Trying the English water treatment approach

(That's water to the rest of us!) Beer is about 95% water, so if you want to discuss water treatment, filtering etc this is the place to do it!
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Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by thehaze » Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:16 pm

Hello,

I've been brewing for almost 3 years now. At first, I didn't bother all that much with water. Some beers turned out OK, some were disappointing, but never dumpers. I never experienced infections or gushers with any of the 80 batches I've brewed so far.

When I started brewing, I began using EZ Water Calculator. I quickly dropped it after 15 batches. I'm since been using Bru'N'Water and purchased a pH meter. My beers turned for the better and I've made some that were really great. But at the same time, I have been always curious of how some english beers are brewed and especially, how would one achieve the same " minerality " in the finished beer. I am a fan of Oakham Ales. I like their Citra, Green Devil, but I like JHB, Bishops Farewell and Best Friend more. I like the fact that they are low ABV, crisp, refreshing, " taste " well-attenuated, dry, minerally, with a pleasent, lingering bitterness. I've tried enough beers that had lingering bitterness, but not many were as " palatable " as the ones from Oakham.

My starting water is ---> Ca: 10.2 ppm / Mg: 3 ppm / Na: 3 ppm / Cl: 3.3 ppm / SO4: 6 ppm / pH: 7.2 / Alkalinity is somewhere around 35, as per Bru'N'Water. I use bottled (still - sourced from the mountains) water and the chemical composition, along with pH are available on the bottle.

One of the 5 brews I'll be soon brewing is a Pale Bitter/Ale of sorts:

23-25 liters batch ( I try to maximize the potential of my Grainfather )
US-05 + Nottingham ( fermented at around 18C )
5.5 Kg Pilsner Malt
45 IBU / 5% ABV aprox.
OG: 1.044
FG: 1.007
25 gr Brewers Gold 60 minutes
25 gr Cascade 30 minutes
25 gr Southern Cross 10 minutes
75 gr Brewers Gold 1 minutes
75 gr Cascade 1 minutes
75 gr Southern Cross 1 minutes

I was thinking my mash water could look like this: Ca: 105 ppm / Mg: 3 ppm / Na: 3 ppm / Cl: 100 ppm / SO4: 100 ppm. I will be still needing some 3-4 ml acid ( I use 75% Phosphoric Acid ) to bring the pH down to around 5.4. It might seem low on mineral content, but I'm unsure whether I shouldn't be afraid of using more. Up until now, I used to go something like 50 ppm Cl / 150 ppm SO4, with whatever Ca, Mg and Na resulted from treating the water. Worked fine most times. What do you think?

Thank you in advance.

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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by IPA » Tue Oct 15, 2019 1:47 pm

Download for free Graham Wheeler's water treatment programme on this forum.

https://www.jimsbeerkit.co.uk/extras.htm

It will do most of what you want. In an English way
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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by Trefoyl » Tue Oct 15, 2019 2:23 pm

Don’t be afraid of using more. Don’t be afraid of magnesium (epsom salt) and don’t use phosphoric acid unless you are making old time sodas, it precipitates calcium and has other faults. Those who need acid to neutralize alkalinity use sulfuric or hydrochloric, or a mix, depending on what sulfate / chloride ratio is desired.
Look up posts by Eric, he is a very patient teacher :D
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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by Eric » Tue Oct 15, 2019 5:25 pm

Hello Mihai and welcome to Jim's.

Yes, there's a world of difference between American and British water profiles. Where American homebrewer's fear to tread we begin. Do you know what minerals your own water supply contains? It is often easier to create a traditional British Ale profile from tap water than starting with a low mineral content.

Calcium has virtually no taste and most will be lost during the brewing process, deposited with the many unwanted product that exist in the mash and boil, so there is no additional minerality in a British beer, just more flavours. There will however be more sulphate and chloride which aid the perception of those flavours.

