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undissolved vs. dissolved chalk

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I finally published the report about the use of undissolved and dissolved chalk in two batches of my Schwarzbier.

As a background. A while back I noticed that most water spreadsheets don't handle chalk additions correctly when calculating alkalinity. That sparked some experiments including the mash pH experiments that I published a while back. The result was that undissolved chalk has only a limited ability to raise mash pH. At low chalk levels (less than 300 ppm) it seemed that undissolved chalk has only half the alkalinity potential of dissolved chalk.

I wanted to test that in a side-by side and brewed one batch of Schwarzbier with chalk simply suspended in the water and the other one with half that amount of chalk but dissolved with CO2 pressure. The results can be found here:

I also updated my water spreadsheet to include dissolved chalk:

Going forward I plan to expand this spreadsheet based on the results of my mash experiments but I have to test that first with my own data. My intention is to make the spreadsheet versatile yet easy to use. Less commonly used or more complicated options would be further down or grayed out.

Check it out and let me know what you think. In particular where there is confusion or something is less intuitive than it should be.


I know you haven't been able to taste the fruits of your labors yet, but what are the advantages of using dissolved chalk?  You state that dissolved chalk only requires half the normal, undissolved addition and the dissolved chalk seems to affect the pH to a greater degree (even though there is less of the salt).  Are there any other practical advantages?  Does more calcium make it into the fermenter (for yeast heath/nutrition)?

Another great article and experiment!  Unfortunately, I do not have the means to put this into practice (I don't keg yet, so I don't have the CO2 necessary for the dissolving).  I think the homebrewing community owes you a huge thanks for all the experimentation you've done and documentation you've provided us!!

I don’t think I can show a big benefit to using dissolved chalk at this point. Brewers have made excellent beers with undissolved chalk and will continue to do so. It’s not that using dissolved chalk is the secret to making a great Schwarzbier. Using dissolved chalk is like using naturally hard water from the tap which brings me to one question I have:

Are there brewers that noticed a difference in beer quality between a dark beer (porter, stout, RIS) that was brewed with naturally highly alkaline water vs. one brewed with water build from scratch by using lots of chalk? I doubt that there will be many who would know that but mabe some brewers with RO systems and alkaline water have brewed similar beers with both waters.

At this point I just want to encourage interested brewers to give this technique of building water a try. Just to get more experience and hopefully a better idea of the benefits and drawbacks. In particular since it is more work.

I’m especially interested in experiences with brewing. My experiments with chalk and other surces of alkalinity showed that undissolved chalk is only able to raise the pH by about 0.2 units before it “stalls”. This seem to means that if the distilled water mash pH of a RIS grist for example is 4.9, you would not be able to get it above 5.1 w/o the use of baking soda, dissolved chalk or naturally alkaline water. I know John Palmer was mentioning that you should not try to build a water with a RA of more than 250 ppm as CaCO3. The question is, what if you build the water with dissolved chalk and are able to raise the mash ph closer to 5.5. Would that improve the quality of the beer or does it not matter anyway. Maybe the malts in a RIS grist aren’t acidic enough to begin with to yield a distilled water pH of < 5.0.

I think I have to brew a RIS myself. I had one at a fellow club member’s house and it was a fantastic beer.

As always, a lot of questions remain.


Kai, I know I've asked this before, but can you provide any recommended concentrations for creating a chalk brine? 


--- Quote from: crabber on November 24, 2009, 07:42:40 PM ---Kai, I know I've asked this before, but can you provide any recommended concentrations for creating a chalk brine? 

--- End quote ---

I have yet to find a formula that determines how much CO2 pressure is needed to hold a known amount of chalk in solution. But I know that you can get about 800 ppm CaCO3 dissolved with about 20 psi.



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