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Is There An Error In Brewing Water Calculators?

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Wolfy

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This applies to 'Palmers_Metric_RA', 'Ez_water_calculator' and 'Kaiser_water_calculator' - as far as I am aware they are the most common 'brewing water calculators.

Each of the calculators work well for determining the salt concentrations within the mash.

In addition both Kaiser and Ez also give a an 'Resulting' (overall/total) water profile, and Palmer highlights the chloride to sulfate ratio.
The reason for providing the 'total' ion concentrations is related to the recommendations in 'How to Brew' (pp 154-166) (eg: Ca 50-150, Mg<50, Na<150 etc) and also the balance of chloride to sulfate.
In the book, most ion concentration recommendations are related to taste & perception in the resulting beer (high Na, SO4 gives harsh bitterness, high Cl tastes mediciney), as is the chloride to sulfate ratio.

However, the spreadsheets calculate the 'Resulting total' on the full volume of water used, and not the batch volume, meaning they do not take into account losses in the mash or to evaporation etc.
(Losses such as cooling, trub, and dead-space are not a problem because the ppm concentration will remain the same, however, mash and evaporation losses potentially concentration the ions.)
This could mean that the 'real' total concentration of ions in the final beer may be significantly different to what the calculators suggest, so the 'real' ion concentration could be outside of what is recommended even if the calculator 'Resulting total' says it is fine.

[codebox]Simplified example:
Source water: 10ppm Calcium
Grain: 5kg Pilsner malt
Water: Strike: 20l, Sparge 20l (that equates to a pre-boil volume of ~32l and batch volume of 24l)
(40l water @ 10ppm adds 0.4g of Calcium)

Add 10g Gypsum (because our base water's 10ppm is not enough Calcium, and chloride to sulfate ratio is too malty).
(10g of Gypsum adds about 2.33g of Calcium)

The water calculators will now tell us how much Calcium is in our mash: 125ppm.
Also that the 'Resulting water profile' has 67ppm Calcium.

However, we've lost* ~8l water retained in the mash, and then another ~8l boil-off, so our 'resulting' volume is the 24 batch volume, not the 40l of water we started with.
As a consequence the salts (0.4 + 2.33 Calcium) are concentrated into the smaller volume batch volume, resulting in a 'real' Calcium concentration: 114ppm
(Which is very different to what is provided by the calculators).

* Ignoring cooling and equipment losses for the sake of simplicity.
[/codebox]

Note: I didn't sleep yet, so please feel free to correct any mistaken assumptions.
 

glenwal

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I don't know much about adding salts and water profiles (I stick with what comes out of my tap), but aren't the levels most important for the mash and not for the final beer, meaning that any volume is pre any mash or boil off losses?
 

Wolfy

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The concentration of ions in the mash concentration is essential since it allows an estimate of the pH.
However the 'total' ion concentration recommendations in 'How to Brew' are almost all about the final beer, which is after evaporation and mash losses (as is providing ions for yeast-health and fermentation issues).
 

MHB

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We are talking about stuff in solution, so all losses would have the same concentration in effect you are removing the salts with those losses.
The only time any concentration occurs is during the boil and you are concentrating the wort by 10-15% and yes the salt content would go up by 10-15%. However a reasonable amount of Ca and other ions get bound up in trub formation and lets face it the recommended concentrations are Ranges a with a spread a lot wider than 15% more like 50%.
I wouldnt get too excited about the issue, start with a good midrange concentration and you will end up with a good mid range concentration just make sure you have enough Calcium and all will be well.
Mark
 

Wolfy

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Under the table on the page you linked, there is a description, ion concentration range and brief description. Eg:
Sulfate (SO4-2)
Brewing Range = 50-150 ppm for normally bitter beers, 150-350 ppm for very bitter beers
The sulfate ion also combines with Ca and Mg to contribute to permanent hardness. It accentuates hop bitterness, making the bitterness seem drier, more crisp. At concentrations over 400 ppm however, the resulting bitterness can become astringent and unpleasant, and at concentrations over 750 ppm, it can cause diarrhea.
The suggested concentration range is related to flavors (and other factors) in the resulting beer, after the ions are concentrated into the fermentor. The calculators do not appear to take this into account, and as per the example above, salt-ions are going to be more concentrated in the fermentor than in the full amount of water used (which is what the calculators use to determine the 'Resulting total' concentrations.


I wouldn’t get too excited about the issue, start with a good midrange concentration and you will end up with a good mid range concentration – just make sure you have enough Calcium and all will be well.
Mark
Not excited so much as suggesting a potential error in some popular (and useful) spreadsheets.
I'd also be curious to know just how much of the salt-additions actually make it into the end beer (likely there is a large factor of error there), hence I'm curious if it is actually just a 'stuff in solution' situation or some ions bond to proteins in the kettle and fall out, or to grain in the mash and are not transferred through (as examples).
 

glenwal

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The suggested concentration range is related to flavors (and other factors) in the resulting beer, after the ions are concentrated into the fermentor.
Ahh, makes sense now, thanks. :D
 

Thirsty Boy

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Under the table on the page you linked, there is a description, ion concentration range and brief description. Eg:

The suggested concentration range is related to flavors (and other factors) in the resulting beer, after the ions are concentrated into the fermentor. The calculators do not appear to take this into account, and as per the example above, salt-ions are going to be more concentrated in the fermentor than in the full amount of water used (which is what the calculators use to determine the 'Resulting total' concentrations.



Not excited so much as suggesting a potential error in some popular (and useful) spreadsheets.
I'd also be curious to know just how much of the salt-additions actually make it into the end beer (likely there is a large factor of error there), hence I'm curious if it is actually just a 'stuff in solution' situation or some ions bond to proteins in the kettle and fall out, or to grain in the mash and are not transferred through (as examples).
Lots of stuff binds with stuff, or reacts with stuff, or just plain comes out of solution.... but mostly its calcium.

If you start with the concentrations sugggested in most of the texts - well, they're suggested as starting amounts, because when its all over and in the fermenter, you're left with enough calcium to do the job.

After that you're left princiaplly with chlorides, sulphates and carbonates you need to worry about from a flavour perspective. The majority of that, assuming you dont have huge quantities of any of them, is down to the ratio between chlorides and sulphates, which is more or less going to stay the same in the final beer as it is in your "whole" water quantity.

If it hapens that your total amount of any given ion is so high that it might conceivably approach the "off flavour" threshold from a total ppm perspective in the final beer, even after any potential concentration in the boil, then i suggest that your whole approach to water chemistry is arse about. Half, no... Quater, no.... an Eighth the amount of anything and everything you are adding to your water, check that that will still leave you with enough calcium and if so, you have enough crap in your water to do everything that needs to be done, stop there.

If your water already has that level of stuff in it - treat it, dilute it, RO it, import other water. Just dont add extra things to it to try and make it balanced.

Carbonates - well, I have a well known disdain for carbonates, just minimise them in every circumstance and you pretty much cant go wrong. If you must add the damn things, do it very very minimally, and if that means to you, so much sodium bicarbonate that the sodium part of the salt becomes a flavour issue..... then I am coming around to your house next time you brew and I'm gonna personally slap the measuring spoons out of your hand before you do anything silly.
 

Wolfy

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... and if that means to you, so much sodium bicarbonate that the sodium part of the salt becomes a flavour issue..... then I am coming around to your house next time you brew and I'm gonna personally slap the measuring spoons out of your hand before you do anything silly.
I at least take my salt-additions seriously enough to use micro-scales and add them by weight measure not a spoonfuls at a time. ;)
... but thanks for the useful info.
 

Thirsty Boy

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I at least take my salt-additions seriously enough to use micro-scales and add them by weight measure not a spoonfuls at a time. ;)
... but thanks for the useful info.
That was a general rather than a personal "you"

and - well - i stopped using micro scales for my water chemistry quite some time ago, I've got a set, I just stopped believing that its all that important.

Here's how water chemistry goes in the Thirstyboy brewery

Hoppy beer - 1 heaped tspn of Calcium Sulphate (except for pilsners)
Malty Beer - 1 heaped teaspoon of Calcium Chloride
Balanced Beer - 1/2 heaped teaspoon of both
1 large pinch of Magnesium Sulphate in every case
3-4 drops of lactic acid in the sparge water

If the word "very" would sensibly go in front of the words hoppy or malty in the above classifications.... then maybe an extra half teaspoon of the relevant salt.

After years of studying this stuff - i honestly belive that thats as complicated as it ever needs to be if you have blank canvas water like the stuff that comes out of the tap in melbourne.
 

kieran

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(ed: for melbourne water)

Hoppy beer - 1 heaped tspn of Calcium Sulphate (except for pilsners)
Malty Beer - 1 heaped teaspoon of Calcium Chloride
Balanced Beer - 1/2 heaped teaspoon of both
1 large pinch of Magnesium Sulphate in every case
3-4 drops of lactic acid in the sparge water
Nice thirstyboy, easy as.
 

bum

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Nice thirstyboy, easy as.
Seconded.

I'm only just starting to think about treating my water and was looking at something more complicated than outlined above. I'll give it a bit of the ol' close enough is good enough and get more detailed if I feel it necessary later on.

Thanks, TB.
 

Kai

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Once upon a time, I spent on inordinate amount of time calculating how all the factors in the brewhouse affected the water chemistry. Loss to grain, minerals from grain, salt additions in the mash, salts in the kettle, evaporation, dilution, losses etc. etc.

Then I remembered it's called water chemistry for a reason.

MHB's and Thirsty Boy's points apply.
 

christmas

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Hoppy beer - 1 heaped tspn of Calcium Sulphate (except for pilsners)
Malty Beer - 1 heaped teaspoon of Calcium Chloride
Balanced Beer - 1/2 heaped teaspoon of both
Sorry to jump off topic here, but if you're making salt additions simply to round out hoppiness/emphasise maltiness etc (as opposed to adjusting mash pH or providing ions for the yeast), is there any reason this can't be done post fermentation?
 

QldKev

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IMHO the mash is where we extract a lot of both desired and undesirable flavours. Whilst we do need to ensure there is enough target minerals to ensure a good fermentation, I think all these water calcs have a primary focus on the mash. Myself I'm concentrating on the mash, as it where we extract / develop the wort. Our first goal is to hit the correct RA and get our mash pH correct. Yes I'm worried about yeast health, and ensure there is adequate components for the ferment, and also how these salts will effect the final taste of my beer. I use the EZ Water Calc, and you will see it separates the mash and sparge water. This way you can have the correct water for both the initial mash and the sparge water addition. Even if you choose not to adjust the sparge water, it also shows the overall water profile.

I find my salt additions are different for a malt driven dark beer, than a malt driven light beer, otherwise you won't hit the target pH and risk extracting those undesirables such as tannins.

I've seen these generalised statements several times
Hoppy beer - 1 heaped tspn of Calcium Sulphate (except for pilsners)
Malty Beer - 1 heaped teaspoon of Calcium Chloride
Balanced Beer - 1/2 heaped teaspoon of both

But to any new brewers be aware. As a rule of thumb it may work for the brewer using that, but their source water may be completely different to yours. My current water source is borderline high on sulphate, and adding more would be the last thing I would want. (I've actually converted to using rain water as a starting base due to it)


QldKev
 

fraser_john

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<snip>

3-4 drops of lactic acid in the sparge water

<snip>
Wow, that is a lot of lactic acid, guessing it is the 88% stuff? I find that with Geelong water, one drop is sufficient to get 26 liters from 6.? to around 5.1.

Or, TB, is your goal to get it sufficiently acid to ensure tannin leeching is reduced to a minimum during sparge and ensure a low enough pH in the boil for good flocculation of proteins?
 

QldKev

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Wow, that is a lot of lactic acid, guessing it is the 88% stuff? I find that with Geelong water, one drop is sufficient to get 26 liters from 6.? to around 5.1.

Or, TB, is your goal to get it sufficiently acid to ensure tannin leeching is reduced to a minimum during sparge and ensure a low enough pH in the boil for good flocculation of proteins?

How much you need would depend on the level of RA in the water. I'm guessing your water is quite low in salts.

Rain water would react fairly easily to a change, where as the spring water we have on our mains here (different from Bundy itself) would need a lot more.
 

Thirsty Boy

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That three to 4 drops takes it from around 7 to about 5.5, and yep, it only there to keep the pH low during the sparge because I sparge pretty thorougly.

Kev - as i specifically said in my post, thats as complicated as it has to be with blank canvas water like melbourne tap water. That amount of calcium gets you the right mash pH, and then its just about which calcium salt you use to match your desired flavours.

And at any rate - I dont think its a whole lot more complicated than that anywhere else either. If you have water that chock full of dissolved solids - use different water (perfectly good water falls from the sky after all) - if its not soft as butter like Melbourne's, but not "that bad" then you are still pretty much down to just adding a calcium salt of some description to lower your mash pH. So the only difference really is that you would add 2 or maybe 2.5 teaspoons where I add only one. If your water cant be fixed by that, then you always have acid, but I suggest that you'd be much better off starting with rainwater or RO, then you can keep additions minimal.

Low pH is quite frankly hardly ever an issue - even in soft water like Melbourne's, the mash pH of a dry stout is more or less within the acceptable range, most other waters its going to be better. OK, some people will have way out there water where its not.... but all you have to do is measure your mash pH and see. If its too low, then you do something about it.

This water chemistry stuff is touted about as so important, and treated like its so complex. It just isn't! Measure your pH - if its too high treat your water to lower it next time. If its low, either do nothing because thats actually not all that much of an issue, or treat it to raise your mash pH next time. The treatment is always going to be one of three calcium salts, or perhaps in extreme cases, some acid. But you're better off getting better water if you have to resort to acid.

So, so much more simple than people make out, and an order of magnitude more simple than so many people who are struggling with it believe from all the hoo ha they hear.
 

MHB

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As much as I loathe doing it here is a +1 for Thirstys comments.
Personally I blame those trying to make a living out of selling brewing books and magazines, they cant just keep saying the same thing over and over so they start digging into minutia and build it into mountains.
Unless there is a real problem with your water, make sure you have enough Calcium and itll be fine.
A good basic understanding of water chemistry and an ability to make sure you water is within bounds is all you need unless you have a very particular requirement.
Mark
 

danestead

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Bringing up an old thread here, but I've been wondering the same for a while and today decided to sit down and nut it out. It may have been answered or spoken about already but this is what I've done.

I use the EZ Water Calculator. I've edited the formulas to allow for my grain absorption (0.5L/kg grain) and evaporation. This way the calculator which is already great, gives me a more accurate 'Total' summary of the various salts in my water.
 

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