With a pale ale malt rather than pilsner, some crystal malt and calcium nearer 200ppm there would be no need for phosphoric acid to get mash pH down to 5.4. 300 gr of hops in a 25 litre brew is vastly greater than Oakham would ever use and I doubt they would ferment as low as 18C, my last brew topped at slightly over 22C.
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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by thehaze » Thu Oct 17, 2019 1:15 pm

I live in the country side and have a deep-water well. The water is drinkable, but I don't know its contents in terms of minerals and pH.

I'm fraid, I do not have sulfuric acid or hydrochloric at hand. I only have phosphoric acid at the moment. The reason for using Pilsner malt is because I want really pale beers. I've stopped using Crystal malts in Pale Ales and IPAs some time ago, but I have some Simpsons Light Crystal and Simpson GNO.

What about acid/acidulated malt? I know it sprayed with lactic acid, but would it work?

With my current water profile, would I be able to treat it in such way, that there would be no need for further acidifying the mash to 5-3-5.4?

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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by guypettigrew » Thu Oct 17, 2019 3:34 pm

In your first post you say you use bottled water. Are you asking whether you can get a mash pH of 5.4 using this, or using your well water?

If using your bottled water then no reason why you shouldn't get a mash pH of 5.4. Graham Wheeler's calculator suggests the addition of various salts; 10.74 g Ca SO4, 3.96g CaCl, 1.78g MgSO4 and 2.35g NaCl, for 25L of a general bitter.

If you want to use your well water then you'd need to get it analysed.

The calcium in the bottled water is very low, so it would be worth adding the salts to the grain to bump it up to the 150ppm mark.

The sulphuric and hydrochloric acids are most easily bought as a ready made mix called CRS or AMS. Here's a link to the Malt Miller's site which sells it. With your starting alkalinity being so low, there's not really a huge need for you to reduce it much further. Dropping it to about 20 would be a good idea, but that would only take 0.5ml or less in every 10 litres. You'd need to check it with a Salifert kit to be certain.

Hope this helps.

Guy

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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by Trefoyl » Thu Oct 17, 2019 6:55 pm

IPA wrote:
Tue Oct 15, 2019 1:47 pm
Download for free Graham Wheeler's water treatment programme on this forum.

https://www.jimsbeerkit.co.uk/extras.htm

It will do most of what you want. In an English way
I’ve never been able to use Graham’s calculator because it’s Windows based and I use Apple products. I am thrilled to report that the html version works perfectly on my iPad with Safari browser =D>
https://www.jimsbeerkit.co.uk/water.html
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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by Eric » Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:15 pm

thehaze wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 1:15 pm
I live in the country side and have a deep-water well. The water is drinkable, but I don't know its contents in terms of minerals and pH.

I'm fraid, I do not have sulfuric acid or hydrochloric at hand. I only have phosphoric acid at the moment. The reason for using Pilsner malt is because I want really pale beers. I've stopped using Crystal malts in Pale Ales and IPAs some time ago, but I have some Simpsons Light Crystal and Simpson GNO.

What about acid/acidulated malt? I know it sprayed with lactic acid, but would it work?

With my current water profile, would I be able to treat it in such way, that there would be no need for further acidifying the mash to 5-3-5.4?
Deep well water will most probably be highly alkaline and need acid treatment to brew pale beers. While alkalinity is easy to measured with a Salifert KH kit, to know what treatment is required it is necessary to have it analysed. In rare cases it might not be suitable for brewing British styles.

British made pale ales and bitters have usually between 100 and 200 mg/l calcium in both mash and sparge liquor, with mash liquor alkalinity less than 50 mg/l as CaCO3. Alkalinity should be lower for paler beers, typically 10 to 20mg/l alkalinity. In America the most frequently offered homebrew advice is to use RO water with minimal additions of calcium salts. For pale beers requires an acid addition (even if no alkalinity is present) to achieve an acceptable mash pH, while for dark beers alkalinity is added, typically in the form of sodium (bi)carbonate.

