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Water adjustments

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by MookDawg, Mar 7, 2012.

  1. MookDawg

    MookDawg Aficionado (115) Vermont Aug 15, 2009

    Hey all... looking at brewing an irish red, and wanted to tweak my water a little. The numbers are below, but it looks like I should raise the RA, increase the sulfate just a bit, and maybe add some calcium. I'm using Palmer's spreadsheet... first time trying to figure this out. I'm mostly looking at using chalk (which would increase the RA and calcium), baking soda (increase the RA more and add sulfate), and/or add gypsum (decreases RA but adds sulfate & calcium). Any help/suggestions would be appreciated.

    My water (using 4 gal in mash):
    Calcium 18
    Magnesium 4
    Alkalinity 55 (RA ~ 40)
    Sodium 16
    Chloride 15
    Sulfate 5

    Target water:
    Calcium 50
    Magnesium 4
    Alkalinity 120 (RA ~82)
    Sodium 16
    Chloride 15
    Sulfate 8

    I guess I just don't know if I should add both chalk AND gypsum. Any ideas?

  2. How do you know that's your target water for an Irish Red? It still looks a little low in almost every area aside from Sodium to me. You'll definitely need to boost Calcium and Sulfate. I would only add chalk to the mash. I would add gypsum to the mash and late in the boil.

    People will tell you that chalk doesn't dissolve fully (even in the mash) unless you dissolve it first with CO2. But my beers have felt better in terms of mouthfeel ever since I began using Chalk. So I'm under the impression that at least some of it dissolves and helps the beer. Back when I didn't correct my brew water, the mouthfeel of my beers always had a watery, flat quality and the hops didn't shine as well as I would have liked. For my brewing water, I needed to add more Ca and Alkalinity without introducing additional Cl, while still adding SO4 with some Gypsum. pH regulation was also a factor. Therefore, adding Chalk and Gypsum was the obvious route to take IMO.

    Here's a handy calculator: http://www.brewersfriend.com/water-chemistry/

    Chalk / CaCO3

    · 1.8 grams per level teaspoon
    · Minimally increases pH and moderately increases alkalinity
    · Because of its limited solubility it is only effective when added directly to the mash
    · Use for making dark beers in areas of soft water
    · Use nomograph and monitor the mash pH with pH test papers to determine how much to add

    Baking Soda / NaHCO3

    · 4.4 grams per level teaspoon
    · Slightly increases pH and very drastically increases alkalinity
    · Because of its limited solubility it is only effective when added directly to the mash
    · Add if your pH is too low and/or has low residual alkalinity
    · Use for making dark beers in areas of soft water
    · Use nomograph and monitor the mash pH with pH test papers to determine how much to add

    Gypsum / CaSO4

    · 4.0 grams per level teaspoon
    · Minimally decreases pH and moderately increases alkalinity
    · Useful for adding calcium if water is low in sulfate
    · Use to add crispness to the hop bitterness

    Calcium Chloride / CaCl2

    · 3.4 grams per level teaspoon
    · Minimally decreases pH and moderately increases alkalinity
    · Useful for adding calcium if the water is low in chlorides

    Epsom Salt / MgSO4

    · 4.5 grams per level teaspoon
    · Minimally decreases pH and moderately decreases alkalinity
    · Use to add crispness to the hop bitterness

    Canning Salt / NaCl

    · 6.0 grams per level teaspoon
    · No effect on pH or alkalinity


    HCO3 will appear as Alkalinity, if reported.

    Hardness is due to Ca and Mg content.
  3. "People will tell you that chalk doesn't dissolve fully (even in the mash) unless you dissolve it first with CO2."

    One of those people includes John Palmer. He gave a talk on brewing water at a competition I was at last weekend, and he said that you might get half of what you think you are as far as chalk goes.

    John has been writing a book on brewing water. As part of that he has been traveling to breweries to see what they do for water treatment. Should be a good read.

    Having the mash pH right and the RA right for the beer does a lot for flavor, it takes a very good beer to an excellent beer. John did a talk at the 2007 NHC where he had 2 Pale Ales brewed with -50 RA for one and 200 RA for the other. There were 2 Stouts brewed at -50, and brewed at 200. The -50 Pale Ale really popped, and the 200 was muddled. The -50 RA stout was muddy and the 200 RA stout had distinct chocolate and roast character. I was at that talk and tasted those beers. It was an experience that convinced me to get into the water part of brewing.
    jvodom likes this.
  4. I have been using the Bru'n Water calculator to not only target a specific water profile, but also my target mash pH given the grain bill. For an Irish Red I might target the Amber Malty water profile.

