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BlackSands

Beer is super hazy: high pH = poor conversion?

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Just wondering... my current brew seems to have  permanent haze that is not clearing with CC and gelatine.  Now it's only been CC'ing for three days so far but a previous brew was cleaned up in half that time so not sure.  It looked unusually murky prior to CC and it looks like muddy water now - even at room temperature, so I suspect it's not chill haze.

I mashed 2.4kg of Gladfield Ale Malt to pair up with a Cooper's DA can but didn't consider pH, though I did add 5g gypsum which I often do as a matter of course.  It's the first time I've actually mashed a base malt on it's own and given the soft water here which has a pH of around 7.8, in the absence of any pH-lowering specialty malts I'm now wondering if this 60-70min mash the pH was actually  too high and conversion subsequently incomplete?  🤔   

Moving forward I may end up warming up the brew and throwing some amylase in and giving it a few more days to do its thing before CC'ing again.  It finished at 1.012 and I know the enzyme will certainly result in a lower FG but I rather have a drier beer than one that looks like swamp water!   

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Ok... cancel all that!   It just occurred to me that maybe this one is clearing quite slowly compared to the other batch I mentioned - the one that I successfully cleared with a 1.5day CC - that was an extract brew.  I wondered if this one is taking more time because of the 50% fresh wort and it may have stratified somewhat in the process of clearing so I drew a quick sample off the top of the beer... and yup, crystal clear @1ºC.  Phew!   

Interesting though... perhaps extract beers really only need a day or two CC where as partials/AG need much longer?  🤔

 

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On the first point, the pH of the water doesn't really matter. It's the pH of the mash that is important, and that is affected by the mineral makeup of the water along with the grains used, not the pH of the water itself. Gypsum would assist in lowering it a little bit as well. 

The enzymes that do the conversion do work best in a certain pH range so it isn't a bad assumption that a mash too far out of this range wouldn't convert as well as one comfortably in it. I usually aim for between 5.2-5.4 with mine as most of them are paler styles. The dark beers I aim higher around 5.6. 

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I don't agree that the pH of the water doesn't matter. With mashing water is your basic building block. It can be hard to hit your desired mash pH if your water is wrong for a style. Relatively easy to fix water that is too soft by adding mineral salts, not so the other way around.

Cheers,

Christina.

 

Edited by ChristinaS1
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The reason it doesn't matter is because grains provide a buffer that makes it harder to change the pH, as do things like carbonates (alkalinity). It's easier to change the mash pH in soft water. 

Having used both distilled and tap water which are 7 and about 7.8-7.9 pH respectively, the mash pH didn't really differ on the same grist provided the mineral content, primarily carbonate, was similar in both waters. If I leave out the carbonate addition in my distilled water I can get the mash pH lower without using as much acid malt, if any, because that extra buffer isn't there to prevent it dropping lower than whatever the grains themselves get it to. The pH of this water is the same regardless of carbonate being present or not. I use the same principle in my pool water, using carbonates to keep the pH as stable as possible. It doesn't raise it, it just prevents it moving. 

If your water is wrong for the style it does present problems, but that is a mineral content issue not a water pH one. 

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3 hours ago, ChristinaS1 said:

I don't agree that the pH of the water doesn't matter. With mashing water is your basic building block. It can be hard to hit your desired mash pH if your water is wrong for a style.

This is the way I was looking at it... I just assumed that if the water - the basic 'building block' as you say has I an inherently high pH then the mash itself will correspondingly end up having a high than desired pH when mixed in with that water.    But perhaps it's more complicated than that as Otto seems to suggests?  🤔   I dunno...

Anyway, as I mentioned it's turned out not to be the issue in this case and what I seem to be witnessing is a CC'd brew that is slowly clearing from the top down.   If I had a clear FV I reckon I could probably see the hazy layer slowly dropping in height as the days go by. 

 

Edited by BlackSands
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On 9/6/2019 at 11:30 PM, Otto Von Blotto said:

The reason it doesn't matter is because grains provide a buffer that makes it harder to change the pH, as do things like carbonates (alkalinity). It's easier to change the mash pH in soft water. 

