Author Topic: Water Chemistry... Please help!  (Read 2623 times)

Offline pehlman

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Water Chemistry... Please help!
« on: August 25, 2011, 11:41:57 PM »
Everytime I try to learn about water chemistry with regards to brewing I just always seem to end up confused and frustrated.

I understand the concept of appropriate ranges of minerals, and pH ranges, but it's putting that information into execution in a mash that I just start to get confused.

Here is my most recent water report levels:

Ca - 65 mg/L

Hardness [as CaCO3] - 246 mg/L

Mg - 21 mg/L

Na - 77 mg/L

Alkalinity - 112 mg/L (My water report doesn't show Bicarbonate HCO3)

SO4 - 160 mg/L

Cl - 78 mg/L

When I put these numbers into the equation in Ray Daniels' "Designing Great Beers" book

pH = (CaCO3 x 0.056) - (Ca x -0.04) - (Mg x -0.033]) x 0.028 + 5.8

I get an approximate mash pH of 6.1

The only way I seem to be able to calculate a mash pH of 5.4 (and still stay within ideal ranges of Ca and Mg) I would have to start with a negative amount of CaCO3 (which i assume means an acidic water)... this is where I begin to become frustrated. Can you even have negative CaCO3?

im confused...  :-\

Also, could anybody further explain to me using R/O Water vs. Distilled? At least as far as how the differences apply to brewing...
« Last Edit: August 25, 2011, 11:47:26 PM by pehlman »
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Offline euge

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2011, 12:53:17 AM »
Also, could anybody further explain to me using R/O Water vs. Distilled? At least as far as how the differences apply to brewing...

R/O water still has a negligible amount of ppm (parts per million) dissolved solids, but is almost all sodium. I produce mine from softened water which is almost all sodium as well. I've grain brewed with softened in the distant past. Distilled has almost no ppm and the pH can be swayed easily by what is placed into it. A blank slate for you to write on with salts and grain and hops.

I use R/O to help build my water since it behaves the same as distilled at the brewing level. IMO.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2011, 12:58:51 AM by euge »
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline pehlman

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2011, 01:39:54 AM »

[/quote]


I use R/O to help build my water since it behaves the same as distilled at the brewing level. IMO.
[/quote]

From what I hear, R/O seems to be the most popular choice for building water profiles. If I was to buy R/O water from the store, do different brands contain different profiles as far as their hardness and pH?
Beer: It's what's for dinner.

-Mike Pehl (Certified Cicerone TM)

Fermenting: Chocolate Rye Ale Please (C.R.A.P.)
                 Kern River "Citra" DIPA Clone
Drinking: All the lovely fall seasonal beers! My Favorites!

Offline rstansbu

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2011, 05:32:09 AM »
That calculation is an estimate.  There are a lot of variables that impact its outcome, such as the grains you are mashing.  In general, darker grains will lower the pH.  That said, you do have fairly hard water, so unless you are brewing a Porter or Stout, you may run towards the high end of the 5.1 to 5.5 target range for a mash.  You can't strip out Calcium Carbonate, so you have a few options.  You can add a little acid to your mash to drop the pH (lots of brewers use a small amounts of lactic acid for this), you can use an acid rest or use acidulated grain, or you can dilute your water with either distilled or RO, which is probably what I would recommend.  Most brewers don't have the capacity to do a step mash with an acid rest and adding too much lactic can impart some flavors you might not necessarily want.

Lots of brewers like to start with distilled or RO as a blank slate to build up their water profiles themselves, but you don't have to do it that way.  What you really need to understand is the difference between using distilled/RO water vs. spring water.  Largely negligivle quantities of minerals and salts remain in distilled/RO water, whereas the spring water will have whatever mineral profile the spring has which you are unlikely to know.

Offline Mark G

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2011, 07:33:50 AM »
You should give Martin Brungard's Bru'n Water spreadsheet a try. I've found it very accurate at predicting mash pH (within 0.1 for me).

https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/
Mark Gres

Offline pehlman

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2011, 08:09:28 AM »
Thank you guys. I'll have to give that spreadsheet a try. I'm thinking I'd like to start using RO water and develop a water profile for my beers.
Beer: It's what's for dinner.

-Mike Pehl (Certified Cicerone TM)

Fermenting: Chocolate Rye Ale Please (C.R.A.P.)
                 Kern River "Citra" DIPA Clone
Drinking: All the lovely fall seasonal beers! My Favorites!

