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Contribution of bicarbonate in water profiles

I’m somewhat new to the world of water treatments and I had a question about the profiles in BrunWater and how Bicarbonate plays a role in the finished product.

Judging by all the little notes in BrunWater, I get the impression that the only purpose of bicarbonate is to control the pH of the water. So the more bicarbonate your water has, the more acid you will need to add to achieve proper mashing pH. Or is there more to it than that?

For instance if my water currently has 100 Bicarbonate ppm and I want to make a Yellow Bitter profile (0.0ppm Bicarbonate), if I can hit my target in all other minerals, is there any reason to dilute my water to get closer to the desired profile or will just adding enough acid to the strike/sparge water make up for it or is there some other flavor/effect on the finished product where I would desire a lower bicarbonate level?

I’ve read up a bit on bicarbonate a bit since my water is quite high in it. Doesn’t appear bicarbonate has any direct flavor contribution other than in how it effects mash pH from what I’ve been able to understand. I have pretty high bicarbonate levels in my water so I use 85% phosphoric to get my mash pH where it should be.

You pretty much nailed it in my opinion. Bicarbonate has little value in brewing excepting for its ability to moderate pH.

The choice to dilute or add acid may be guided by the amount of acid that may be needed and the anion that composes that acid. If you had to add a boatload of acid, the resulting taste might be less appealing since you are adding that anion to the water while adding the acid. Phosphoric acid is considered to have less flavor contribution, but I’ve seen some people comment that they think the flavor is too candy-like. On the other hand, you can have an acid like acetic that is very notable at very low concentration. Sometimes an acid can be welcome when it adds to the overall flavor experience. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. When you can’t achieve the result you want by changing the acid type, then dilution will have to be your alternative.

Any effect on hops? Perceived bitterness, etc? I trust you on this, just wondering?

So that being the case, why are there different bicarbonate levels in BrunWater for different profiles? Ideally, shouldn’t they all be 0.0? Or are they there for more historical significance behind the style itself?

Because those profiles are intended for darker and more acidic grists. Thus the need for alkalinity increases as the color increases.

ynotbrusum, pH is the real driver with respect to the effect on hop expression and bitterness. Bicarbonate is just a driver in setting the pH.

Because those profiles are intended for darker and more acidic grists. Thus the need for alkalinity increases as the color increases.


I see, so the bicarbonate level on the Water Adjustment tab is more a rough estimate for the style where the Mash Acidification tab is more precise. And of course as I type this, I see the little context note on bicarbonate under finished water profile says that exact same thing…been a long week and it’s only half over :cheers:

I’m beginning to believe that bicarbonates, or rather their effect on pH, does have implications for “beer flavor” with regards to the variety and/or the amount of hops you are using. An error in my calculations led to water with more bicarbonate than I wanted (60ppm) and a higher pH (5.6) and resulted in a light beer that was a bit harsh in character. Of course I could attribute that to a misuse of Cluster hops but I feel that if I had used Amarillo instead I would have been “okay”.

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