    Ca 55, Mg 5, Na 15, SO4 35, Cl 49
    Bicarbonate 105
    Total Hardness 158
    Alkalinity 87
    RA 45
    SO4/Cl Ratio 0.7
  5. The drwback with targeting color like John Palmers spreadsheet is that some of the crystal malts are much more acidic than the roast malts. C120 is almost twice as acidic per unit mass as a 500+L roast malt. We tend to use more crystal malts, so basing the mash on just color is very inexact.

    Bru'nwater is excellent. My last mash was targeted at 5.5 pH room temp. It measured at 5.47 pH, so I said "close enough, don't mess with it".
  6. "he said that you might get half of what you think you are as far as chalk goes."

    That's better than nothing... or using CaCl in my case, or more gypsum. I did say that I was under the impression that at least some of the chalk would dissolve in the mash and help the beer. And I've made numerous identical recipes that were all better when the water was corrected vs. when it were not. I wonder if one could compensate for incomplete dissolution of chalk in the mash by using slightly more than required. Either way I've been happier with my water corrected beers even if my chalk additions were only 50% effective.
  7. If you are happy with your beer, that is good.

    For the OP, "baking soda (increase the RA more and add sulfate), " is not correct. Baking soda is NaHCO3, so you are adding Sodium, and a bicarbonate molecule. Bicarbonate raises the mash pH. Sodium does not do much, and in high levels makes the beer salty tasting. You raise the sulfate with gypsum (CaSO4), or with Epsom salts (MgSO4).
  8. MookDawg

    MookDawg Aficionado (115) Vermont Aug 15, 2009

    Thanks for clarifying. I think I meant sodium, not sulfate... I did know that. What I've heard is chalk raises the RA a little, and baking soda raises it a lot. Apparently I need to add a bunch of stuff though.

    I'm looking at adding: 1g Gypsum, 2g baking soda, and 2g calcium chloride. This is what it gives me:
    Ca 69, Mg 4, Na 52, Cl 78, SO4 42
    Alkalinity 134
    Total Hardness 52
    RA 82
    SO4/Cl ratio is .5
  9. MookDawg

    MookDawg Aficionado (115) Vermont Aug 15, 2009

    And one more question/confirmation... I'm adding the baking soda to the mash, and the gypsum & calcium chloride to my sparge water?
  10. koopa

    koopa Champion (835) New Jersey Apr 20, 2008

  11. You want to put the gypsum and CaCL2 into the mash along with the baking soda. You want the calcium to help get the pH,. Treat the sparge water with the gypsum and CaCL2, but do not add the baking soda to the sparge water.

    Calcium is good for a variety of things, you want to stay above 50 in the wort. If you just treat the mash water you might end up low in the wort.
  12. MookDawg

    MookDawg Aficionado (115) Vermont Aug 15, 2009

    I've watched these vids, and the ezwater calc that I downloaded is different than these, and seems to be broken.
  13. MookDawg

    MookDawg Aficionado (115) Vermont Aug 15, 2009

    So baking soda in the mash, and then gypsum & CaCl2 in both the mash & sparge? So I should be doing all of these calculations for total volume of water then instead of just strike water? Or I'm doing two different calculations... one for strike and one for sparge? Feck...
  14. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (820) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    I thought you had found, by measuring pH, that you got 100% calcium dissolution in the mash (as reported in a previous thread). I was hoping for the details on that.

    BTW, picking lime and baking soda don't seem to have the same problems as chalk.
  15. Bru'n Water will automatically calculate the separate additions needed for both the mash and sparge water, including adjustments to avoid the alkalinity containing minerals from the sparge water (ie. Baking Soda, Chalk and Pickling Lime).
  16. This is what I do, you can use phosphoric acid instead of the sauermalz if you want.

    Baseline: Add 1 tsp of calcium chloride dihydrate (what your LHBS sells) to each 5 gallons of water treated. Add 2% sauermalz to the grist.

    Deviate from the baseline as follows:

    For soft water beers (i.e Pils, Helles). Use half the baseline amount of calcium chloride and increase the sauermalz to 3%

    For beers that use roast malt (Stout, porter): Skip the sauermalz.

    For British beers: Add 1 tsp gypsum as well as 1 tsp calcium chloride

    For very minerally beers (Export, Burton ale): Double the calcium chloride and the gypsum.
  17. I never once said that I get 100% chalk dissolution in the mash. I said that ever since I began using chalk in my particular recipes, it has worked well for me. Adding chalk to my mash water has really helped the mouthfeel of my IPAs, which once felt flat and watery. Additionally, I'm not brewing black or brown beers which require significant amounts calcium and increased alkalinity. So I don't need a whole lot of chalk dissolution for an effective outcome in my recipes.

