Acidify sparge water?

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Acidify sparge water?

Postby slarkin712 » Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:29 pm

I got a few comments from judges in the last HHHC(my first competition) about some astringency and harshness in a couple entries. I have never treated my water, just use St. Louis City tap water. I just started charcoal filtering my water for chloramine/chlorine, so that may help. I'm also going to try to adjust my sparge water to avoid the astringency. I'm going to get a pH meter soon, as I think that sparge pH may be causing the problem. I read the city water report and the pH ranges from ~8.5-9.5, which is high for sparge water according to my research. But, I batch sparge, so is pH during sparging even an issue? If it is, I'm going to acidify my sparge water. Anyone else do this?
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby turkeyjerky214 » Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:30 pm

I just use 5.2 stabilizer in my strike and sparge water.
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby slarkin712 » Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:50 pm

I was at Friar Tuck last month and saw this stuff and bought it assuming it did what it claimed. Others' research has shown it actually stabilizes closer to 5.8, and it isn't necessarily effect for water with high alkalinity. Do you measure your pH Brian?
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby beermikester » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:36 pm

I would try the easiest solution first. The main causes of astrigency are too high temperature in the sparge water and oversparging. Make a batch of beer, and be conscious of the fact that the sparge water should not be over 170 or so. (Some people will say 172, but for now, lets go with 170 to be on the safe side).

If fly sparging, you should stop sparging when the O.G. is 1.010. As you get to the end of your sparge, take a gravity reading. If it is close to 1.010, stop sparging, even if you don't have enough the expected pre-boil volume. You can always add water to the boil kettle to make up for it.

Try these two things first. Astrigency is a mouthfeel component. Imagine the effect of biting into grape skins. The sides of your jaw kind of tighted up, and you feel it kind of between your jaw and your ear. This is not to be confused with bitterness, which is more detected on the tongue, or acidity. If the problem were the acidity of the water, you would taste it as opposed to feeling it in the mouthfeel. Also, A-B uses city water. Yes, they treat it somewhat, but for the most part, they've been using city water for a really long time. I think it is more likely that the astrigency is being caused by your sparging than it is the acidity of the water.

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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby jeffjm » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:23 pm

Just out of curiousity, what were the beers described as 'astringent'? I've found that if I don't add chalk to my porters and stouts, they end up tasting like burnt fireplace logs. I'm in Crestwood and have reasonably soft water, but, like yours, it has a fairly high pH.

Besides what Mike said about sparging too much, another possibility is that your mash tun is allowing husks and spent grain to get into the boil kettle. That's caused astringency for me once or twice.
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby siwelwerd » Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:57 pm

First comment: The "If it's good enough for AB, it's good enough for me!" defense breaks down when you brew more than one style of beer. That's as silly as saying the water used by Guinness for their stout is good enough for every beer. I don't think AB would be very happy with a Budweiser brewed from water with the high carbonate level they use in Dublin.

Second comment: Extraction of tannins is temperature AND pH dependent. So as Mike said, 172 may be good at a certain pH, but at another you may need to be below 170. Mike's advice is spot on for the most likely diagnosis of your problem. Except he forgot to mention that batch sparging tends to render any astringency issues moot as you are not continuously diluting the runoff--unless you are using a broken thermometer or something and sparging way too hot.

Finally, I agree with Jeff. St. Louis water is suboptimal for very dark beers. I think it's just great for pale ales, IPAs, wheat beers, American light lagers, etc. (though a little gypsum helps the hoppy ones). However, adding chalk to the mash of my browns, stouts, and porters really took them to the next level as it cut out that over-roasted component. I actually used to think for several years that I didn't like stouts because all the ones I tried had this acrid, over-roasted, burnt character dominating the palate, but the truth is I just hadn't had any good ones.
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby slarkin712 » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:43 pm

The styles that got the astringency comments were a German wheat and Belgian Saison. I batch sparge and the temp never goes above 170F - thermometer is good too. Also, I don't believe I over-sparge. I just drain my mash tun, add the sparge water and drain again. And the mash and sparge runnings are of equal volume. I've got a good copper manifold on my mash tun, and I vorlauf until clear, so I don't think much grain gets into the kettle.
I planned on treating my water soon, so the judge comments just jump started the process. I'm going to start by adjusting my mash and sparge pH by adding acid.
Just curious, why do you add chalk to your dark beers?
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby jeffjm » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:41 pm

Because if I add chalk, they don't taste like burnt fireplace logs any more :D

Seriously, very dark roasted grains tend to be highly acidic. The chalk provides a balancing degree of alkalinity that cancels out the excess acids. It keeps your mash pH closer to where you want it, and helps prevent off flavors. If I lived somplace that had water high in carbonates (say Dublin, for example), I wouldn't need to add chalk to my dark beers, but I'd have a horrible time brewing paler beers with untreated water. I'd have to dilute city water with reverse osmosis or distilled water, or my mash would be too alkaline.

