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Water: Pale Lagers vs. Pale-colored ales...

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#1 Big Nake

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 08:47 PM

I saw on CNN that Martin Brungard is a member here now so I thought I would throw some work his way.  :P

 

Okay, so I try to make various pale lagers with my water which looks like...

 

pH: 6.6Total dissolved solids (TDS): 264Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm: 0.44Cations/Anions, me/L: 3.3 / 3.4Sodium: 13Potassium: 2Calcium: 34Magnesium: 12Total Hardness: 135Nitrate, No3-N: 0.4Sulfate, SO4-S: 9Chloride: 21Carbonate, CO3: <1Bicarbonate, HCO3: 138Total Alkalinity, CaCO3: 113

 

On a style like this, I usually use about 90% distilled water and then add CaCl back to reach about 50ppm of Ca.  My results so far have been hit and miss.  I did make an exceptional pilsner this way but I have had plenty of whiffs too.  I happen to have an "American Wheat" on tap right now where I used 50% distilled water, about 3.5g of CaCl, about 5 AAU of Cascade for bittering and about .25 oz that were left added with 5 mins left.  Yeast was 1056.  Grain bill was 5 lbs Canada Malting pale ale malt and 4 lbs white wheat and that's it.  This beer is clear, smooth and very nice.  When I make a lager that is this pale, I use more distilled water and usually noble hops like Tettnanger, Hallertau, Mittelfruh, Spalt or Saaz.  Even though I use more distilled water and the sulfate and bicarb are lower, I often end up with lagers that are harsh-tasting in the finish.  I pay VERY close attention to mash and preboil pH, especially on these pale-colored beers.  Is it possible that my issue is Noble hops?  Why would a 50% diluted pale beer be smooth (with Cascades and 1056) but a 90% diluted beer (with Nobles and lager yeast) be harsh-tasting?  Thanks & cheers. 


Edited by KenLenard, 27 September 2013 - 08:48 PM.


#2 mabrungard

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 06:56 AM

What pH's are you seeing and how are you measuring them?  

 

One thing to remember is that even with distilled water, a 100% pale malt mash will produce a pH of around 5.7 to 5.8.  That clearly is too high for good results and an acid addition of some sort is required.  In the case of Munich water, the lowest those brewers can get their bicarb in their water is around 100 ppm.  They either perform an acid rest or include acid malt to take the mash down the rest of the way.  Acid is our friend!

 

I suggest that this tap water is very well suited for brewing as-is, after the bicarbonate is neutralized with acid.  Have you tried that approach?  At a 138 ppm bicarb, you probably could use lactic acid with little or no taste effects.  On top of that, the lactate ion is probably one of those nuances in German beers that we know and appreciate.  



#3 johnpreuss

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 07:30 AM

I really like this approach of counter balancing the bicarb vs. starting with RO/Distilled water and building up. WHY hasn't this idea been tossed around more??  Or has it been the idea that OOOOH Bicarb is bad we must dilute it to get rid of it's ill affects.



#4 mabrungard

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 09:12 AM

I really like this approach of counter balancing the bicarb vs. starting with RO/Distilled water and building up. WHY hasn't this idea been tossed around more??  Or has it been the idea that OOOOH Bicarb is bad we must dilute it to get rid of it's ill affects.

 

It's an AJ thing.  He feels that acid additions are too difficult for the average brewer to calculate (he may be correct) and dilution is easier.  With the advent of programs like Bru'n Water, acid additions are fairly easy to calculate as long as you know the alkalinity of the water you are trying to neutralize.  I think that dilution is more of a PITA than acidification for those brewers that don't have a RO machine in their home.  For water's like Ken's that only have a problem with alkalinity, acidification makes the most sense.



#5 denny

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 09:28 AM

Acid is our friend!

 

 

Yeah, we said that back in the 60s, too!  Sorry, I couldn't help myself!