Those different methods produce significantly different beers. The extra calcium in British style are mostly lost, depositing with phosphates, oxalates, hot break, and other unwanted byproducts, absorbed by yeast enabling their quicker flocculation, and used in the creation of FAN (the building blocks for heathy yeast and strong fermentation) as well as other important tasks. A British water profile should produce a finished ale with a pH around 4.0 or less, while one from a typical American homebrew profile will be nearer pH 4.4 to be sometimes acidified to produce a more normal taste profile.

Extra calcium additions also provide more sulphate and chloride (usually) that increase flavour and body more than in most American homebrew.

Yes, using just enough phosphoric acid to reduce its 35mg/l alkalinity to about 10 mg/l and increase the calcium to near 200 mg/l you could get a mash pH near 5.3 - 5.4. A Salifert KH kit will enable you to do that. In America it seems usual to mash-in then add acid until the pH reaches the target. In UK we adjust (reduce) alkalinity in advance and the calcium salt additions reduce the pH. Acidulated malt can be used to reduce alkalinity and mash pH.

While some in UK do use phosphoric acid and/or acid malt, with highly alkaline water they will often leave tastes not usual in most British beers.

My water supply would be, is, considered by the vast majority of self acclaimed American homebrew experts unsuitable for brewing. It is quite similar to that used by world famous British breweries whose waters come from the same rocks as does mine.
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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by thehaze » Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:42 am

Thank you for your kind replies. I'm trying to wrap my head around it, as whatever knowledge or lack thereof, I have, originates from other sources, namely sources from US forums and " established water people ", and of course my own experience, which is at best extremely weak. I would like to underline that I'm really only wanting to learn ( and brew well-made beers - as a homebrewer and as a future " gypsy brewer " ), which is why I wish to try different approaches to water treatment. I remain open and willing to try new things at least once. Thank you again.

I usually brew 5 batches at once - in the course of 2-3 days. The next batches are: 1 Northern German Pils, 1 Vienna Lager, 1 Pale Bitter/Pale Ale, 1 DH Pale Ale, 1 Small Milk Stout.

For the Vienna and Pils I would go something like 100 ppm Ca, 100 ppm each of Sulfate and Chloride. I will definitely need some acid for the Pils. The Vienna could get in the right pH range just by the combination of minerals/salts and the Crystal malt, I'll be adding to it.

I am willing to try a more buffed-up mash water profile for the Pale Bitter ( simple recipe, without dry hopping - lots of hops added to flameout ). Something like 150 ppm Ca, 10 ppm each Mg and Na, 150-200 ppm Sulfate and 100 ppm Chloride.

With the 80 batches I brewed so far, I noticed some things ( which could and most are definitely incorrect or skewed by either bad recipes/bad brewing practices or my perception of the final product ): High Na levels with Sulfate can clash and produce a flavour I don't like. High Ca, Chloride and high Sulfates - chalky? - is how I perceive it. These levels were tried out with NEIPAs. Low mineral levels work well with Farmhouse, Belgian Ales.

I bottle condition and I like hoppy beers fresh, so I drink them fresh. Waiting weeks upon weeks to " condition " does not yield a better hoppy beer.

Besides adding more flavour and body to my beer, by upping the amount of minerals ( as per the styles described in Graham Wheeler's water calculator ) could my beers turn out better? Would it create off-flavours? Does my experience with the chalkiness ressemble anything you've experienced before? Have you tried the " US " approach to water and how did it turn out for you?

Thanks.

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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by Eric » Fri Oct 18, 2019 2:23 pm

