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Hard, Alkaline water and low SRM beers

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  • 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!


    Ben Davis
    Intuition Ale Works
    Jacksonville Florida

  • #2

    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, 02:57 PM.


    • #3
      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.



      • #4

        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.

        James Ray
        Railyard Brewing Co.
        Montgomery, AL


        • #5
          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
            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


            • #7
              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.



              • #8
                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--


                • #9
                  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--


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jwalts
                    since the carbonic acid would become carbonate or bicarbonate

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


                    Liam McKenna