One other idea about where your astringency is coming from - it could be your crush. I think I've heard somewhere recently that milling too fast or too finely can contribute to astringency. Unfortunately I don't recall the source.
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby siwelwerd » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:45 pm

jeffjm wrote:Because if I add chalk, they don't taste like burnt fireplace logs any more :D


+1 :lol:

Darker roasted malts contain more phosphates, which serve to acidify the mash. The carbonate contained in chalk buffers this, keeping the mash pH in check as Jeff said. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) could be used as well, but I don't like to put extra sodium in my beer. Yeast love calcium, however, so chalk is what I go with.

This is a very good read on the subject, although he seems to discount the effectiveness of chalk: http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?ti ... pH_control
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby l1chris » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:48 am

I have always made up my water the night before brew day. All water gets treated with campden tablets to remove chloramine. It needs a few hours to do this apparantly, so I do it the night before. Then I adjust strike water to near 5.3 or a little higher if brewing a darker beer (dark grains will pull ph a little lower than a pale beer). I adjust sparge water to 5.0. I havent really had much issue with astringency in any of my beers, so in regards to that, I must be doing something right! Also, if you can somehow get ahold of some 75% or 80% phos acid, it tends to go a lot further than using the watered down stuff that I think is like 15 or 20%. Good luck! Oh and if you havent bought a ph meter yet, check out thermoworks. I have been very happy with mine, and while you're ordering from them, buy a thermopen. Best investment I think ive ever made to my brew set up. Its the only thermometer I trust on brew day.
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby Witch Doctor Dale » Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:18 am

Don't take to heart what a single competition says. If you send this beer to several competitions and always get the same comment, then you have a problem. Many times, judges look very hard for a fault, list it on the scoresheet, it may be there, it may barely be there (a "supertaster" getting picky) or they might be flat wrong. The main question is.....Do you like it? Do you taste the astrigency? Your methods appear good, be careful not to fix that which is not broken.
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby TCochran » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:45 pm

Witch Doctor Dale wrote:Don't take to heart what a single competition says. If you send this beer to several competitions and always get the same comment, then you have a problem. Many times, judges look very hard for a fault, list it on the scoresheet, it may be there, it may barely be there (a "supertaster" getting picky) or they might be flat wrong. The main question is.....Do you like it? Do you taste the astrigency? Your methods appear good, be careful not to fix that which is not broken.


I agree with you, Dale. Good point!
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby rsc3da » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:12 pm

Yes, lower your sparge water to the mid 5's pH with acid.

BTW another way to adjust mash pH for dark beers is to use pickling lime. It's got to be about twice as strong as chalk, and it does fully dissolve in the mash which chalk does not. I picked some up at Rural King in the canning section, I've been using it for all my dark beers lately. You have to be careful with it since it is really strong and just a small amount will raise the pH a considerable amount.

Also, when I was at Sierra Nevada a few months ago, I picked up on one of their techniques. Wetting or slightly misting the malt before it gets milled, then milling wet. It keeps the grain husks more intact and less prone to cause astringency as well as provide a better filter bed.
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Acidify sparge water

Postby RichardGhval » Sun Jun 04, 2017 6:40 am

I recently ordered the more beer Octoberfest all grain kit, and I am unsure what the optimal temperature to mash the grain is. I cant find it on any of the recipe sheets, or on the site. This is my first all grain recipe, and I am looking for something quite malty, so I am assuming I want to mash high, around 158 and then sparge out at 168/170, but I also dont want to really guess with my first all grain kit

Also, we are having a bit of a hot streak where I am at right now, so it will be hard to keep this beer cool around 50, so I am wondering if I can hold off on brewing this for 3 weeks or so since the grain is already milled. It is all sealed in plastic, so I am assuming I can get away with this if I store it a dark, cool place.
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Re: Acidify sparge water?

Postby rsc3da » Sun Jun 11, 2017 5:28 pm

If you're looking for malty then mashing at 158F for saccharification will certainly get it there. Oktoberfest as a style though isn't supposed to be a malt bomb, it's actually a balanced beer than can finish dry or nearly so.
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