The book above is one of the latest books out there about brewing water. If you like math or engineering this will be right up your alley. It contains a lot of data and the authors have done their homework. John Palmer and Colin Kaminiski have done a great job. It is highly technical; I have a math degree, worked with Calculus and this book still made me think! Two other men: A. J. deLange and Martin Brungard assisted with the Foreword and were technical editors of the book. These editors are highly respected in some of the brewing groups in Facebook.
While some may like to constantly compute pH before brewing or during the mash, I think it is difficult and 1 math error might leave you with a bad batch of beer. Brewers years ago never had to take constant pH readings of their brew because pH meters hadn't been invented yet. I use a very cheap pH meter I got off of an internet auction.
Now, many of the homebrewers may not agree with me on this - forget the pH! I only use my meter now to see if the gallon of distilled water I got from the store is really close to a reading of 5.8.- if it isn't close to that then the dollar store has placed the wrong label on the water and it might really be spring water. I can only do this with distilled water. Some use reverse osmosis water, but I can't say what this water is like. I haven't tried it.
Those brewers that get serious about beer start looking at their water pH. They'll get a water report from their local water authority and find out the typical pH. If you check with your pH meter - your pH changes daily. Your minerals in your water are changing everyday, but you don't know how much minerals of each are in there on any given day. Some brewers try to have their local water mimic other water in other countries by changing the minerals to get it closer to that same water that the European brewery might use. We might know the typical water composition in other cities, but we don't know if the brewer is changing the water before it goes into brewing!
So, water is a lot of uncertainty! Even if you know how to change pH you are still playing with the salts. I just go with recommended levels of salts in my water, take a pH reading before the brew and keep a journal. pH is a reference point, but I don't rely on it. I have some idea of the pH before I start the mash.
Let's give you the basics. Additions of Calcium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate can make your water more alkaline. Calcium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate and Magnesium Sulfate can make your water more acidic. More acidity is a lower pH whereas more alkalinity is a higher pH from what you started with. These chemicals are available from your local drug store, brew supply store or internet supply store.
The water profiles in the book are great because they show you what to take your water to in order to get a particular style of beer. That information alone is a great reason to purchase the book, but I'd leave all the graphs and story problems alone. If you like number crunching that's fine, but there are a lot of non-math majors out there. Not everyone likes story problems.
Let me take you through an example how I change my water for recipes and it works. I've tested it.
I get a gallon of distilled water from the dollar store and pull a cup of water out of it - discard it down the drain or water your wife's plants with it! I add 1 cup of Lansing tap water to it, shake it a little. (I might measure the pH of the distilled to make sure it reads close to 5.8 or the store might have mislabeled spring water before I add the tap water). You need to start with distilled water. The salts will spread out in the distilled water so that the ppm (parts per million) is 1/16 of the tap water values. (Remember, a cup is 1/16 of a gallon - so just divide by 16).
I'm not out to change my pH. I work with the salts and the pH will be in the right place when I get done. I'd rather play with the salts to try and mimic a particular water of a European city. If you want to play with the salts to change your water read on.
Using data with diluted 1 pint Lansing water in parts per million (ppm):
Lansing Tap Diluted 1 Cup Tap Pilsner target Need added
Calcium 50 3.13 50-75 47-71
Magnesium 40 2.50 <40 <37
Bicarbonates 20 1.25
Carbonates 15 0.94
Total Alkalinity 35 2.19 0-40 <37
Sodium 50 3.13 <100 <96
Sulfates 70 4.38 50-150 46- 145
Chloride 46 2.88 50-100 48-97
See the Diluted Lansing column above? That's the water from discarding a pint and adding back a pint of my city water. I just divided by 16 to get each of those from my Lansing Tap water column. The Pilsner Target column comes from recommendations in the book. If I was making another beer I'd use a different set of numbers for another style from the book.
