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Bru'N'Water has me stumped... any experts in here?

I’ll admit that I am new to the product but I want to use it because I keep hearing people say that it gets them very close on pH and it takes away a lot of guesswork, etc. You get some very good predictability with it, as they say. So I made an amber lager last night and I had my BNW output ready to go. I’m going to include everything here in case someone sees where I went wrong… no point in being vague because it will lead to vagueness.

Beer: 7.75 lbs Best Malz Pils (2L), 1 lb Best Malz Vienna (4.5L), 8 ounces CaraMunich II (45L) and 2 ounces of C80. I entered all of that into BNW along with my source water and the fact that it was 25% distilled. The source water is Ca 34, Mg 12, Na 13, Cl 21, SO4 27 (that’s 9x3) and Bicarb 138. I mash with 4 gallons (3 gals tap, 1 gal distilled) and batch sparge with the same. I added .8g of CaSO4 to the mash as well as 3.2g CaCl. In BNW, I entered into tab 3 (light blue column) that it was .2g of gypsum per gallon of mash water and .8g of CaCl per gallon of mash water. The estimated color of the beer was about 8 SRM. BNW suggested that I needed 3ml of lactic acid 88% to get to a mash pH of 5.2. To be conservative, I added 2ml to the mash water before I heated it. I got everything mixed and took the pH with my meter (which had just read my 4.0 and 7.0 solutions properly as well as my tap water which is always 6.6… no trouble with the meter) and got 4.9. I measured the pH three times and it was 4.9 each time… I also cooled the sample to around 70° each time and one of the measurements was about 30 minutes into the mash). Remember too that this was with 1ml of acid less than BNW suggested. The color of the wort was right around the predicted 8 SRM or so… not darker. I’m not suggesting this is a bug because I’m sure it’s not. But I am clearly using this wrong. I have been through the tabs a hundred times. I must have a switch flipped or a setting wrong. I did email the file to Martin (sheepishly) but thought I would post it here. Anyone care to look at this? Thanks guys.

There is no spreadsheet that can successfully predict mash pH in all circumstances.

The spreadsheet may be able to accurately adjust ion levels for source and target water taking into account dilution.

pH adjustment is always, measure first, then adjust, one drop at a time.

[quote=“GeneticBrew”]There is no spreadsheet that can successfully predict mash pH in all circumstances.

The spreadsheet may be able to accurately adjust ion levels for source and target water taking into account dilution.

pH adjustment is always, measure first, then adjust, one drop at a time.[/quote]
But this is very far off and almost every brewer I have talked to tells me that it is always very, very accurate… within .1. I hear what you’re saying but this is not just a nutty inaccuracy, this has to be me using this tool improperly.

It probably won’t be any consolation Ken, but I also usually end up missing on the low side of pH, while I read most others, (when they miss) end up on the high side.

The Only time I’ve been way off though was when I used Rahr 2-row and Martin explains that in the instructions.

Makes me wonder though if all the different maltsters can cause slight variables to account for at least part of it. Then, when you throw in variances from yearly water differences. As for large variations, I’ve no idea.

[quote=“dsiets”]It probably won’t be any consolation Ken, but I also usually end up missing on the low side of pH, while I read most others, (when they miss) end up on the high side.

The Only time I’ve been way off though was when I used Rahr 2-row and Martin explains that in the instructions.

Makes me wonder though if all the different maltsters can cause slight variables to account for at least part of it. Then, when you throw in variances from yearly water differences. As for large variations, I’ve no idea.[/quote]
Damn, that figures. I usually hear people say how great BNW is and now I hear from people who have trouble with it! LOL.

Anyway, I did hear about the Rahr Pale Ale malt thing and I hear you about the water but my water is very consistent all year long. A slight difference in grain color is not going to cause such a huge discrepancy so it’s got to be something I’m doing wrong.

Ken, I looked at the sheet you sent me and I don’t see anything wrong with your inputs. I agree that the resulting mash pH should be what you measure, but reportedly that is not the case. I’m assuming that you have been calibrating your meter and are confident in its measurements. Another thing that should be looked into is the way the acid and mineral quantities are measured. Are they correct and verifiable? I can’t figure out what else could be troubling this situation.

The fact that the low pH result is consistent is troubling, but it does give you some direction. Its just that it would be nice to not have to guess what you should be adding…it sort of defeats the utility of the program!

I agree with the inputs for your tap water. Its typical Lake Mich water quality.

[quote=“mabrungard”]Ken, I looked at the sheet you sent me and I don’t see anything wrong with your inputs. I agree that the resulting mash pH should be what you measure, but reportedly that is not the case. I’m assuming that you have been calibrating your meter and are confident in its measurements. Another thing that should be looked into is the way the acid and mineral quantities are measured. Are they correct and verifiable? I can’t figure out what else could be troubling this situation.