    Baking soda is NaHCO3... it contains salt (Na) which I do not need, and it very drastically increases alkalinity, which I do not need. And like chalk, it is also recommended to add baking soda to the mash because of its limited solubility.

    Pickling lime (calcium hydroxide) is probably the best opition in terms of solubility, but it has pretty high alkalinity producing potential... something that I do not need in my particular IPA recipes. But when its added in larger amounts to boost extremely low levels of calcium in brewing water, it can really knock the pH off balance. When its added in the small amounts needed to control mash pH, it doesn't really convert into bicarbonate in the mash. It just consumes any acid it comes in contact with, converting those OH ions directly into H2O when an acid (H) is encountered.

    The main point here is that chalk has been used in brewing in the past, and it will continue to be used in brewing in the future. It can still be useful to help add some calcium without all of the other crap, and yet not drastically increase alkalinity. If I wanted to add calcium and alkalinity to a stout, then no... I probably would not use chalk. But for pale hoppy ales that require minimal boosts of calcium and alkalinity, yes... it works well.
  18. From Brunwater's water knowledge page. One has to watch the sodium level when using.
    " Baking Soda increases alkalinity and is readily soluble in water, but its usage should be limited if the sodium content of the brewing water is a concern. "

    Pickling lime is my choice for raising the mash pH, and is readily soluble. A gram scale helps to measure the additions. The one I have is 100 grams capacity and 0.01 grams resolution.

    I used chalk for years, but have found other ways to get the pH I need. If it works for you and your beers are good to your taste, great.
  19. Mineral dilution with water is not as straightforward as it is with wort dilution, due to the various ion buffering effects. You could always dissolve it in the water first to avoid this, but this is just an FYI. The high alkalinity and sodium content is really why I don't use baking soda. Plus, bicarbonate has a really bad taste.
  20. The bicarbonate will take up an H+ ion to form H2CO3 at mash pH. There will be very little bicarboante left in the mash at mash pH, and almost none at the beer pH, as the dominate form is H2CO3. I have never seen anything about baking soda not disolving in the mash.
  21. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (820) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    When you said in the other thread...
    "Your chalk will be absorbed well if you add it to the mash, btw. I do it all the time when I want to add Ca without the Cl."
    "I get clear beers with on point pH levels and great hop flavor."
    ... I assumed you meant your chalk actually dissolves and that the pH is at the level expected from full dissolution of the chalk. Why else state that it will be 'absorbed well". (I wouldn't consider 50% to be 'well'.) And how could the pH be 'on point' otherwise?

    If you want to add calcium without increasing your mash pH, you can add a lower amount of pickling lime and balance it with gypsum and/or calcium chloride (both of which provide calcium and lower pH). With those, plus pickling lime, you can add as much calcium as you want, and you can (really) get your mash pH 'on point', meaning you can predict it and hit it, because all three will dissolve completely, and the math is well established. (Bru'nwater or EZWater make it simple.)

    I think there's a certain irony to thinking that chalk dissolves well but doesn't raise the pH drastically...i.e. the reason it doesn't raise pH much is that it doesn't dissolve well.

    But if you're not concerned with precise mash pH, and chalk gives you the mouthfeel you want, then that's awesome.
  22. Oh Mick, drop it already. I know what I'm doing and I love my beers. End of story. No need to drag it out because it's not something you can wrap your head around. Chalk is great for adding to non-black/brown beers if your brewing water is already at the higher end in chlorides and low in calcium. I like using it in combination with gypsum to maintain pH without letting alkalinity get way out of control. I've found a balance by using both and it works "well". I understand the general reasoning of why chalk is scorned at by many homebrewers, but there is a place for it in homebrewing. For my water and the beer styles that I mostly brew, it helps. For your system, your water, AND/OR the styles of beers that you brew, it probably doesn't help as much as using lime or calcium choride. I get it.
  23. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (820) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    Sorry, but as long as you or anyone posts bad information (e.g. like chalk dissolving well in the mash), I will challenge it. I don't mean preferences or opinions in areas where facts haven't been well established, just the scientifically objective stuff. In other words, I personally don't care how you brew, just don't mislead anyone.

    The funny part is you quoted the part of my message that says exactly the same thing as you are saying. You like the mouthfeel you're getting. That's awesome. So if you tell somone that part, great. Maybe even helpful, if mouthfeel (and not pH control) is their goal.
  24. I'm not misleading anyone. I said a thousand times that chalk combined with gypsum works for "my" water profile, the beers "I" typically brew, maintaining proper pH and alkalinity without adding extra chlorides, sodium, or missing the mark on any other minerals while adding much needed calcium at the same time. I was very specific in this regard. Never once did I say that everyone must rush out and stock up on chalk and use it for every beer they brew regardless of their water profile.

