Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

(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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Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by ARNWD » Thu May 28, 2020 11:45 pm

Hi,

Can any one explain to me what happens to the ion balance when using either phosphoric or ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

As I understand it, when using CRS the anions side remains the same - the carbonate reduces and there is a corresponding increase in both the sulphate and cloride that maintains the cation - anion balance.

I have read that phosphoric acid and ascorbic acid do not increase the sulphate and cloride but will reduce the carbonate. If that is the case what happens to the cations to maintain the ion balance?

My CSE grade 3 in chemistry does not seem to be much help when I need it!

Cheers,
ARNWD.

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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by killer » Fri May 29, 2020 11:41 am

You will always have anion cation balance in the water. Every positive charge will have a negative charge associated with it.

The reason Chloride and Sulfate increase when you add CRS is because CRS is a mixture of Hydrochloric and Sulfuric acids. When these acids are in water they form Chloride (anion) and a proton (acidic cation) and Sulfate and two protons respectively. The acidic part will react with Bicarbonate in the water, turning it into water and Carbon dioxide gas. The Sulfate or Chloride will bind to the Calcium (assuming your alkalinity was from Calcium Bicarbonate) which will be nicely soluble.

Phosphoric acid on the other hand will form phosphate and a proton. Actually phosphoric acid is a way more complicated than that because its ability to give up protons depends on the pH of the solution and it can complex with Calcium and precipitate. That depends on a whole bunch of factors including temperature, concentration and time.... It won't add any Chloride or Sulfate but it will add phosphate which may or may not drop out of solution bringing Calcium with it.

I wouldn't advise ascorbic acid as an alkalinity reducing acid.

I find it easier to understand if you visualise it...
Acids.tif
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Acids.tif
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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by Silver_Is_Money » Fri May 29, 2020 12:51 pm

Ascorbic Acid can act as an oxidizer in beer under certain conditions, and because of this it was abandoned as an adjunct at least as far back as the 50's-60's (before which it was presumed to be an oxygen scavenger, but was soon found to be the opposite for beer).

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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by ARNWD » Fri May 29, 2020 5:09 pm

Thank you both for the replies.

I need a few days to digest the info but it should help my understanding of water chemistry some more.

I should be clear it is an academic question not any particular issue I am trying to solve. I share my water supply with both Leeds Brewery and Kirkstall Brewery the latter of which is just a short walk away so the supply is suitable for brewing. Neither brewery is drawing from a hole in the ground.

Cheers.
ARNWD.

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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by guypettigrew » Fri May 29, 2020 9:55 pm

ARNWD wrote:
Fri May 29, 2020 5:09 pm
Thank you both for the replies.

I need a few days to digest the info but it should help my understanding of water chemistry some more.

I should be clear it is an academic question not any particular issue I am trying to solve. I share my water supply with both Leeds Brewery and Kirkstall Brewery the latter of which is just a short walk away so the supply is suitable for brewing. Neither brewery is drawing from a hole in the ground.

Cheers.
ARNWD.
Do you know if either brewery treats the water before brewing with it?

Guy

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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by ARNWD » Sat May 30, 2020 5:23 pm

Hi Guy,

Not specifically. I don't know of any commercial setup that does not in at least some way - pre boiling for example.

If you don't mind, why do you ask?

ARNWD.

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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by guypettigrew » Sat May 30, 2020 6:17 pm

Hi ARNWD

The reason I asked is because you say in your post "the supply is suitable for brewing". In truth, any water is suitable for brewing!

Maybe I misread your post, but I thought you were suggesting the water, as is, doesn't need any treatment.

I doubt that either brewery pre-boils the water. Too energy expensive. They probably chemically treat it somehow to get it right for whatever beer is being made.

Beer can be made with any water, but treating the water makes even better beer!

Do you know the composition of your water? A useful first step is to get a full analysis. Wallybrew on here can do one for you. About £28, I think. Then you know where you're starting from and can begin to think about treating it.

Once you know what's in your water you can use Graham Wheeler's water treatment calculator on here to work out what to do. Loads of help available from people on here once you get into it.

Guy

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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by ARNWD » Tue Jun 02, 2020 5:34 am

Guy,

Thank you for the interest. Yes, I do treat my liquor. I'm lucky in that Yorkshire Water provide a full seven page pdf analysis for this area that is updated each year. Salifert test kit for alkalinity. The ions balnce in Grahams Water Treatment Calculator.

My earlier responce was just some brewing banter, to fill out the "thank you" to the two respondants who gave answers to my question.

I did the Theakston brewery tour and they pre boil and cool to strike. Don't let the accountants brew beer!

I am still digesting killer's responce. There are more ions than just "brewers ions". And precipitated calcium although not in suspension would still be in the liquor tank.

Cheers,
ARNWD.