thehaze wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:42 am
Thank you for your kind replies. I'm trying to wrap my head around it, as whatever knowledge or lack thereof, I have, originates from other sources, namely sources from US forums and " established water people ", and of course my own experience, which is at best extremely weak. I would like to underline that I'm really only wanting to learn ( and brew well-made beers - as a homebrewer and as a future " gypsy brewer " ), which is why I wish to try different approaches to water treatment. I remain open and willing to try new things at least once. Thank you again.
There is a great deal of readily available information about water treatment in addition to that given by some of the American homebrewing community. This paper is more than 50 years old, but not much has changed and many respects homebrewers today use methods and equipment similar to those of commercial brewers in the past.
Today and for over 100 years Murphy and Son have been the main supplier of chemicals and advice on water treatment to the UK brewing industry and provide technical articles such as ionic composition and mashing liquor to name just two that you might wish to read.
thehaze wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:42 am
I usually brew 5 batches at once - in the course of 2-3 days. The next batches are: 1 Northern German Pils, 1 Vienna Lager, 1 Pale Bitter/Pale Ale, 1 DH Pale Ale, 1 Small Milk Stout.
That's quite an achievement. It takes me most of a day to brew one batch. It must be said that I can't immediately think how to tackle 5 different brews in 2 to 3 days with confidence in the quality of end products.
thehaze wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:42 am
For the Vienna and Pils I would go something like 100 ppm Ca, 100 ppm each of Sulfate and Chloride. I will definitely need some acid for the Pils. The Vienna could get in the right pH range just by the combination of minerals/salts and the Crystal malt, I'll be adding to it.

I am willing to try a more buffed-up mash water profile for the Pale Bitter ( simple recipe, without dry hopping - lots of hops added to flameout ). Something like 150 ppm Ca, 10 ppm each Mg and Na, 150-200 ppm Sulfate and 100 ppm Chloride.

With the 80 batches I brewed so far, I noticed some things ( which could and most are definitely incorrect or skewed by either bad recipes/bad brewing practices or my perception of the final product ): High Na levels with Sulfate can clash and produce a flavour I don't like. High Ca, Chloride and high Sulfates - chalky? - is how I perceive it. These levels were tried out with NEIPAs. Low mineral levels work well with Farmhouse, Belgian Ales.
I've never found a clash between sodium and sulphate in my brews. I have found that dark beers with high levels of sulphate (and as a consequence have a low chloride level) can be astringent and that pale beers with sulphate at 400ppm are initially rather dry, but improve significantly after a long period of maturation. There is no doubt that different liquor profiles produce different beers.

Many of my beers are brewed using high calcium, sulphate and chloride and therefore should be chalky, but don't recall any who have tried my beers saying they were chalky. There may be some reading this who have drank my beers and wish to make comment about this mineral or chalk taste.
thehaze wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:42 am
I bottle condition and I like hoppy beers fresh, so I drink them fresh. Waiting weeks upon weeks to " condition " does not yield a better hoppy beer.
I think hoppy beers are a subject of their own and to be absolutely frank, many of the beers I've drank of that sort will neither be improved or worsened by any water treatment. They are what they are largely due to the hop content. Also it would seem that frequent drinking of very hoppy beers reduces taste senses by the tongue and in time the sensors to bitterness cease working.
thehaze wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:42 am
Besides adding more flavour and body to my beer, by upping the amount of minerals ( as per the styles described in Graham Wheeler's water calculator ) could my beers turn out better? Would it create off-flavours? Does my experience with the chalkiness ressemble anything you've experienced before? Have you tried the " US " approach to water and how did it turn out for you?

Thanks.
No, I've not used the US homebrewer approach, but have brewed with low mineral levels. Such beers take longer to ferment and clear, often not dropping completely bright for a significant period, are thin and lack depth of flavour. My present water supply is such that it isn't suitable for use according to the self proclaimed US homebrewing experts, but it is easy to treat with acids and some additional salts. I can and do use other water for low ion brews, but it isn't convenient and doesn't normally make the beers I want most.

My latest beer was casked yesterday. Fermentation was done inside 4 days but was left another 3 to cool and drop clear. It tasted OK yesterday and has more carbonation today and it will be drank after another week or so. A brew normally lasts for about 3 months, depending upon how fast it is drank and will not go off in that time, but the flavours will change with time. I mixed a young beer with one over a year old last night, so I don't drink them quickly and while I consider many of my beers to be hoppy, I suspect they might be so for you. (200g in the last brew of 50 litres)

My beers chalky? I'm hoping some who have drank my beers might advise what they found.
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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by thepatchworkdoll » Fri Oct 18, 2019 2:50 pm

Hi All
I can vouch for Eric's beers having sampled quite a few andd have to say Ive never had any chalky beers. In fact Eric brews exceptional beers in my opinion and has a wealth of knowledge covering every aspect of brewing.
Regards
Patch

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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by thehaze » Sat Oct 19, 2019 11:54 am

I was simply wondering if anyone has experienced the same flavours as I did. Never intended to imply anything. I would like to taste/drink homebrew made using this way of treating water. Unfortunately, no one does it here.

