Basic Water Management for Extract Brewing: Part 3

Slamming Beer Bottle Into WaterGuest blogger Matt Chrispen shares the impact that various minerals can have on different styles of beer. To get the whole story start at Part 1 of this 3 part series.
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There is no hard and fast rule in the application of brewing minerals. Every person’s tastes differ. As such, we are exploring the art of “seasoning” the finished beer, like adding a little salt and pepper to your favorite dish. A little may be good, but too much could ruin the batch.

Below are some starting points for 5 gallons of extract beer. Some minerals are already concentrated in the malt extract, so we recommend using reverse osmosis (RO) or distilled (DI) water. When using tap or spring water, reduce the recommendations to taste. Fully dissolve mineral salts in water before the extract is added to boil.

Mineral Recommendations for Different Beer Styles

  • Lagers are historically brewed with soft water.
    • No mineral additions recommended.
  • Malty, Roasty Ales include browns, porters and stouts where malt flavors and sweetness are expected.
    • Add ½ tsp (~2 grams) of calcium chloride.
  • Hoppy Ales include most American pale ales, hoppy ambers, and IPAs.
    • Add ½ tsp (2 grams) to 1 tsp (4 grams) gypsum.
  • Mineral-Rich Ales include English bitters or Burton ales.

Personalizing Additions:

To determine how much mineral(s) might influence your beer, try the procedure below.

  1. Fill a clean 1-liter bottle or flask with RO water, and dissolving 2 grams of gypsum or calcium chloride. Shake to dissolve completely, creating a 2000 ppm solution of the salt.
  2. Pick a homebrew and split into four 3-ounce (89 ml) servings. Use gypsum for hoppy or calcium chloride for malty beers.
  3. Using a calibrated pipette or eyedropper, add 1 milliliter of solution into the first serving, 2 into the second, and so forth. Start with the first serving and work toward the fourth, taking notes.
  4. DecideShop Burton Water Salts which serving you prefer. Mark that down. If you preferred serving #4, open another beer and continue the process.
  5. Take the serving number (with equivalent number of additions) and do the math:
    1. The 1 milliliter dose equals 2 milligrams of the salt
    2. Multiply the preferred dose by 2, yielding the milligrams of salt added
    3. There are roughly 43 three-ounce samples in 5 gallons
    4. Multiply the milligrams dosed by 43, yielding milligrams needed for 5 gallons, and divide by 1000 to yield grams. 1 tsp = roughly 2 grams of gypsum or calcium chloride
    5. Use this amount of mineral salt in your next brew of that recipe!

 

What changes to you typically make to your brewing water?
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Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
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Matt Chrispen is a passionate, experienced home brewer, craft beer fanatic, and collector of brewing gear. He also maintains a blog on advanced brewing topics at Accidentalis.com.
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Sources:
A Brewing Water Chemistry Primer, Homebrewtalk.com, AJ DeLange
Water Treatment for Extract Brewers, Beerandwinejournal.com, C Colby
Water Adjustment in Highly Hopped Beers, Homebrewtalk.com, M Brungard
Calibration Series: Personalized Sulfate and Chloride in Beer, Accidentalis.com, M Chrispen
Bru’n Water, Water Knowledge, M Brungard
How to Brew, John Palmer

Basic Water Management for Extract Brewing: Part 2

Slamming Beer Bottle Into WaterGuest blogger Matt Chrispen shares some tips for adjusting water chemistry when brewing with partial mash recipes. This is part 2 of a 3 part series. To get the whole story start with Part 1.

Dry Malt Extract (DME) and Liquid Malt Extract (LME) products contain minerals from the mashing process. These minerals provide flavor nuances to the beer and the specific concentrations are proprietary to the maltster, but they directly influence the flavor and mouthfeel of recipe. Extract brewers can further enhance their recipes with additional minerals.

Introduction to Minerals for Brewing

Since the extract brewer is not mashing grain, we can focus solely on flavor components. Ion concentrations of sulfate, chloride, magnesium, and sodium influence perceived flavors and mouthfeel.

  • Gypsum or Calcium Sulfate increases calcium and sulfate ions levels. Sulfates generally enhance dryness and increase the sharpness and bitterness of hops.
  • Calcium Chloride increases calcium and chloride ion levels. Chlorides tend to round out and enrich mouthfeel and enhance malt characteristics.
  • Sea/Kosher Salts or Sodium Chloride (without iodine) increases sodium and chloride ions, and like calcium chloride can enhance sweeter malt forward beers. Not recommended for an extract brewer, except in very traditionally salty styles, such as a gose.
  • Magnesium Sulfate increases both magnesium and sulfate ions. Malt extract should contain sufficient magnesium to support healthy fermentation. Only in specific cases is magnesium sulfate useful to an extract brewer.