For good beer, make sure Magnesium is under 40 ppm, Sodium should be under 100. Some of the salts have a range to shoot for. See The Calcium at 50-75? We need to get the brew water to this range with our salts. That's the same with total alkalinity, Sulfates and Chloride. The "Need Added" column is found by subtracting the Diluted Lansing from the Pilsner column. Numbers are approximate but we now know the ranges of the water for this particular style. We may be slightly outside the range as our own tap water could be changing in salt content on a daily basis. This is an approximate method, but I should be near the ranges I'm aiming for. The report from our water company will usually report a sampling from a day in the past.
If you're using a 1/8 measuring teaspoon in the kitchen try to think about using 1/2 of an 1/8 of teaspoon. The following salts added at 1/16 tsp add the following in parts per million: (values are approximate as it is hard to precisely measure using this kitchen utensil)
Chalk or Calcium Carbonate Calcium 12 Carbonate 17
Baking Soda Sodium 20 Bicarbonate 52
Gypsum Calcium 15 Sulfate 36
Calcium Chloride Calcium 15 Chloride 26
Epson Salts Magnesium 7 Sulfate 28
Now, you can see from Chart A above we need Calcium between 47-71 ppm to get the water right. I'd start with Calcium Carbonate. See Chart B: Adding 1/16 gets us 12 Calcium and 17 Carbonate. We are just inside the Carbonate limit (see Chart A <37). We still need more Calcium: we started with 3.13 Calcium (Chart A) and added 24 Calcium with the Chalk = 27.13. We need to get to that 47 ppm in Chart A. We just need 19.87 more. Let's round to at least 20 more needed Chalk. OK, Look at Chart A again. We've got to get our Sulfates and Chloride up in their proper ranges. Let's do a full 1/8 tsp of Gypsum and Calcium Chloride each. So if we take an 1/8 tsp of Gypsum and 1/8 tsp of Chloride we're going to get our Sulfates and Chloride to their proper levels. Sulfate 36 multiplied by 2 is in the 46 - 145 range. Chloride of 26 multiplied by 2 is 52 and that puts it in the 48-97 range. Let's check the total amount of Calcium now: Gypsum contributes 30, Calcium Chloride gives 30 and our Chalk gives 17 (30 + 30 +17 +3.13 = 80.13) Oh, that puts us over.
I've simplified the water problem as much as I can and you can see how complex it is, If you wanted to play with just the pH for your water get a water report from your local water authority. Then, you can get distilled water from the dollar store and mix it at various levels to get different pH's. Use a cheap meter to verify your starting brew water pH. This blog entry should help you to figure out a 1/2 cup or less of your tap water. This gets you started and if you have a gram scale you might be able to measure smaller amounts of salts. Remember, I'm out to recreate a particular water style from salts than I am the pH.
I've checked with Martin Brungard on his water spreadsheet. He has a free one out there on the web if you search on Bru'n Water. Google's Chrome browser will convert it, but you just have to expand the window and it seems to work if you don't have Microsoft Windows. The book and his spreadsheet is concerned with calculations of Alkalinity and Residual Alkalinity but it gets pretty complex. I had trouble figuring out how he computed Alkalinity until I poked around his spreadsheet. Brungard appears to be using a constant in the calculation that isn't used in the book: 1.00935 is an engineering thermodynamics number involving enthalpy. Brungard didn't really specified what it was, but was curious how I found it. Whatever it is it seems like a lot of work just to make beer! I don't adjust my mash pH so his spreadsheet has less importance to me. I use the book to get it close to the style. Here's the answer to the problem above: the book says that when you add Calcium Carbonate only 30% of the stuff actually dissolves. It may take 3 hours and some shaking before most of the Calcium Carbonate dissolves. We can mix our water 1 hour before our brewing. The 30% means that only about 1/3 of the Calcium Carbonate dissolves: Calcium 4 and Carbonate 5.7 are the new numbers. Total Calcium in the brew water: 30 + 30 + 5.7 + 3.13 = 68.8, look at Chart A and our Calcium is now inside the 47-71 range. We're in for making a good German Pilsner!
To make the water: 2 gallons of distilled water from the dollar store, discard a cup of water out of each, fill with 1 cup tap water for each. Then, add 1/8 tsp of Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Chloride and Gypsum about 15 minutes before brewing. Shake it a little. Make the 2nd gallon up just before you need more water for your sparging. (see my blog entry on sparging)