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Cincinnati-area brewers, dark beer advice?

I live in N. KY and I’m looking for some advice from Cincy brewers about their water treatments for darker beers (Porter/Stouts). I’ve been successful in making porters and stouts by adding the roasted grains with bout 20 minutes left in the mash (I batch sparge), but have heard many times from brewers who don’t worry at all about water chemistry in our area and make very good dark beers without additions. While mine have been good, I know they can be better and I’m wondering if I worry too much about water.

FWIW, I always carbon filter, but I usually just use gypsum and CaCl in the mash and kettle depending on the style (hoppy/malty). And I try to refrain from chalk/lime/baking soda additions as often as possible. We have an ever-changing water supply in this area.

So, for those of you in the area, how do you handle water for your dark, roasty beers?

http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/cityofcinc ... ty-report/

From a quick glance at a summary found on a homebrew site, you have water slightly harder than mine. Download and learn Bru’n water. Bottom line is you will need more alkalinity to offset the acidity of the dark grain. I remember my beers having a thinner body and celery like roasty flavor before proper treatment. Try mixing a pinch of baking soda in a pint of your dark beer and see if it improves the taste. It should…

I think your strategy of steeping dark grains would work better if you did it in the kettle not mash but I have never personally tried this technique but some swear by it including Gordon Strong.

I prefer baking soda for such adjustments. If you don’t want to dive into water treatment, spreadsheets, and gram scales, just try adding 1 tsp baking soda to mash.

While there are seasonal fluctuations in water supplies I cannot imagine it varies that much but a call to a good tropical fish place would confirm that. Those dudes will be checking daily…

When I make dark beers, Brunwater usually tells me additions are not necessary. I’m a bit east of Cincy but not too far. In the car right now with grains for a porter, will plug everything in to Brunwater when I get home and share my water profile.

Awesome. I appreciate you doing that.

I’m assuming you just mash everything together, correct?

I do, everything goes in my grinder, then the mash.

Here is my water profile - Monroe-Tate supplies my water and their info was insufficient. I sent my water to Ward Labs this summer for testing.

All info in PPM
Calcium (Ca): 40
Magnesium (Mg): 7
Sodium (Na): 43
Potassium (K): 2
Bicarbonate (HCO): 167
Carbonate (CO3): 6
Sulfate (SO4): 45
Chloride (Cl): 26
Nitrate (NO3): 1.8
Fluoride (F): 1.1
Reported Total Alkalinity (as CaCO3): 147
pH: 8.1

Brewing 6 gallons of Brown Porter
9.5 lb Crisp Maris Otter 3L
1 lb Thomas Fawcett Brown 145L
1 lb Briess Crystal 40L
10 oz Briess Chocolate 350L

According to Brunwater if I do nothing to my water my mash pH will be 5.3 which should work just fine! :cheers:

[quote=“Hades”]I do, everything goes in my grinder, then the mash.

Here is my water profile - Monroe-Tate supplies my water and their info was insufficient. I sent my water to Ward Labs this summer for testing.

All info in PPM
Calcium (Ca): 40
Magnesium (Mg): 7
Sodium (Na): 43
Potassium (K): 2
Bicarbonate (HCO): 167
Carbonate (CO3): 6
Sulfate (SO4): 45
Chloride (Cl): 26
Nitrate (NO3): 1.8
Fluoride (F): 1.1
Reported Total Alkalinity (as CaCO3): 147
pH: 8.1

Brewing 6 gallons of Brown Porter
9.5 lb Crisp Maris Otter 3L
1 lb Thomas Fawcett Brown 145L
1 lb Briess Crystal 40L
10 oz Briess Chocolate 350L

According to Brunwater if I do nothing to my water my mash pH will be 5.3 which should work just fine! :cheers: [/quote]

So, you’re adding nothing at all? Have you made this recipe before without water additions, and if so, were you happy with the results?

I’m thinking that I just need to make a simple porter with everything mashed and see what happens. May be I’m over-thinking it.

I’m curious though, what additions you do make with a grain bill that has enough acidity to pull your pH below the proper level. Is there a particular salt that you use in this case?

Oh, and one more question (sorry for so many): batch or fly sparge? And do you ever acidify your sparge water?

Thanks again, for your help with this.

