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Who's water chart is correct?

A local brew club published a classic styles water chart. Several of the numbers were different than Palmer’s and Noonan’s numbers. I did a little research and found that Brewsmith (which I do not use) also had different numbers. Who’s numbers should I use/trust when adjusting my water to brew classic styles.

Some of the numbers don’t matter too much like is Burton water sulfate at 650 or 820. Both numbers are high. Some of the numbers do matter though like HCO3 or calcium to the mash pH. If these numbers are off, it could cause someone to add too much acid or need to add calcium back in after adjusting with RO water. I want the right numbers to help new brewers make better beers.

You really can’t put in a set amount of bicarbonate before you brew a beer and expect to hit the right pH every time. pH should be checked with every beer to make sure its in range. There are fairly large varations over time with water sources as conditions change throughout the year, so you cannot rely on a water report being stable for any significant period of time (months). Even if you are building from RO, changes in the crop year to year or maltster to maltster will also affect the amount that it will lower the mash pH, not to mention the effect of grist composition, which is not so straightforward to predict as Palmer’s spreadsheet would have you believe.

The best advice to me seems to brew the beer with as little stuff as possible, and if you aren’t happy with one aspect or another then add a restrained amount of the appropriate minerals. This is going to change for each recipe, the old school rules that ‘hoppy beers need a tun of sulfate’ or ‘stouts need a ton of chalk’ do not apply, in my experience. When adjusted to the right pH, I tend to prefer the beers with less mineral additions. A lot of commercial breweries seem to be doing the same thing if you listen to the interviews on Can You Brew It, most of them say they just brew with their water as is, or maybe add a small amount of gypsum, rather than try to match some style profile which may or may not be accurate.

I agree with the GD Hokie. Also, I think adjusting your water to match the type of beer you want to make (By making sure your mash pH will be right, and that you have the desired balance of Chloride to Sulfate) is a better approach than trying to match some historical brewing water which may or may not be what the brewery uses.

Most likely all of the water charts you’re seeing are “correct” meaning that at some point, some water from that city had that profile. Whether or not anyone made any beer, or good beer, with that water is up for question.

I understand that some feel that certain of the historical recipes are incorrect inasmuch as the componenets don’t balance (anions and cations).

This is an area of debate. It seems simple enough that an area’s water would dictate the type of beer that could be brewed, but brewers of old used water from different locations and performed different treatments/processes that affected the water being used. In the face of all this confusion, I think its easiest to just use treatments to give you the right pH and if you want a little emphasis on certain flavor elements, build that into your recipe. Don’t worry about hitting some theoretical set of values.

That last was a more verbose way of saying +1 to Wahoo’s comments.

I understand what you all are saying and agree, but you kind of missed my point. I have been making good beer for many years with my local water and a few mineral additions. A few years ago I decided I wanted to make great beers and really worked on my pH and water chemistry. My brewing water has a bicarbonate level of 218 which is pretty high. This caused my mash pH to be too high. I bought some lactic acid and set off to make great beer. I ended up making some pretty good sour beers (and dumped a few batches of hoppy, sour beer) because I added too much acid. I finally quit using the acid and began using Palmer’s and some other web sites to check the brewing water I wanted to use for a style. I added RO water to cut my bicarbonate by dilution and added minerals and started making much better beer.

I felt that the water chart that I used helped me get my pH under control and improved my beer. If an inexperienced brewer looks at a different chart that has levels that are off by 100 or more in areas like bicarbonate or calcium, it could cause them to end up with my sour beer situation. A new brewer may not have the same patience as I do to keep working at things if they keep making sour beer. So, who has the best water chart that can help new brewers adjust their water accurately? I would think these charts would need to be verified before they could be published in a book or software, but with the variance of numbers I may be wrong.

“I have been making good beer for many years with my local water and a few mineral additions. A few years ago I decided I wanted to make great beers and really worked on my pH and water chemistry.”

Here is where I think you may have gone down the wrong path to improving your beers. I was in the same boat 4 years ago. Instead of focusing on water chemistry, I really worked on pitching rates and fermentation temp control. By all means, if you have great temp control and yeast handling already, then,sure, think about improving your water.

I don’t think anyone would argue with that. All we’re saying is that to frame things in terms of some “historical water profiles” of spurious authenticity and questionable value is misleading at best, and harmful at worst. Much better to teach new brewers what the various ions do and how to adjust them.

I for one would be love to start to work toward a consensus water profile for various styles, and I’d be more than happy to host it if there’s a need. In the meantime, Kai’s profiles provide excellent starting points, IMHO. http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?ti … er_recipes

I’m guessing that any of the charts would get you relatively close as long as you pay attention and use common sense.

I like the idea of having a set of “average” water recipes with RO as a base, but I think there ar always going to be differences depending on your grain bill. Nothing short of a pH measurement is going to be foolproof. Of course with a window of 0.3 pH units theres a lot of wiggle room, but maybe one end of that range is better than the other for certain styles, in terms of flavor ions and final beer pH. Whats more, I don’t think I’ve seen much focus on flavor ions and how the boil-off affects the final concentrations. You can start with 100ppm of sulfate, but if you boil down from 6.5 to 5.5gal (1hr) its 118ppm and if you boil from 7 to 5.5gal (90min) its 127ppm.

I share your experience in regard to water chemistry. Most of my beer was “good”, but hoppy IPA’s were never all that great. My Bicarbonate number was high too (268) and I began to use Palmer’s suggestions. I dilute with varying amounts of RO water depending on style and add CaCl2 and CaSO4 to adjust. I usually only add about a tsp of CaSO4 and maybe .25 or .5 tsp of CaCl2 at most. I try to go with minimal additions.

It has made a BIG difference in regard to IPA style beers for me. I don’t really ever try to “mimic” classic water of various brewing areas. I just concentrate on using Palmer’s suggestions to get my mash pH in the ballpark.

I think some of “what is best” may depend a little on what the actual problem (or lack of problem) is with a person’s water. In regard to the alkalinity problem - I have found Palmer’s chart and recommendations to be very effective (and simple).

I don’t think anyone would argue with that. All we’re saying is that to frame things in terms of some “historical water profiles” of spurious authenticity and questionable value is misleading at best, and harmful at worst. Much better to teach new brewers what the various ions do and how to adjust them.

I for one would be love to start to work toward a consensus water profile for various styles, and I’d be more than happy to host it if there’s a need. In the meantime, Kai’s profiles provide excellent starting points, IMHO. http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?ti … er_recipes[/quote]

+1

Water is an important part of brewing.
Replicating historical water profiles from brewing cities is not necessarily the right way to improve your beers.

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