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Messin around with BrunWater. A couple questions

I’m hoping to start all-grain brewing after the holidays and decided to start becoming familiar with water modifications. So I downloaded BrunWater and used a water report for my municipality and starting messing around. I have a few questions:

  • How close to these targets should one get. For instance a Pale Ale profile suggests 300ppm sulfate and 140ppm calcium and 18ppm magnesium but lets say my current water has 5ppm sulfate and 50ppm calcium and 8ppm magnesium. Any combination of Gypsum and Epsom Salt will shoot my calcium and/or magnesium well above the desired range to get the correct Sulfate. (though I notice Sulfuric acid adds sulfate as well but not sure how easy it is to find sulfuric acid)

  • What’s considered “close enough”? I guess to truly answer this you would need to know the effect of each element on the finished product. For example, if one of my elements is off by 3ppm will it matter? How about 30ppm? 300ppm? etc.

  • Optimum mash pH according to this is 5.3 to 5.5 with acceptable ranges from 5.2 to 5.8. Should I just try to get it smack dab in the middle or shoot for the closest number possible with the least amount of acid added. Same for sparge water?

  • Liquid acid measurements are in fractions of a mL. How do you measure such a small amount accurately?

  • Is there a difference in Lactic or Phosphoric acid other than its base pH? Is either one preferred?

That’s all I got for now, I’m sure I’ll have more later.

To my knowledge:

For sulfate and chloride, it is most important to keep ratio close, but if actual concentrations are within +/- 5% no problem.

For Sodium the big problem is if it gets too high. Forget the threshhold but it;s in the Bru’n water info.

For calcium I think you want it to be above 50 for yeast health.

For HCO3, so long as grain bill and other elements have pH where it should be I don’t think you have to worry about the actual HCO3 concentration too much.

For magnesium I think the grain adds some, enough for yeast health that is, so you don’t have to worry about it.

So that is my $0.02, FWIW.

I use a syringe marked in fractions of a ml. for acid additions. I use lactic acid.

Messing with the Pale Ale profile it appears I need a heck of a lot of gypsum to get the sulfate up. Is that normal? Screen capture below:

You could boost your sulfate up even more by adding some Epsom salt, which would also bring your Mg up to the suggested level.

I’ve heard that some people avoid adding any Magnesium (Gordon Strong, over on the AHA board, about 3/4 of the way down the page

) because they feel it adds a sour character to the beer. I personally have not had that problem, and I’ve been using Epsom salts with Bru’n Water for both Mg and for SO4 additions. I’ve also read that malted barley has quite a bit of magnesium in it, so Mg additions aren’t necessary (but don’t quote me on that).

I build my water from RO and can usually get everything very close to right on target. You may want to add a bit of Epsom and try to get those levels closer, if hitting that profile is your goal.

Hopefully somebody else will chime in here and verify what I’ve said.

The need for Mg in brewing water is minimal for almost all brewing. However, brewing hoppy ales is an exception. Then, Mg has a VERY desirable role. Sure, you can brew a fine pale without Mg. But I find that Mg is a big asset in those beers. The 18 to 20 ppm level I recommend in the Pale Ale profile is still modest. But do understand that beer taste diminishes rapidly for Mg levels over 40 ppm.

The proper HCO3 level is VERY important when you add a bunch of calcium to the brewing water like in the pale ale profile. This will be very apparent when starting with low alkalinity water like RO. The mash pH will be too low if you don’t have that bicarb in there.

Don’ t skimp.

Thanks, Martin! It’s nice to know how much is too much.

I have a supply of Gypsum, Epsom Salt and Calcium Chloride that go into every water profile in varying amounts.

For darker beer and hoppy beers, I’ve had to use Chalk and Baking Soda as well to fine tune the ph without messing with the other properties too much.

As far as the water profile, I always use one of the color/flavor combinations, such as Yellow Balanced or Amber Bitter.

I also use RO water for everything…mainly because I have a water softener and don’t want to mess with adjusting for that much sodium.

[quote=“mabrungard”]The proper HCO3 level is VERY important when you add a bunch of calcium to the brewing water like in the pale ale profile. This will be very apparent when starting with low alkalinity water like RO. The mash pH will be too low if you don’t have that bicarb in there.

Don’ t skimp.[/quote]

That is interesting. I have found, using R.O. water, and the pale ale profile, that when balancing the other elements besides HCO3, that the spreadsheet will indicate the need for some amount of acid in order to get the pH to 5.3. Because of that, I have not bothered to add any additional HCO3, because in my mind, it would just mean more acid required to get to the pH.

Is this line of thinking correct?

Also, if adding HCO3, I was under the impression that baking soda just bubbles out as CO2. And chalk has very limited solubility. So is there a well-accepted best method for getting a true boost in HCO3 concentration?

Glad I could spark some conversation on the topic. That screen shot wasn’t a finished profile, I was just showing how much gypsum and other additives it requires to get to the level of sulfate. I was just worried about that many additives causing other flavor implications in the finished product.

That much gypsum does seem rather high. Here’s the additions I use for a 10gallon batch of a pale ale (using RO water and the Yellow Bitter profile)

Mineral Additions To Mash (g)/To Sparge (g)
Gypsum (CaSO4): 3.8 / 3
Epsom Salt (MgSO4): 3.1 / 2.4
Canning Salt (NaCl): 0 / 0
Baking Soda (NaHCO3): 0 / 0
Calcium Chloride (CaCl2): 2.8 / 2.1
Chalk (CaCO3): 0 / 0
Pickling Lime (Ca(OH)2) 0 / 0
Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2): 0 /0

I think the difference is that the OP was shooting for the “Pale Ale” profile.

I’m doing a Mosaic APA soon, and decided to use the Pale Ale profile too. Here’s what I got, for a 5-gallon batch:

Mineral Additions …To Mash (g)__________To Sparge (g)
Gypsum (CaSO4):…7.8________________6.4
Epsom Salt (MgSO4):…3.5________________2.4
Canning Salt (NaCl):…0.4________________0.2
Baking Soda (NaHCO3):…0.8________________0.0
Calcium Chloride (CaCl2):…1.5________________1.2
Chalk (CaCO3):…1.0________________0.0

Looking at it, that is a ton of gypsum. But Bru’n Water hasn’t failed me yet. Anybody want to verify if this looks ok?

Hopefully somebody with a lot more knowledge than me will chime in, but after I scored poorly on a couple beers in a competition, with Dave on this boards help, we traced an off flavor to possibly the use of Epsom Salt. After thinking about the comments regarding a consistent off flavor in the beer, and taking a smell of my bag of Epsom salt, I believe it may have been a contributor.

The other side of the coin is that my magnesium is always low using Brunwater but I have been just living with that.

BTW, I am using 100% RO water

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