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Thread: Help in adjusting Brewing Water

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    Help in adjusting Brewing Water

    After taking a look at our brewery's water report I came up with the following based on the ppm measures reported by Ward Laboratories. Our Hardness:Alkalinity is 1.23:3.59(mv) and RA is looking like 3.35mv. The options for treatment seem to be adjusting the hardness:alkalinity ratio to be greater than 1:1 and boiling to reduce alkalinity or treating with lactic or phosphoric acid. I have a couple of questions...I have read in Michael Lewis's text Brewing, that using the first method with a hardness:alkalinity ratio < 1:1 adding gypsum and boiling could result in the formation of Na2SO4 which could produce an undesirable sour off flavor. Does anyone have any experience with this? If so, what should I look for as an indicator that this treatment will produce this off flavor? If treating with lactic acid is my best option, what is a good resource to help me find how much I would need to treat a given volume of water? The rest of the water report looks like this:
    Na-90ppm, 3.9 mv; K-14ppm, .36mv; Ca-13ppm, .65mv; Mg-7ppm, .58mv; Total Hardness as CaCO3-62ppm; HCO3-217ppm, 3.56mv; Total Alkalinity as CaCO3-178ppm, 3.56mv

    Thanks in advance for any input!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Baxter, MN
    Being you're very low in calcium, have you considered balancing your alkalinity with either Calcium Chloride or Gypsum?
    What are your Chloride and Sulfate numbers? You may have room play with there if they're quite low.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Our water is very low in chloride and sulfate. I already add CaSO4 to the mash and usually end up with a mash pH 5.4-5.6. It seems that I can continue to treat the mash this way. The problem is that I have to heat the entire volume of water for my brew day before mashing as we have no hot liquor tank. Our ground water pH post carbon filter is 7.2. However, after boiling, it increases to 8.6. All pH measurements were taken at the calibration temperature. At this point I get how to treat the water but not the actual process of treatment. Would I be able to add all of the calcium salts to my volume of boiling water before mashing to balance the hardness:alkalinity? If I follow this process, won't some of the calcium precipitate with bicarbonate due to boiling driving off CO2? And if that is true, won't my boil pH be adversely affected by the reverse of this reaction? Here is what I am thinking...what about continuing to treat my mash water with CaSO4 as I am in the desired pH range for mash and treating the hot sparge water I hold over in a grundy with phosphoric acid to get that water from pH 8.6 to around 6.0. If I were to take that approach 1. Does water temperature matter for reducing alkalinity with acid treatment and 2. Should I also harden the sparge water with some CaSO4 as well? Feeling like I am almost there, just need some feedback on the actual treatment process!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Boiling to reduce alkalinity is not a option for that water unless additional measures are taken. The temporary hardness of the raw water is not high enough to allow the calcium-driven precipitation to proceed unless the calcium content is boosted prior to boiling. The minor increase in post-boil water pH is typical. I assume that the gypsum has been added to the water, pre-boil?

    Since the water is pre-boiled, its clear that targeting the alkalinity reduction during that step is wise. That should reduce the alkalinity to about 1 mval (50 ppm HCO3) when conducted properly by adding sufficient calcium to combine with the bicarbonate and decanting the boiled water off the sediment immediately after the precipitate falls. The brewer would have to add additional calcium to the boiled water to restore the calcium to adequate levels for yeast performance and beerstone control. They would have to keep aware of the ending chloride and sulfate concentrations to avoid excessive levels from the calcium additions via gypsum or calcium chloride.

    Since much of the alkalinity will have been reduced by this boiling treatment, it may or may not be necessary to further reduce alkalinity in the brewing water depending upon the grist. Reducing the alkalinity of the sparging water would probably be wise. Bru'n Water recommends dropping sparge water alkalinity to somewhere less than 50 ppm.

    Since the water is already decarbonated via boiling, the temperature at which acid is added to the water is of less importance. If the water still had high alkalinity, then adding the acid prior to heating would be important if the acid addition was based on the lab alkalinity. If the brewer is adding acid and basing the dosage upon a direct pH reading, then it won't matter if the water is heated or not. Its only when the acid addition is calculated based on the lab alkalinity that they would not want to add the acid to the heated water since then the pH or alkalinity target would likely be undershot.

    I note that the sodium content is quite high in this water. That runs the risk of promoting a harshness or saltiness in the finished product. Just something to be aware of. Is this water run through an ion-exchange softener prior to use? That might explain the high sodium content. I do know that some groundwater does have naturally high sodium content, so I suppose this might be the case here. Including a RO system into the brewery might be needed if lower sodium concentration is desired.

    From the ion concentrations quoted, it appears that the chloride and sulfate concentrations are relatively low (say 40 ppm each). That does give the brewer some room for increase. I know that Ward tests for chloride and sulfate, why weren't those concentrations posted?
    Engineering Consultant

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