Liquor Treatment Calculator Notes

Your data is entered into the boxes set into a bright-yellow background, the answers are placed in the boxes set into a khaki background. Basically, you enter your data for your water supply in line 2, enter data for the water you wish to emulate in line 5, and the calculator should do the rest. The note numbers in the right-hand column are also used to refer to table row or line numbers in the following notes. All entries are in milligrams per litre (mg/l), which is the same as p.p.m. The CRS display is in millilitres per litre (ml/l) and total millilitres. Data should be entered from the top of the page downwards, because changes to earlier entries will overwrite some subsequent entries. This will be annoying if you have already customised some of the data. Because the author was unable to find a way to display computer-generated data without putting it into little white boxes, entry data is in little white boxes set against a yellow background. The little white boxes set against a khaki background can not be altered.

Note 1:
Alkalinity + Carbonate Reduction Method. Most water companies do not give carbonate directly but give it as alkalinity and this can be expressed in several ways. If you have an alkalinity figure, enter it in the alkalinity box and select the way it is expressed. This will put an accurate figure for carbonate in the carbonate box in row 2.

Select the method of carbonate reduction. If using CRS, set the residual alkalinity figure if you have a preference. If you have no preference, leave it at the default, which is the generally recommended minimum figure for a bitter. However, if the carbonate figure in the target liquor row is greater than the residual figure, the residual figure is ignored and the target figure is used for the calculation instead. In almost all cases the residual figure will be overridden by the target figure when using CRS.

The residual alkalinity figure behaves differently when using the boiling method to reduce carbonate. When boiling to remove carbonate (alkalinity) the vast majority of the carbonate is removed, but not all of it. A small amount remains, but that amount is indeterminate. How much remains depends upon various things, but we have no way of knowing precisely how much. In this case the residual alkalinity figure provides an approximate figure for the carbonate remaining after the boil, just to give the programme something to work with. It is not affected by any other parameters.

If you are using CRS as your carbonate reduction method, an accurate figure for alkalinity or CO3 is essential. If you are boiling to remove carbonate the accuracy of the figure for alkalinity is not so important because it automatically takes care of itself. Municipal waters are not consistent with time, thus even the alkalinity figures supplied by them may not be particularly accurate because the figures can vary from day to day. When using CRS it is preferable to use it in conjunction with an alkalinity test kit.

The hardness figure is a special case and should only be used in an emergency. Usually it is not used. If you do not have a figure for alkalinity, but have a hardness figure, enter the hardness in this box and the way it is expressed. The software will then produce guesstimates for both carbonate and calcium. Should you have figures for both alkalinity and hardness (unusual), enter both figures and an accurate figure for carbonate and a better guesstimate for calcium will be computed, possibly guessing at magnesium and sulphate also. Remember that alkalinity and hardness are not the same, even though they may be expressed in the same units. Remember also that the ion values for the six water parameters, if they are available, are more accurate than using the hardness guesstimate.

Note 2:
Your Water. This line is where you enter your water parameters. At the very least you would require calcium, carbonate and sulphate figures, but preferably all six. Carbonate is usually expressed as alkalinity. Water company web sites are notoriously bad at supplying the necessary parameters; it may be necessary to phone or write to your water company to get sufficient information. Some parameters may have been automatically guessed at by the software from your alkalinity input in the previous step. These should be changed if you have more definitive figures. However, carbonate is generally accurately derived from the alkalinity figure if one is available and has been been entered.

Note 3:
Ion Balance Check. The figures given in water reports rarely represent a balanced water composition; that is, a feasible water that can actually exist. For a balanced water, ideally the two figures in this row, the cations and the anions, should be the same. If they are not the same the water, technically, can not exist. The two figures should be within 10 per cent at worst, but the closer the better. Quite small differences in the ion balance can produce seemingly disproportionately large errors in the final liquor. If the two figures are wildly different you may wish to jiggle the figures in line 2 until the two numbers are as close as you can get them, perhaps by transcribing the figures to the target water line, and letting the automatic function balance your water before transcribing them back to line 2. Even with balanced water the figures may not always be identical, there are rounding errors and small inaccuracies in the system, which may give small differences. These particular figures are in milliequivalents, sometimes known as millivals.