    Plain and simple, chalk has a purpose in homebrewing. Whether or not you choose to accept it. I'm sorry that you have such a personal vendetta against chalk.
  25. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (820) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    Oh for god's sake. You claimed chalk dissolves well in the mash. It doesn't. That is the beginning and the end of my problem with your statements about chalk. I have nothing against chalk. As long as people get good advice about what it can and can't do, they can make their own decisions.
  26. Exactly. They don't need you telling them what not to do because every brewer has different water, brews different beer styles, and is after a different flavor/mouthfeel. I'm stating what has worked for me. I personally don't need 100% of chalk dissolution in my usual IPA mash to get the job done. And the other reason I use it is because it doesn't add anything else unnecessary or screw with my current numbers too much. My levels are on point, my beer tastes great, and the mouthfeel is leagues better than when I didn't use it. Who the hell cares about anything else? Why are you babbling on about this?

    What's next? Are you gonna tell me to eat an orange to get Vitamin C instead of taking a multivitamin, because the source of the vitamin in a pill is less available? What if I already have decent levels of the vitamin and don't need 100% absorption? What if I require more than plain Vitamin C? And more importantly, why the hell do you care so damn much? With your current line of thinking, there is only one way to do things. Black and white vs. Gray. No alternate methods exist. That's certainly not how we move forward in brewing better beers. That is more about regurgitation about what we have heard and what everyone already says and believes. People like Einstein wouldn't exist without alternate lines of thinking and novel ideas.
  27. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Massachusetts Aug 13, 2007

    Aficionado, have you ever asked yourself, "Why does everyone on the internet argue with me?"
  28. I actually enjoy intellectual debate. Why did you have something to add or were you just making chit-chat? ;)
  29. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Massachusetts Aug 13, 2007

    I'll add that most of it isn't intellectual. It may start out that way, but somehow it always runs down a different road.

    Your posts have this effect on people that make them want to argue, not sure where it comes from, but it sure is interesting.
  30. If you have something better to offer to clear things up, I'm all ears.
  31. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (820) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    Perhaps it's because you are deliberately obfuscating. Allow me to distill the essence of the conversation over the two threads...

    You: Chalk dissolves well in the mash.
    Me: No, it doesn't.
    You: Yes it does, my pH is on point and my hop flavor is great.
    Me: That's awesome. But it doesn't mean chalk dissolves well in the mash. Please don't make people think it does.
    You: I'm not misleading anyone. I make great beer. You can't wrap your head around it.
    Me: That's awesome. But it doesn't mean chalk dissolves well in the mash. Please don't make people think it does.
    You: Why are you babbling on about this?

    It's alright though, I'm done. Nothing will be solved by going any further.
  32. Clap, clap. Do you feel better now that you twisted the conversation into a line of reasoning that never occured in the way or the order that you illustrated? Seems to me that you are unable to distinguish that I am happier with my beers because I began making water treatments, but that fact that chalk is not fully dissolved does not matter in that regard.

    Me: Hmmm, my water profile is very similar to the OP's... maybe I can help by letting him know that my mouthfeel in my particular homebrews has increased by adding chalk while at the same time not adding additional unnecessary elements that would mess up my other mineral levels or screw with the pH/alkalinity too much. I'm under the impression that at least some of the chalk dissolves because the difference between not using it vs. using it is night and day and its better to use this than cal chlor, baking soda, or lime and muddle the water even more.

    You: Everything you say is wrong because I read it in a book somewhere. We as human beings must believe everything that's regurgitated all the time in order to move on as a society in collective agreement. No new ideas please.

    Me: I never said half the things you're saying. Why the hell do you care?

    You: Because your a bastard of misinformation. I'm right because I've read irrefutable scientific data which otherwise proves you wrong. Your methods are awful and chalk has no use in homebrewing. The earth is also flat. It doesn't matter how different your water profile is or what type of beer you're brewing. Chalk does nothing and I don't know why people still use it. I don't care what you say because it goes in one ear and out the other. The world is black and white.... there is no in between. If I'm right, then you must be wrong.

    Me: This guy has a small penis.
  33. MookDawg

    MookDawg Aficionado (115) Vermont Aug 15, 2009

    Just wanted to do a quick update. Thanks for all of your posts. I ended up using Bru'n Water for this batch. I definitely like that spreadsheet the best so far. I brewed today, and everything seemed to go smoothly. pH was in check with the mash adjustments, the sparge adjustments, and the final pre-boil reading. The only thing I wasn't sure how to handle was a mash out. I just basically did it with no adjustments and it seemed to work out just fine. Now I wait.

    Thanks again!