#6 denny

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 09:29 AM

It's an AJ thing.  He feels that acid additions are too difficult for the average brewer to calculate (he may be correct) and dilution is easier.  With the advent of programs like Bru'n Water, acid additions are fairly easy to calculate as long as you know the alkalinity of the water you are trying to neutralize.  I think that dilution is more of a PITA than acidification for those brewers that don't have a RO machine in their home.  For water's like Ken's that only have a problem with alkalinity, acidification makes the most sense.

 

Wow!  Breakthrough concept for me!



#7 johnpreuss

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 09:49 AM

Would I be correct in thinking that using acid malt would do the same as adding lactic acid? 



#8 Big Nake

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 09:51 AM

What pH's are you seeing and how are you measuring them?  

 

One thing to remember is that even with distilled water, a 100% pale malt mash will produce a pH of around 5.7 to 5.8.  That clearly is too high for good results and an acid addition of some sort is required.  In the case of Munich water, the lowest those brewers can get their bicarb in their water is around 100 ppm.  They either perform an acid rest or include acid malt to take the mash down the rest of the way.  Acid is our friend!

 

I suggest that this tap water is very well suited for brewing as-is, after the bicarbonate is neutralized with acid.  Have you tried that approach?  At a 138 ppm bicarb, you probably could use lactic acid with little or no taste effects.  On top of that, the lactate ion is probably one of those nuances in German beers that we know and appreciate.  

Thanks Martin.  On beers like this, my approach is to dilute with distilled water and then add back CaCl to the mash to get calcium back to 50ppm or so.  If it was a pale ale, dark lager or whatever, I would dilute less and make additions based on style to still get calcium to 50ppm.  On the pale beers, I get a feel for how my pH will be using Bru'N'Water or EZ_Water and I know that I will be in the zip code based on that.  Then I take a reading with ColorpHast strips (I tried a meter and it almost sent me to the insane asylum so I went back to the strips).  At mash temp, these strips are supposed to read .3 lower than at room temp so I shoot for about 5.0 on the strip, translating to 5.3.  I have lactic acid ready in case the strip tells me it's higher than I want.  When I sparge (batch sparge), take another reading to see where the pH is and if it's high, I use more lactic acid to knock it down.  Pale beers have always been a struggle for me but I thought that once I felt comfortable with this process (dilution, additions, pH, acid), I would start making consecutive stellar pale lagers but this is not the case.

 

My water is good for almost all beers except very pale beers, it seems.  I have been told that's it's the bicarb so that's where the dilution comes in.  Tell me how you might approach it based on my water or how you might neutralize the bicarb with acid.


Edited by KenLenard, 28 September 2013 - 10:05 AM.


#9 MyaCullen

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 10:49 AM

What pH's are you seeing and how are you measuring them?  

 

One thing to remember is that even with distilled water, a 100% pale malt mash will produce a pH of around 5.7 to 5.8.  That clearly is too high for good results and an acid addition of some sort is required.  In the case of Munich water, the lowest those brewers can get their bicarb in their water is around 100 ppm.  They either perform an acid rest or include acid malt to take the mash down the rest of the way.  Acid is our friend!

 

I suggest that this tap water is very well suited for brewing as-is, after the bicarbonate is neutralized with acid.  Have you tried that approach?  At a 138 ppm bicarb, you probably could use lactic acid with little or no taste effects.  On top of that, the lactate ion is probably one of those nuances in German beers that we know and appreciate.  

I have, for my last 3 beers been using 30% Hydrochloric Acid, to neutralize part of my 165 bicarbonate hardness, being mindful of the chloride it adds to the water of course.  Using your spreadsheet to get the profile I need of course. Very helpful.



#10 denny

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 10:50 AM

Would I be correct in thinking that using acid malt would do the same as adding lactic acid? 

 

Yep.  Although I find it easier to control with lactic acid.