Note 4:
Initial Water after Carbonate Reduction. This is what it says; for your information it shows the water after carbonate reduction. It is sometimes useful to compare the difference between boiling and using CRS. When boiling, both the calcium and the carbonate will be reduced and precipitated as chalk. When using CRS, the carbonate will be reduced, the calcium remains the same, but the sulphate and chloride are both increased. Reducing carbonate by boiling or by using CRS have different impacts the subsequent water treatment required. Some target water profiles can only be achieved by boiling due the high levels of sulphate and chloride that CRS adds to the water.

Note 5:
Target Liquor. In this row you enter the parameters for the water you wish to emulate. This row is used in conjunction with the drop-down list in the left column. The drop-down list contains several settings.

Custom. Setting the drop down list to custom allows you to enter a set of water parameters for the water you wish to emulate, and which the system will attempt to match. Obviously the parameters must represent a balanced water for the expected results to be achieved. It is probably easier to produce a balanced water using the automatic setting below.

Beer Types. The drop-down list also gives a few typical water compositions for various types of beer, the parameters for which will be automatically loaded into the boxes. These can either be used 'as is' or can be modified to suit circumstances by switching to automatic mode after selection. Bear in mind that these are not set in stone, and should not be regarded as definitive. In any case, what you will be able to achieve, or how close you will be able to get, will depend upon what you start out with. In any case, proper water treatment really entails reducing the carbonate to minimal levels and then ensuring sufficient calcium for proper mash pH, rather than attempting to match any particular water composition. This is contrary to much of the perceived wisdom in home-brewing circles, but it is a fact nevertheless.

Automatic. Probably the best way to tackle water treatment is to adjust the calcium level to achieve proper mash pH and to adjust the sulphate to chloride ratio for flavour profile if necessary. The brewer often knows how much calcium he wants and the sulphate to chloride ratio needed to achieve the profile. The automatic setting enables this to be easily achieved. The automatic function is a useful facility in its own right to help design a balanced brewing liquor, and can be used stand-alone. Balanced, in this context, means that the cation and anion sides match properly. By adding calcium, magnesium or sodium ions it will add sulphate and chloride ions in the specified ratio. Adding carbonate will cause the other parameters to be adjusted to compensate for it, automatically providing a balanced water with the requested sulphate to chloride ratios. The calcium, magnesium, sodium and carbonate are adjustable by the user, the sulphate and chloride figures are filled in by the software. You can begin, should you wish, by selecting a starting point from the profiles in the drop-down list, and then set to automatic to fine tune.

The automatic function is used in conjunction with the sulphate to chloride ratio box situated in the following row. As you enter calcium, sulphate and chloride is added in appropriate ratios. If you add magnesium, it automatically adds it as magnesium sulphate and adjusts the chloride accordingly to maintain the selected ratio (where possible). If you add sodium, it automatically adds it as sodium chloride and adjusts the sulphate accordingly to maintain the selected ratio (where possible). If the system is unable to maintain the ratios, it gets as close as it can, but still produces a balanced target water even though the ratios are diverging. Please note that the sulphate to chloride ratio box only works when set to automatic mode. You can switch to automatic at any time and adjust the sulphate to chloride ratios of any target water.

If you are producing a target water from scratch. The most important ingredient is calcium. None of the important brewing reactions from the mash through to fining can function properly without enough calcium. The minimum calcium level is deemed to be 50mg/l for the mash reactions to behave properly, but at this level another 50mg/l should be added to the wort boil because a certain amount of calcium gets mopped up in the mash and insufficient can remain for the subsequent processes. I would suggest 100mg/l of calcium as being adequate for all beers, but the actual amount of calcium required will be dictated by mash pH - increasing the calcium if the pH is too high and decreasing it if it is too low, but never below 50mg/l and something like 200mg/l should be regarded as top the limit. The main point of water treatment is to achieve an appropriate mash pH and that should take priority over everything else. There is usually little benefit to be gained from calcium levels much above 100mg/l, but circumstances can dictate higher levels. It does no harm to add 50mg/l calcium to the wort boil as insurance for the post-mash processes when lowish calcium levels are employed in the mash.