5.3 is more like for lagers where the yeast won’t drop the pH much. With a porter you want a higher pH like 5.5-5.6. I prefer 5.6 for dark ales. 5.3 is acceptable and will yield beer but nothing like pro beer. The sodium contribution of baking soda accentuates the dark grains too. Perfected my porters 20 years ago…

As far as I know and have read, pH matters during the mash, and an acceptable range for conversion is between 5.2 and 5.8 when measured at room temperature, with an optimal range between 5.3 and 5.5 for any beer (after factoring in grain).
Chinaski: I have not brewed this beer before. It is based on a recipe in Brewing Classic Styles, and modified to fit what I found at the LHBS. I have not yet had occasion to raise my alkalinity, so far I have only needed to lower it. For this I use the Brunwater spreadsheet and cut the water with distilled, then add Gypsum and Calcium Chloride to boost calcium and chloride levels.

So, with a darker grain bill, how much baking soda do you need to get into the 5.5 range? I’m assuming you’re having to raise your pH when using a more acidic grain bill.

And if it’s not too much too ask, what might your final water profile look like?

I missed two of your questions. I won’t typically acidify my sparge water, although I have before. I batch sparge and my sparge water isn’t really in contact with the grain long enough to matter from what I have read. I don’t think it would hurt anything to add acid either, assuming it is a reasonable amount.
My sparge water usually receives the same treatment as my mash water. My mash and sparge technique is similar to what you will find at www.dennybrew.com

[quote=“Hades”]I missed two of your questions. I won’t typically acidify my sparge water, although I have before. I batch sparge and my sparge water isn’t really in contact with the grain long enough to matter from what I have read. I don’t think it would hurt anything to add acid either, assuming it is a reasonable amount.
My sparge water usually receives the same treatment as my mash water. My mash and sparge technique is similar to what you will find at http://www.dennybrew.com[/quote]

Sounds like you and I do basically the same thing. I batch sparge, but leave the sparge in contact with the grain for 10 minutes. I use Bru’n water as well, but one big difference we have is that any gypsum or CaCl that is needed for the sparge, I put directly in the kettle. I read somewhere a long time ago that you could do this. Can’t imagine it makes a big difference, but maybe I’ll switch it up next time.

I appreciate your help and advice with this. I think I might try salt additions that push my mash pH into the 5.4-5.5 range just to see what happens. I need to try it without any additions as well to see the difference.

If you remember, let me know how this porter turns out. If you don’t remember, no worries.

Thanks again.

pH matters at every aspect of the brewing process but mashing is the most critical since if the reaction does not occur within proper range, starch will not convert to sugar and there will be NO BEER. Hades is textbook correct and that is a great strategy, but brewing is both science and art.

I didn’t bring up sparge water acidification to keep things from getting too complicated. I batch sparge too so we’re in the same boat. Denny’s no acid batch sparging method works for him because of his water. It does not work with our water, I’ve measured it. My technique is to acidify my sparge to that of my mash pH with phosphoric acid for ales. (5.6 if I was doing porter) That said, the mash for porter (dark beers) will have a better buffering capacity/resistance to pH change and most likely the pH will stray too far and you’ll be likely be OK if you don’t acidify. That said, sparging without acid on a pale beer WILL cause the pH to rise too high, affecting the beer.

All this porter talk is making me want to brew but I brew outside in the garage… At least we have a 30F heatwave coming!

Good point about some brewers not acidifying their sparging water…because their water already has low alkalinity. For the rest of us with alkalinity greater than about 25 ppm, you really should acidify. Sparging water is in contact with the grains for plenty of time and can leach tannins and silicates into the wort. It is such an easy thing to do and isn’t worth skipping when the alkalinity is too high.

My alkalinity as CaCO3 is right around 100. Should I be acidifying sparge water for all my beers? Or maybe just for beers with very acidic grists?

My understanding is that gypsum and CaCl will bring the pH down, but I reserve any sparge additions for the kettle. I should mention that I use your spreadsheet. Would adding these salts to the sparge water instead of the kettle acheive the same, or lesser, effect as adding acid?

[quote=“Chinaski1217”]

My alkalinity as CaCO3 is right around 100. Should I be acidifying sparge water for all my beers? Or maybe just for beers with very acidic grists?

My understanding is that gypsum and CaCl will bring the pH down, but I reserve any sparge additions for the kettle. I should mention that I use your spreadsheet. Would adding these salts to the sparge water instead of the kettle acheive the same, or lesser, effect as adding acid?[/quote]

Yes, I would acidify sparge water for every beer (my water is 90); Adding Ca salts to sparge does not work like acid. Good question! I tried this years ago and was puzzled when I measured it and it didn’t work. I am not entirely sure why, I think it’s a limited reaction. Anyway, just add the salts you would typically add to sparge into kettle to hit you water comp numbers. Bar none, my favorite part of Martin’s Bru’n Water is the sparge acidification tab!

