Understanding my Water Analysis

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Understanding my Water Analysis

Postby Legman » Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:29 am

I just got a water analysis from my local water supply. This is what they sent:

Alkalinity (CaCO3, CO3, or "carbonate" content) >20 mg/l
Calcium .6 - 1.4 mg/l
Chloride(Chlorine is what we test) .5 - 1.2 ppm
Hardness 6 mg/l
Magnesium Haven't Tested For
pH >7.0
Sodium .6 - .9 mg/l
Sulfate 16.6 mg/l
Iron Finished Water No Detect

I haven't messed with the chemistry of my water as of yet and I'm not really sure what I'm looking at or what to do with it. I am not necessarily trying to match any particular water profile, just maybe to improve what I have a little. I have been using 5.2 Ph Stabilizer in my mash to help control the Ph levels. Even though I have not checked the actual Ph, it has seem to stabilize my mash efficiency.
From what I've read, seems like I'm extremely low in Calcium for what is recommended for most styles of beer. Should I adjust this? If so, with what?

I'm slightly confused. :?
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Postby slothrob » Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:30 am

Yes, you have very low calcium and should adjust it up to around 50-150 ppm. What you adjust it with will depend on the beer you are making, particularly the SRM and wether you want it to be hoppy or malty.
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Postby Legman » Sat Mar 07, 2009 7:53 am

If I were trying to raise the Calcuim, Alkalinity and Sulfate levels, would it be incorrect to use both chalk and gypsum together?
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Postby slothrob » Sat Mar 07, 2009 10:02 am

There probably aren't many situations where you would need to add much CaCO3 when you want to also add Gypsum, just because that would imply a darker beer in which you want to accentuate the hoppiness, which is atypical. Darker beers usually accentuate the maltiness which would indicate a CaCl addition instead of Gypsum.

Having said that... yes, to raise the Ca++ without dropping the pH too far, you balance a CaCl or Gypsum addition with a Carbonate addition.

The ions that don't go well together in higher concentrations are Sulfate and Sodium, but that shouldn't be a problem in your water.

If you don't have it already, you should get John Palmer's residual alkalinity spreadsheet found at the bottom of this page. With the water calculator in BTP, you really just need it to calculate your target RA. That would be a great addition to BTP, by the way, Jeff.
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Postby Legman » Sat Mar 07, 2009 6:12 pm

Hmmm....Ok. I'll have to look into this more.
Thanks Slothrob!
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Postby slothrob » Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:32 am

The best place to start with water modification is Chapter 15 of John Palmer's How To Brew. Read it 2 or 3 times and it will start to click. The big concept is Residual Alkalinity. Try to come away from reading that chapter with an understanding of Residual Alkalinity and when you would add CaCl2, Gypsum, NaHCO3, or CaCO3.

The less scientific way to do this is to mash in and check the pH. Then, add CaCl2 or Gypsum to lower the pH or CaCO3 to raise the pH until you hit the proper range. You may not end up with the ideal Ca++ concentration, but you'll boost it some.[/code]
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Postby Legman » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:34 pm

I've read that multiple times. It makes a little sense now. I'll have to go over it some more.:roll:

In there it was talking about the benefits of CA++ has to the mash enzymes and what not. Since my current CA++ is almost non-existent, do you think there would be an increase in mash efficiency by increasing the CA++ levels?
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Postby slothrob » Mon Mar 09, 2009 4:14 pm

The data I've seen indicate that adding Calcium will probably have little benefit on efficiency (maybe a couple percent) unless it results in your pH being brought into the ideal range. In that case, it could raise efficiency and attenuation by as much as 5 or 10%.

The flip side of that coin is that if the calcium results in a drop below the ideal pH, you could see a decrease in efficiency and attenuation.
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Postby Legman » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:09 pm

I am assuming you have to make these additions in the strike and sparge water, correct?

This is starting to make a little sense now. I'll still have to go over it some more, but I understanding better than before.
This coming weekend I'm brewing an Alt and a Nut Brown, so I'll have to give it a shot and see what happens.

Thanks for you help Slothrob! :D
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Re: Water

Postby slothrob » Tue Mar 10, 2009 6:40 am

Legman wrote:I am assuming you have to make these additions in the strike and sparge water, correct?

If you are batch sparging you should only need to treat your mash water, since your base water is soft.

Also, you will find that the salts go into solution easier if added directly to the mash instead of to the strike water. Particularly the CaCO3.
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Postby Legman » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:41 am

I am batch sparging. So, if it only goes into the mash, do I calculate the amounts to adjust the volume of the mash water or the total volume of the water used in the mash and sparge?
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Postby slothrob » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:27 am

Calculate for the mash water only. That's my philosophy, anyway. That seems to correct my pH well unless I calculate that I need to make a large carbonate addition, then I often need to add less than I calculate.

However, you should always consider what you want in the final beer.
Sulfate effects on hop flavor will be dependent on the concentration in the final beer, not the mash. The same thing with the Calcium effect on improved clarity. If you want more of something in the beer than you need for the mash, you can always add it to the boil. That can be particularly appropriate for Gypsum additions.

Hint: If you mash in with a volume close to your final volume, the final concentration will be close to what you add to the mash. That way you don't have to make a bunch of extra calculations.
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Postby Legman » Tue Mar 10, 2009 12:34 pm

So basically what you're doing is just adjusting your Ph in the mash and not nessecarily raising your levels of minerals to match a certain range.

slothrob wrote:Hint: If you mash in with a volume close to your final volume, the final concentration will be close to what you add to the mash. That way you don't have to make a bunch of extra calculations.


What do you mean by that? How would you mash in with you final volume? No sparge?
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Postby slothrob » Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:28 pm

Legman wrote:So basically what you're doing is just adjusting your Ph in the mash and not nessecarily raising your levels of minerals to match a certain range.

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that. pH is most important, and all other additions have to fall in line with that, but I'm definitely tailoring my mineral additions to promote a certain flavor profile.
How would you mash in with you final volume? No sparge?

Final volume, not pre-boil volume.

So, pulling some numbers out of my "hat", you might mash into 10# of grain with about 4 gallons, mash out with 1 gallon, drain 3 gallons, and sparge with 3 gallons, boiling down to 5 gallons. If you only add salt to your 4 gallon mash, your final salt concentrations will be ~80% of the amount you added to your mash.

The concentration ranges are broad enough that, if you target a concentration toward the middle of the recommended range, having ~80% of that will still be within recommended. The difference qualifies in the "relax and have a HB" category, to me. I'm not so casual with mash pH, though.

Of course, traditionally, mash and sparge water would have had the same mineral concentration as it came out of the ground, so the concentrations would actually be higher after the boil. But few breweries use untreated water anymore, and I'm not trying to match any historic profile, just make better beer by selective additions to hit the flavor I'm looking for.
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Postby Legman » Tue Mar 10, 2009 7:46 pm

Alright, I get what you're saying. That makes perfect sense now.

Even with the mineral deficient water I have now, I'm still making some really good beer. I can't wait to tweak this a bit and possibly boost some of those flavor profiles.

I'm with ya on the "relax and have a HB"! :mrgreen:
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