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Thread: Hard, Alkaline water and low SRM beers

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Posts
    42

    Hard, Alkaline water and low SRM beers

    Dear Forum,

    In about 2 months we will start brewing and I needed to solve my hard water issue. I've been avoiding it for sometime.

    I wanted to purchase a RO system and at a minimum dilute our municipality water but had to cut it out.

    We are primarily going to brew low SRM and hoppy beers and not sure what is the most effective water treatment on a per batch basis.

    I plan on using acidulated malt to lower pH. I was also curious what dosage is a good starting point for phosphoric acid additions to my hard ass water.

    I am working on getting a the mineral composition of my local water, so i understand that we are dealing in generalities here.

    Just wanted to hear input on some of the techniques brewers are using to deal with hard water and brewing low SRM beers.

    If anyone has a suggestion for a low cost RO system for a 10bbl brewhouse that would be cool also!



    Cheers,

    Ben
    Ben Davis
    Intuition Ale Works
    Jacksonville Florida
    www.intuitionaleworks.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Posts
    340

    R.o.

    Check out the General Electric Merlin unit. 720 gpd. I used one to supplement Cold and Hot liquor for a 15Bbl system and currently for Malting steep H20, and germination conditioning H2O. Also has a Carbon filter in the unit.
    Great unit.
    Last edited by nohandslance; 08-13-2010 at 02:57 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Tacoma, WA
    Posts
    225
    I prefer lactic acid over phosphoric acid because it doesn't consume calcium or leave a chalky residue behind. If your hard ass water is like my hard ass water and you don't end up using RO water or acididulated malt, I'd use around 300 mL of 85% phosphoric acid plus 250-400 g of calcium sulfate and 400-550 g of calcium chloride (or 750-800 mL of 88% lactic acid with no additional calcium) for a 10-barrel batch.

    Joe

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Stills Crossroads, Alabama
    Posts
    16

    Alkalinity

    I found water I worked with in Florida to be high in temporary hardness and would drop to a reasonable level after heating and circulating through the spray ball.

    Jamie
    James Ray
    High Ridge Spirits, LLC.
    Stills Crossroads, AL

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    59
    Getting the hardness out to some extent might be preferable since hard water can create problems down the line with excessive beer stone build up. Just a thought.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    St.Louis->Tacoma
    Posts
    633
    I'm fighting a similar thing right now. The water around here is usually pretty good and requires little to no treatment outside of a simple sediment/carbon filter. This summer due to...budget cutbacks, excessive snowmelt and leaching from the mountains/riverbeds- something has been reeking havoc with my lighter beers and mash PH and efficiency.

    Water PH 8-9, excessive CaCO3 precipitate, and very murky water if i pre-heat water the night before. Even treating with (lots of) Phosphoric Acid and mash water starting @ 5.1-5.2 i have a tough time getting my Mash PH below 5.6-5.8

    I just got a small tub of 5.2 Buffer from FiveStar I’m going to try out. I ran the numbers and at the suggested usage rate it may or may not be worth the money. I will know soon enough i guess.

    Anybody have any experience with 5.2?

    I have thought about acidulated as well, i hate using chems/non-malt additives if i can avoid it.

    What type of PH drop do you see with acidulated/lb/BBL? Any Changes to the beer, taste/color etc.? I've only used it in stouts and wits for a "pseudo sour mash".
    Jeff Byrne

    12 year pro craft brewer *NOW available for hire...
    Auburn, Wa - for now

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Tacoma, WA
    Posts
    225
    Hey Jephro, is the murkiness in your water white? If so, you're probably not giving your water enough time to settle or you're mixing the precipitates back in. Heat reduces chalk solubilities, so it's possible that precipitates are still being formed as your water heats up in the early morning. I know that, to a certain extent, precipitated CaCO3 will dissolve back in the mash and raise your pH. With phosphoric acid, although I'm not 100% on this, I believe one of the reactions you're experiencing is this:

    H3PO4 + CaCO3 -> H2CO3 + [precipitated CaHPO4]

    The CaHPO4 is also a chalky white powder, and I'd wager that mixing it back into a mash would have a similar effect as CaCO3 (since the carbonic acid would become carbonate or bicarbonate - I think the CaCO3 designation in the reaction is just to show that calcium and carbonate are both involved).

    Despite what maltsters claim, the pH change of acidified malt isn't linear. If it was, you could adjust your mash beyond the pH scale! The info that maltsters give you (e.g. Weyermann acidulated malt drops the pH by [grist percentage]/10, so using acid malt for 1% of the grist would result in a pH drop of 0.1) are ballpark estimates for very small changes, which are usually good enough for what we do.

    I've never used 5.2, so I'm no help there.

    Joe

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Palau
    Posts
    1,621

    More on acidulated....

    I, too am trying to find a way to make a pilsner style beer with relatively hard water. Acidulated malt seems to be a good way to lower mash pH, I get that. But the minerals present in my water contribute more to the beer than just potentially higher mash pH. Won't they also give my pilsner style beer unwanted mineral tastes? Is there any way around an RO system in this scenario? Thanks!
    Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--
    Worldwide Brewery Installations
    www.GitcheGumeeBreweryServices.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    166
    Excessive mineralization can be detrimental to beer flavor in lighter styles that do not have the flavors to hide it behind. In that case, deionization or RO is the only alternative. Chloride and sulfate are the ions associated with permanent hardness and there is no process other than RO or anionic exchange resins suitable for their removal.

