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Finally figured out my water

After a few email exchanges with a very helpful and friendly guy at our water department I have most of the info I need. The big hurdle was that their web site listed two sources for our water. He cleared that up by telling me that ours is exclusively from one of them.

Here is what I have in mg/t:
Sodium 7.1
Sulfate 24
Magnesium 8.97
Calcium 33.5
Chloride 26
Alkalinity 100

He sent me a link that had everything but alkalinity. I had to email him again to ask for it. Bicarbonate and alkalinity are the same thing?

Bu’n water comes up with and estimated pH of 5.85 slightly basic, correct? So add a little lactic acid.

The grain bill I entered will be for my next brew. This is kind of fun. I always thought it would be a PIA.

That’s awesome, lucky you have a single source.
So do you think bicarbonate is the same as alkalinity? I had read that total alkalinity was the sum of 3 different carbonates but I haven’t pursued it any further. I may ask my son… He is a bio-engineering grad student so if he doesn’t know he can prob ask someone, and then possibly explain it to me in terms I can understand.

I went by what Bru’n water had for the minimum water info and it said “alkalinity or bicarbonate”. Neither was on the water departments list. From what I can Google the two things that affect alkalinity are carbonate and bicarbonate. I know not much about it though. At least I have a starting point.

I assume how the water dept. guy figured out our source was on the online contact form it asked for our address and account number @tominboston . Can you contact yours to ask? My next step might have been to send a sample out to be tested but if there were two sources and they possibly mixed or switched them then it would be useless.

My Neighbor down the street is an all grain brewer and he came to the conclusion after much back and forth that he would nee to have each batch of water tested to be sure he knew what he was getting as even when they switch the sources you can get a mix.

I asked my son this am for his take on the Alkalinity and bicarbonate relationship : (now I have to get him to break this down so non-MIT people like me can maybe understand… ) .

On Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 8:18 AM, <tbrown wrote:
Do you know how total alkalinity relates to bicarbonate in water?

Poland springs analysis gives total alkalinity ( as CaCO3) as a range of 6.1 to 210. Seems like a pretty wide range.

Bru’in water is looking for bicarbonate ( as HCO3) and I have no idea if there is some kind of relationship. I read somewhere that total alkalinity is made up of the sum of 3 carbonates.

Bru’in water seems to calculate the alkalinity.

It would be great to be able to measure this per batch of water if there is an easy test. I test the pool water for alkalinity but it’s prob not the same.

Let me know if you have an idea about this.

Sent from my iPhone

They are the same. Anything that will accept an H+ from water generates an OH- and increases the alkalinity (pH) of the water. The major player is carbonate (CO3) which becomes biocarbonate (HCO3) and carbonic acid (H2CO3). Although to a lesser extent there can be things like phosphates, borates, etc but these are probably not present to any significant amount in the poland spring water.

Carbonate always exists as a salt in solid form (either NaHCO3 sodium bicarbonate or CaCO3 calcium carbonate). When that gets dissolved the Na or Ca go off on their own, and the carbonate or bicarbonate will take some H+ away from the water to stabilize itself, becoming H2CO3 (carbonic acid). It’s more complicated than that because the species exist in an equilibrium, not a complete conversion.

When you measure alkalinity by titration you’re soaking up all of the OH- that was produced by the carbonate (or anything else that might be present) taking H+ away from the water. So you aren’t distinguishing what the source of the carbonate is (CaCO3 vs NaHCO3), you’re just measuring how much carbonate is in the water now. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that all the alkalinity in poland springs water comes from carbonate, so you could probably use the same test and input that number directly.

If this is something I cannot measure easily somehow then my next step will probably be putting in an RO system. Then I won’t need to lug 10 gal of spring water from the grocery store and all the plastic that comes along with it.

Since my supposed alkalinity is 100, that range even though large would put it somewhere in the 100 area.

In his email he did say around 100 so that is the only figure I have to go with.

I will say that part of your explanation did have me glaze over a little bit so hopefully some one will spell it out for us non-scientific brewers. When I gets too complicated I remember my beer tastes good to me so try not to make it like work. No harm in trying to make it better of course.

A pH of 5.85 would be acidic. 7.0 is neutral. Are you sure your water pH isn’t 7.85? That would make it basic or alkaline. I don’t think alkalinity and bicarbonate are the same. My water is not much different than yours. My alkalinity is 92 and bicarbonate is 112 with a pH of 7.5. In Palmer’s How to Brew book, he goes into an explanation of alkalinity, and if I remember correctly, he has some calculations in there that might help you figure out the rest of your missing numbers. He just came out with a new edition.

Your water doesn’t look too bad @hd4mark. Here’s Bru’n Water which is a must read when it comes to water. @mabrungard dis a great job with breaking down each section.

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RA being high means it will take more to change the pH lower… Also, the higher the RA, the darker brew can be made… So in Plsner, the RA is quite low, it makes it very easy to make a light brew, Why? It seems to me, that the light malt alone has enough potential to lower the pH without additions, which can change the flavor, possibly infringing on the pure malt flavor so sought after in a pils… Sneezles61

Yup, I had it backwards. The 5.85 (really 5.82) was calculated by the Bru’n water spreadsheet and has a lactic acid addition to the sparge, I guess.

A comes before B in the alphabet…so 0-7 is acidic and 7 to 14 is basic.


^^^^ Keep going Unc… Sneezles61

So then is C, for carbonate… or there about… You put B+C and A has on heck of a fight to win… Does that help to keep it simple? Or, C could be a B, buffer… Either way, the more of carbonate, bicarbonate, the alkalinity is suppose to be higher, so it takes a bit more acidity to help get the pH lower… Thats part of the why its needed to complete the rest of the story… Sneezles61

If I did this correctly my water adjustment is nothing in the mash and add 7.7ml lactic acid to the (16 gallon) sparge water. That’s about .3oz, almost nothing. Is it even worth it?

When I am told to add the lactic acid by beersmith it is usually around the same… 8ml … which is about a teaspoon or so I think. According to beersmith it takes the mash ph from about 5.5 to 5.2 (in my case) and when I measure the last two batches 15 min into the mash I was at 5.21 on my meter. Only takes me a second to add it so I figured what the heck… I have enough other challenges so i like to eliminate all I can.

My mash adjustment was zero, the lactic acid is supposed to go in the sparge water. How much water was in your mash @tominboston ? This small amount is in 16 gallons.

Do you have a meter? How about test strips? My testing is done by adding to the water, test, looking at 5.8 before mashing in… My carbonate is around 220 ppm. It takes a bit more acid to over come the high carbonate … Without looking at my sheets, I added 1-1/2 tablespoon to 13 gallons… I did come in at 5.1 pH. Sneezles61

I have had the test strips for years. They are a little hard to read though. I wast just kind of surprised how little acid wad added. Made me think I goofed something in Brunwater.

For my Irish red ale just brewed, the mash water volume was 13.86 quarts. Brew smith called for 8 ml lactic acid.

Ah yes, I looked back to your water report and the Alkalinity is low enough, not as much buffering action, so it didn’t take much to lower the pH Sneezles61

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