Author Topic: BIAB & Water Profiles  (Read 1795 times)

Offline AJAlexander

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BIAB & Water Profiles
« on: May 21, 2019, 12:56:03 PM »
Hello fellow Brewers,

I'm just getting started into this hobby and still have many questions.  I made my first 10gal. batch a month or so ago, and I just used regular tap water (hardwater).  It was ok, but I've read that a lot of people end up using different profiles and adding different chemicals to balance out their PH levels.  I'm curious as to where would I start with learning how to balance out the PH levels of my tap water?  Do I need to buy a water test kit of some kind, etc? Any help would be appreciated!  Thanks.

Online Oginme

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Re: BIAB & Water Profiles
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2019, 01:22:24 PM »
There are a couple of reasons to make changes to your water mineral profile. 

The first is to accentuate the flavors of your beer. Higher Chloride levels bring out the malt flavors.  Higher Sulfate levels give a drier finish to your beer which accents the hop bitterness.

The second is to provide for the needed minerals which aid in yeast health and flocculation.  Calcium and Magnesium both are used by the yeast in their reproduction cycle and during the flocculation and settling stages of fermentation.

The third is to help with controlling the pH of your mash to optimize the enzyme activity and prevent harsher compounds, like tannins, from being released.  The choice of mineral salts used for the first and second reasons above will help with adjustment of your mash pH.

I would recommend first searching for and reading some of Brad's blog posts about water and mash pH along with some of the interviews specifically about water quality with John Palmer and others.  Next, download a copy of Martin Brungard's treatise on water at https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge.  His spreadsheet is designed much the same as the water tools in BeerSmith.  The nice thing about BeerSmith is that it is linked into your recipe and so uses those inputs to balance your water to match the profile you want.

As part of this, you will need to get an analysis of your water source.  Many people use RO filtered water which removes the majority of the ions so that you are starting from scratch.  If you are on municipal water, your water treatment department may or may not have a good report on the chemical make up of your water.  Most of the ions you need concentrations for are not part of their standard test screening. As an alternative, you can get your water tested at Ward's Labs (they have a specific water test for brewers) or use a water testing kit such as BrewLab (http://www.lamotte.com/en/food-beverage/brewlab) to test your water yourself.  This is a more costly option, but if your water changes seasonally, it is well worth it.

If you are looking to control the mash pH, you will want/need to invest in a pH meter.  There are test strips available as well which are of lesser accuracy but work fine.  There are a number of affordable pH meters on the market for water testing.  My recommendation is not to get the very cheap ones and stay away from those without automatic calibration. 

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Offline dtapke

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Re: BIAB & Water Profiles
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2019, 03:41:09 PM »
I'll do my best to add a few things to Oginme's excellent response.

first, If you haven't read "how to brew" by John Palmer, it's a good first book. podcasts and blog are great, but i find having a book to reference is very handy.

If you've just made your very first batch, I wouldn't worry too much about perfect water quite yet. I would say the most important thing you need to worry about is chlorine/chloramines in your water. This can be resolved by using campden tablets.

in the mash, if you're not using a massive amount of adjuncts, your mash PH will generally work itself out.

advanced reading materials would be the "water" book which is a part of the brewing elements series.
32g eHERMS
Drinking: Dopplebock, NEIPA, Pils
Primary: empty
Secondary/Lagering:
Next Brew: RIS

Offline Kevin58

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Re: BIAB & Water Profiles
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2019, 07:39:06 AM »
One note about Palmer's book "How to Brew", get the most recent 4th edition. There is a a free online version but it is the first edition of that book and John has added many new topics to the new one. Some of the information in the first is actually out of date and he updates those in the 4th.

John Palmer also has written a book called Water which contains everything you could ever want to know and then some about brewing water chemistry.

Ward Labs has a brewers water test kit for just over $40. It will analyze your water and return the results for everything relevant to brewing beer. https://www.wardlab.com/BrewersKitOrder.php Use those results to build up your base water profile in Beersmith then select a target for what you wish to brew... say Burton Water if you want to produce an English Pale Ale... and BS will calculate what you need to add to your base to most closely match the target.
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Offline AJAlexander

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Re: BIAB & Water Profiles
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2019, 07:12:46 AM »
Awesome, thanks for all the advice!  I'll pick that book up.

Online Oginme

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Re: BIAB & Water Profiles
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2019, 08:41:35 AM »
John Palmer's "How to Brew" is a book I recommend for anyone who brews.  In the 4th edition, it is comprehensive and serves as an awesome reference for brewers of all levels.

The 'Water' book by Palmer and Kominski is very in depth and only about a third of it is relevant to the average home brewer.  When you are ready to really geek out on the chemistry aspect of water, this is the book for you.

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Offline dtapke

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Re: BIAB & Water Profiles
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2019, 10:41:05 AM »
John Palmer's "How to Brew" is a book I recommend for anyone who brews.  In the 4th edition, it is comprehensive and serves as an awesome reference for brewers of all levels.

The 'Water' book by Palmer and Kominski is very in depth and only about a third of it is relevant to the average home brewer.  When you are ready to really geek out on the chemistry aspect of water, this is the book for you.

agreed on all parts, except there may be less than a third of the water book relevant to the Average home brewer. maybe a third to some of advanced home brewers, maybe half to the average commercial brewer, and the whole book to someone who REALLY REALLY cares about water and brewing in all aspects, from the source to the disposal. It's still a fun book, and i find myself revisiting it on occasion. I still find commercial breweries with brewers that have far less knowledge than myself, and yet operate successfully with no desire to learn and improve. Kinda sad, as even being a home brewer i'm always trying to learn more.

I started brewing long before Palmers 4th edition of how to brew, but i've heard its fantastic and has some definite improvements over previous editions.
32g eHERMS
Drinking: Dopplebock, NEIPA, Pils
Primary: empty
Secondary/Lagering:
Next Brew: RIS