Additional sodium is optional and is added (as sodium chloride) as a flavour enhancer to increase palate fullness. The minimum level for sodium is zero and the maximum is reckoned to be about 150mg/l. Burton waters would historically have had about 30mg/l of sodium and London waters twice that. Somewhere between 30mg/l and 75mg/l is probably a good range if you are experimenting. Porters and stouts are said to benefit from high sodium levels. Magnesium is added for the benefit of the yeast and certain enzymes. 5-10mg/l of magnesium is sufficient when added as magnesium sulphate to the wort boil. An upper limit for magnesium is regarded as 30mg/l, although historically Burton water greatly exceeded this.

Note 6:
Sulphate to Chloride Ratio:
This box only works when target liquor is set to automatic. Obviously for other settings the system tries to match the target liquor specified on the assumption that the specified liquor will already have an appropriate ratio.

Two boxes are required to set the ratio in the form of 1:1, 3:4; 5:1 and so on. This provides something like ninety different ratios. The left-hand box represents the sulphate and the right-hand box represents the chloride. If both numbers are the same; i.e., 5:5 or 7:7 then the effective ratio is 1:1. If the sulphate number is zero, then this represents 100% chloride. If the chloride number is zero, then this represents 100% sulphate. However, if both sides are set to zero (0:0), the ratio function is switched off and the sulphate and chloride are derived directly from the cation side thus: calcium is paired with sulphate (and carbonate); magnesium is paired with sulphate; and sodium is paired with chloride. A balanced water always reseults.

Sulphate to chloride ratio is a bit of a moot point and should be regarded as advanced water treatment at best. This ratio is merely flavour related and rather subjective and esoteric at that. In reality it is adequate to simply ensure that you have sufficient calcium, using calcium sulphate as your source of calcium should additions be required, and settle for the sulphate / chloride ratio that you end up with. If using CRS to reduce carbonate, often sufficient calcium is present in the water without further additions, and you are stuck with the sulphate to chloride ratio that CRS produces. No particular ratio will cause any technical problems or produce a bad beer and I would not worry too much about it if you are new to water treatment.

Nevertheless sulphate accentuates both dryness and bitterness, whereas chloride accentuates sweetness, mouth-feel and palate fullness, like adding salt to food. It seems that it is the ratio that is important, not necessarily the absolute quantity of sulphate or chloride present. Traditionally Burton-style pale ales had high sulphate to chloride ratios to the extent that the chloride was almost non-existent or insignificant. Modern references suggest that Burton-style pale ales and bitters, these days, have between 2:1 and 3:1 sulphate to chloride ratio; milds about 2:3, and stouts having low sulphate and high chloride, to the extent of having virtually no sulphate at all, perhaps having a ratio of 1:2, 1:3, or even 0:1. However, dispite what some references might say, there is no typical; brewers all over the country settle for the ratio they end up with after carbonate reduction, and are producing a range of perfectly satisfactory ales and beers. It would be reasonable aim for a sulphate to chloride ratio of 2:1 for a general-purpose treatment, irrespective of beer type.

Note 7:
Target Ion Balance Check. Yet another ion balance check, this time to allow a check that the target water being requested is actually feasible. The same rules as note 3 apply.

Note 8:
Additions required. Just for information. This simply shows what is going to be added to the water.

Note 9:
Final Liquor. This shows what you are going to end up with. If the figures in this line do not match the the figures in line 5, the target liquor, then it is not possible to achieve the target liquor requested. However, the figures in this line will always represent a balanced liquor, even if it doesn't match what was requested, because it automatically adjusts this (and the minerals to be added) to be a balanced liquor.

Mineral Salt Additions Table
Quite straightforward. Simply specifies the mineral salts to be added to achieve the final liquor specified in line 9. The mineral salts specified are adjusted for the water of crystalisation / hydration. If salts in a different form are to be used, the quantities should be adjusted accordingly. Place the volume of water to be treated in the appropriate box, and it even does the multiplication for you.

Calcium carbonate should be added to the mash; it will not work by adding it to the water because of its poor solubility. In this case the quantity employed must be proportioned to the mash liquor, not the total liquor. The easiest way of doing this is to temporarily set the "Volume to be Treated" box to your mash liquor volume, make a note of the calcium carbonate figure, and ignore the other figures. Then, when your "Volume to be Treated" box is reset to total volume for the rest of the water treatment, ignore the calcium carbonate figure.