Having used both distilled and tap water which are 7 and about 7.8-7.9 pH respectively, the mash pH didn't really differ on the same grist provided the mineral content, primarily carbonate, was similar in both waters. If I leave out the carbonate addition in my distilled water I can get the mash pH lower without using as much acid malt, if any, because that extra buffer isn't there to prevent it dropping lower than whatever the grains themselves get it to. The pH of this water is the same regardless of carbonate being present or not. I use the same principle in my pool water, using carbonates to keep the pH as stable as possible. It doesn't raise it, it just prevents it moving. 

If your water is wrong for the style it does present problems, but that is a mineral content issue not a water pH one. 

Hi Kelsey. I am certainly no water expert but my understanding is that the pH of water is the sum of how much acid is in the water vs the amount of buffing agents (like calcium carbonate). While the pH of water immediately after distillation is 7 (neutral), it rapidly absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, which is acidic. Because it contains no minerals to buffer it, the acid has a big effect; within two hours of distillation the pH is 5.8  https://sciencing.com/ph-distilled-water-4623914.html  I suspect that is why you don't need to add any acid malt to the grist if you leave out carbonate additions: you are almost at target already. I am pretty sure that if you measured the pH of freshly distilled water with carbonate additions, the pH would be more basic than 7; however, if you left it for two hours, I am not sure where it would end up.  It would depend on how much carbonate you added.

Water utilities like to keep the pH of tap water around 7.8, which strikes a balance between protecting the pipes from corrosion and preventing too much scale buildup. 

Cheers,

Christina.

Edited by ChristinaS1

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I'll test it later today and see where it's sitting. This is water that's been sitting around for a while and while it's in closed containers it would still be exposed to some CO2. Whatever it measures I can put into Beersmith. Simply put, pH is the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution as the article relates, not really the measurement of acids against buffers. It is more in depth than that of course. 

I don't know if adding carbonate increases water pH, I use it in my pool water to stabilise it, not increase it. I also use it in dark beers to prevent the mash pH dropping too far. Maybe I'll dissolve some bicarb soda in some distilled water later as well and see if the pH goes up or stays pretty much the same. 

But my point is more that if I was using two different waters, both with no carbonate in them, one at pH 6 and the other at pH 8, by the time the grains were added the mash pH would be pretty much the same for both of them. Similarly if they both contained 100ppm carbonate, the mash pH would end up pretty much the same, but higher than the ones with no carbonate. I know it seems hard to believe but the water pH really doesn't affect it. 

Edited by Otto Von Blotto
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Turns out I had some time now. The distilled water by itself measured about 5.4-5.5 pH. I then dissolved about a third of a teaspoon of bicarb soda in it and it went up to 8.5. However, the concentration was far higher than you'd typically get in brewing water, being that there is only about 250mL of water in the jug and I added something between 2 and 3 grams, making the carbonate concentration somewhere between 8000 and 12000 ppm, compared to between 0 and maybe 150ppm in brewing water. 

If I have time tomorrow I might do it again but this time try to keep the carbonate level around 50ppm and see what difference it makes. 

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Interesting article. I note in the hardness section he basically echoes what I've said above about the importance of water pH vs the actual mineral content of it. I don't usually use much carbonate in my brewing water because I generally brew paler styles, so it helps keep the mash pH where it should be. 

The exception is my red ale, which I brew with straight tap water aside from removing the chloramine. I did muck around with different profiles with it, but it tastes best with the tap water. Its carbonate content is around 100ppm so quite a bit more than what I use normally, which is more around 10-20ppm.

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I looked up the my town's water profile and total alkalinity / carbonate is 90ppm (similar to yours Kelsey). In Palmer's article he says that extract brewers should dilute extract with water that has no more than 50ppm, because of the minerals and alkalinity already in it. So when people say that it is okay to dilute extract with whatever potable water they have on hand, they might be wrong, depending on the town. Palmer himself used to say that, in early versions of his "How to Brew" book, but nowadays he recommends using RO water.... I sometimes dilute with RO water but a lot of times I only have enough on hand for the mash, so end up topping up with tap water. I should make more of an effort. At a minimum, I should be diluting my tap water with 1:1 with RO water.

