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Help with Water Report

Just got a water report from my local water authority. I had no trouble reading most of the report but this one part confused me a bit and I could use a bit of help deciphering.

“HCo3 We do not test for Bicarbonate, but do test for Alkalinity as CaCO3 at pH 4.5 192 mg/L”

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

If you were interested in the rest of the report here it is for part of North Penn Water Authority in Pennsylvania:

Forgot to post the rest of the report:

Mineral mg/L

Calcium (Ca) 78.6
Magnesium (Mg) 36.3
Sodium (Na) 22.1
Sulfate (SO4) 32.4
Chloride (Cl) 88.1

pH 7.6

Palmer has a conversion table in HTB: http://howtobrew.com/section3/chapter15-1.html

The Bru’n Water spreadsheet also has a calculator on the Water Report Input worksheet that will convert CaCO3 to Bicarbonate.

Phenomenal, thanks guys. I’m all set now.

O.K. So how do you determine CaCO3, given the water report from above? You need it to calc. HCO3 and most water reports have neither.

Sorry this report indicates CaCO3 but mine does not. Is there anyway around that to get HCO3?

(Alkalinity as CaCO3 / 61) * 50 = HCO3 (ppm)

It’s on the How to Brew site that a10t2 posted above.

As for determining your bicarbonates without any of the information you referred to, John Palmer says:

[quote]Water Hardness, Alkalinity, and milliEquivalents
Hardness and Alkalinity of water are often expressed “as CaCO3”. Hardness-as referring to the cation concentration, and alkalinity-as referring to the anions i.e. bicarbonate. If your local water analysis does not list the bicarbonate ion concentration (ppm), nor “Alkalinity as CaCO3”, to give you an idea of the water’s buffering power to the mash pH, then you will need to call the water department and ask to speak to one of the engineers. They will have that information.[/quote]

Sorry to dredge this up, but it’s fairly recent and I have a related question.

My water report includes this line:
Alkalinity | mg/L | 33

Is it safe to assume that this is Alkalinity as CaCO3, or is mg/L of Alkalinity a different measure entirely?

Hopefully the former, because the receptionist at the lab is not very willing to help, and is sick of me calling, despite my perfect ‘miss manners’ attitude :slight_smile:

[quote=“ickyfoot”]
My water report includes this line:
Alkalinity | mg/L | 33

Is it safe to assume that this is Alkalinity as CaCO3, or is mg/L of Alkalinity a different measure entirely?[/quote]

Alkalinity could be measured as CaCO3 or HCO3, but I think CaCO3 is more common.

Mg/L ~ ppm. It’s not EXACTLY the same thing, because mg/L is based on the weight 1L of pure H2O at standard temp and pressure. 1L of water weighs 1kg, so mg/L = mg/kg = ppm. Any substance other than pure H20 will have a different density, although for what you’re doing, I doubt it would change the results by more than +/-1ppm.

I thought mg/l to ppm was a non issue as the overall conversion is 1.0 mg/l = 1.001 ppm

At any rate as stated to another board member earlier this week you can take your Alkalinity as CaCO3 either mg/l or ppm and times this number by 1.22 to arrive at your bicarbonate/ HCO3 number needed.

So Alkalinity as CaCo3 at 33 mg/l X 1.22 = 40.26 HCO3 and as this does not need to be measured down to the grain thus my comment above your bottom line would be 40 as your current HCO3 number.

This was posted above by live?:
(Alkalinity as CaCO3 / 61) * 50 = HCO3 (ppm)
I think you misunderstood what John was trying to convey which is this:
TO GET: HCO3 (mEq/l) FROM: HCO3 (ppm) DO THIS: Divide by 61
Just to clarify for the new guy so he can start to get this straight. Alkalinity as CaCO3 is not HCO3 they are completely different. Alkalinity and Bicarbonate numbers are completely separate from one another.

