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I put a few new ideas to the test today

In the last year or so I have been looking into water, the effects of pH on the mash and sparge and also into various mash techniques. My water is high enough in bicarbonate (138ppm) that pale-colored beers end up with a harsh finish. I have read all the way through AJ DeLange’s WATER PRIMER[/url] thread (with comments by Martin Brungard) and also checked out Kai’s [url=http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=How_pH_affects_brewing]pH pages

. That, along with some help from a brewer that has a much firmer grasp on brewing principles than I, I set out to make an American Light Lager and employ all of these ideas. I made the beer today with a recipe for a very pale beer…

[b]7 lbs Best Malz Pilsner Malt
1 lb flaked corn
8 ounces CaraPils
3 ounces German Acidulated Malt
.85 oz Saphir pellets 5.2% for 60
.50 oz Hallertau pellets 4.7% for 1
White Labs 840 American Lager yeast

OG: 1.049, FG: 1.012, IBU: 20, SRM: 3, ABV: 4.8%[/b]

A beer like this would not come out well with my filtered tap water alone so I used 75% RO water and 25% filtered tap water with 3.5g of Calcium Chloride in the mash. I mashed at 151° for 90 minutes and checked the pH of the mash to ensure it was around 5.2-5.3. I did not need any lactic acid for the mash and I used 4 gallons of water to the mash. After the runoff I added another 4 gallons of the brewing water (75% RO, 25% filtered tap) and only heated it to 160°. Another brewer told me that in batch sparging there is no reason to heat the sparge water to the normal 175° and that heating it that high can cause solubility issues and tannin extraction so I heated it to 160°. I checked the pH of the sparge and it was again in the low 5s so I did not adjust it with acid. After that runoff I checked the preboil wort pH which was fine and then I boiled, chilled, etc. That picture of the grayish-yellow (high pH) wort on Kai’s site suggests that color and clarity are really effected by high pH. I took a quick vid of the racking of the wort to the brewpot…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... -A5mPw38vg

Sounds like you’re on the right track! I too suffer from highly alkaline/hard water (my untreated RA is like 192), and water adjustment has been the single most important thing I’ve done to improve beer quality. I think you’ll be pleased at how well your efforts pay off in the finished product!

Here’s another thing I notice when I brew with 100% filtered tap water with my 138ppm of bicarbonate: The delicate flavors of malt, hops and yeast get squelched out. With all of that bicarbonate in the water, it’s like eating or drinking something when you have a cold. Softer water allows you to taste the ingredients much more clearly which is a much better beer-drinking experience. If I were to take a pilsner and add maybe 1-2 pounds of Munich or Vienna to the mash just to give the beer some depth, I may not even be able to detect them because the bicarbonate was acting like a smokescreen. Grains used in small amounts like 2 ounces of Aromatic or Melanoidin… much easier to pick up their character in soft water. Cheers!

Ps. Another brewer in my area just told me his bicarbonate number is 341! Oh, my goodness.

Not true. It’s not necessary but you want to raise the mash temperature up to 168F in the sparge to stop enzymatic activity. It won’t extract tannins unless the mash temp gets above 175F or so, which means adding near boiling water. I usually heat my sparge water up to about 180-190F to get the temp to the mid 160’s.
But it sounds like you’re on the right track. Brewing with RO is so much nicer as you can adjust your water to whatever you need.

Not true. It’s not necessary but you want to raise the mash temperature up to 168F in the sparge to stop enzymatic activity. It won’t extract tannins unless the mash temp gets above 175F or so, which means adding near boiling water. I usually heat my sparge water up to about 180-190F to get the temp to the mid 160’s.
But it sounds like you’re on the right track. Brewing with RO is so much nicer as you can adjust your water to whatever you need.[/quote]
Yeah, this is an area I’m not so sure about. This may have stemmed from me saying that my pale-colored beers were coming out with some harsh flavors and this other brewer suggested lowering the sparge temp. He says that he does this on all of his beers (only heats sparge water to about 160°). So is it necessary to heat it to 168° to stop enzymatic activity even if you’ve got good conversion and enzymatic activity has already pretty-much stopped? I can’t say one way or another but I have made 4 batches where I heated the sparge water to just 160° and once I taste those beers, I’ll have some experience with it. It’s not something I’ve heard anywhere else… for better or worse.

RE: tannins, batch sparge, sparge water temp[quote=“Ken Lenard”]
Yeah, this is an area I’m not so sure about. … I can’t say one way or another but I have made 4 batches where I heated the sparge water to just 160° and once I taste those beers, I’ll have some experience with it. It’s not something I’ve heard anywhere else… for better or worse.[/quote]

Well, as I understand it, tannin extraction is a function of time, temperature, and pH. With batch sparge, the entire 2nd run is at a constant gravity and pH, whereas in a fly sparge, the gravity keeps dropping and the pH keeps rising. Plus, batch sparge is usually much faster than fly sparge. So, if all that is true, it would seem that batch sparging is far more resistant to tannin extraction than fly sparge.

I’ve started batch sparging (dunk sparge actually, with MIAB) with sparge water taken off a slow boil. Even with that, the grain stayed less than 170F (it cooled a bit as I let it drain the first running). I haven’t tasted these yet, so we will see, but I doubt that tannins will be a problem.

But please report back on your experiment, that’s how we learn.

PS - your profile says ‘Chicago’, but are you on Chicago municipal water? I thought it was softer than that?

-kenc

It’s probably not the temp of your sparge water causing those harsh flavors. I’m not sure what the big deal with stopping enzymatic activity is, but sparging hotter also gets you that much closer to boiling.

Kenc_zymurgy is right about the tannin extraction. In batch sparging, it’s very unlikely you’ll be sparging long enough to change the pH enough to extract tannins. Unless you over-sparge, of course.

Yep, I agree that this is how we learn. This is good stuff and I will keep you guys posted as these beers come to the taps.

Kenc_zymurgy, I am in the Chicago burbs but use Lake Michigan water (much of the area does) and my water looks like this:

[color=#808000]pH: 6.6
Total dissolved solids (TDS): 264
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm: 0.44
Cations/Anions, me/L: 3.3 / 3.4

Sodium: 13
Potassium: 2
Calcium: 34
Magnesium: 12
Total Hardness: 135
Nitrate, No3-N: 0.4
Sulfate, SO4-S: 9
Chloride: 21
Carbonate, CO3: <1
Bicarbonate, HCO3: 138
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3: 113[/color]

This is not bad water and I have seen far worse. Many of the spreadsheets suggest that my water is good for beers in the 12-17 SRM range (if you believe that beer color is the only determining factor) and if I make a pale ale, amber ale, red ale, etc., I may not dilute at all. But pilsners, American Wheats, Cream Ales, American Lagers, Kolsch, Helles or other pale-colored beer has trouble with the bicarbonate.

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