Interesting! This all raises some new questions. I have utilized the Sparge Water sheet in Brunwater before but was never really sure about what my starting sparge water pH would be if it was cut with distilled water. I’m assuming the buffering power of the grains would be reduced since I have already mashed and therefore cannot rely on the pH listed in the Mash Acidification tab. I suppose I may finally have to use the pH meter I bought a couple months back…

OR I suppose I could use 100% distilled water for sparging and just add some gypsum and calcium chloride to boost calcium content.

Zwiller do you have any references to final pH by beer style? I haven’t read anything on this and would like to look into it.

:cheers:

I don’t think it’s necessary to acidify distilled water for sparging, as there is no alkalinity. I wouldn’t use distilled water for sparging unless I was doing a delicate lager/pils. (I cut 50/50 for lagers and use lactic acid for them, but sparging with distilled is a long overdue experiment I want to try since I am sensitive to lactic acid) In any event, I think our water is pretty good and versatile for brewing nearly all style with the proper adjustments.

I trust Bru’n water so much I no longer use my meter (needs electrode). I ran side by side tests when my meter was dialed in and Bru’n water performed great. That said, having a meter is great tool. Be sure to read up on using it though. I basically ruined the first few I had but not much was known about them in those days… First thing I would do was compare pH of your favorite beers (room temp and flat) and yours.

There isn’t any real concise final pH by style info out there since there is alot of art and/or preference to this. It is also my opinion that this info is limited because pro brewers spend a lot of time and/or money towards education or experience for this info. IE My first porter was 1992… In any event, 4.5 is a pro benchmark for shelf life/food safety. I think lagers are a bit lower 4.0 or so, ales 4.2. Sour beers under 4.

[quote=“Hades”]Interesting! This all raises some new questions. I have utilized the Sparge Water sheet in Brunwater before but was never really sure about what my starting sparge water pH would be if it was cut with distilled water. I’m assuming the buffering power of the grains would be reduced since I have already mashed and therefore cannot rely on the pH listed in the Mash Acidification tab. I suppose I may finally have to use the pH meter I bought a couple months back…

OR I suppose I could use 100% distilled water for sparging and just add some gypsum and calcium chloride to boost calcium content.

Zwiller do you have any references to final pH by beer style? I haven’t read anything on this and would like to look into it.

:cheers: [/quote]

Wait, when you sparge with distilled water, does the pH settle at what the mash pH was? Or at least close enough that one can avoid using acid?

[quote=“Chinaski1217”]

Wait, when you sparge with distilled water, does the pH settle at what the mash pH was? Or at least close enough that one can avoid using acid?[/quote]

Yes. Its the alkalinity that produces the power to alter the mash pH. In the case of mashing, the phosphate buffer system dominates the mashing pH. By avoiding the inclusion of the carbonate buffering (through alkaline water addition), you avoid altering the mash pH to any great degree. That is why its imperative to reduce alkalinity in the sparging water and not really the pH of that sparging water. pH is not really a great indicator, but it is an easier parameter for most people to monitor. That is one reason that its more common to target pH than alkalinity. For those of you using Bru’n Water, if you read the Sparge Acidification page info, you will see that the goal is less focused on the target pH and more focused on getting your sparging water to an acceptably low ALKALINITY.

As many have found, if your starting water has very low alkalinity, you DON’T have to acidify the sparging water. There is very little alkalinity to neutralize. In addition, it would only take a drop or so of acid to drop the pH of very low alkalinity water anyhow. So you are OK not to acidify distilled water or RO water.

Martin beats me to it… :smiley:

I think that pH should remain the same as mash pH if you sparge with distilled water provided you don’t use so much sparge water you raise pH by dilution. (don’t sparge with more water than was in mash) I use 1.6 qts water per lb in my mash. You might have an issue if you use 1qt per lb mash thicknes, but even if you do exceed this and pH creeps up a tiny bit via dilution you are better off than using straight tap water…

If you use distilled water for your sparge, you will have to adjust water constituents in the end somehow. Also not cost effective in the long run if you brew often enough. Do NOT use RO water! A LHBS container of acid and an oral syringe lasts a LONG time. I have been using acid for so long I don’t think much of it, but I can imagine it could be weird to some.

Martin, can I ask your opinion about something? If a brewer makes statements about the beer being “all natural” could they still be utilizing acid in their process? I think phosphoric and lactic acids are natural… Further, a brewer could even claim they are organic while using lactic acid? Just curious.

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