Vitamin C for chlorine/chloramine removal

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by minderbender, Mar 20, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. minderbender

    minderbender Initiate (199) Jan 18, 2009 New York

    A little while ago there was a thread on water chemistry, and I mentioned adding vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to remove chlorine or chloramine. For those of you who might not know, chlorine and chloramine are often added to tapwater to kill pathogens. Both chemicals can lead to off-flavors in beer. Chlorine comes out of solution relatively easily (for instance, you can boil the water or just let it sit out for a while before you perform the mash). Chloramine is more persistent. There are a variety of ways to remove them from water before brewing.

    At the time I suggested using Vitamin C, I was basing the idea of using Vitamin C on this information from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission:

    Can Vitamin C be used to remove chlorine and chloramine for bathing purposes?

    SFPUC and other utilities have used Vitamin C for dechlorination prior to environmental discharges of chlorinated and chloraminated water. Since ascorbic acid is weakly acidic, the pH of water may decrease slightly (Tikkanen et al., 2001).​

    . . .​

    SFPUC determined that 1000 mg of Vitamin C (tablets purchased in a grocery store, crushed and mixed in with the bath water) removed chloramine completely in a medium size bathtub without significantly depressing pH.​

    After I posted my suggestion, I emailed Martin Brungard about the issue, and he kindly updated the "Water Knowledge" section of his website. The short version of his answer is that Vitamin C will effectively eliminate chlorine and chloramine, but it may depress the pH of the water. (But read the whole section, it is concise and helpful. In fact, read the whole page.)

    I bring this up because Vitamin C is very cheap in the quantities that homebrewers would use it, and I feel comfortable adding it to my mash/sparge water in those quantities (we are talking about at most a few hundred milligrams for a 5-gallon batch, I would think, and maybe even that is overkill) [EDIT: yes, it is overkill, see below]. Also, while I have never used Campden tablets, Michael Tonsmeire (aka OldSock) has reported problems using them (for instance in this recipe). Vitamin C seems unlikely to cause comparable problems, so for some people it may be a better option. It should also be easy to find in a grocery store or drug store. I was able to find Vitamin C crystals in a local grocery/health store, and it seems easier to measure that way than it would be in tablet form (though it is hard to measure milligrams, even by the hundred, at least on my scale). I think the price probably comes out to around a penny or two per batch.

    Anyway just passing this along for your consideration. Personally I intend to add a few hundred milligrams of Vitamin C to my mash/sparge water from now on, to prevent chlorine off-flavors in my beer. I will report if I notice any problems that result (though of course, it may be difficult to trace any particular problem to the Vitamin C).

    [edited for formatting]

    [UPDATED [twice - second time to fix math] to add: I checked NYC's water report, and the highest observed level of Free Chlorine Residual was 1.74 mg/L, with an average of 0.63 mg/L. This means that according to Martin Brungard's numbers, I can use about 1 mg/L of Vitamin C, or about 30 mg of Vitamin C in 8 gallons of water - and that is conservative, since that would take care of the highest observed level of chlorine. However, realistically I can only measure in 100's of mg's, and I don't mind adding a little extra, so I will probably end up using between 100 and 200 mg of Vitamin C per 8 gallons of water.]
     
  2. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Disciple (362) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Trader

    Very cool info. Yet another use for the universal antioxidant.
     
  3. DrewBeechum

    DrewBeechum Meyvn (1,289) Mar 15, 2003 California
    Premium

    Nice to see another technique out there. Strange that OldSock is reporting issues with Campden. In order to stun yeast, you need a fairly large dose of SO2 dissolved in your must/wort and I have a hard time picturing enough surviving the boil to make a difference. Even the amount that we add directly shouldn't be enough to stun a weak yeast starter.
     
  4. minderbender

    minderbender Initiate (199) Jan 18, 2009 New York

    Yeah, I mean, I guess it happened to him twice in fairly rapid succession in 2008, first with a Flanders red ale (see the notes at the bottom of the recipe), and then with a barleywine. Who knows why he had trouble where other people seemingly haven't. I don't have any insight, as I have never used Campden tablets. I will say that if I were giving advice to someone, I would probably advise using Vitamin C or a carbon block filter for chlorine/chloramine removal, and not Campden tablets.
     
  5. OldSock

    OldSock Zealot (571) Apr 3, 2005 District of Columbia

    It could have been bad luck, but two times was enough for me to buy a new carbon filter. Haven't had a batch before or since that took so long to get started. Who knows? Seems to work well for plenty of people.
     
  6. Treb0R

    Treb0R Aspirant (268) Dec 12, 2012 Oregon

    I would be concerned that using Vitamin C would have an affect on flavor. It is acidic and usually citrusy tasting when you buy it in supplement form.
     
  7. DrewBeechum

    DrewBeechum Meyvn (1,289) Mar 15, 2003 California
    Premium

    Yeah, that is strange. I haven't used a carbon filter at home in about 4 years.
     
  8. CASK1

    CASK1 Aspirant (293) Jan 7, 2010 Florida

    Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is associated with citrus fruit, but I think it is citric acid that lends the citrusy taste.
     
  9. Treb0R

    Treb0R Aspirant (268) Dec 12, 2012 Oregon

    True. So, I guess the real advice here is to buy unflavored, neutral ascorbic acid and not just a generic Vitamin C, which may or may not contain other elements. You may still sense a small amount of acidity though.
     
  10. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (735) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    I'd be really hesitant to blame the campden. What you show adding to the water is about 1/10 what would be recommended to treat the same volume of must, and that would be to kill a weak, low cell count of wild yeast. I can't imagine a robust pitch of US-05 even batting an eye at that.
     
  11. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Disciple (362) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Trader

    Taste 30 mg in 8 gallons of water? I don't think you are going to taste that. You could probably throw a full gram (1000mg) into 8 gallons of water and be unable to taste it. No way you could taste it in beer. Add a pinch of vitamin c to a glass of beer and see if you can taste it.
     
    VikeMan likes this.
  12. OldSock

    OldSock Zealot (571) Apr 3, 2005 District of Columbia

    As I said, probably bad luck, but to have two beers not start for 3-4 days, with starters and standard pitching/fermentation temperatures, and then start up quickly after repitching was too much of a coincidence for me to try it again without any motivation. Carbon filtration does just as good a job, and living in DC probably has other advantages as well.
     
  13. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,396) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I almost always use one campden in the mash, as it is an antioxidant that will delay staling. No fermentation problems here.
     
  14. Naugled

    Naugled Defender (613) Sep 25, 2007 New York

    I've used the ascorbic acid you can buy at the homebrew shops as an antioxidant. I think I used 1 gram/5gal of beer. I'd have to check my notes. You can definitely taste and smell it when it is first added. It has a vitaminy taste and aroma, like you get when you open a bottle of vitamins. But it does seem to disappear after a few days.
     
    Treb0R likes this.
  15. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (735) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    A whole tablet is definitely overkill, assuming you're not a nanobrewery. That's enough to treat 20 gallons.
     
  16. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Disciple (362) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Trader

    Pure ascorbic acid is nearly odorless. B vitamins smell strong, particularly B1 (thiamine)
     
  17. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,396) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I am not treating the water for chlorine. I am adding to the mash to reduce oxidation. This technique has been around for a long time, read about it in the late 90s I think.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.