#11 Big Nake

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 10:57 AM

So if you had some amount of bicarbonate that you wanted eliminated, adding acid "neutralizes" it?  Which means that you would see you bicarb number drop?  I'm going to admit that I use EZ_Water more than I use Bru'N'Water only because I know that there are pieces of Bru'N'Water that I have just not mastered yet.  I have played with it and I have read the tab with all the great water information on it but when I put a recipe together and I design the water for the beer, I use EZ_water for its simplicity.  I suppose it's too simple though because there are more switches to flip in Bru'N'Water.  I was never aware you could "neutralize" the bicarb with acid although I have heard of this approach.  I was thinking that if you added acid to water with high(er) bicarb, you were "balancing" the water and lowering the pH but that the bicarbonate is still there as it originally was.  If I enter a couple of ml of lactic acid into EZ_Water, the bicarb number does not drop so maybe I'm just not able to wrap my brain around all of these variables.



#12 johnpreuss

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 11:09 AM

I think what Martin was getting at was that Bicarb causes a high pH and the acid would bring it down the pH down.  I also believe he was alluding to the fact that it was not the Bicarb that was causing the harshness, rather a high pH that was resulting from bicarbonate.



#13 MyaCullen

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 11:17 AM

I think what Martin was getting at was that Bicarb causes a high pH and the acid would bring it down the pH down.  I also believe he was alluding to the fact that it was not the Bicarb that was causing the harshness, rather a high pH that was resulting from bicarbonate.

I believe you to be correct



#14 Big Nake

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 01:06 PM

Okay, I get that part.  High bicarb water mixed with pale malts will result in a high mash pH if you aren't careful.  But I can't just use 100% filtered tap water, add CaCl and gypsum along with lactic acid, get a good mash pH and make a good pale-colored beer, right?  Is the bicarb still there causing issues or is bicarbonate's only issue is that it causes high mash pH?  I'm glad we're having this conversation because I don't want to get comfortable with something and find out that I'm not really solid with it.  Adding acid doesn't "eliminate" the bicarb, it just "offsets" it with regard to mash pH, correct?  I also understand that a high mash pH in a pale beer could cause harshness but I have been acutely aware of mash pH on these pale beers and in some cases thought I might actually have a low mash pH.  Hmm... I'm feeling like a homebrewing newbie all over again!  :frantic:



#15 MyaCullen

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 01:30 PM

Okay, I get that part.  High bicarb water mixed with pale malts will result in a high mash pH if you aren't careful.  But I can't just use 100% filtered tap water, add CaCl and gypsum along with lactic acid, get a good mash pH and make a good pale-colored beer, right?  Is the bicarb still there causing issues or is bicarbonate's only issue is that it causes high mash pH?  I'm glad we're having this conversation because I don't want to get comfortable with something and find out that I'm not really solid with it.  Adding acid doesn't "eliminate" the bicarb, it just "offsets" it with regard to mash pH, correct?  I also understand that a high mash pH in a pale beer could cause harshness but I have been acutely aware of mash pH on these pale beers and in some cases thought I might actually have a low mash pH.  Hmm... I'm feeling like a homebrewing newbie all over again!  :frantic:

apparantly acids react with bicarbonates and produce either lactates, sulfates, or chlorides, water and CO2, depending on the acid, so it really does remove the bicarbonate



#16 Big Nake

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 01:35 PM

apparantly acids react with bicarbonates and produce either lactates, sulfates, or chlorides, water and CO2, depending on the acid, so it really does remove the bicarbonate

So I could take my tap water and add acid and lower my bicarbonate?  At some point I asked about this and the only two options mentioned were to dilute or boil.  Boiling requires that a certain amount of calcium is in the water and my water is already low on calcium so that doesn't seem to be a good approach.  Again, I heard I could add acid and "neutralize" bicarb but I was never Uber-clear on it.  Then comes the part where I have diluted my water for ALL of my beers by some percentage and noticed a much softer mouthfeel (which I like) and a much softer and fluffier head on the beer and my only conclusion is that this happened because bicarbonate was reduced.  I still have much to learn, evidently.