As such, I will have to do myself. So, I have another water supply:_

Na: 5.18
Mg: 8.87
Ca: 21
SO4: 16.1
Cl: 3.37
pH: 7.7
HCO3: 99.5

This might seem more apropriate, and by going 175 ppm Ca, 15 ppm Mg, 25 ppm Na, 250 ppm SO4 and 150 ppm Cl, my mash pH could come closer to 5.5, but I would still need some acid. I don't see any way of inputting the pH in https://www.jimsbeerkit.co.uk/water.html. Would it be safe to assume that it is there, but I cannot spot it?

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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by Jim » Sat Oct 19, 2019 12:09 pm

thepatchworkdoll wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 2:50 pm
Hi All
I can vouch for Eric's beers having sampled quite a few andd have to say Ive never had any chalky beers. In fact Eric brews exceptional beers in my opinion and has a wealth of knowledge covering every aspect of brewing.
Regards
Patch
Ditto. :)
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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by FUBAR » Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:59 pm

Jim wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 12:09 pm
thepatchworkdoll wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 2:50 pm
Hi All
I can vouch for Eric's beers having sampled quite a few andd have to say Ive never had any chalky beers. In fact Eric brews exceptional beers in my opinion and has a wealth of knowledge covering every aspect of brewing.
Regards
Patch
Ditto. :)
Indeed that has been my opinion of Eric and his Beer .
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Re: Trying the English water treatment approach

Post by Eric » Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:20 pm

For years I've tried to counter the assertions by some self acclaimed brewing liquor experts who assure other homebrewers, experienced and novices alike, that adding calcium to their water will make their beers taste of minerals or chalk. It isn't so, never has been and never will be. My thanks go to Jim, Patch and FUBAR in particular, as well as many more who over recent years who have sampled my beers and provided meaningful feedback which has confirmed this point. If your beers taste of chalk or of minerals it is not due to the level of calcium being between 100 and 200ppm.
thehaze wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 11:54 am
I was simply wondering if anyone has experienced the same flavours as I did. Never intended to imply anything. I would like to taste/drink homebrew made using this way of treating water. Unfortunately, no one does it here.
Sorry if my message came across that way, that was not my intention and I am probably over defensive on this subject. Please accept my apology, but be aware you are one of many who, after American advice, say British profiles make beers that taste of minerals.
thehaze wrote:
Sat Oct 19, 2019 11:54 am
As such, I will have to do myself. So, I have another water supply:_

Na: 5.18
Mg: 8.87
Ca: 21
SO4: 16.1
Cl: 3.37
pH: 7.7
HCO3: 99.5

This might seem more apropriate, and by going 175 ppm Ca, 15 ppm Mg, 25 ppm Na, 250 ppm SO4 and 150 ppm Cl, my mash pH could come closer to 5.5, but I would still need some acid. I don't see any way of inputting the pH in https://www.jimsbeerkit.co.uk/water.html. Would it be safe to assume that it is there, but I cannot spot it?
Certainly that second profile will need more acid than the first to reduce the alkalinity. You could use phosphoric for this water. It is more usual in UK to use such as AMS, but the difference in this instance would be minimal. If you were to reduce that alkalinity by 2/3rds or 3/4 I would expect the mash pH to be near what you target and the resulting beer could have the sort of characteristics desired.

No, you are correct, there is no input for pH of the water. It is of no interest to the brewer, a chemist would use it to estimate the make up of the alkalinity. The mash doesn't differentiate between different types of alkalinity, so we also only need to know a total amount.
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