Special mention should be made of the the last three salts in the ingredients table. Sodium sulphate and magnesium carbonate additions should not really be necessary and you will find it difficult to find the salts anyway. These are only visible for completeness; just to mop up any loose ions kicking about. If quantities appear in these rows it is best to jiggle your target water so that they disappear, or to ignore them altogether.

Similarly, sort of, with sodium carbonate. Although sodium carbonate is easily obtainable, it is just ordinary washing soda, it is very rare that anybody should need to increase alkalinity in this way, except, perhaps, for people in very soft, or acidic, water areas. Normally alkalinity is increased by using calcium carbonate, and this salt should be sufficient. Sodium carbonate, as such, is not usually regarded as a constituent of most water supplies. However, in rare cases it may be necessary, but if the software thinks that sodium carbonate is necessary, ensure that the target water and the final water match before considering using it. More often than not it will be an imbalance somewhere that causes the software to ask for sodium carbonate.

Adding Your Water Treatment Stuff
If using CRS, this is always added to the total liquor before brewing. With the exception of calcium carbonate, which is always added to the mash in proportion to the amount of mash liquor, the best place to add the salts is generally to the total volume of the liquor. However, calcium sulphate can be difficult to get into solution in cold water, as is usually the case when using CRS. The other salts go into solution easily. There are two ways of overcoming the difficulty of getting calcium sulphate into solution. One is to premix it in a small volume of liquor using a food processor or a hand blender before adding it to the main liquor. The other is to split the calcium sulphate into two portions, one in proportion to the volume of mash liquor and the other for the remainder of the total liquor. The proportion for the mash is mixed in with the grist prior to mashing, and the remainder is added to the wort boil. This has the disadvantage that sparge water is untreated which, ideally, should be treated, although it probably doesn't matter too much if it is not. For this reason, premixing and adding the sulphate to the total liquor is preferred. Even if boiling the liquor to remove carbonate, it is a good idea to premix the sulphate before adding it to the liquor boil.

The calcium-bearing salts are required for mash reactions, so it is important that these are present in the mash in the correct proportions. The other common salts, magnesium sulphate and sodium chloride, are not particularly important for the mash, and they can be just as effectively added to the wort boil. In fact, for slightly technical reasons, it is probably better if the magnesium and sodium salts are added to the wort boil. Calcium carbonate should only be added to the mash. It should not be added to any other liquor including the sparge liquor. The carbonate is detrimental to brewing processes beyond the mash.

Note 10:
The subject of water chemistry can be a complex subject for those who are not versed in the necessary arts, and liquor treatment for purpose of brewing is a special case that complicates matters even further. Add to this the fact that this programme is fairly complex, and that there are an almost infinite number of combinations of initial water and target water, it becomes plain that there is plenty of opportunity for bugs to arise.

However, there are certain issues that may seem odd, but which are not bugs. The major issue, in fact the only known one of significance, is the occasional tendency for the system to give seemingly erroneous results. This occurs when any particular ion in the "Target Liquor" (row 5) is less than the equivalent ion in the "Initial Water" (after carbonate reduction), row 4. Obviously, at the current stage of the home brewer's art, we can not remove certain minerals that are already in the water, which is effectively what the user is asking the system to do, so the target liquor can not be matched, and the system has to do the best match it can while maintaining a balanced final liquor. The system matches as best it can, but the end result may appear to lose some stuff on the way. This occurs because for any ion to exist in water it must be bound to another ion. Each cation must be bound to an anion in a particular ratio, and vice-versa. The system does its best to pair up the ions, but eventually the system ends up with some surplus ions with nothing left that is suitable for them bind to. The surplus ions are then dropped because they cannot exist in isolation. This produces the apparently wonky results, but the final liquor in row 9 is properly balanced, even if it does not match the target.

There are two ways of dealing with this problem. The easiest way is to accept the final liquor as it is, if it is not far enough out to worry about, but the other way is to increase the relevant ions in the target water (Row 5) to match or exceed the equivalent ions in the initial water (Row 4). In the case of magnesium or sodium the answer is simply to make those ions in the target water match those in the initial water. It makes no difference if we have a a bit of extra magnesium or sodium in the liquor. A button has been provided for doing this automatically.

