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Brewing Pale-Colored Beers with Hard(er) water

In my quest to make Pilsners, American Lagers, Blondes, Cream Ales, light-colored Oktobers, Kolsch, American Wheat, Helles, etc., I have been spending some time getting my water, my recipe and my process to agree. I realized that the higher bicarbonate level in my water was causing some issues in my pale-colored beers and began down the path to dilute my brewing water with distilled or RO water. Eventually I started making softer water beers but then had some pesky haziness and some harshness as well and I realized that I may not be paying enough attention to mash and sparge pH. I was also mashing too thick and saving too much water for the sparge (and not checking the pH of the sparge) so I evened that out a bit and started mashing thinner so there would be less sparge water. Another thing I recently learned was that heating sparge water (for batch sparging) to 175° may not have any real benefit and may increase the chances of leeching tannins into the wort so I have been heating my sparge (or “rinse”) water to just 160°. The latest batch is just finishing up in primary so the jury is still out. But all of this prompted me to add some of this information to my BREWING WATER

page (go to the blue PALE BEERS logo about halfway down the page). For those out there with water that is not well-suited for these styles (and you’ve had the desire to brew these beers), please give me any insight you may have collected on this topic and let me know if I’ve missed anything or if I’m out in left field on any ideas on that page. There are links to Kai’s pH page (very helpful stuff there) and also the water primer put together by AJ DeLange with comments by Martin Brungard. One thing I took away from the water primer is that AJ has been experimenting with RO water and has gotten to the point of making beers with 100% RO water and little-to-no salt additions. He says that the softer the water and the lower the water ions are, the better the beer. Cheers Beerheads.

[quote=“Ken Lenard”]AJ has been experimenting with RO water and has gotten to the point of making beers with 100% RO water and little-to-no salt additions. He says that the softer the water and the lower the water ions are, the better the beer. [/quote]That’s interesting. I’m only 10 pages in to his water primer at HBT

but I’ve been building my RO water using his baseline mineral additions with good results.

[b]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.[/b]

[quote=“Glug Master”][quote=“Ken Lenard”]AJ has been experimenting with RO water and has gotten to the point of making beers with 100% RO water and little-to-no salt additions. He says that the softer the water and the lower the water ions are, the better the beer. [/quote]That’s interesting. I’m only 10 pages in to his water primer at HBT

but I’ve been building my RO water using his baseline mineral additions with good results.

[b]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.[/b][/quote]
Yeah, he hit a home run with that primer and made things easier for people who build their water. I think it’s on page 7 or 8 where he says that he has been making “some” beers with 100% RO and creating very low mineral content across the board and producing great beers. Martin winced a little bit about that finding. My issue is that the vast majority of homebrewers wave off some of the styles I want to make and even if I found some people who wanted to make these styles, they would have to have hard water to provide good information on this. AJ’s suggestion for a pilsner (for example), would be for me to use 8g of CaCl for 8 gallons of water plus 2% of the grist be acid malt. I think he’s backing down from that a little bit now.

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