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Thread: Usage of sodium or magnesium salts.

  1. #1
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    Mar 2017
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    Usage of sodium or magnesium salts.

    Hello PB.
    I never see sodium or magnesium salts in the brewhouse, always seen it as a bit of a home brew thing tbh.
    Recently been thinking. If calcium precipitates phosphates, forms tri calcium phosphate, drops pH in the mash, removes phosphates due to limited solubility etc could not the formation of secondary phosphates in the presence of magnesium be used to delay the precipitation of calcium phosphates until the boil where solubility is raised at which point they can have a greater impact upon wort pH?

    This is an attempt to control higher than desirable pH when using malts with lower than average phosphates? Lager etc, traditionally has an uncomfortably high pH. Tbh lots of our super pale beers have unpredictable pH ranges and we are working to get this under control. Pre boil is like 5. *roll a dice*.

  2. #2
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    Oct 2013
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    I would be careful with magnesium salts. Magnesium in combination with sulphate can have a laxitive effect above certain levels. MgSO4 would be the most common addition of magnesium in my experience, so best to start with light additions.

  3. #3
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    Phosphoric acid addition, just my $0.02

  4. #4
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    Jun 2012
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    BEMIDJI, MN
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    Ditto - Phosphoric acid. We also run acidulated malt in all of our pale beers to split the approach to dropping the pH. We have found that it is easier to prevent the bottom from dropping out of our pH buffering by using phosphoric acid for 3/4 of our acidification and dialing the rest in with acid malt. But that is just our circumstance with our water, your mileage may vary based upon your starting water's specific make-up, alkalinity and consistency.

    That all being said - sodium and magnesium can play other roles in the beer's presentation, but I'd put those salts pretty far down the priority list when it comes to pH control.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  5. #5
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    Nov 2010
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    Carmel, IN
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    It's not really an issue with 'lower than average phosphates'. Its more to do with the lower acidity of lightly kilned (lager or pils) malt. That just means that more of some other form of mash acidification will be necessary when brewing with high percentages of those lightly kilned grains. Adding more acid, acid malt, Ca salts, or Mg salts could be employed to help bring pH down.

    With regard to using Mg or Na salts, they are best reserved for beers that can benefit from their flavor effects. In most cases, minor contributions (<20 ppm) from those ions can help round flavor in some beers. I would reserve their use unless you feel your beers tend to come out to bland.
    WaterEng
    Engineering Consultant

  6. #6
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    Mar 2017
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    Hello everyone thanks for the replies so far.

    It might help if I further describe what is going on and what is the 'issue'. We use hydrochloric and sulphuric acid to bring down the rA of our liquor when brewing pale styles which can support the additional sulphate and chloride without suffering from too little calcium. We add calcium chloride and sulphate direct to the mash for flavour and to achieve an optimal mash pH and add this calcium. In pale styles which do not require as much sulphate and chloride we use lactic acid so we can use more calcium salts to keep calcium levels up. In darker beers we do not acidify the liquor and need to use sodium carbonate to add alkalinity, direct to the mash. In extremes we might split the salts across the mash and boil to keep the mash pH in the desired range.

    This is all fine except we've been finding that post boil to pre boil pH is a bit of a gamble. At least more of a one than I would like. Beers are heading into FV at 4.9 - 5.5. Post fermentation pH is mostly ok, again quite a spread, but anticipated drop is reached. Issue for me is a control one, it is a broad spread and I cannot reliably produce it for new recipes. Dry hopping brings it back up and then we are packaging beers at 4.7? I'd like to be able to get this under control so I can reliably produce wort which has a target pH, especially for those destined for further additions which will change the final beer pH. For a few reasons, but because I'd like a brighter tasting beer. I do not believe breweries dry hopping with 30g/L are canning beer at a pH of 5 so they must have tighter controls on pre and post ferm pH.

    So I'm trying to work out why and devise a solution. Calcium salts never seem to impact the pH as much as they theoretically should and I've read the acidifying effect is due to calcium reacting with organic phosphates which are precipitated out. Excess calcium is lost in the mash and these phosphates are not carried through into the boil and the resulting pH drop is lower than it would be in the presence of sufficient calcium. Heavy use of gypsum reacts all the phosphates in the mash, excess calcium is not soluble and most of the calcium is then lost. Magnesium and sodium salts form tri phosphate compounds which are more soluble preserving them and more of the calcium until the boil where they are then able to react resulting in a greater pH drop in the boil. It would seem to me that increasing phosphates removes a limiting factor that could work in my favour, another would be using a portion of magnesium sulphate and sodium chloride instead of calcium equivalents.

    I'm wondering if just using phosphoric acid to treat our brewing liquor would just cure it. We are probably using enough salts, we've done beers at 400:200ppm and higher. Typical 200:150 and so on. Rarely see the expected drop. Calcium levels average 150ppm, sometimes up over 200ppm.

  7. #7
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    Just a quick question, which may lead you to think about this a little differently.

    How do you know what your water is before you treat it with acids/salts?

    If you do not use RO or do testing of your HLT water every brew day, then you might also be seeing the variability municipal water sources mineral content. I am not saying that you have to use RO water, but you might be chasing your tail by trying to dial in the pH exactly, vs figuring out the root cause. 4.9-5.5 is a pretty big swing in pH.

    To test this, standardize your additions for each brand, and do not change them. As you brew them more than once, you may start to see a pattern. Either the pH is always off by the same amount for each brand, or it will vary. If it varies, then it is either due to different malt lots, or different input water. Once you know, for each brand, the variation, you can start to dial you salts a little better.

    In any case, in order to deal with it exactly, you will need to strip the water of everything and build it how you want it. Or, live within the average so long as it produces the product you are looking for.

  8. #8
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    Good points. We have a detailed and much more accurate twice yearly external lab analysis and then monthly in brewery using a test kit which we write up on the whiteboard for reference. Our test kit gets us within 10ppm for most values so not super accurate, but it is just to track and monitor. We test alkalinity before every brew at HLT and then after treatment. We are generally at 10ppm or less when we want to knock all of it out. Slowly we are building up a picture of pH for products vs tested alkalinity on the day and because there is little pattern (as of yet) even within the same product we are looking at how we add the salts and other minor details, weighing practices etc.

    First we thought it was an issue with the auger. We add the salts to the grain which is taken up to a hydrator above the mash tun. We thought maybe that variable amounts were being shaken down back to the base of the hopper so we've started adding them by hand when mashing in with lots of mixing. We are waiting to see if numbers stabilise. Another is I'm not happy with our malt supplier, it is very variable, but I'm not in a position to change this.

    There are just a few things that I'm not happy with, one being our lager 'always' has a higher pH without a reliable method to influence this. I'm told soft water with low calcium levels are the culprit, but we'll produce a pale with lager malt and not much higher salts and get 5.1 instead of 5.4 post boil. Another is getting almost random ranges for new products which are not desirable for the profile and then are made worse by dry hopping. Basically want to be able to build a tart and bright beer designed to get a lot of dry hop and still package at 4.4 or a shade less.

    I am tempted to see if bringing sulphate:chloride amounts up to the bad old days of 400:200 or higher nails it, but I don't think I should need to do this with liquor treated to 10ppm rA or less which is why I'm like ... what the hell else might be going on? Also in experience throwing excess salts at things doesn't do what you'd think, there is some other rate limiting factor, doesn't dissolve fully in the mash, it precipitates in the boil, precipitates out during fermentation, final pH is what it wanted to be.

  9. #9
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    From my experience, getting to 4.4 pH after ferment and dry hop requires a lot of acid. We do a sour IPA and we have to kettle sour it first down into the threes.

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