Must be the water! San Diego has great water for brewing??? – Differs in every part of the county, but in general, it is relatively hard water (high mineral content), high ph, with high amount of sulfate – Disclaimer: SD water also varies by season (OMWD as high as 8.9 ph in the summer, 8.2 in the winter) – Most water districts in SD disinfect with chloramines, which is bad in any style – In general, its great for hoppy Ambers, and even Cascadian IPAs
Why should you care about your water chemistry? You can make good beer with very little modifications However, water adjustments can help fine tune your beers and make them even better Understand how your mash works and how the ph of your water impacts mash and sparge water Brewing beers at both ends of the color spectrum
Extract Brewing Water chemistry is not as important – extract already contains concentrated ions Try to use RO (Reverse Osmosis) water, if possible Trial and error, and using same extract brand, is your best way forward At the very least, use a carbon filter or Campden tablets to get rid of chloramines
All-Grain Brewers First step is finding out your brewing water ion concentration – Water report from your MWD – Ward Labs ($17 or so) Without knowing your water, it is hard to prescribe anything more than generic recommendations (i.e add 1 tsp of Gypsum for an IPA) Also know that your tap water will likely change over the year
Key Ions and Info in water report Calcium Magnesium Sulfate Chloride Sodium Bicarbonate Ph (not an ion but a measure of your waters acidity/alkalinity)
ph Ph of mash is more important than ph of the water – should be in the 5.2-5.6 range Malted barley is a GREAT buffering source (BMB) Darker malts are acidic, thus lower mash ph However, ph of the sparge water is important – should be 7 or less Higher ph sparge water could extract tannins and result in astringent beers Can use acids to lower mash and/or sparge ph – (most commonly lactic, hydrochloric, phosphoric)
Calcium Principal ion that determines, and contributes, to water hardness Instrumental to yeast health and growth Promotes clarity, flavor, and stability in the finished beer Brewing range is 50-150ppm
Magnesium Ion behaves similar to calcium Important yeast nutrient Brewing range is 10-30ppm Amount greater than 50ppm tend to give sour-bitter taste Levels higher than 125ppm have a laxative effect
Sulfate Combines with Ca and Mg ion to contribute to permanent hardness Does not really contribute to overall alkalinity Accentuates hop bitterness, making bitterness seem drier, more crisp Brewing range is 50-150ppm for normal bitterness, 150-350ppm for very bitter, diarrhea over 750ppm (Burton water?)
Chloride Accentuates fullness and flavor of beer, particularly malt Brewing range is from 0-250ppm Concentrations above 300ppm can lead to mediciney flavors
Sodium Common ion in softened water Water softeners use sodium to precipitate out calcium, so should never be used for brewing water (unless calcium salt added) Rounds out beer flavor, accentuates sweetness of the malt Brewing range is 70-150ppm Above 300ppm makes beers too salty
Brewing Salts Adjust brewing water with brewing salts: – Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum) – good when water is low in calcium and want to accentuate hops – Calcium Chloride – good when water is low in calcium and want to accentuate malt – Calcium Carbonate (Chalk) – good for adding hardness to soft water in dark beers (not needed often) – Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom) – good when water is low on magnesium – Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) – good for adding sodium and hardness (not needed often)
Chloride to Sulfate Ratio Ratio of chloride to sulfate is important in the creation of the flavor profile Ratio of 1.5-2 promotes very malty profile Ratio of 1.25-1.5 will favor maltiness Ratio of.75-1.25 will be fairly balanced Ratio of.5-.75 will be moderately bitter Ratio of 0-.5 promotes drier, more bitter, hoppier character (SD water) Examples: – 100ppm chloride, 300ppm sulfate would promote bitterness, hops – 100pp, chloride, 50ppm sulfate would promote maltiness
Takeaways Carbon filter or Campden tablets at the very minimum (get rid of chloramines) Use RO or distilled water for extract, if possible Keep mash ph in 5.2-5.6 range (malt buffer) Acidify sparge water, if needed (probably) to keep in the 6.0-7.0 ph range Pay attention to your chloride to sulfate ratio – more chloride = malty, more sulfate = bitter
Additional Resources Palmers How to Brew – Chapter 15 Palmers water worksheet (and multiple other water worksheets) Brew Strongs series on understanding water Experience!!!!! Water chemistry is not an absolute, most of this is rule of thumb, nothing replaces experience.
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