If the culprit is the target carbonate (CO3) being too low, the situation is similar, but we must be a bit more careful about adjusting the carbonate because an excess will cause problems. There are two ways of making the adjustment. One way is to reduce the residual alkalinity figure in the "Carbonate Reduction" box at the top of the page, such that the figures in row 4 and 5 match, the other is to use the carbonate button which will raise the carbonate value in the target water to match that of the initial water. In fact, when using CRS, adjustment should not be necessary because the system is able to vary the CRS dosage to match the carbonate level demanded. If boiling to remove carbonate, however, it is a slightly different matter. We not know precisely how much carbonate remains after the boil, apart from it being low and well within acceptable limits. In this case we can match the figures using one of the two above methods, as long as the carbonate remains within sensible limits. Fortunately the mash is very tolerant and we do not need to be very precise in the matter.

Things become rather more complicated when the sulphate or chloride mismatches, which will be quite often when using CRS. One of the negatives of CRS is that it adds copious amounts of both sulphate and chloride to the water in a fixed ratio (1.36:1). It is a one-size-fits-all solution which happens not to fit a good number of typical water profiles. Some water profiles simply can not be matched when using CRS, lager types in particular. With most British beer styles, however, an acceptable water can be obtained when using CRS even if, in some cases, you can not achieve the particular water that you initially wanted. Mismatches are less likely when using the boiling method because you are starting with a cleaner slate, if not necessarily a totally clean slate. Nevertheless, whether your mismatch occurs when using the boiling method of carbonate reduction or CRS, there is not a push-button fix. The solution is to set the target mode to automatic and adjust the figures until you do get a balanced final liquor. Often changing the sulphate / chloride ratio will achieve balance, also increasing the target calcium level will also help to achieve a balanced water.

Rounding Errors: Another non-bug issue is one that I will refer to as rounding errors, although that is not strictly what it is. This is a situation whereby, occasionally, you ask for a target liquor containing, say, 200 mg/l of sulphate and it gives you 199.9 instead, or you ask for 20mg/l of carbonate and it gives you 19.9. This is simply a consequence of the precision to which we are working. For example; an ionic imbalance of just 0.002 miliequivalents will produce an error of 0.1 mg/l in the carbonate figure. To better this we would need to input our water parameters to four or five decimal places, which is impractical and quite unnecessary. There is no need for anywhere near that precision, even for those who are able to weigh ingredients to better than 100 micrograms.

The Message Box
A message box has been added between the two main tables. This simply highlights aspects that may be wrong, particularly those issues mentioned above. It has limited intelligence.

Differences Between This Programme And The Previous Version.
The main reason for updating this was to include carbonate in the target water calculations and add them to the preset profiles. Ignoring carbonate was intentional in the original version, because when using CRS to reduce carbonate a bit of alkalinity is left by design, and when boiling the water to remove carbonate an indeterminate amount of alkalinity is left also, because boiling does not remove it all. I assumed that it was safe to ignore carbonate for the subsequent calculations. This is fine for hard water areas, but it turned out to be a problem for people in soft water areas because their mash pH can be unstable and too low without a bit of residual alkalinity. Doubtless the modifications have made the calculator more complicated to use, but perhaps there is more that can be done to simplify it. However, I believe that this is the only home brewing liquor treatment application that attempts to do the job properly. It is not sufficient to simply add treatment salts willy-nilly to the water and expect to match any given water - other things go on as well, and these have to be taken into account.

Another issue that has been addressed is the case whereby people thought the system was making mistakes, when in fact it wasn't. This issue has been addressed by including an error window which points out the reason for discrepancies, and some buttons to auto-correct minor discrepancies. The final liquor row has now been properly rounded, rather than showing the result to umpteen decimal places when it felt like it. One or two bugs have been corrected which only I seemed to have noticed.

I have removed the target water profiles for specific areas, such as Burton and Munich, because people were complaining that the figures did match other references. Although home-brewing books, web sites, and even commercial brewing books like to prattle on about, and show tables of, water composition for various different areas, what they all fail to mention is that this was not the water that the brewers actually brewed with. It would have been impossible to brew a world-famous beer with some of these waters as they stand. It was standard practice for old-time brewers to boil their water before use and this would have reduced the carbonate. The figures that were originally provided gave the water parameters after the boil had taken place. Anywat, they have been removed now to prevent any further confusion.

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