Author Topic: Bear with me on a water topic...  (Read 1092 times)

Online majorvices

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2021, 02:30:15 PM »
Maybe one of these water gurus can answer that question but I don't know the answer. I do know that if you have 140ppm bicarb you can lower the pH to an acceptable level with lactic acid without any major flavor issues.

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2021, 02:38:30 PM »
Maybe one of these water gurus can answer that question but I don't know the answer. I do know that if you have 140ppm bicarb you can lower the pH to an acceptable level with lactic acid without any major flavor issues.
I also get the part where if your bicarb is at a certain level, you're going to need entirely too much acid to bring it into the proper pH range so at that point... start diluting.  That part makes sense.  I do not KNOW that level (150ppm?  200ppm?) but I assume that there is a point-of-no-return on the bicarb.  It might just be as easy as this "two gallons of distilled" method I am using.  Bicarb would go from 140 to about 105 and then be reduced more with the addition of acid.  Cheers & thanks. 
Ken from Chicago. 
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Offline Megary

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2021, 02:49:11 PM »
Anything too much higher than 150 ppm and you should cut at least in half. anything approaching 300 ppm and you should probably just build it from scratch
Okay, bear with me on this piece.  If my bicarb is 140ppm and I use acid to neutralize the bicarb and get my mash pH to 5.4... and this REMOVES the bicarb... what would be the need to "cut at least in half"?  Did I potentially "cut it in half" (or more?) by neutralizing it with acid?  I realize that what I'm talking about is some fine-tuning but it goes back to what I mentioned in the OP.  If I start with 140ppm and I "remove some" of that by using acid... I assume that there is still some amount of bicarbonate left in the water and I wonder about the impact that might have on the beer.  How do I know how much of the bicarb has been removed by acid?  Is it ALL of it?  Is it just enough to move the needle on the pH meter and get it to 5.4?  MV, I think you just got to the heart of the issue for me but it's still a little murky.

Does it really matter how much Bicarb is left?  Or is that your question...can you taste ppm of Bicarb?

I always went on the understanding that the remaining bicarb number is irrelevant.  Adjust your pH and whatever bicarb is left, so be it. 

And if you are starting with a super high bicarb number, then the amount of acid needed to neutralize it may move past a certain acid taste threshold.  This is a very nebulous concept to me as it relies on so many assumed numbers and individual taste thresholds.  So far, I have never tasted my lactic additions in my finished beer, but I can't say if someone else might be able to.  FWIW, my house bicarb is right in line with yours.

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2021, 03:33:57 PM »
Does it really matter how much Bicarb is left?  Or is that your question...can you taste ppm of Bicarb?

I always went on the understanding that the remaining bicarb number is irrelevant.  Adjust your pH and whatever bicarb is left, so be it. 

And if you are starting with a super high bicarb number, then the amount of acid needed to neutralize it may move past a certain acid taste threshold.  This is a very nebulous concept to me as it relies on so many assumed numbers and individual taste thresholds.  So far, I have never tasted my lactic additions in my finished beer, but I can't say if someone else might be able to.  FWIW, my house bicarb is right in line with yours.
Yeah, that was one of my questions... does "leftover" bicarb in the beer impact the flavor, head or clarity in any way?  Gordon Strong mentioned that he hates bicarb in a beer so I guess I wonder what he was tasting or why there was enough bicarb in the beer for him to "hate it".  I'm not exactly sure what's going on there.  All that said, I have also never tasted "acid" in my beers from the additions that I make.  Could it contribute to the overall character of the beer?  Maybe.  But I have never winced from there being a "too acidic" flavor.  I have gotten the acid on my fingers and licked it... whoo boy.  I think I would notice that in my beer.  ;)  I have certain beers like amber lagers or ales, darker beers, pale ales, etc. where I feel like the beers are coming out as good as I can make them.  That is often true of my pale beers as well but I always wonder if I can make gold lagers better because they are a focal point here and I would love to nail those batches every time.   
Ken from Chicago. 
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2021, 04:25:58 PM »
Gordon has stated many times he doesn't like "Alka Seltzer" beers, i.e. too much bicarbonate.

My tap water is high in bicarbonate, 362 ppm. If I neutralize with lactic, I taste the lactate. Phosphoric acid is the most neutral flavored acid, I don't taste that if used. Some breweries in my area use it to neutralize their water's bicarbonate.

I now have an RO system, less work for me.
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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2021, 04:39:51 PM »
Yes, you are merely reducing the bicarbonate via acidifying.  To completely eliminate the bicarbonate ion species altogether requires that you acidify your water to pH 4.3, but most people choose to acidify their water to only around 5.4 - 5.7 pH.  At ~5.4 pH nearly 10% of initial bicarbonate still remains.