The fact that the low pH result is consistent is troubling, but it does give you some direction. Its just that it would be nice to not have to guess what you should be adding…it sort of defeats the utility of the program!

I agree with the inputs for your tap water. Its typical Lake Mich water quality.[/quote]
Martin: Thanks for the reply. I truly appreciate it as you’re the best person to see this issue and maybe point me in the right direction. I have a small digital scale that weighs things out in grams and ounces and it has been very solid for years. If I set it to ounces and pour a 1-oz bag of hops into the hopper, it’s an ounce or possibly slightly low or high but that could be the fine people at my LHBS measuring out the hops from a larger bag. My meter has shown some unusual signs in the past but some of that may have been me. But I have it purring now and measuring the calibration solutions and my tap water (always 6.6, always) and so I think my meter was spot on yesterday when I made this beer. Today I put the meter into a glass of tap water and it measured 6.6 so I don’t think that’s it. Also, my acid additions are with a milliliter-marked dropper. I’m sure that I could be off by some uber-small amount but not enough to cause this. Do you see anything in my BNW file that suggests I have something entered incorrectly? I have to say that I’m appalled because so many people have said that they have gotten such precise results and the only way I would imagine that I was off was because I didn’t use it properly. Thanks again for the help. It’s possible that for the foreseeable future I need to disregard shreadsheets and instead just deal with reality and measure the mash pH and adjust accordingly. If you see anything else that I may have futzed up… please let me know. Cheers.

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. When I shoot bullseye pistol, all 10 shots don’t go into the same hole, much less the X ring.
Martin’s program has gotten me into the 8 ring as far as water goes and that’s going in the right direction for me. It’s also been a great help in understanding water in relation to brewing. It’s nice when I do hit the “X” w/ it but I’m perfectly content w/ my scores that group consistently to one side. I would be more concerned if they were all over the target.

Does any of that make sense? I think I should go to bed. :slight_smile:

[quote=“dsiets”][quote=“Ken Lenard”]
Damn, that figures. I usually hear people say how great BNW is and now I hear from people who have trouble with it! LOL.
[/quote]

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. When I shoot bullseye pistol, all 10 shots don’t go into the same hole, much less the X ring.
Martin’s program has gotten me into the 8 ring as far as water goes and that’s going in the right direction for me. It’s also been a great help in understanding water in relation to brewing. It’s nice when I do hit the “X” w/ it but I’m perfectly content w/ my scores that group consistently to one side. I would be more concerned if they were all over the target.

Does any of that make sense? I think I should go to bed. :slight_smile: [/quote]
HA, LOL my friend. Yes, you make sense.

I’ll just say that without using BNW, I might use EZ_Water, get into the zip code and then adjust from there. But so many people told me how accurate BNW was so I really liked the sound of mapping out the whole beer ahead of time, mixing up the mash and getting the right pH or very close. I should probably back off of my expectations and understand that even Martin wouldn’t assume that everything is magic… it’s a tool like anything else. But still… in this case I was quite off. Quite, quite off. So maybe I just need to understand how it works and adjust my expectations a little bit.

Now go to sleep! :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t have a pH meter and have never really trusted the strips all that much. I have blindly accepted that brunwater would get me in the ballpark of proper mash pH. This is the second thread I’ve seen in a week stating a rather significant difference. Chinaski found a discrepancy in about the same range as your’s Ken. I think his tested to 4.0 with strips. viewtopic.php?f=1&t=121461&p=1061820&hilit=brunwater#p1061820

Clearly I need to get a meter…I was hoping to avoid that.

I brewed a 10 gal batch on Sunday had to cut my tap water 50/50 with distilled then add 13 grams gyspsum(IPA shooting for 300 ppm sulfate) and 5 ml 85% phosphoric. est room temp ph was 5.3 I got 5.49 (20 min into mash) I added 1 more ml and got 5.41 called that good. So it wasn’t dead on but pretty close and a lot closer than I would have got with out bru’n water. Not sure if that helps. This is the first time I have check, I just got a meter. I have done 5 or so batches with just blind faith and they turned out good, but I brew a lot of highly hopped beers with a lot to hide behind.

UPS is delivering my new meter tomorrow. I plan to brew on Friday, check all the acid additions with the meter and document it all. I’ll share my findings.

I can’t say I’ve noticed any ill affects in my beer if I’ve been over acidifying using Brunwater and I don’t brew highly hopped beers. I considered just continuing to blindly follow Brunwater’s recommendations since the beer has been good. Appears the geek in me won out and I ordered the meter.

