10 March 2014

Learning about Water

First, I owe all of you an apology.

I thought I had posts scheduled through this weekend.  Apparently, I didn't.

I try to post consistently for the 6 of you that read this, so I try to plan ahead in case things get busy at work or at home. I failed in that planning, and I'm sorry.

Having said that, I do have a few posts to load up on here, so let's get to it.

The best way to learn something is the have to teach it to someone. So any time I try to learn something new, I pretend I am teaching someone. Today, that's the six of you that read this. Congrats!

I bought Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers, a few months ago and tried to read it.

I'm in my 50s, and it's been since the early 1980s that I've stepped into a chemistry class. So about three chapters in I hit the wall. I know that knowing about water will help my brewing, but c'mon! Learning at this age?

Whenever I need advice on brewing I turn to the Brewing Network. So, with the help of a BNArmy buddy, I downloaded the Brew Strong water shows, and got a chance on Sunday (duped into a non-brew day by a pessimistic weatherman) to listen to the first couple of shows. Here are my notes for Show I, expanded slightly.

Water is important to beer flavor, but the most important things in water to brewing are the minerals. Look at it this way: If you use distilled water to make a soup, it will turn out good, but flat. If you add spices and salts to your water, it will turn out much better. Distilled water brings, as Alton Brown says, nothing to the party. (He also has a fun podcast.)

Water pH plays a role. Acidic water (under 7 pH) makes a drier beer. Basic water (above 7 pH) makes a maltier beer.

Calcium is important for yeast health, mash pH, and beer clarity. It should be 50-100 ppm.

Magnesium is good for yeast health, but the yeast will get what it needs from the mash. Too much can give you the shits. It's used in Milk of Magnesia.

Chloride is a malt enhancer, and sulfate enhances hop flavor. The key is to get a good balance between the two. The bicarbonate concentration of you water lets you know what you can brew.
  • 0-50 ppm: pale beers
  • 50-150 ppm: orange to brown beers
  • 105- 250 ppm: dark beers
The ratio of Chloride to Sulfate lets you know how bitter or malty your beer will be.
  • 0:.5 - Very bitter
  • .5:.75 - moderately bitter
  • .75-1.25 - Balanced
  • 1.25:1.50 - Malty
  • 1.5:2 - very malty
This is where the first show ended. 

Let me know if I got this right. I want to make better beer, and water is a part of it.


posted by hiikeeba at 08:00


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