort volume vs the pre-boil (strike + sparge) volume or batch size?

IOW, if the post boil wort volume is 6.5 gal, but the strike is 5 gal and the sparge is 4 gal due to all the losses along the way, are the calculators telling us to treat 9 gal vs 6.5?

Maybe Bru’n Water accounts for this and I simply missed it in the instructions. In my mind ‘batch size’ is the amount I package, but I should be basing my water treatment on post-boil volume. The concentration of salts will be higher in 5 gal batch size vs a 6.5 gal post-boil volume vs 9 gal strike + sparge volumes combined.

When I make chili, if I add salt in the beginning I have to be mindful that I am going to simmer this concoction for a few hours and the little I add now could be too much later on due to the concentration.

Do the calculators take that into account?


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« Last Edit: February 24, 2021, 01:37:40 PM by BrewBama »
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Offline Silver_Is_Money

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Re: Water chemistry for BIAB
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2021, 02:34:47 PM »
..... , are the calculators telling us to treat 9 gal vs 6.5?

AFAICT, the 'calculators' (of this ilk) only "tell" us their math model derived and assisted 'guess' at a nominal room temperature measured mash pH.  All else wells up from the depths of the mind and the hopes and aspirations of the user.