I have a British Blonde on tap right now that is maybe SRM 3 or 4 and it’s brilliantly clear. I also made a Czech Lager a few weeks ago that is probably the same color but hazy as can be. There is a light colored Vienna Lager on tap right now that is maybe SRM 6-7 and it’s also cloudy as can be. I went back to my notes and although these were all made with different water (either all filtered tap water, some RO/distilled or a combo of both), I noticed the calcium level. The British Blonde was 76ppm overall. The Czech Lager and the Vienna were both in the low 50s. I made an American Wheat yesterday that was made with 100% RO and only had 40ppm of calcium. Is it safe to say that if you want a clear gold beer that you need to have at least 75ppm of calcium overall? I knew it was important but I never thought there was a threshold based on SRM. Thoughts?
Calcium is needed by the yeast for a healthy fermentation so it seems reasonable that not having enough might make them not floc out or exhibit some strange behaviour. But I’ve never seen it myself - I always make sure that there’s at least 50 ppm Ca- in the kettle.
I just went back and looked through a bunch of recipes from batches I have made over the past 6-8 months. From what I remember, those light-colored beers where the calcium was lower (40-55ppm), the beer was cloudy. The beers that were clear had more calcium. The darker ones don’t seem to suffer from this and that could be pH being lowered by the darker malts or whatever. The problem is getting enough calcium when starting from 100% RO water. I feel like I’m adding A LOT of calcium chloride and/or calcium sulfate. Is there some other calcium source out there that I’m not thinking of? I don’t want to use calcium carbonate because I’m using RO water to get away from the high cabonate levels in my tap water… especially for light-colored beers.
NYC has very soft water and I don’t usually add salts, especially calcium, due to history of kidney stones. Anyway, the water is very low salt and is something between Pilsen water and RO. The braggot I had on tap until it kicked this week was as clear as it can be. My embalming fluid DIPA with 9 oz of hops in 5 gal turns crystal clear, even wheats turn clear… I don’t think it’s the Ca levels per se, but perhaps it has to do with yeast health.
This is just my personal observation. I’m not saying my word is indisputable truth.
[quote=“Dimik”]NYC has very soft water and I don’t usually add salts, especially calcium, due to history of kidney stones. Anyway, the water is very low salt and is something between Pilsen water and RO. The braggot I had on tap until it kicked this week was as clear as it can be. My embalming fluid DIPA with 9 oz of hops in 5 gal turns crystal clear, even wheats turn clear… I don’t think it’s the Ca levels per se, but perhaps it has to do with yeast health.
This is just my personal observation. I’m not saying my word is indisputable truth.[/quote]
I went with Calcium because I had heard about calcium aiding in clarity and it looked like my cloudy beers were low and my clear beers were higher but… I could easily see it being something else. On these, the offending beer could’ve been made with fresh yeast or harvested yeast and could’ve been the first beer made with that yeast or the 4th or 5th. Same with the clear beer… it could’ve been anywhere in the line so I don’t have as clear of a picture on the yeast. I know it can be anything from mash pH to the type of grain I use but I watch mash pH closely and do a lot of things to get things clear (Whirfloc, gel solution, etc). I’m stumped.
You don’t think it might also have to do with the base malt? A pils malt might need a short protein rest. Or maybe you need more calcium to drop more protein, so theres maybe two ways to go on that. Lower the protein or raise the calcium.
This was American 2-row and wheat in this beer. I have had issues with some pilsner malts and bounced it around with a few people here and it was determined that Weyermann makes a “less-modified” pilsner (I forget if it’s the German or Bohemian Pilsner) and that Best Malz was a better pils for that. But here, no Pils just 2-row and wheat. I agree that the base malt could do this but here’s another thing: these beers sat very cold in kegs for 1-2 months and then hit the taps and the whole keg (or most of it in some cases) was consumed and the beer never cleared. This is not just pesky chill-haze or something… it seems more permanent than that. Although I will say that these beers were clear at cellar temps in secondaries.
Other people have had some haze issues using 2-row, even Maris Otter. I’ve seen haze in my stuff periodically, and like you’ve observed sometimes it’ll clear and sometimes it won’t. I wonder if its a variation from the malting process or a slight increase in protein content. Domestic barley is higher in protein than European, maybe it benefits from extra calcium.
A little haze is slightly annoying but not a huge deal if its not a competition brew. I certainly don’t think theres a down side to adding a little extra calcium, I just don’t know if its always the answer.
I use Irish moss but I don’t really think it does that much either. Maybe the purified version might, I don’t know.
I was just listening to Palmer and JZ’s Brewstrong Water Series (literally an hour ago in the truck) and Palmer talked about needing between 50 and 150ppm Ca for good yeast health and good flocculation. I’d have to go back and listen again to be able to quote him but he did convey that you need to be in this range for among other things, good flocculation.
My experience has been that beers that I’ve skimped on adding calcium to the mash tend to take longer to clear, even with a period of cold-aging in the fridge.