#17 MyaCullen

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 01:37 PM

So I could take my tap water and add acid and lower my bicarbonate?  At some point I asked about this and the only two options mentioned were to dilute or boil.  Boiling requires that a certain amount of calcium is in the water and my water is already low on calcium so that doesn't seem to be a good approach.  Again, I heard I could add acid and "neutralize" bicarb but I was never Uber-clear on it.  Then comes the part where I have diluted my water for ALL of my beers by some percentage and noticed a much softer mouthfeel (which I like) and a much softer and fluffier head on the beer and my only conclusion is that this happened because bicarbonate was reduced.  I still have much to learn, evidently.

https://wetnewf.org/...ction-with.html



#18 neddles

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 07:26 PM

So I could take my tap water and add acid and lower my bicarbonate?  At some point I asked about this and the only two options mentioned were to dilute or boil.  Boiling requires that a certain amount of calcium is in the water and my water is already low on calcium so that doesn't seem to be a good approach.  Again, I heard I could add acid and "neutralize" bicarb but I was never Uber-clear on it.  Then comes the part where I have diluted my water for ALL of my beers by some percentage and noticed a much softer mouthfeel (which I like) and a much softer and fluffier head on the beer and my only conclusion is that this happened because bicarbonate was reduced.  I still have much to learn, evidently.

Ken, just as you ask... yes, you can add acid and lower your bicarbonate. I hate to say it but if you were using BrunWater you would see this effect when you play around with it. I don't know if EZWater shows this effect. You dont ask EZ questions and your water concerns aren't basic. That said, open up BrunWater and punch in a fake grist of 100% pils and use 100% filtered tap water from your house. Knowing your water, your predicted pH will read too high. Then add the acid of your choice and watch what happens. The predicted pH drops and the bicarb is progressively reduced by the formula on AJ's page. The only significant thing you get as a result of this reaction is the anion (negative charge). The anion you get comes from your source acid. Use hydrochloric and get chloride, use sulfuric and get sulfate. Hydrochloric and sulfuric are uncommonly used here in the states for brewing. They aren't nearly as safe as lactic and phosphoric and as I'm sure you know they add SO4 or Cl to your beer which are not flavor neutral. Phosphoric is flavor neutral and lactic requires a good amount of it before you can taste it. In all cases you get the reduction of bicarb. which is what you are after for pH management.

 

Wether you dilute away your bicarb or neutralize it with acid the results, as I understand it, are the same except for the anion you added. Just do whatever's easiest for you. As Martin said, even with a grist like the one I suggested above and 100% distilled water you will still need to add acid so...



#19 SchwanzBrewer

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Posted 29 September 2013 - 04:32 AM

I know for a fact Cigar City does ZERO treatment to their brewing water except for phosphoric acid treatment. They are in contact with the water treatment facility on a daily basis and get a report of the hardness so that they know how much to use.

 

My BIG question is... the city water has chloramine in it. I treat my water with kmeta to break it down and remove it. I've never had chlorophenols in my beer because of it. When I taste CCB's beers I can't taste it in them either and like I said above, they do not treat the water for them. So, does acid treatment with phosphoric acid somehow break down chloramine?



#20 johnpreuss

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Posted 29 September 2013 - 05:49 AM

I know for a fact Cigar City does ZERO treatment to their brewing water except for phosphoric acid treatment. They are in contact with the water treatment facility on a daily basis and get a report of the hardness so that they know how much to use.

 

My BIG question is... the city water has chloramine in it. I treat my water with kmeta to break it down and remove it. I've never had chlorophenols in my beer because of it. When I taste CCB's beers I can't taste it in them either and like I said above, they do not treat the water for them. So, does acid treatment with phosphoric acid somehow break down chloramine?

 

is it possible that they boil their water first?  That would take the chloramine out as well.





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