We're primarily interested in the first part of the brewing process when selecting grains for a style of beer, its also a great time to adjust the brewing water properties. Different styles of beer come from different regions of the planet, knowing that can help when researching the water profile of any specific region on earth.
|The Right Water Profile Produces Clear Flavorful Beer|
|Simple Ingredients To Adjust Alkalinity And pH|
There we have it a brief overview of the three main parts of the beer brewing process, with the fist part being identified as the most important for water properties. Once the water properties have been adjusted correctly for mashing and sparging our grains they will be perfect throughout the rest of the brewing process everytime we brew.
Benefits Of Brewing With The Right Water Profile
Whenever I mention brewing water chemistry to most people their eyes start to glaze over and they politely change the subject to something more interesting. Unless of course they're professional brewers, have a passion for chemistry or are career hydrologists with plenty of lab experience. Learning to identify and understand the effects of atoms, ions and molecules on brewing water is a bit more difficult than learning about other areas of the brewing process. The average beer drinker will taste the difference good brewing water adds to the flavor of a beer but they typically won't ask anything about the brewing water profile. They may love the fresh bright hop aroma in your IPA but you'll never hear them say things like 'it could've used a bit more gypsum'. Discussing water properties over a cold one isn't the most interesting topic of conversation for everyone but that could also be the reason why home brewers consider it to be a subject left only to advanced brewers. Creating a good water profile really isn't that hard to do once you've learned a few basics.
|Kettle View Of Bright Clear Wort Color And Compact Cold Break|
|A Crystal Clear 4 SRM Color OG Sample|
|Grain Bed With Fine Particles That Filter The Wort|
The most remarkable thing for me is that I had also managed to capture that nice bready taste noticeable when exhaling through my nose after swallowing a sip of beer! Up until now I had found this one single component lacking in almost all of my previous beers. Some of my beers would have this bready finish but I'd never been able to consistently reproduce it with every brew until now. It never occurred to me that this bready finish was attributed to the brewing water and mash pH more than it was to the grain bill or yeast alone.
It's important for a brewer to produce the best tasting example of their beer consistently and that basically means having the ability to mash grains within a recommended temperature and pH range throughout the year. Ultimately that comes down to being able to brew using water that has consistent properties throughout the year. Water properties from the same location can vary widely from season to season so each batch of brewing water needs to be analyzed for it's mineral content and pH value before being used to brew beer and then modified as needed to match the beer recipe's water profile.
Using The Tools Of The Trade
There are two different approaches to modifying brewing water. The simplest approach is to start off with either distilled water or reverse osmosis water that basically has had all mineral content removed from it already. This provides a source of water with a consistent baseline to use when calculating the salt, mineral and acid additions needed to build a particular water profile. I prefer this approach over the alternative of doing frequent water analysis to determine the seasonal adjustments needed to compensate for changes in the water's properties. In my view it's definitely easier to start off with water having the same properties because water profile adjustments can be easily repeated based on the results of prior brews.
This becomes even more important when entering values into the EZ Water Calculator because when using reverse osmosis or distilled water you simply have to enter the volume of water in gallons as 100% of the total water volume. Otherwise you have to take the results from your latest water test then enter those amounts as parts per million of calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride and sulfates in order to calculate the amount of additions needed to reach the recommended mash pH value.
|Calculating 4 Gallons Of Mash And 5 Gallons Of Sparge Using Distilled Water|
|Darker Grains Add Acid And Lower The pH More Than Lighter Grains|
Buffering properties?! Let me explain. Let's assume that reverse osmosis water has had all of it's minerals and salts removed, in effect weakening it's buffering capabilities. Now the slightest additions of either acid or base minerals will swing the pH values down or up accordingly. But as we add gypsum, calcium chloride and Epsom salt to the water we start to strengthen those buffers to the point where they become much more resistant to pH value changes when acid or base minerals are added. This is exactly what we want in order to maintain a constant mash pH in the 5.20 to 5.40 range throughout the mash. If you've decided to use your local water supply you have to determine it's pH, salt and mineral content to understand it's buffering strength and then calculate the additions needed to maintain the recommended pH range during the mash.
|Digital pH Meter With 4.01, 7.01 Calibration Buffers|
In part II of this series we will build on the basics laid out in this post and brew a hypothetical batch of beer using a water profile made from scratch. I've already brewed several batches of beer using the same recipe and brewing water profile and I will include every step of the brewday in detail. If you choose to you can brew a batch of beer for yourself at your own pace by simply following the brewing instructions. The basic recipe is an East Coast IPA style made from a pound of CaraPils and eleven pounds of US 2 Row malt. Two ounces of Centennial hops and four ounces of Cascade hops provide the bittering, flavor and aroma. But the recipe really comes to life when mashed using the modified water profile we will build together and the resulting beer will be delicious.