I'm curious about this 10% thing. Are you referring to strike water pH or mash pH? Seems to me that if, in the mash, the pH starts dropping below about 5.7, that means that all the bicarbonate (i.e. residual alkalinity) has been neutralized. If there was any bicarbonate left, it should continue to buffer and resist pH change until it is completely gone. Only then will pH drop. Thus, if your mash pH is 5.4, there is no bicarbonate left to worry about.

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2021, 04:50:23 PM »
This is getting good.  Keep going guys.  :D
Ken from Chicago. 
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Offline narcout

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2021, 07:47:38 PM »
There is a concept in Water (the Palmer and Kaminski book) that I find helpful in thinking about alkalinity (pages 67-68).

They refer to the pH of a mash conducted with distilled water as the “normal” mash pH.

Now think of a mash with source water that has some alkalinity.  That alkalinity is going to push the pH up from the “normal” value.  However, that is going to be counteracted to an extent by the interactions of any calcium and magnesium with phosphates in the malt which will neutralize some portion of the alkalinity (per the mechanism already described earlier in this thread).  The amount of alkalinity remaining after that is the residual alkalinity. 

If the residual alkalinity has a positive value, the mash pH will be higher than the “normal” value.

If the residual alkalinity has a negative value, the mash pH will be lower than the “normal” value.


I brew mostly pale beers starting with 100% distilled water to which I add some portion of calcium sulfate and calcium chloride.  Usually, I need to bring the pH below the “normal” value.  The negative RA that results from the calcium additions helps, but I still need to add some small portion of acid malt (alternatively, I could continue adding calcium, but I typically shoot for moderate levels of sulfate and chloride).

For example, I brewed a Belgian-style pale beer last weekend.  Bru’n Water predicted a mash pH of 5.64 if conducted with distilled water (the “normal” value).  My calcium sulfate and calcium chloride additions brought the predicted mash pH to 5.42.  My 1 oz. acid malt addition brought it 5.33 (my actual measured mash pH was 5.34). 

The nice thing about low alkalinity water when brewing pale beers is that you don’t need to add a lot of calcium, magnesium, or acid.  The adjustments required are pretty minimal.


Regarding the question of whether there’s some noticeable difference between a pale beer brewed with low alkalinity water vs. high alkalinity water that has been neutralized in some flavor-neutral way, I really don’t know.  I did wake up at 2:00 a.m last night and ponder the issue for about 90 minutes though.
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2021, 08:16:02 PM »
LOL, I love that last sentence and I have been there.  BEEN THERE! 

So you use 100% distilled and add some CaCl and CaSO4 and that's it.  I have always wondered if a beer made that way would taste flat or thin or tasted like it was missing something.  I have never done it or tasted one like that so I don't know.  Every once in awhile I take a step back and look at one piece of the process or another just to see what others are doing.  I am always walking the line between "this is a hobby" and "I want to make the best beer possible" and sometimes I fall in one direction or the other.  I have my water ready for tomorrow and I used 2 gallons of distilled + 5.5 gallons of filtered source water that will have 2.8g of CaCl added to it and about 4ml of 88% lactic acid to get the pH in the zip code.  Let's see what happens. 
Ken from Chicago. 
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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #24 on: May 14, 2021, 09:55:40 PM »
This is getting good.  Keep going guys.  :D

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #25 on: May 15, 2021, 12:30:11 AM »
Lets say you need 30 liters of water at 70 mg/L Bicarbonate (which is 57.4 mg/L Alkalinity), and you want to reduce it to 70 mg/L Bicarb from an initial 140 mg/L.

The MW (molecular weight) of the HCO3- bicarbonate ion is 61.01684 grams per mole.  The valence of HCO3- is 1.  Therefore the equivalent weight (EQ) is also 61.01684 g/EQ, which is equal to 61.01684 mg/mEq (where mEq = milliequivalent).

If you have 140 mg/L bicarb and 30 L of water, then you have 140 mg/L x 30L = 4,200 mg. of HCO3- ions

To cut this in half requires that you remove 2,100 mg. of HCO3-

2,100 mg./61.01684 mg/mEq = 34.4168 mEq's of bicarbonate to be removed.

If you choose to use 10% Phosphoric Acid, its acid strength relative to pH 6.33 (where on first educated guess removing half of the bicarb will bring your water pH) is 1.2 mEq/mL.  Therefore:

34.4168 mEq/1.2 mEq/mL ~= 28.7 mL

The answer is therefore to add 28.7 mL of 10% Phosphoric Acid to every 30 Liters of your water whereby to reduce its bicarb from 140 mg/L (ppm) to 70 mg/L (ppm).