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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by killer » Tue Jun 02, 2020 9:25 pm

ARNWD wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 5:34 am


I am still digesting killer's responce. There are more ions than just "brewers ions". And precipitated calcium although not in suspension would still be in the liquor tank.

Cheers,
ARNWD.
I hope that I'm not putting you off... I wouldn't overthink it at this point - just use the calculator to get the profiles you want to see if you like them or not. Some more serious brewers will use individual acids (say Hydrochloric and Sulfuric) to reduce alkalinity, then complete any flavour ion requirements with gypsum and Calcium Chloride. I use CRS, followed by phosphoric acid and whatever salts I need.

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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by Jocky » Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:33 am

Just as an example of what can happen using phosphoric acid for alkalinity reduction:

Last week on my brew day I decided I would reduce the alkalinity of my sparge water down to 80ppm with 70% phosphoric acid (5.5ml in 18 litres of water). Normally I'd use CRS or hydrochloric/sulphuric acids, so this was an experiment, particularly as I wanted a lower ion level in what was quite a light beer.

I put the HLT on to heat, walked away. When it came time to sparge time at 76C I took the lid off the HLT and this was what greeted me:

Image

That looks like chalk in the water and coating the element. I took a glass of it and let it cool and the precipitate settled out:

Image

Doing another alkalinity check of the clear water above the precipitate showed it was now 40ppm (down from 80ppm), so the precipitate was almost certainly at least part calcium carbonate, which in turn means I'd lost calcium from the water. Not such a tragedy for the sparge, but it could have had some unexpected consequences if I had used that liquor in the mash.

I realise that this could be a peculiar combination of my water chemistry, but I won't be using phosphoric acid again.
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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by orlando » Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:51 am

I've had exactly the same experience as Jocky so stopped using phosphoric acid, which is more of a USA approach to alkalinity reduction. CRS is fine if you want to introduce a balance of sulphuric and hydrochloric to your brewing liquour but if you want a 3:1 or 1:3 ratio it becomes a little more problematic. It's better to use sulphuric and hydrochloric separately if you want more control.
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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by ARNWD » Thu Jun 11, 2020 2:27 am

killer,
No not putting me off. I was asking as "knowledge for knowledge sake". For the record, I use CRS and have done for a number of years and yes I do use Graham's water calculator and select an associate profile adding the appropriate salts (including salt that I sourced to not include anti-caking additives). I just like to understand the "why" as apossed to the "how" with my brewing.

Jocky,
Thanks. Turning my imagination into pictures and the effort for coming forward with your post. Down to 80ppm? What do you start with? 70ppm is where I start from!

Thanks to everyone who has responded to my post. It has been great to read the replys and digest the content. Although I have lived in Leeds for over twent years now, I am from the other side of the "chalky" south downs. I do like to understand what needs to change should I find myself brewing elswhere.

ARNWD.

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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by orlando » Thu Jun 11, 2020 7:55 am

Jocky wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:33 am
Last week on my brew day I decided I would reduce the alkalinity of my sparge water down to 80ppm
I'd be interested to learn why you chose 80 for sparge water? I've always reduced mine, regardless of so called "style", to circa 20.
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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by Jocky » Thu Jun 11, 2020 9:12 am

I batch sparge, so I do not have to worry about pH rising too much. For this beer I drained the mash tun, and then did two batch sparges of equal size. The final one had runnings of 1.018 @ pH 5.6. I intend to try more alkalinity in future for batch sparging to see whether I need to treat it at all.

My water starts at around 255ppm of alkalinity as CaCO3 and normally for simplicity's sake I fill my HLT and treat all my liquor as per what I need for the mash. e.g. if it's a very pale beer I reduce all the water to 30ppm, if it's dark I might go up to 150ppm and for mega roasty beers I've been fine without any treatment at all.


In the example above where I got calcium precipitation I was experimenting a bit as it was a very pale beer and I didn't want to overload on the sulphate and chloride ions. The mash liquor was reduced to 10ppm alkalinity with hydrochloric and sulphuric acid and I decided to try phosphoric for the sparge. I've heard about calcium precipitation when using phosphoric acid but enough people seem to use it without issues so I decided to give it a go myself. I figured that it wasn't going to do much harm if I lost some calcium in a batch sparge.
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Re: Phosphoric and ascorbic acid for alkalinity reduction.

Post by Silver_Is_Money » Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:14 am

Calcium carbonate precipitates naturally from heated, and particularly more so from boiled water, and this is why many boil their water to reduce its alkalinity (as opposed to acidifying it). Does your heating element get hot enough to locally boil the water that comes into contact with it?

Simply taking hot showers (~45 degrees C.) will in fact precipitate out calcium carbonate upon the spray-nozzle openings of your shower-head over time. No need to fault phosphoric acid.

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