    In general, hardness (especially temporary hardness) is not a detriment to good brewing, its only an obstacle. Hardness is almost always a good thing and desirable in brewing water. Its Alkalinity that is the bane to brewing.

    The bicarbonate or carbonate associated with temporary hardness (which is equal to alkalinity) is typically easy to neutralize with acid addition. The problem comes when the concentration of those ions is high and the amount of acid added means that excessive levels of the acid's anion are added to the brewing liquor and a taste impact can be noted. I see that Joe mentioned concern with phosphoric acid, but that too is not a significant concern. The concentration of phosphatic compounds in wort is on the order of 1% (10,000 ppm) and the small addition of orthophosphate ion through phosphoric acid addition is not going to significantly increase calcium precipitation. So if phosphoric acid floats your boat, use it.

    Five Star's 5.2 Stabilizer product is a poor substitute for proper acid or caustic use in controlling proper mash pH. A couple of homebrewing water techies (AJ Delange and Kai Troester) have confirmed that the product DOES NOT guide the mash pH to a more desirable 5.2 to 5.4 (room-temp measurement), it actually centers more around 5.8 which is a on the high side of desirable. In addition, the product is a compound of sodium salts which means that a lot of sodium is added to the brewing liquor. Not a good feature for beer flavor. Apparently, AJ is a big chemistry geek and he reviewed the pKa values for likely compounds and they further confirm that the product is unlikely to guide the mash pH into the desirable range noted above. The bottom line: don't use 5.2 Stabilizer in your beers. It might be OK for dark beers where the buffers will help keep the mash pH from dropping too much, but it will be a killer for any light colored beers where the elevated pH will seriously dull the beer flavor.

    Boiling to decarbonate is a decent approach when the water source is high in temporary hardness. The cost is added energy consumption and in some cases, the tie up of your brew kettle. If you're brewing capacity limited, tieing up your kettle for a couple of hours to boil and decant, might be a real detriment to production. Another option is to decarbonate in a separate tank by means of lime addition.

    If brewers are acid and caustic challenged and they don't know how to use them, there has been a recent development on the homebrewing level that could be a real help to craftbrewers. A program named Bru'n Water provides extensive guidance in brewing water treatment and adjustment. It is quite different from past programs that try to guide brewing water adjustments based on beer color. This one uses the actual grist components to predict mash pH fairly accurately. As many of you know, crystal malts have fairly high acidity that varies with malt color and roast malts have high acidity that is fairly constant. Bru'n Water logically solves the issues in predicting mash pH, but a good brewer is going to also rely on their pH meter to guide them. I'm pretty sure you can search for Bru'n Water on Google and find it. The program also includes a bunch of water knowledge that exceeds many brewing texts.
    Last edited by WaterEng; 04-25-2011 at 08:11 AM.
    WaterEng
    Engineering Consultant

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Palau
    Posts
    1,621
    Thanks for the great info! I used the Bru'n Water xls sheet. It looks great, and seems to agree with my current understanding and practice. Some of the calculations don't seem right, however. pH values of 21? And a difference of 2ml 88% phosphoric in 1000 liters of beer makes the mash pH jump radically. Same with 1kg Acidulated vs. 1.5 kg Acidulated malt. That can't be right. Anyone else use this program and have similar concerns? Or am I just missing something?
    Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--
    Worldwide Brewery Installations
    www.GitcheGumeeBreweryServices.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
    Posts
    818
    Quote Originally Posted by jwalts
    since the carbonic acid would become carbonate or bicarbonate

    Joe
    More likely that the carbonic acid would become H2O + CO2. Which is kind of the point of acidifying water with temp hardness.

    Pax.

    Liam
    Liam McKenna
    www.yellowbellybrewery.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    166
    Quote Originally Posted by gitchegumee
    Thanks for the great info! I used the Bru'n Water xls sheet. It looks great, and seems to agree with my current understanding and practice. Some of the calculations don't seem right, however. pH values of 21? And a difference of 2ml 88% phosphoric in 1000 liters of beer makes the mash pH jump radically. Same with 1kg Acidulated vs. 1.5 kg Acidulated malt. That can't be right. Anyone else use this program and have similar concerns? Or am I just missing something?
    From what I can tell, you've entered a set of grain and water parameters that results in far too much alkalinity in the water or too little acidity in the mash. It appears that the program does not take into account where the pH will fall when the Net Mash Acidity is very negative. Looking at the formula that the program uses for pH prediction, its a linear equation when the Net Mash Acidity is less than 11.63. I guess the author didn't count on outlandishly negative Net Mash Acidity values.

    Needless to say that the pH value is erroneous when the Net Mash Acidity is very negative, but apparently so are the parameters that were entered to produce that result. From what I can tell, the Net Mash Acidity is supposed to generally be a positive value or your mash pH is going to be greater than 5.8 (room-temp measurement). In my opinion, 5.8 is far too high for good brewing performance and taste.

    The mash pH prediction has worked fairly accurately for me when I enter typical recipes and water chemistry. I like the program too, but apparently the author needs to adjust that pH prediction equation. In reviewing Malting and Brewing Science, it appears that a practical upper pH observed in mashing is on the order of 6.4. We know that a lot of undesirable results occur when the pH rises above 5.8, so I'm not sure that there is any real concern that the program's pH goes haywire when the Net Mash Acidity goes negative.
    WaterEng
    Engineering Consultant

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