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Thread: Water Report on Finished Beer

  1. #1
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    Water Report on Finished Beer

    Hey All-

    So I've been racking my brains on a water report we got on one of our finished beers. To set it all up, this was a pilot batch using RO water with minerals added back to get to a "target". We used gypsum, calcium chloride, and magnesium sulfate to get to our target numbers. We also used acidulated malt in the mash to hit the targeted mash pH of 5.2. The number we got are:

    RO Water:
    Ca-0
    SO4-0
    Cl-7
    Mg-0
    Sodium-10
    HCO3-22
    Total Hardness-1
    Alkalinity-19
    pH-6.25

    Bru'N Water Predicted after salt additions:
    Ca-102
    SO4-55
    Cl-150
    Mg-3
    Sodium-13
    HCO3-22
    Total Hardness-267
    Alkalinity-26

    Finished Beer Results:
    Ca-80
    SO4-126
    Cl-410
    Mg-161
    Sodium-38
    HCO3-106
    Total Hardness-871
    Alkalinity-87
    pH-4.5

    So I understand that malt will contribute some salts/minerals and that some will be precipitated at various stages or consumed/complexed with yeast, proteins, etc. My question is why are some of these minerals are several times higher than calculated. Why did the hardness and alkalinity jump so much? This is perhaps the biggest concern as we are trying to dial in a softer mouthfeel for the beer. Should we be acidifying the mash with HCl or sulfuric to scrub more alkalinity? Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated. We will be capturing some of the water pre-mash to see if the salt adjusted water matches the predicted. Thanks!

    Greg

  2. #2
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    Having worked in an Environmental testing lab for many years and doing alkalinity titrations, and now being a brewer I think I can help. When you check for alkalinity via titration you are basically changing the pH of the sample during titration to a set pH. Beer has a lot more buffering capacity than water. During the mash the pH is lowered with the grains, and again during the boil and fermentation. All of these would raise the alkalinity of the beer without adding calcium carbonate as reported using the method calculation. The hardness and alkalinity tests that were performed on your beer were probably meant for water, either drinking or discharge. Beer is much more complex than either of these and is probably causing an interference and a false increase in the numbers due to the matrix of the sample.

    Jim Lieb

  3. #3
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    Jim-

    Thanks for the input. It was sent to Ward Labs using their Brewer's Test Kit.

    If they treated this sample like "water", we had another beer analyzed a while back that had these finished results:

    Beer B:
    Ca-33
    SO4-101
    Cl-308
    Mg-109
    Na-40
    HCO3-0
    Total Hardness-537
    Alkalinity-12
    pH 4.4

    Any thoughts on how such a low alkalinity/bicarbonate/hardness was achieved in this sample using RO? This beer had acid added to the mash water prior to mashing, instead of acidulated malt in the mash. I appreciate your thoughts on this.

  4. #4
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    Greg,

    With a lower pH the alkalinity will be lower. If you brew a "lighter" beer, there will be less stuff in solution and thus less buffering capacity, which would reduce you alkalinity. With less bicarbonate you will reduce your alkalinity also. If you added acid to you mash water, you probably eliminated all of the carbonate and bicarbonate in the water, an acid plus carbonate and/or bicarbonate produces water and carbon dioxide, at a low enough pH you may have converted all of the carbonate/bicarbonate to this before you added the malt. This may not have happened in the beer with the acidulated malt, because there wasn't a dramatic pH drop of the water, more of a buffering effect in the mash.

    I have brewed treating the mash water and also adding acidulated malt to the mash. not sure if I noticed a change in mouth feel between them, but they were at different locations and different beers. If you are going for a Pilsen type water with lower alkalinity I would add less calcium to it, but make sure some is in there for the yeast.

    Any other questions let me know, hope this helped.

    Jim

  5. #5
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    Jim,

    The total hardness is throwing me. My background in water was in chemical treatment of industrial cooling systems and boilers. Basically, we were concerned with calcium and magnesium precipitating out and supplied polymer additives to control the scale.

    What is stumping me, and there my be nuances to brewing water chemistry which are vastly different though there is one constant is that minerals generally will become less stable in solution and have a tendency to precipitate out as water heats up. I'm trying to figure out how the total hardness is higher than the combined calcium and magnesium ppm? What am I missing here.

    Cheers!
    Colin
    Colin
    Blü Dragonfly Brewing
    Cimarron, NM

  6. #6
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    Greg,

    I ran the numbers for the calcium and magnesium that you have listed and they come out pretty close, 863 calculated vs. 871 found for the first beer, within acceptable ranges of error for testing. The other one was similar when I ran it also. The results for hardness are reported as calcium carbonate, not straight calcium. As you probably know the calcium contributes more to the hardness calculation than the magnesium.

    Jim
    Rocky River Brewing

  7. #7
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    I know we will need to bring the calcium down by at least half. Jim, you confirmed my thoughts on the acid addition to the mash water in order to lower our alkilinity, if that is what we desire. One interesting thing I found between these two test results was the first example, I was able to get the bicarbonate value that was reported by using the alkalinity as CaCO3 via this equation:
    HCO3 = (CaCO3/50) * 61

    However, in the second sample, this equation did not hold up for some reason. My first thought was that it could be the test report was inaccurate for the bicarbonate, it should have had a bicarbonate value of 14.6 using the equation above. Not sure why else this would be.