As I mentioned, I use 100% RO water for my partials, sometimes with acidulated malt, sometimes without, depending on the colour of the specialty malts. Palmer's article made me wonder if I should be adding minuscule amounts of gypsum and calcium chloride to my mash water. What do you think?

Cheers,

Christina.

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I read a couple of days ago when I was looking for info that it's ideal to mix kits with 100% distilled water or RO water because the minerals are already in the extract from when it was produced, which makes sense.

With mashing I'd be adding minerals to it, the main ones would be Gypsum, calcium chloride and magnesium sulfate, perhaps some bicarb soda if doing a dark beer. The amounts depend on the style you're brewing as they will affect the way the malt and hops present in the beer, along with other things mentioned in the article. 

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2 hours ago, ChristinaS1 said:

I looked up the my town's water profile and total alkalinity / carbonate is 90ppm (similar to yours Kelsey).

16ppm here!  

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1 hour ago, BlackSands said:

16ppm here!  

Wow! You are in an ideal place for making kit brews! 😉  Remind me where your town gets its water from? 

Christina.

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Melbourne water is like that too, really soft and low in minerals. It's ideal for kits but also adding minerals for different styles in AG brewing. If I lived there I probably wouldn't bother distilling my water at all. 

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1 hour ago, ChristinaS1 said:

Remind me where your town gets its water from? 

Auckland City water is sourced from several different locations - storage dams, rivers and an acquifier.   Some more remote areas source their water from nearby groundwater or springs but where I live close to the city the water is from one of the main dams all of which account for about 80% of the regions water.  

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And they are in a drought so the place is still green and they only have enough water to last for the next 70 years if it doesn’t rain once in that time......🤪

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9 hours ago, BlackSands said:

Auckland City water is sourced from several different locations - storage dams, rivers and an acquifier.   Some more remote areas source their water from nearby groundwater or springs but where I live close to the city the water is from one of the main dams all of which account for about 80% of the regions water.  

So quite a bit of it is surface water in the mix; that must be why it is so low in minerals and soft.

Cheers,

Christina.

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1 hour ago, ChristinaS1 said:

So quite a bit of it is surface water in the mix; that must be why it is so low in minerals and soft.

Cheers,

Christina.

Depends on the surface I guess. Ours is entirely from a dam, but there's a lot of limestone out in the catchment areas. When it rains out there the water temporarily goes harder than it normally is. 

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I have just answered my own question about whether I should be adding minerals to my partials. Using the "Advanced" version of the Brewer's Friend  "Mash Chemistry and Brewing Water" calculator, which estimates the pH mathematically, I punched in some of my recent recipes. The quick answer is that if there are any specialty malts in the grist, the answer is probably no....I try to keep my partials to 1.25kg in size and see that with 300gm of C60L in the grist (=24%) I don't need any minerals or acidulated malt in the RO water. Using more C60L, or anything darker, and I may be better off using my hard tap water! 

This has made me realize something that should have been obvious: partial mashes are prone to becoming overly acidic, because of the often large ratio of specialty malts to base malts. Partial masher should be cautious about adopting advice directed at all grainers, because it doesn't always translate.

Although labour intensive, I am going to start punching my next few recipes into this calculator, to see if I can establish any rules of thumb for myself. 

Cheers,

Christina.

Edited by ChristinaS1
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That makes sense but minerals aren't added purely for mash pH adjustment. Although it probably wouldn't hurt to have some carbonate in the water to prevent it dropping too far with the substantially higher percentage of more acidic grains in the mash. 

The best way to figure it out is to buy a decent pH meter and measure what it actually is when you brew. This has helped me, not so much with mineral additions as they are mainly based on style, but figuring out how much acid malt to use to achieve target pH in each style (although it has made me realise I don't need much carbonate in my water so I've dropped those additions well down). Estimates are useful but real life measurements are the most accurate way. 

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@BlackSands  It would be interesting to punch your recipe and water profile into some brewing software. I am curious whether you were right about the pH of this brew being too high.  And I wonder if you have had the opposite problem when using crystal and roasted malts in other recipes, given your low alkalinity.

Cheers,

Christina.

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