Great, thanks nateo and ItsPossible. With those comments in mind, I’d like to go over my understanding of my water profile. Everything below arises from things I’ve learned on John Palmer’s site
http://www.howtobrew.com/intro.html
. If either of you or anyone else would be so kind as to read this over and point out any errors and answer a couple questions, I would be ever so grateful :smiley:

Here’s my water profile:
Alkalinity - 33
Calcium - 15.7
Magnesium - 4.9
Sodium - 15.3
Sulfate - 6.8
Chloride - 35.4

Bicarbonate:
If Alkalinity is HCO3 - 33
If Alkalinity is CaCO3 - 40.25

Softness:
I’m concerned about the Calcium and Magnesium levels. My understanding is that if these aren’t high enough, there might be problems with enzymatic activity during mashing, which I take to mean the mash will be low in fermentable sugars. Is this true? If so, is it easy and cheap to make alterations to these aspects of my water profile? Also, am I correct that pH is the primary factor determining how dark I can go with the water from my tap, and that nutrient levels just determine “maltiness”?

Alkalinity:
If I plug the Caribou Slobber all grain ingredients into the EZ Water Calculator

it returns a predicted pH of 5.65 whether I select Alkalinity or Bicarbonate in the last column. This is just outside the ‘ideal’ pH range (5.4 - 5.6), but close enough that I think it would be worth making that my cut off for darkness from a pH standpoint when I start exploring all grain brewing.

Other Factors:
Regarding the less “critical” factors (Sulfate, Chloride, Sodium), the EZ Water Calculator implies that I can expect enhanced maltiness (Chloride/Sulfate ratio of 5.1) and subdued hoppiness (low sulfates). This is fine for me, as I like malty beer these days, and figure I’ll know enough to compensate should my tastes change someday.

Overall:
It seems like the alkalinity will allow me to brew with some darker malts (enabling brown ales), but the softness will downplay the malty flavors, while the low sulfates will help prevent the hops from becoming overpowering unless that’s my goal. Does this sound about right? Finally, if I wanted to brew a stout or black beer, would I be better off sticking to extracts or treating my water?

Bicarbonate:
If Alkalinity is HCO3 - 33
If Alkalinity is CaCO3 - 40.25

You may have missed my corrected post to help clarify this but municipals will report your Alkalinity as CaCO3 and by doing the math you convert Alkalinity into an approximate number of bicarbonate thus:
If Alkalinity as CaCo3 = 33
Your Bicarbonate/ HCO3 = 40

Softness:
I’m concerned about the Calcium and Magnesium levels. My understanding is that if these aren’t high enough, there might be problems with enzymatic activity during mashing, which I take to mean the mash will be low in fermentable sugars. Is this true? If so, is it easy and cheap to make alterations to these aspects of my water profile?

Your Mg is fine do not alter this amount.
Yes you do want to boost your levels of Ca for a variety of reasons. Typically you want above 50ppm

Also, am I correct that pH is the primary factor determining how dark I can go with the water from my tap, and that nutrient levels just determine “maltiness”?

No, Your tap PH really has nothing to do with any calculation it is the Alkalinity in general and mineral composition of your water vs the buffering ability or lack of buffering from the presence or absence of dark grains in the mash.

Here is an easy way to break through in understanding the concepts at work here.
Many past brewing scientists including board member Braukaiser have shown that base malts mashed with distilled water at a PH of 7 or neutral that has no/ trace mineral will be in around 5.8 at mash.
Now when darker malts are added they acidify the mash naturally and lower the PH.

When doing a distilled mash of 100% pils for example you will have to "un"naturally acidify the mash with acids or sauermalt or a sourmash or acid rests in the past. Acids being the primary way by homebrewers and this starts to become a topic of personal preference.

The “perception” of malty to bitter is regulated only by the amounts of SO-4/ sulfate to CL/ Chloride. In your case you will naturally have beers that vie towards a malty profile unless you add a touch of gypsum.

As this covered only one paragraph of the question/s and more to come I can be sure of from my past learning and the fact that the questions above kind of run into one another, I can and will cut to the chase here.
I have offered this in the past but if either of you wishes to PM me a beer recipe along with your reports again that you have in mind for the near future( be certain to include your original mash infusion amount IE:3.5 gallons etc…also include the tap PH because I will need that to assist in lowering your sparge water PH. I will include sparge in this PM as its also important, you can choose if you personally need to adjust your sparge water on your own. Also identify if you wish to generate a malty/ neutral/ bitter profile or I will automatically generate a neutral profile for you.) I will use Bru N water to give you a range of additions that should open the door to understanding of how to manipulate your water correctly. Sure there are many ways of doing things such as the acids comment above. But I can give you my way of simple approach and you can form your own SOP from there. This does not hold true for only these two individuals it takes a millisecond for me to gather these findings and shoot a PM back so anyone can feel free to take me up on this offer if they wish.

