Understanding my water

While Beer is 90-97% water, it is a very tricky subject.

Re: Understanding my water

Postby Aleman » Mon Feb 08, 2016 10:15

HTH1975 wrote:What about using phosphoric acid to reduce water pH? That approach seems popular on the US forum I'd previously looked at. Is Hydrochloric acid a better approach, or just a different one?

There are significant issues using phosphoric that are overlooked by the US Authorites that recommend the use of phosphoric.

The most obvious is that in water with large amounts of calcium you get a precipitate of 'apatite'. . .this is stripping calcium from the water which you actually want to be left behind. I theory you can get rid of the precipitate by adding more phosphoric, but then you have to ask what that is going to do to your mash pH.

The benefit of using something like hydrochloric and / or sulphuric acids is that the taste thresholds are similar or lower than phosphoric, but the reaction products are soluble . . . and more importantly desired in brewing!! Those brewers with high alkalinity can make all their adjustments to sulphate and chloride using these acids without actually adding any calcium salts (or minimal levels). I now several brewers that have adopted this approach and are making fantastic beers with water from the tap, whereas the beers made using the various US centric approaches were less than optimal.

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Re: Understanding my water

Postby HTH1975 » Mon Feb 08, 2016 20:11

I've only used phosphoric once, and it made my water murky - I went ahead anyway and used it. Only added 2ml to 15 litres of water, lowering pH to 6.1

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
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Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Understanding my water

Postby mabrungard » Wed Feb 10, 2016 03:17

Aleman wrote:There are significant issues using phosphoric that are overlooked by the US Authorites that recommend the use of phosphoric.

There are NO problems with using phosphoric acid. If the calcium content is high enough to cause its precipitation with the phosphoric addition, then the calcium content is more than high enough to suit all brewing needs. The loss of the calcium is inconsequential. When the water's calcium content is low, phosphoric acid addition cannot cause the precipitation reaction. The need for calcium in brewing water is far overblown in the typical brewing circles. Excepting for proper clearing in ales, you can brew with low calcium content water and still have an acceptable and healthy fermentation. Malt provides all the calcium that the yeast need.

With that said, I don't typically use phosphoric acid. For German and other continental styles, lactic acid produces more authentic results. For UK styles, using acids such as hydrochloric and sulfuric are better suited.

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