For my beers these days, I shoot for at least 50 ppm of calcium in the mash (usually closer to 100ppm). My water has ~40 ppm of calcium to start with, which is a bit low.
I think it’s worth upping the calcium to 75ppm or so and see what happens, as I seriously doubt the beer will suffer as a result.
Edit: if you’re comfortable working with lactic or phosphoric acid, you could dial in the amount of calcium chloride and/or gypsum to get the calcium level you want, and then use acid to hit your mash pH if necessary.
Okay, thanks gang. I have only 34ppm of calcium in my tap water and my carbonate is high enough to support the idea of using 100% RO water. But to get my calcium number to 75ppm overall, I have to add about 7g of calcium chloride to the mash along with a gram of gypsum. I just wonder how much is too much, especially when it comes to chloride. How high should a chloride number be for a “gold beer” like a pils, helles, kolsch, Am. Wheat, etc? I’m definitely going to have to up my CaCl in these lighter beers. Also, I do use lactic acid to make small adjustments to pH in the mash… I’m usually using very small amounts like .5ml, etc.
You might add a little CaCO3, it will add calcium and keep your flavor ions reasonable.
Calcium Carbonate? Hmm. If that’s the case I wonder if I should do a percentage of tap/RO. My tap water has 138ppm of bicarbonate which is why I started using some RO especially for lighter-colored beers. I could see going 75% RO - 25% tap and then just adding enough CaCl to boost my calcium a little.
You can also use Calcium Hydroxide also known as pickling lime. It will boost the calcium level and your alkalinity but not effect the sulfate and chloride levels.
Interesting question, I hope someone chimes in with the answer. That won’t be me, but I will say that my water is very low in everything (including Ca at 21 ppm) so I have to essentially build my water for every beer. That typically means I get the Ca over the 50 ppm threshold needed for “healthy” fermentation and add as little as possble beyond that. I will say that I have not had any problem getting my beers clear as long as I give them enough time, which is in the same range or less than what you quoted.
As a somewhat related question (I hope this isn’t hyjacking the thread), what is the consequence of too little Magnesium? My water only has 2 ppm Mg, and I haven’t found anyplace that sells epsom salts here, so I’ve been brewing without. I haven’t noticed anything bad, except I’m having a real hard time getting some beers as dry as I’d like. Would that be a possible cause?
I’m not sure about the Mg effects, but I do know that virtually all enzymes require a divalent. In most cases it’s Mg, but in some Ca or Mn can be used. Just my 2 cents.
RC: Do you want me to send you some Epsom Salt? They say that some amount of Magnesium is good for yeast health (my water only has 6ppm) and they also say that sulfates can add some “crispness” which could translate to a dry character, I suppose. I just read a BYO ARTICLE
on “American Pilsner” and under the water section it says that using very soft water and/or RO or distilled water with 3 to 4½ tsp of Calcium Chloride should give you enough calcium. 3 to 4½ tsp? Yesterday I measured a tsp of CaCl and it came to 4.5g. So they’re suggesting between 13½ and 20(ish) grams of CaCl in a 5 gallon batch? That would put your calcium level (ppm) at between 122 and 180 overall. That can’t be right. But I have to assume that getting a good water profile for a light-colored beer is important both for that good, soft character and also for clarity. My best results so far were taking my tap water and diluting 50% with distilled and then adding back about 4g of Cacl. The clarity was good but there was still a bit of bicarbonate funkiness from the 57ppm of bicarbonate that was left. Maybe I’ll try a 75% distilled/RO and 25% tap with 5g of CaCl and see what happens. I will report back. Cheers.
Thanks for the offer, but I should really just try to figure out what they call MgSO4 here. Either that or remember to bring some back with me next time I visit the states. Shipping would I’m sure cost more than the salt itself, AND I’d have to pick the package up at the airport and explain what it is and possibly pay import duties.
Definately report back on your results dialing this in.
Here, I’ll simplify this… for those of you who have very soft water, what do you add when you make a light colored beer like an American Lager, Pilsner, Kolsch, Cream Ale, Blonde Ale, Helles, etc. I know a few people around the country who have told me that their source water is extremely low in all ions and that the water might as well be RO. What are you adding (CaCl, MgS04, CaS04, etc.) and how much to get to what levels ppm overall?
My water is very soft, though not to RO levels.
I add a mix of gypsum and “mineral salt” which is 70% CaCl and 30% NaCl. I aim to get the Ca+ to 50 ppm or above, while keeping the SO4:Cl ratio proper for the beer style.
So for example, the last light lager I made was aiming for a balanced to slightly malty profile, so I used 1 g gypsum and 1.5 g mineral salt in the mash, and an additional 2.3 g mineral salt in the kettle. This gave me a water profile of 56 ppm Ca, 54 ppm SO4, and 68 ppm Cl. HCO3 was 34 ppm, which is where my tap water naturally falls. The beer came out very clear.