Water choice is important. Hard water (already rich in minerals) will add minerals into the beer in unknown amounts in addition to the extract’s contribution. By using reverse osmosis (RO) or distilled water, we can exert more control without risking off-flavors, providing a clean starting point for mineral additions.

To keep things simple, we can rely on gypsum and calcium chloride for “seasoning” our homebrew, and the resulting sulfate, chloride, and calcium ion contributions. As mentioned above:

  • SulfatesShop Water Treatment enhance perceived dryness. Increases perceived hop bitterness and sharpness. Pale Ales and IPAs often have elevated levels of sulfates, but large amounts can be off putting.
  • Chlorides enrich perceived mouth feel and malt flavors. Many darker, malt-driven beers benefit from a small amount of chloride.
  • Calcium is beneficial in lowering the boil pH and precipitating proteins (hot and cold break). While there is no direct flavor impact, the resulting wort is clearer and more stable.

These flavors are recipe driven, and should be used appropriately and in moderation. A hoppy pale ale may need a little gypsum where a malty porter might benefit from calcium chloride.

In Part 3, we look specifically at applying these minerals to general beer styles.
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Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
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Matt Chrispen is a passionate, experienced home brewer, craft beer fanatic, and collector of brewing gear. He also maintains a blog on advanced brewing topics at Accidentalis.com.

Basic Water Management for Extract Brewing: Part 1

Water For Extract BrewingMatt Chrispen, a blogger at Accidentalis.com, shares some of his advice about water management for extract brewing. The first step: choosing the right water source.

There is a myth that good tasting water makes good tasting beer… this is just not true. With many good water sources, you need to decide which will make the best beer. Water chemistry has less impact on the extract brewer, but starting with the right water will help you have the best chance at a great beer.

Tap Water: Tap water contains either chlorine or chloramines to deliver safe water to your home. These chemicals must be removed or will cause off-flavors to form in the beer that taste strongly of chemical plastics, vinyl, or iodine. Filtering slowly with active charcoal, letting the water stand, or boiling the water will remove chlorine, but treatment with potassium metabisulfite or Campden tablets will fully eliminate both chemicals. Often it is best to both filter and use Campden tablets. Tap water quality can also fluctuate due to seasonal issues.

  • Using Campden Tablets: For brewing, use ¼ tablet per 5 gallons of brewing liquor. Crush the tablet and vigorously stir it into the bucket of water. The reaction is fairly immediate, and you may smell a bit of sulfur.

If you have a water softener, use the water tap before the softener to avoid excessive levels of sodium or potassium in the water.

Well Water: Professional tests should be run to ensure that organic, metallic, or chemical contamination is not present such as iron or fertilizer residue. If the water is safe, then evaluate its hardness. Low to moderately hard water, low in alkalinity is preferred for brewing.

Store Bought Spring Water: Most bottled spring waters are filtered (the treatment varies) and have re-mineralized the water ensuring a good taste. You can also purchase these in convenient 5-gallon carboys. The mineral concentration will be added to the minerals in the extract. However, the consistency of bottled spring water is preferable to seasonable quality changes that often affect tap water.

Shop GypsumTap, well and Spring Waters contain dissolved minerals that impart flavor and mouth feel to your beer. Be careful adding minerals, which might, in concert with minerals already in the extract, create strong mineral or metallic flavors. Experiment for the best results.

Reverse Osmosis (RO), De-Ionized (DI) and Distilled Water: Some stores offer filtered water products in bulk. In addition, home RO or RO/DI filters have become quite common and inexpensive. Distilled water is also a good choice. These water sources are really ideal for extract brewing, and offer the best basis for adding minerals as part of your beer recipe.

Water is the fundamental ingredient (up to 97%) in beer. Your tap water may make good beer, but try an alternative source and see if things improve. Choosing the best quality water will ensure your extract recipes have the best chance of becoming great beers!

In Part Two, we will explore the use of common mineral additions to enhance and tweak your extract and partial mash recipes.
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Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
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Matt Chrispen is a passionate, experienced home brewer, craft beer fanatic, and collector of brewing gear. He also maintains a blog on advanced brewing topics at Accidentalis.com.