I think a meter is a good thing in general. I posted this same thread over on HBT and Martin is not quite sure what happened. Could be BNW (doubt it), could be something out of the ordinary (ice melting created less alkaline water in my area, grains were darker than expected, etc) or could be human (ME!) error or that I was just not using BNW correctly. I have another batch coming up this week and I’ll be watching everything very carefully. Cheers Beerheads.

Good luck with the brew and keep us posted. Cheers.

Could be you have a batch of base malt with a lower pH than average. Crush a few ounces of grain, put it in distilled water (about half a cup per ounce at about 165 degrees F, to get near 150) and take the pH after about 15 minutes.

For Pilsner malt, B’nW probably expects a 5.75 pH. For Vienna malt, a 5.55 pH.

[quote=“Slothrob”]Could be you have a batch of base malt with a lower pH than average. Crush a few ounces of grain, put it in distilled water (about half a cup per ounce at about 165 degrees F, to get near 150) and take the pH after about 15 minutes.

For Pilsner malt, B’nW probably expects a 5.75 pH. For Vienna malt, a 5.55 pH.[/quote]
That is possible but it would have to be pretty severely off… this is a 50lb bag of Best Malz Pils and most of the other beers I have made with it behaved themselves.

[quote=“Ken Lenard”][quote=“Slothrob”]Could be you have a batch of base malt with a lower pH than average. Crush a few ounces of grain, put it in distilled water (about half a cup per ounce at about 165 degrees F, to get near 150) and take the pH after about 15 minutes.

For Pilsner malt, B’nW probably expects a 5.75 pH. For Vienna malt, a 5.55 pH.[/quote]
That is possible but it would have to be pretty severely off… this is a 50lb bag of Best Malz Pils and most of the other beers I have made with it behaved themselves.[/quote]Similarly colored malts can have distilled water pH that vary by 0.3, perhaps more.

Not a clue why you’d get results that far off Ken, certainly must be pretty frustrating. The numbers and quantities you used don’t look out of line (without entering all of it in) compared to what I do. You know what you’re doing with the meter but the only thing I can figure is some sort of error in measurement.

Update from another batch:

Got up at 5:30 this morning to make a batch of my Signature Ale. This is a 60-minute-hopped-only beer so I took a flyer on a hop that I hadn’t used before… Opal. I used 7 AAU of Opal (which looked very vibrant and green and had a nice aroma to it) for 60 minutes. I figured that this bittering-only beer would be a good way to see how it performed. It was a smooth brewday… 100% filtered tap water, acid and salts added to the mash water instead of the MT (as Martin suggested), BNW suggested 3ml of acid in the mash required to get to pH of 5.2. I added 1.5ml and needed one more milliliter to reach 5.2 so BNW was pretty close. Got my sparge pH down with 2ml acid (BNW predicted 2.45ml) and everything lined up nicely. Quick chill, oxygenated and pitched a second generation of WLP090 which seems like a lovely yeast so far. A much smoother brewday than the one I originally posted about. I’m going to keep me eye on all of these variables and I’m going to be cautious about when I add “ahead of time” so I don’t go overboard with anything. I’ll add a percentage of acid to the mash water and if the mash pH measurement is high, I’ll add more acid then so I don’t get a 4.9 mash pH or whatever. Cheers.

So do you think that maybe the difference was adding the minerals and acid to the mash water, versus to the grain/mash water? Just getting it mixed up better? It would be interesting to go back to the recipe in your OP to see if this brings pH where you expect.

And if you do need to add more acid after testing, maybe pull some of the mash water, mix acid in that, and then stir that back in? Maybe even add over multiple pulls to make sure it’s getting mixed in?

I don’t have a good understanding of water chemistry, but it seems to me that real chemistry people understand these functions, and a spreadsheet ought to do a pretty good job of predicting results, if the inputs are good. I have not tried entering your numbers, but I think that even the ‘normal’ variation in grains or maybe seasonal variation in Lake Michigan water would not throw you off that much. So maybe getting the minerals and acid thoroughly mixed is the main variable?

I’ve been leaning towards thinking the formulas are better than color-strips, and I don’t care to futz with a pH meter, so I’m hoping I can trust the formulas! So far, no conversion problems, or issues that seem to relate to minerals. I’m using my own RO water, and manage to get by w/o any acid additions. I will get a TDS meter to check my RO, but I’m pretty sure it still works well, based on my crude tests (compare deposits after evaporating some softened-pre-RO and post-RO, and also some uncalibrated electrical conductivity tests I did that showed a 10x difference before/after - just a 9V battery and a current meter).

-kenc

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