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Water Adjustment

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1 Water Adjustment on Sat Jul 24, 2010 2:17 pm

Someone on the NYC Homebrewers Guild forum posted this awesome water calculator....... Water Adjustment
Which is just what I need for improving the Czech Pilsner I have been working on. Even with the great tap water we have here in New York, the balance of malt and hops is still not quite right. The hops still come across as too harsh.
However, I am hopelessly ignorant when it comes to chemistry. Can anyone help explain the use of this tool better?
If I enter the information from the DEP water report at the top of the calculator, and the target water profile at the bottom (Pilsen), how do I then go about actually adjusting the water properly?
I have messed about with it, trial and error, and when I add a small amount of one water salt to lower one number, other numbers go up.
If I cut my tap water with distilled water it helps the profile a bit, but not enough. What types of filters work best for removing Sodium, Sulfate, Chloride, and Alkalinity (if any work for that at all) that I can attach to a normal kitchen faucet?
And while I'm on the subject, does anyone know if the city uses chlorine (free chlorine) or if they have switched over to chloramine? Apparently the addition of potassium metabisulfite still works for the removal of chloramine..... so I guess its not a big deal either way.

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2 Re: Water Adjustment on Sat Jul 24, 2010 9:29 pm

While I'm not exactly the kind of chemist that would be able to tell you a full story on beer water chemistry, I'll try.
It appears to be pretty straightforward, but does require some basic chem knowledge. This tool allows you to see the water profile you're aiming for, and to enter the initial salt concentrations in your water. Then, it shows you how it would change by adding a certain amount of each salt. It looks like it also tells you how much of the salts you're adding into the initial mash and into the sparge water, depending on the volumes you're using. The main focus seems to be on residual alkalinity and Cl:SO4 ratio. It gives you the option of using Hydrochloric or Lactic acids to adjust it, but I think most people just use 5.2 buffer and don't worry about the residual alkalinity and pH because it'll keep it where it should be to cover just about almost every beer you can brew. I don't know anything else on the matter though. Cl:SO4 seems to affect the balance Cl = more bitterness + clarity and Sulfate = more malt. So by playing with the salts, you can get your desired balance. It also shows you what effects each salt has on the alkalinity, but again, I don't know more about it.

I don't know if this is at all helpful, because even I can hardly understand what I just wrote. I really do suck at explaining these kinds of things in forum settings. As for Cl vs NH2Cl, I think NYC still uses Cl. At first I was a bit paranoid, and used RO water to remove everything from it, but now I just go with straight tap water. If there is only Cl, it'll leave the solution and evaporate as you're heating your water, and your beer will be fine. If there is NH2Cl, it won't leave the water and your beer will have funky off-flavors. Since none of my beers exhibit them, those of you who had them would know, I figured we have just plain chlorinated water.
As for filters that remove Na, SO4, and Cl by attaching to the tap, I don't know. I do know that activated charcoal ones (like Brita or Purr or something like that, check what they say) do remove chlorine. When I doubt, use RO Smile That'll get you as close to distilled as possible without distillation or multi-thousand dollar lab grade filtration units. As for removing alkalinity, it is not something that you can just take out or add. Alkalinity is the ability to neutralize acids and depends on the salts that are dissolved in it. So depending on what salts you remove or add, your alkalinity will shift up or down.

Hope that helps a bit, though I'm not sure it will... now, a fresh pint would definitely help!

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