    Also, between the two beers, the residual alkalinity is fairly similar even though the effective hardness from Ca and Mg is double that in the first sample. So, aside from lowering the Ca and Mg in the first sample, I will need to also lower the alkalinity via CaCO3. I appreciate everyone's thoughts on this.

  8. #8
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    Maybe I missed something - why are you concerned about the ion concentrations in the finished beer? Mash pH, color development, mouthfeel, character of bitterness and other parameters that are affected by the water are all based upon the water going INTO the system - not the finished beer after innumerable variables have entered the system with all the malts, hops, fermentation, CO2, etc.

    I'll probably get schooled on this comment, but is there even brewing literature that lists desirable finished beer ion levels vs the target ions for the brewing liquor? And are these dictated by style, the way that much of the literature surrounding brewing water is presented?

  9. #9
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    Knowing what goes into the system is only half the story as what goes into the water in the beginning can have an effect on what's left at the end. In the end, knowing the starting results and end results gives you an idea of what chemistry is taking place along the way. Some of the attributes you listed are important based on the starting water, like the mash pH. However, the final levels in the finished beer can contribute to the bitterness and mouthfeel and these final levels can be changed from the malt contribution, mash, boil, and fermentation for example.

    The literature you suggested is what I've been searching for. Unfortunately, no real gold strike on it.

  10. #10
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    Adding calcium carbonate will raise you alkalinity.

    Jim

  11. #11
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    In there lies the problem, we are not adding any calcium carbonate. So my thought is the alkalinity is coming from bicarbonate combining with surplus calcium. How I'm getting such a dramatic increase in my bicarbonate is what I'm trying to figure out. I'm not sure if it's coming from carbon dioxide in the water converting to bicarbonate.

  12. #12
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    The only way that you would get that kind of bicarbonate was if the carbon dioxide was converting during fermentation. I guess that could happen but not sure at what levels. Find out what method they used to get the bicarbonate number, if it is titration, might be a false positive do to buffering in the beer, would be my best guess.

    Jim

  13. #13
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    I really don't know if you will find that info, in those number formats. And I don't think there is a way to accurately calculate where your ion concentrations will land following fermentation and packaging. I'm not trying to dissuade you from pursuing this information but I think the end result that you are seeking (control over final beer aesthetics, mouthfeel, pH, character of bitterness, etc) is summed up elsewhere, in the complexities of ingredient selection (including water & salts), mashing and boiling regimen, yeast(s) selection, fermentation, conditioning, and packaging. For instance, I find it hard to imagine that you'd be able to source the mineral/ion contributions for a recipe that contains 5 malts, 3 hops and a yeast strain that inevitably changes the entire system based upon pitch rate and fermentation health. And you shouldn't have to find that data to have reasonable control over the attributes mentioned. For instance, while mouthfeel can be affected (arguably only slightly) by changes in your starting water it also can be much more drastically affected by malt selection (not pertaining to ion contributions, but to dextrin and protein contributions), yeast choice, fermentation performance/attenuation, clarification or lack of, and carbonation.

    As mentioned, I'm not trying to dissuade your pursuit of finding the information you seek. However, I am suspicious that you are perhaps looking at the incorrect data to achieved the desired effects.

  14. #14
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    Jim-

    Here was the response from Nick Ward regarding the testing:

    "Thanks for the email regarding the recent water test. The methods we use for total mineral content are the same as water and finished beer, that is true. The mineral content would method we follow is Beer 45 in the ASBC methods manual "Elemental Analysis by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy". At our lab we are using Thermo Fisher 6500 ICPs. For bicarbonate, we use Method 2330 B Titration Method p 2 – 38-39. In Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater. 22nd Edition. Now, we recently switched from manual titration to using a 855 Robotic Titrosampler from Metrohm.
    Your question focused on 2 lines on the results, "total hardness" and "total alkalinity". Both of these values are calculations based on the other test results. So it would be true to say that the reporting total hardness may not be correct but all of the elements are in the beer as the method and equipment is correct. There can still be a small fraction of bicarbonate in the water as that carbonate species can exist to a pH of 4.0. We assume that any bicarbonate would exist at calcium species hence the total alkalinity CaCO3.
    Please let us know if you have any further questions/thoughts."

    It does appear they are using the same method for the finished beer as water and interestingly, just switched to a new automated titration for the bicarbonate. Depending when they made the switch, the two samples in question may have had different titration techniques.

    Bemidji-

    You are correct that water alone is not going to shift some of the factors in the finished beer we are concerned about. Other factors like you mentioned will outweigh any contributions water may have, especially with unfermentables and proteins. However, if we are tasting two similar or near identical-made beers and we can perceive one to be more harsh while the other was smoother with more mouthfeel (both are light pale ales), we are going to investigate all variables in play to see what differences there are. We know that the salts, malt, boil, hops, yeast, etc. will have an effect on the final mineral/hardness balance of the beer, but if we can start to understand how these variables all contribute to that by measuring the water/wort/beer along the way, it will only serve to give us more answers (and questions I'm sure...). As you mentioned, this will change with every style and yeast used, so we may end up with an insane amount of testing with little predictable knowledge of what will happen on another beer. I hope that's not the case...

  15. #15
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    That makes sense and is an admirable endeavor! It will be interesting to see what conclusions you come to and any predictions that are able to be made. I look forward to any data you are willing to share!

    Cheers!

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