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Source of carbonate (or is it bicarbonate) addition? Martin?

I just finished talking with a local pro brewer about a homebrew recipe that he based one of his commercial beers on (a Mild). He said that when he brewed it at home, he use RO water and targeted 170 ppm carbonate and 25ppm chloride. My confusion comes when he used the term “carbonate”. I use Bru’n water and it lists “bicarbonates” and I’m not sure what the difference is. Not sure if “carbonates” is just a generic term for bicarbonates.

So, by my thinking, in 2.8 gal mash water, I would need 1.1 g chalk and .6 g CaCl3. Does this sound right?

If he means “bicarbonates”, then I’ve got a few different salts to choose from to add the necessary ions. I could go with chalk (though I haven’t used this in forever since it doesn’t dissolve) or pickling lime (which I use much more often since it requires a very small addition usually).

Any advice?

I’m not an expert and could be totally wrong, but…

Carbonate and BiCarbonate are two different ions.

For example:

Sodium Carbonate (Laundry Detergent) - Large rise in pH and small rise in alkalinity
Sodium BiCarbonate (Baking Soda) - Small rise in pH and large rise in alkalinity

*** Sodium BiCarbonate is edible but Sodium Carbonate is not!!! ***

The money is on bicarbonate.

The wonderful terminologies of water chemistry are so easily confusing and confused. There is no telling what this brewer was actually targeting without further interrogation. He could have been referring to the actual carbonate ion content or he could have been referring to alkalinity as calcium carbonate, or he could have been referring to bicarbonate content euphemistically.

If it was carbonate, it does not exist in brewing water at typical pH that we target. At a water pH of less than 7, all alkalinity exists in the form of bicarbonate or carbonic acid. Any carbonate is converted to those forms if the water is in this low pH range. So it is not a good idea to refer to the alkalinity component ‘as carbonate’ when dealing in our typical pH range.

The good thing is that the difference in the report or actual value is probably not huge. It could be on the order of about 20 percent off in some cases.

For that Mild, targeting 170 ppm of whatever does seem a bit high in my experience. I have brewed with some very acidic grists and one of them was a Mild. (It had a lot of dark crystal malt). Even in that case, I don’t recall that the water needed that much alkalinity. I would be cautious in recommending a level that high, but that is what a program like Bru’n Water is for.

I have no problem with a modest chloride level and some alkalinity for a Mild, just be sure to tailor the alkalinity to match the mash’s needs so that a desirable pH is produced.

Do you think he meant hardness and used the wrong term? I can see a British beer being brewed with a hard water, isn’t that what Burtonizing is all about? Albeit with gypsum?

[quote=“mabrungard”]The wonderful terminologies of water chemistry are so easily confusing and confused. There is no telling what this brewer was actually targeting without further interrogation. He could have been referring to the actual carbonate ion content or he could have been referring to alkalinity as calcium carbonate, or he could have been referring to bicarbonate content euphemistically.

If it was carbonate, it does not exist in brewing water at typical pH that we target. At a water pH of less than 7, all alkalinity exists in the form of bicarbonate or carbonic acid. Any carbonate is converted to those forms if the water is in this low pH range. So it is not a good idea to refer to the alkalinity component ‘as carbonate’ when dealing in our typical pH range.

The good thing is that the difference in the report or actual value is probably not huge. It could be on the order of about 20 percent off in some cases.

For that Mild, targeting 170 ppm of whatever does seem a bit high in my experience. I have brewed with some very acidic grists and one of them was a Mild. (It had a lot of dark crystal malt). Even in that case, I don’t recall that the water needed that much alkalinity. I would be cautious in recommending a level that high, but that is what a program like Bru’n Water is for.

I have no problem with a modest chloride level and some alkalinity for a Mild, just be sure to tailor the alkalinity to match the mash’s needs so that a desirable pH is produced.[/quote]

Do you recommend one source of bicarbonates over the other? Ever since I read about how chalk doesn’t dissolve in the mash, I’ve switched exclusively to lime. I like being able to make a significant difference in the mash with a small addition.

[quote=“Chinaski1217”]

Do you recommend one source of bicarbonates over the other? Ever since I read about how chalk doesn’t dissolve in the mash, I’ve switched exclusively to lime. I like being able to make a significant difference in the mash with a small addition.[/quote]

Through the course of writing the Water book, AJ, Colin, John and myself were able to agree that baking soda may be a more workable alternative for adding alkalinity to a mash. That recommendation is dependent upon the starting water having low sodium content. With that caveat and the fact that you only add alkalinity to mashing water and not sparging water, a brewer can boost alkalinity sufficiently for most brewing with a proper dose of baking soda. Since that dose is only added to the mash, that excess sodium content will be diluted by the sparging water addition. So this method shouldn’t be detrimental to beer flavor. The supporter’s version of Bru’n Water calculates the overall sodium content in the final wort so that brewer’s can more effectively utilize baking soda for alkalinity addition while avoiding sodium overdose.

We also found that the quality and purity of pickling lime can be marginal at times. Lime degrades to chalk if exposed to moist air. That means that sometimes a brewer may not be adding the alkalinity that they intend for the mash. So lime may not be the ‘best’ option for brewing, but its contribution of calcium to the mash is beneficial.

[quote=“mabrungard”][quote=“Chinaski1217”]

Do you recommend one source of bicarbonates over the other? Ever since I read about how chalk doesn’t dissolve in the mash, I’ve switched exclusively to lime. I like being able to make a significant difference in the mash with a small addition.[/quote]

Through the course of writing the Water book, AJ, Colin, John and myself were able to agree that baking soda may be a more workable alternative for adding alkalinity to a mash. That recommendation is dependent upon the starting water having low sodium content. With that caveat and the fact that you only add alkalinity to mashing water and not sparging water, a brewer can boost alkalinity sufficiently for most brewing with a proper dose of baking soda. Since that dose is only added to the mash, that excess sodium content will be diluted by the sparging water addition. So this method shouldn’t be detrimental to beer flavor. The supporter’s version of Bru’n Water calculates the overall sodium content in the final wort so that brewer’s can more effectively utilize baking soda for alkalinity addition while avoiding sodium overdose.

We also found that the quality and purity of pickling lime can be marginal at times. Lime degrades to chalk if exposed to moist air. That means that sometimes a brewer may not be adding the alkalinity that they intend for the mash. So lime may not be the ‘best’ option for brewing, but its contribution of calcium to the mash is beneficial.[/quote]

Interesting stuff, and not at all what I normally do. I’ll have to order that book.

I live in KY, known for bourbon and stifling humidity. I keep the lime in my garage and have been using the same bag for a couple years now. I’m thinking that I’ve been adding chalk to the mash for a long time since there’s very little chance the lime hasn’t degraded. Beer’s been turning out fine though, so there’s that.

Thanks for the info, Martin. Appreciated as always.

The book comes out in a couple weeks and there is a nice discount for AHA members.

http://www.brewerspublications.com/book ... r-brewers/
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