« Last Edit: May 15, 2021, 12:47:50 AM by Silver_Is_Money »

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #26 on: May 15, 2021, 02:59:38 AM »
Lets say you need 30 liters of water at 70 mg/L Bicarbonate (which is 57.4 mg/L Alkalinity), and you want to reduce it to 70 mg/L Bicarb from an initial 140 mg/L.

The MW (molecular weight) of the HCO3- bicarbonate ion is 61.01684 grams per mole.  The valence of HCO3- is 1.  Therefore the equivalent weight (EQ) is also 61.01684 g/EQ, which is equal to 61.01684 mg/mEq (where mEq = milliequivalent).

If you have 140 mg/L bicarb and 30 L of water, then you have 140 mg/L x 30L = 4,200 mg. of HCO3- ions

To cut this in half requires that you remove 2,100 mg. of HCO3-

2,100 mg./61.01684 mg/mEq = 34.4168 mEq's of bicarbonate to be removed.

If you choose to use 10% Phosphoric Acid, its acid strength relative to pH 6.33 (where on first educated guess removing half of the bicarb will bring your water pH) is 1.2 mEq/mL.  Therefore:

34.4168 mEq/1.2 mEq/mL ~= 28.7 mL

The answer is therefore to add 28.7 mL of 10% Phosphoric Acid to every 30 Liters of your water whereby to reduce its bicarb from 140 mg/L (ppm) to 70 mg/L (ppm).
Uh.  I like beer.   :D
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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #27 on: May 15, 2021, 05:50:17 PM »
As to why I guessed at 6.33 being the ballpark pH for water acidified sufficiently to reduce its Bicarbonate from 140 mg/L to 70 mg/L, the standard 'Carbonate Species' chart seen below shows the point at which 50% of the HCO3- (bicarbonate) ion species is gone corresponding to about pH 6.33.


« Last Edit: May 15, 2021, 05:52:34 PM by Silver_Is_Money »

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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #28 on: May 15, 2021, 08:08:05 PM »
Silver_Is_Money:  Thank you.

FWIW I'm sharing some notes from the brewday today.  A very pale beer that I made with 10 lbs of grain (pilsner, some Munich and flaked corn) and 7.5 gallons of water... 2 of which were distilled.  I hit my mash ph of 5.4 at room temp (which, according to another thread here translates to 5.2 at mash temp... please advise if that's incorrect) but my sparge pH was a little low.  Even though a higher percentage of the sparge water was distilled and I lowered the acid (from 2ml to 1.5), the pH was still around 5. so I need to go easier on that addition.  Mid-boil pH reading was 5.3 and I added just a ½ ml of acid to lower it knowing that there was less bicarb in the water because of the distilled.  I also just realized that my wife was chasing me out of the kitchen so she could cook something for an event today and I forgot to measure the post boil pH after the acid addition.  I doubt it went from 5.3 to 5 but I assume it did drop.  I also got a good hot break at the end of the boil and the wort was very clear going to the fermenter so I think this "2 gallons of distilled" is going to be a regular thing on most batches.  Certain styles may not need it.
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Re: Bear with me on a water topic...
« Reply #29 on: May 15, 2021, 09:38:30 PM »
Yes, you are merely reducing the bicarbonate via acidifying.  To completely eliminate the bicarbonate ion species altogether requires that you acidify your water to pH 4.3, but most people choose to acidify their water to only around 5.4 - 5.7 pH.  At ~5.4 pH nearly 10% of initial bicarbonate still remains.

This is something I don't understand. 

Once dissolved, carbonate can exist in water in three different forms (aqueous carbon dioxide/carbonic acid, bicarbonate, and carbonate) depending on the pH of the water.  The chart you posted shows this, and there is a similar chart on page 66 of Water.  That chart also shows that below a pH of 4.3, all of the carbonate has converted to aqueous CO2/carbonic acid.

However, I don't think that it follows to say that you cannot eliminate all of the bicarbonate in the mash (whether through reactions between phosphates in the malt with calcium and magnesium that release hydrogen protons which react with dissolved carbonate to form water and CO2 gas or through the addition of acid with supplies the necessary hydrogen ions) without bringing the pH down to 4.3. 

I can prepare a mash with distilled water (that contains no bicarbonate) and have the pH settle at 5.4.  Similarly, I can prepare a mash with water that has 100 ppm bicarbonate and add enough acid to bring the pH to the same 5.4.  In that second scenario, I have neutralized all the alkalinity that was due to the bicarbonate content of the strike water, haven't I eliminated all of the bicarbonate?

Or we talking about two different things here (the form in which carbonate exists in water given a particular pH vs. bicarbonate, residual alkalinity, and its effect on mash pH) or am I missing part of the larger picture? 



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