Thanks again, ItsPossible, especially for the offer of an analysis when it comes time for my first all grain brew! It will probably be at least a month or two, so I will add you to my NB friends list and hit you up when the time comes.

To clarify, pH above was referring not to water pH, but to EZ Water Calculator’s predicted mash pH based on my water profile and Caribou Slobber all grain recipe. So, to rephrase, my understanding is that my Alkalinity buffer won’t allow me to go much darker (according to a 5.4 - 5.6 “optimal” range) than a brown ale.

Final quick question: can I make good beer with my water as is? If not, would simply boosting calcium be enough? I’d really like to determine what my water can do well “as is” (or as close as possible to “as is” as possible) and then alter from there as needed to expand stylistic options and increase darkness.

Without looking at specific recipes and a range of SRMs I am shooting from the hip that you will be fine asis to be right on at maybe 5-10 SRM? I have an HCO3 of 60 on average and I know from past experience that I can do asis 8-14. So gold to lt brown should be fine asis. But that being said adjustment is super easy once you do it the first time and do hit me up when your ready to go. I think you’ll be amazed at what the details are and will be confident to do any recipe with your tap with three things in hand a. Acid b. Lime c. Gypsum is really all you need every brewday to hit optimal mash PH, sparge and profile.

BTW if you really had no other option which you do, 5.65 is not a life shattering terrible place to be its much better than 5.8-6.0 But honestly 5.5 as a tops is really where you want to be. Your sparge starts to become the bigger topic as your final runnings if starting at 5.65 will surely top 6 if sparge is not adjusted. But I am delving pretty deep here. I say download Bru N water for free and read Martin B’s primer within the suite. Read Braukaisers website along with John P’s stuff and more and more will make sense. I think the all in one PM will give you all you need to be primo! :mrgreen:

Awesome, I’ll download Bru’n Water and will get back to you when the time comes.

Thanks again!

Alkalinity is the ability of the solution to neutralize an acid. When something reports “Alkalinity as CaCO3” it’s not actually a measure of the CaCO3 in the solution, it’s saying “the ability of this solution to neutralize acid is equivalent to the ability of a different solution of pure H2O + X amount of CaCO3.”

Alkalinity in your water can come from carbonate, bicarbonate, phosphate, or diphosphate. The actual amount of carbonate and bicarbonate is very dependent on the pH of the solution. When you add malt, the different compounds in the malt affect the pH and alkalinity too.

The long and short of it is that mash chemistry is terribly complicated, and not easy to model accurately. EZ water is almost always wrong, from my experience. Something like Bru’n Water is a lot better, but not really a substitute for mashing in, testing with a pH meter and adjusting if necessary.

Yeah, I definitely won’t take anything as gospel that isn’t a brew day measurement. At this point I’m mostly just trying to learn (I’ve only made 3 extract brews) and figure out if my water profile says “fix me, you have no options!” or “you can make some types of beer without adjustment.”

It sounds like the latter is the case. And, to my uneducated understanding, it seems like my calcium and magnesium levels suggest I’d want to go with lighter beers than my alkalinity might allow.

Is this correct? If so, which is more important in choosing how dark to go with my first all grain? I love malty brown ales, so ultimately I’d like to get there, but, EZ Water Calculator results notwithstanding (they actually imply I should go a little darker and lower pH), this seems too dark for my water profile.

I realize we’re talking probabilities here, not absolutes. I just don’t wanna try something that is probably not well suited to my water and will require me to deal directly with chemistry in addition to the new processes involved with switching to all grain.

There’s not really a relationship between calcium/magnesium and beer color. Darkly roasted grains and alkalinity are the big factors in mashing. Lighter kilned malts affect the pH much less than dark grains. Like C-120 will be much less acidic than black patent.

Don’t worry too much about the water chemistry. The mash pH range is pretty large, and there are a handful of benefits from mashing down as low as 5.2. Except for tannin extraction from high pH, bad things don’t really happen when you deviate from that range. You might be surprised by the range of beers you can make without much adjustment to your water.

My water has more alkalinity than you do, but seldom have problems mashing 100% pils. The brewing software I’ve seen says I shouldn’t be able to do that, but I trust my calibrated pH meter more than any spreadsheet. Maybe one time in five my pH is too high, but it’s always been under 6.

I always acidify my sparge water, though, as Itspossible pointed out.

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