Author Topic: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle  (Read 926 times)

Offline tomsawyer

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Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« on: May 03, 2011, 07:48:39 PM »
I've always used tap water for my brewing and I feel like I have a decent process worked out.  Still, I wasn't getting quite the malty flavors in my malt-forward brews.  The hoppy brews came out fine.  The single analysis I have for my municipal water shows 90ppm sulfate, not overly high but I've come to suspect it might be the source of a certain sourness and the lack of malty flavor.  Plus I don't know how variable it is but the source water is the Mississippi river. 

In any case I've started using RO water and building from scratch.  The first attempt was a hefeweizen recipe that was coming out pretty well but a little tart.  Just had the first bottle from the new batch and I'm really pleased, it has more grainy flavor and none of the tartness.  I have a best bitter kegged and chiling and just bottled a dubbel, so I'll have more evidence for or against this hypothesis in the coming days.  I'm hopeful, and frankly excited since this has been a thorn in my side for some time now.  Plus I found out Walmart sells 5gal of RO for $1.65 so its not even a huge expense like I had thought.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2011, 08:00:26 PM »
I use RO since my tap water is not so good.  Building your water works really well.  Just don't over do it!  "Less is more."

Martin's spreadsheet is a good one, as it get you dialed in quickly, and I find that little is needed for pH adjustment.  If you need to raise pH, I am now a fan of pickling lime (CaOH).
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Offline Will's Swill

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2011, 08:01:41 PM »
The Mississippi River is your source?  Well that was your problem.  Your water has already been through six other people, 2 cows, and a pig on its way to you.  :D

Besides which, that seems like a good price for RO water...
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Offline johnf

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2011, 08:12:49 PM »
I imagine my Missouri river water is similar. Nice in that the residual alkalinity is low but high in sulfate (we have 140 ppm).

I had the same experience, the hoppy beers were the best.

I switched for a while to RO (+CaCl)  for everything I didn't want sulfate in and tap water otherwise. Then I realized it was just easier to go to RO only. I add some sulfate when I want it.

Offline punatic

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2011, 08:16:01 PM »
The Mississippi River is your source?  Well that was your problem.  Your water has already been through six other people, 2 cows, and a pig on its way to you.  :D

Since matter is neither created or destroyed, except in a nuclear reaction, your water is likely billions of years old and has been through millions of people, cows and pigs on its way to you.   (RO water included)   ;)
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Offline Will's Swill

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2011, 09:12:01 PM »
It's not where it's been, but how recently it's been there...  ;)
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Offline thatguy314

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2011, 09:28:43 PM »
If you're working from RO, invest in a decent pH meter or a good set of pH papers.  Also remember your yeast need a final Ca++ of >60ppm to floc well.  I usually shoot for about 80ppm to be safe.

If you still have some of your old beers, just stir a small flake of CaCl into a glass of the malty beers.  If that doesn't improve the character, then it may be something else.

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2011, 04:53:55 AM »
I'm still using Palmer's spreadsheet but erriing on the low side for everything.  I have a pH meter but haven't used it, I suppose I should here at first.  Its good to know that the Missouri is also elevated with respect to sulfate, I wonder where that is coming from.

I was adding calcium chloride and getting a ratio that favored the malty side but it never seemed to quite work out.  I'm pretty sure the ratio isn't the only thing to worry about.  I think of it like spices, if you have a lot of one spice you can try and cover it up with another but it isn't the same as having less of the first.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2011, 07:14:01 AM »
Lennie, if you found a way to make your beers even better, I think it's time to plan another trip out that way. ;D

Your tripel was one of the best I've ever had, and while moving this week I found my last bottle of your IPA. Still delicious.
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Offline johnf

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2011, 08:07:25 AM »
I'm still using Palmer's spreadsheet but erriing on the low side for everything.  I have a pH meter but haven't used it, I suppose I should here at first.  Its good to know that the Missouri is also elevated with respect to sulfate, I wonder where that is coming from.

I was adding calcium chloride and getting a ratio that favored the malty side but it never seemed to quite work out.  I'm pretty sure the ratio isn't the only thing to worry about.  I think of it like spices, if you have a lot of one spice you can try and cover it up with another but it isn't the same as having less of the first.

Yeah the absolute values are more important than the ratio.

If you have 80 ppm sulfate your beers will have sulfate character no matter how much chloride you add. Sulfate character plus chloride character does not equal no sulfate character.

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Building Water. Maybe the Final Piece of the Puzzle
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2011, 05:19:39 AM »
I tried another RO-based batch last night, a best bitter that was brewed on 4/23 and kegged two days ago.  It was somewhat cloudy but had a nice maris otter flavor.  Surprisingly it still had a pronounced bitterness that led the way over the malt, if anything it was a cleaner bitterness than with sulfate in the water.  I liked that characteristic.  The brew was 1.048 OG and around 30IBUs, I thought it might have been more malt-forward.  Its relative youth may be favoring the hops at this point.

Thats two batches that seemed to benefit from the RO-built water, I bottled a dubbel yesterday and that is one that I'm hoping this will have a positive effect on as well.  I think I'm going to continue down this path for the forseeable future.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO