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Brewing chemistry - acid necessary?

I see myself as a good brewer; despite the fact that I know very little about chemistry :frowning:

That being said, I am trying to read “Water,” and hope it educates me.

I’ve always wondered- if you add appropriate “salts,” to the mash, does that alleviate the need to mess with adding “acid”? (ie if add gypsum, etc to distilled water to produce a certain water profile, can you omit adding acidulated malt to the grist or adding lactic acid to the mashwater altogether?)

Thanks

[quote=“beermebeavis”]I see myself as a good brewer; despite the fact that I know very little about chemistry :frowning:

That being said, I am trying to read “Water,” and hope it educates me.

I’ve always wondered- if you add appropriate “salts,” to the mash, does that alleviate the need to mess with adding “acid”? (ie if add gypsum, etc to distilled water to produce a certain water profile, can you omit adding acidulated malt to the grist or adding lactic acid to the mashwater altogether?)

Thanks[/quote]

No, not necessarily. It depends on the water you start with and the beer you’re brewing. I just made a German pils that used CaSo4, CaCl2, and lactic acid.

Adding minerals to achieve an appropriate mash pH is a fool’s errand in most styles. Only a few beer styles benefit from elevated mineralization. It is FAR better to employ an acid to produce an acceptable mash pH and keep the mineralization as low as needed and let the other beer components (not the water) do the talking.

Yeah, I think it’s just another tool that you have in your toolbox and its function is to lower the pH of the mash, sparge or preboil wort. Could you use acidulated malt, more CaSO4 or CaCl (all of which lower mash pH) and bypass acid altogether? It’s possible but as Denny mentioned, it would depend on your water, salt additions and the style of beer. Some people like acid malt because they like to stick to the German purity law or whatever while others assume that lactic acid is the exact same thing and will have the same result so why not just use that? I have acid malt in my ingredients and I have lactic acid at the ready any time I need to lower the pH of anything.

Yes, there are a number of variables that will lead to proper mash pH. I started working with my water chemistry a couple of months ago and found, that because I have quite “soft” water from the Mississippi River, I don’t have to adjust the chemistry other than to get the SO4/Cl ratio right and enough Calcium to make the yeast happy. For mash pH, I have had to add, at most, less than 3 ounces of acidulated malt because there isn’t much alkalinity in my source water to buffer it toward the basic side. I like this better than messing with acids that can be dangerous if spilled. While this approach hasn’t increased my mash efficiency much (in my case, the equipment seems to be the limiting factor since my efficiency is very consistently in the upper 70s), I think it’s improved the flavor (although that may be still a bit early to tell). I’ve also noticed better hot and cold break since adding more Calcium and, perhaps, a slight increase in attenuation. I realize I’m very lucky to have the water source I do and that many home brewers struggle with hard water sources with high RA. So, with little alkalinity to deal with, my water source allows me to adjust mash pH with a small amount of acidulated malt. But if you have a lot of alkalinity, you may need to deal with adding an acid solution.

[quote=“Denny”][quote=“beermebeavis”]I see myself as a good brewer; despite the fact that I know very little about chemistry :frowning:

That being said, I am trying to read “Water,” and hope it educates me.

I’ve always wondered- if you add appropriate “salts,” to the mash, does that alleviate the need to mess with adding “acid”? (ie if add gypsum, etc to distilled water to produce a certain water profile, can you omit adding acidulated malt to the grist or adding lactic acid to the mashwater altogether?)

Thanks[/quote]

No, not necessarily. It depends on the water you start with and the beer you’re brewing. I just made a German pils that used CaSo4, CaCl2, and lactic acid.[/quote]
+1 It depends on the water you start with and the beer you’re brewing. Mine is too alkaline so I cut it with 50% or more distilled using Martin’s excel sheet. I then add some gypsum and calcium choride back in just to give it more ideal calcium content. Doing this I usually don’t need to add acid at all.
If i’m brewing a stout my water is pretty much ready to go “as is.”
Two good web pages if you’re wanting to mess with water:

https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/ https://producers.wardlab.com/BrewersKitOrder.aspx
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