Offline rstansbu

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2011, 08:18:47 AM »
Best advice I can give you though...if you are working towards a water profile, do not necessarily target one of the "typical" city water profiles.  You don't know how those brewers are treating their own water, and you can easily overdo it.  Also, if you need to make adjustments to your mash pH, try to use brewing salts or acid in the mash, not that "5.2" stuff.  I've used it before, and I and a lot of other brewers have noticed a chalky taste/mouthfeel to those beers.

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2011, 10:21:29 AM »
If you are going to spend time with the water chimistry:

Get a pH meter.  Use it during the mash, to then adjust up/down.

Download Bru'nwater, it has been very accurate for me with in 0.1 for most beers.  Still use the pH meter to check.  Bru'm water also has some waters based on the beer you are brewing, and the profiles for boiled water from the classic brewing cities.

Use RO water and build, or learn to dilute your water with RO using Bru'nwater.  The RO I buy from the machine at a local grocery is almost distilled water, but cheaper.
 
Get some pickling lime (CaOH) to raise the pH, if needed.

Get some phosphoric acid to lower the pH.

Realize that color is weakly correlated to the mash chemistry.  See Kai's article in Zymurgy this issue.  Read his water and mash articles in braukaiser.com

Don't over do it.  Less is more.

In my opinion, 5.2 was a waste of my money, but I had to try it.


Jeff Rankert
Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, AHA Member, BJCP Certified
Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline euge

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2011, 10:47:55 AM »
I haven't used Martin's spreadsheet yet but usually dilute my hard city water with 50-75% R/O for "pale" styles. Anywhere from 25-50% for darker beers. However, I can brew Brown ales and darker with just my local water and they come out pretty good.

Invest in a pH meter.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline pehlman

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2011, 11:07:14 AM »
When you say pH meter, you mean like a digital meter right? Not just the strips? Any brand in particular pretty standard?
Beer: It's what's for dinner.

-Mike Pehl (Certified Cicerone TM)

Fermenting: Chocolate Rye Ale Please (C.R.A.P.)
                 Kern River "Citra" DIPA Clone
Drinking: All the lovely fall seasonal beers! My Favorites!

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2011, 11:22:15 AM »
When you say pH meter, you mean like a digital meter right? Not just the strips? Any brand in particular pretty standard?

Milwaukee makes a good one that is a lab grade bench unit.  There are also more affordable ones.

I have the 56, but this would be good also.
http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/brewing-equipment/testing-measuring/ph-measurement/milwaukee-ph55-ph-temp-meter.html

See what your LHBS has and recommends.  You also need the calibration solutions, and the stroage solution is nice to have.
Jeff Rankert
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Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline euge

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2011, 11:30:09 AM »
Taking on a pH meter adds a little more complexity to the venture. :D The pH strips suck so a digital meter is almost a must. When I started brewing there was no inkling of how involved it can get, and no idea how much equipment I'd start to amass.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline pehlman

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2011, 11:55:37 AM »
Taking on a pH meter adds a little more complexity to the venture. :D The pH strips suck so a digital meter is almost a must. When I started brewing there was no inkling of how involved it can get, and no idea how much equipment I'd start to amass.


My back yard gets so cluttered from all the s*** that I use on a brew day. Haha. Especially because I don't have a consolidated system. I just have pieces laying around everywhere. Definitely makes clean-up quite dreadful!
Beer: It's what's for dinner.

-Mike Pehl (Certified Cicerone TM)

Fermenting: Chocolate Rye Ale Please (C.R.A.P.)
                 Kern River "Citra" DIPA Clone
Drinking: All the lovely fall seasonal beers! My Favorites!

Offline cash

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2011, 12:55:39 PM »
Are you using R/O water for both mash and sparge or can the sparge water be filtered tap water
« Last Edit: October 03, 2011, 01:00:43 PM by cashmoney »

Offline euge

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Re: Water Chemistry... Please help!
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2011, 03:46:16 PM »
Are you using R/O water for both mash and sparge or can the sparge water be filtered tap water

I fill my hot-liquor tank (80qt) up to the brim or with the total amount of water calculated for the entire process. I'm sure filtered tap water would be ok for the sparge if you had to break up the amounts for some reason.

I treat the entire amount with campden tablets to strip the chlorine. Best done at the beginning and if I only have one volume of water to deal with then there are less mistakes to be made. You never know when the gremlins will steal some water or wort away...
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman