Many brewers have made the mistake of trying to change the pH of their water with
salts or acids to bring it to the mash pH range before adding the malts. You can do
it that way if you have enough experience with a particular recipe to know what the
mash pH will turn out to be; but it is like putting the cart before the horse. It is
better to start the mash, check the pH with test paper and then make any additions
you feel are necessary to bring the pH to the proper range. Most of the time
adjustment won't be needed.
However, most people don't like to trust to luck or go through the trial and error of
testing the mash pH with pH paper and adding salts to get the right pH. There is a
way to estimate your mash pH before you start and this method is discussed in a
section to follow, but first, let's look at how the grain bill affects the mash
15.2 Balancing the Malts and Minerals
When you mash 100% base malt grist with distilled water, you will usually get a
mash pH between 5.7-5.8. (Remember, the target is 5.1-5.5 pH.) The natural
acidity of roasted specialty malt additions (e.g. caramel, chocolate, black) to the
mash can have a large effect on the pH. Using a dark crystal or roasted malt as
20% of the grainbill will often bring the pH down by half a unit (.5 pH). In distilled
water, 100% caramel malt would typically yield a mash pH of 4.5-4.8, chocolate
malt 4.3-4.5, and black malt 4.0-4.2. The chemistry of the water determines how
much of an effect each malt addition has. The best way to explain this is to describe
two of the world's most famous beers and their brewing waters. The Pilsen region
of the Czech Republic was the birthplace of the Pilsener style of beer. A Pils is a
crisp, golden clear lager with a very clean hoppy taste. The water of Pilsen is very
soft, free of most minerals and very low in bicarbonates. The brewers used an acid
rest with this water to bring the pH down to the target mash range of 5.1 - 5.5
using only the pale lager malts.
Table 14 - Influence of Brewing Water
From "American Handy Book", 2:790, Wahl-Henius, 1902
The other beer to consider is Guinness
, the famous stout from Ireland. The water of
Ireland is high in bicarbonates (HCO
), and has a fair amount of calcium but not
enough to balance the bicarbonate. This results in hard, alkaline water with a lot of
buffering power. The high alkalinity of the water makes it difficult to produce light
pale beers that are not harsh tasting. The water does not allow the pH of a 100%
base malt mash to hit the target range of 5 - 5.8, it remains higher and this
extracts harsh phenolic and tannin compounds from the grain husks. The lower pH
of an optimum mash (5.2-5.5) normally prevents these compounds from appearing
in the finished beer. But why is this region of the world renowned for producing
outstanding dark beers?. The reason is the dark malt itself. The highly roasted
black malts used to make Guinness
add acidity to the mash. These malts match
and counter the buffering capability of the carbonates in the water, lowering the
mash pH into the target range.
The fact of the matter is that dark beer cannot be brewed in Pilsen, and light lagers
can't be brewed in Dublin without adding the proper type and amount of buffering
salts. Before you brew your first all-grain beer, you should get a water analysis
from your local water utility and look at the mineral profile to establish which styles
of beer can best be produced. The use of roasted malts such as Caramel,
Chocolate, Black Patent, and the toasted malts such as Munich and Vienna, can be
used successfully in areas where the water is alkaline (i.e., a pH greater than 7.5
and a carbonate level of more than 200 parts per million) to produce good mash
conditions. If you live in an area where the water is very soft (like Pilsen), then you
can add brewing salts to the mash and sparge water to help achieve the target pH.
The next two sections of this chapter, Residual Alkalinity and Mash pH, and Using
Salts for Brewing Water Adjustment, discuss how to do this.
The following table lists examples of classic beer styles and the mineral profile of
the city that developed them. By looking at the city and its resulting style of beer,
you will gain an appreciation for how malt chemistry and water chemistry
interrelate. Descriptions of the region's beer styles are given below.
Table 15 - Water Profiles From Notable Brewing Cities
India Pale Ale
Burton: "The Practical Brewer", p. 10,
Dortmund Noonen, G., "New Brewing Lager Beer"
Dublin "The Practical Brewer", p. 10,
London "Fermentation Technology", p. 13, Westermann and Huige
Pilsen "American Handy Book", 2:790, Wahl-Henius, 1902
Pilsen - The very low hardness and alkalinity allow the proper mash pH to be
reached with only base malts, achieving the soft rich flavor of fresh bread. The lack
of sulfate provides for a mellow hop bitterness that does not overpower the soft
maltiness; noble hop aroma is emphasized.
Dortmund - Another city famous for pale lagers, Dortmund Export has less hop
character than a Pilsner, with a more assertive malt character due to the higher
levels of all minerals. The balance of the minerals is very similar to Vienna, but the
beer is bolder, drier, and lighter in color.
Vienna - The water of this city is similar to Dortmund, but lacks the level of
calcium to balance the carbonates, and lacks as well the sodium and chloride for
flavor. Attempts to imitate Dortmund Export failed miserably until a percentage of
toasted malt was added to balance the mash, and Vienna's famous red-amber
lagers were born.
Munich - Although moderate in most minerals, alkalinity from carbonates is high.
The smooth flavors of the dunkels, bocks and oktoberfests of the region show the
success of using dark malts to balance the carbonates and acidify the mash. The
relatively low sulfate content provides for a mellow hop bitterness that lets the malt
London - The higher carbonate level dictated the use of more dark malts to
balance the mash, but the chloride and high sodium content also smoothed the
flavors out, resulting in the well-known ruby-dark porters and copper-colored pale
Edinburgh - Think of misty Scottish evenings and you think of strong Scottish ale -
dark ruby highlights, a sweet malty beer with a mellow hop finish. The water is
similar to London's but with a bit more bicarbonate and sulfate, making a beer that
can embrace a heavier malt body while using less hops to achieve balance.
Burton-on-Trent - Compared to London, the calcium and sulfate are remarkably
high, but the hardness and alkalinity are balanced to nearly the degree of Pilsen.
The high level of sulfate and low level of sodium produce an assertive, clean hop
bitterness. Compared to the ales of London, Burton ales are paler, but much more
bitter, although the bitterness is balanced by the higher alcohol and body of these
Dublin - Famous for its stout, Dublin has the highest bicarbonate concentration of
the cities of the British Isles, and Ireland embraces it with the darkest, maltiest
beer in the world. The low levels of sodium, chloride and sulfate create an
unobtrusive hop bitterness to properly balance all of the malt.
15.3 Residual Alkalinity and Mash pH
Before you conduct your first mash, you probably want to be assured that it will
probably work. Many people want to brew a dark stout or a light pilsener for their
first all-grain beer, but these very dark and very light styles need the proper
brewing water to achieve the desired mash pH. While there is not any surefire way
to predict the exact pH, there are empirical methods and calculations that can put
you in the ballpark, just like for hop IBU calculations. To estimate your base-malt-
only mash pH, you will need the calcium, magnesium and alkalinity ion
concentrations from your local water utility report. Unfortunately, you rarely want
to brew a base-malt-only beer.
To estimate your recipe mash pH, you will need the calcium, magnesium and
alkalinity ion concentrations from the water report, plus the approximate color of
the beer you are trying to brew.
In 1953, P. Kohlbach determined that 3.5 equivalents (Eq) of calcium reacts with
malt phytin to release 1 equivalent of hydrogen ions which can "neutralize" 1
equivalent of water alkalinity. Magnesium, the other water hardness ion, also works
but to a lesser extent, needing 7 equivalents to neutralize 1 equivalent of alkalinity.
Alkalinity which is not neutralized is termed "residual alkalinity" (abbreviated RA).
On a per volume basis, this can be expressed as:
mEq/L RA = mEq/L Alkalinity - [(mEq/L Ca)/3.5 + (mEq/L Mg)/7]
where mEq/L is defined as milliequivalents per liter.
This residual alkalinity will cause an all-base-malt mash to have a higher pH than is
desirable (ie. >6.0), resulting in tannin extraction, etc. To counteract the RA,
brewers in alkaline water areas like Dublin added dark roasted malts which have a
natural acidity that brings the mash pH back into the right range (5.2-5.6). To help
you determine what your RA is, and what your mash pH will probably be for a
100% base malt mash, I have put together the following nomograph that allows
you to read the base-malt-mash-pH after marking-off your water's calcium,
magnesium and alkalinity levels. To use the chart, you mark off the calcium and
magnesium levels to determine an "effective" hardness (EH), then draw a line from
that value through your alkalinity value to point to the RA and the approximate pH.
The effective hardness is not the same as the "Total Hardness as CaCO3" you may
see on your water report, it is a calculation of the effect that calcium and
magnesium have on alkalinity.
After determining your RA and probable pH, the chart offers you two options:
a) You can plan to brew a style of beer that approximately matches the color guide
above your RA, or
b) You can estimate an amount of calcium or bicarbonate to add to the brewing
water to hit a targeted residual alkalinity, one that is more appropriate to the color
of the style you want to brew.
I will show you how this works in the following example.
Determining the Beer Styles That Best Suit Your Water
1. A water report for Los Angeles, CA, states that the three ion concentrations are:
Ca (ppm) = 70
Mg (ppm) = 30
Alkalinity = 120 ppm as CaCO3
2. Mark these values on the appropriate scales. (Denoted by red and green circles
3. Draw a line between the Ca and Mg values to determine the Effective Hardness.
(Denoted by a red square.)
4. From the value for EH, draw a line through the Alkalinity value (green circle) to
intersect the RA/pH scale. This is your estimated base-malt-mash pH of 5.8 (blue
5. Looking directly above the pH scale, the color guide shows a range of color which
corresponds to most amber, red and brown ales and lagers. Most Pale Ale, Brown
Ale and Porter recipes can be brewed with confidence. The amount of acidity in the
specialty grains used in these styles should balance the residual alkalinity to
achieve the proper mash pH (from 5.8 down to 5.2-5.6, depending on the darkness
of the recipe).
Determining Calcium Additions to Lower the Mash pH
But what if you want to brew a much paler beer, like a Pilsener or a Helles? Then
you will need to add more calcium to balance the alkalinity that your malt selection
1. Go back to the nomograph and pick a point on the RA scale that is within the
desired color range. In this example, I picked an RA value of -50.
2. Draw a line from this RA value back through your Alkalinity value (from the
water report), and determine your new EH value.
3. From the original Mg value from the report, draw a line through the new EH
value and determine the new Ca value needed to produce this effective hardness.
4. Subtract the original Ca value from the new Ca value to determine how much
calcium (per gallon) needs to be added. In this example, 145 ppm/gal. of additional
calcium is needed.
5. The source for the calcium can be either calcium chloride or calcium sulfate
(gypsum). See the following section for guidelines on just how much of these salts
Determining Bicarbonate Addition to Raise the Mash pH
Likewise, you can determine how much additional alkalinity (HCO
) would be
needed to brew a dark stout if you have water with low alkalinity.
1. You determine your initial RA and base-malt-mash pH from your water report,
and then determine your desired RA for the style you want to brew. In this
example, I have selected an RA of 180 (base-malt-mash pH 6), which corresponds
to a dark beer on the color guideline.
2. The difference is that this time you draw a line from the desired RA to the
original EH, passing through a new Alkalinity.
3. Subtract the original alkalinity from the new alkalinity to determine the additional
bicarbonate needed. The additional bicarbonate can be added by either using
sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) or calcium carbonate. Using calcium carbonate
additions would also affect the EH, causing you to re-evaluate the whole system,
while using baking soda would also contribute high levels of sodium, which can
contribute harsh flavors at high levels. You will probably want to add some of each
to achieve the right bicarbonate level without adding too much sodium or calcium.
Note: The full size nomograph now contains an approximate numeric correlation to
beer color (SRM scale). This is intended to better help you target a residual
alkalinity level based on the color of the beer style, but it is an approximation.
There is a lot of variation in the malt-acidity to malt-color relationship. [Oct.'06]
Figure 81: Full size nomograph for approximating your mash pH from your local
15.4 Using Salts for Brewing Water Adjustment
Brewing water can be adjusted (to a degree) by the addition of brewing salts.
Unfortunately, the addition of salts to water is not a matter of 2 + 2 = 4, it tends to
be 3.9 or 4.1, depending. Water chemistry can be complicated; the rules contain
exceptions and thresholds where other rules and exceptions take over.
Fortunately for most practical applications, you do not have to be that rigorous. You
can add needed ions to your water with easily obtainable salts. To calculate how
much to add, use the nomograph or another water chart to figure out what
concentration is desired and then subtract your water's ion concentration to
determine the difference. Next, consult Table 16 to see how much of an ion a
particular salt can be expected to add. Don't forget to multiply the difference in
concentration by the total volume of water you are working with.
Let's look back at the nomograph example where we determined that we needed
145 ppm of additional Calcium ion. Let's say that 4 gallons of water are used in the
1. Choose a salt to use to add the needed calcium. Let's use gypsum.
2. From Table 16, gypsum adds 61.5 ppm of Ca per gram of gypsum added to
1 gallon of water.
3. Divide the 145 ppm by 61.5 to determine the number of grams of gypsum
needed per gallon to make the desired concentration. 145/61.5 = 2.4 grams
4. Next, multiply the number of grams per gallon by the number of gallons in
the mash (4). 2.4 x 4 = 9.6 grams, which can be rounded to 10 grams.
5. Unless you have a gram scale handy, you will want to convert that to
teaspoons which is more convenient. There are 4 grams of gypsum per
teaspoon, which gives us 10/4 = 2.5 teaspoons of gypsum to be added to
6. Lastly, you need to realize how much sulfate this addition has made. 2.5
grams per gallon equals 368 ppm of sulfate added to the mash, which is a
lot. In this case, it would probably be a good idea to use calcium chloride for
half of the addition.
The following table provides information on the use and results of each salt's
addition. Brewing salts should be used sparingly to make up for gross deficiencies
or overabundance of ions. The concentrations given in Table 16 below are for 1
gram dissolved in 1 gallon of distilled water. Dissolution of 1 gram of a salt in your
water will result in a different value due to your water's specific mineral content
and pH. However, the results should be reasonably close. Please refer to Appendix
F - Recommended Reading, for better discussions of water chemistry and brewing
water adjustment than I can provide here.
Table 16 - Salts for Water Adjustment
158 ppm CO
Because of its limited
solubility it is only
effective when added
directly to the mash. Use
for making dark beers in
areas of soft water. Use
nomograph and monitor
the mash pH with pH test
papers to determine how
much to add.
Useful for adding calcium
if the water is low in
sulfate. Can be used to
add sulfate "crispness" to
the hop bitterness.
Useful for adding Calcium
if the water is low in
by a small
Can be used to add sulfate
"crispness" to the hop
If your pH is too low
and/or has low residual
alkalinity, then you can
add alkalinity. See
procedure for calcium
My final advice on the matter is that if you want to brew a pale beer and have
water that is very high in carbonates and low in calcium, then your best bet is to
use bottled water* from the store or to dilute your water with distilled water and
add gypsum or calcium chloride to make up the calcium deficit. Watch your sulfate
and chloride counts though. Mineral dilution with water is not as straightforward as
it is with wort dilution, due to the various ion buffering effects, but it will be
reasonably close. Good Luck!
* You should be able to get an analysis of the bottled water by calling the
manufacturer. I have done this with a couple of different brands.
Fix, G., Fix, L., An Analysis of Brewing Techniques
, Brewers Publications, Boulder
DeLange, AJ, personal communication, 1998.
Daniels, R., Designing Great Beers, Brewers Publications, Boulder Colorado, 1997.
Chapter 16 - The Methods of Mashing
In chapters 14 and 15 you learned about the chemistry going on in the mash tun.
In this chapter we will discuss how the mash can be manipulated to create a
desired character in the wort and the finished beer. There are two basic schemes
for mashing: Single Temperature - a compromise temperature for all the mash
enzymes, and Multi-Rest- where two or more temperatures are used to favor
different enzyme groups. You can heat the mash in two ways also, by the addition
of hot water (Infusion) or by heating the mash tun directly. There is also a
combination method, called Decoction Mashing, where part of the mash is heated
on the stove and added back to the main mash to raise the temperature. All of
these mashing schemes are designed to achieve saccharification (starch conversion
to fermentable sugars). But the route taken to that goal can have a considerable
influence on the overall wort character. Certain beer styles need a particular mash
scheme to arrive at the right wort for the style.
16.1 Single Temperature Infusion
This method is the simplest, and does the job for most beer styles. All of the
crushed malt is mixed (infused) with hot water to achieve a mash temperature of
150-158F, depending on the style of beer being made. The infusion water
temperature varies with the water-to-grain ratio being used for the mash, but
generally the initial "strike water" temperature is 10-15·°F above the target mash
temperature. The equation is listed below in the section, "Calculations for
Infusions." The mash should be held at the saccharification temperature for about
an hour, hopefully losing no more than a couple degrees. The mash temperature
can be maintained by placing the mash tun in a warm oven, an insulated box or by
adding heat from the stove. The goal is to achieve a steady temperature.
One of the best ways to maintain the mash temperature is to use an ice chest or
picnic cooler as the mash tun. This is the method I recommend throughout the rest
of this section of the book. Instructions for building a picnic cooler mash/lauter tun
are given in Appendix D.
If the initial infusion of water does not achieve the desired temperature, you can
add more hot water according to the infusion calculations.
16.2 Multi-Rest Mashing
A popular multi-rest mash schedule is the 40°C - 60°C - 70°C (104 - 140 - 158°F)
mash, using a half hour rest at each temperature, first advocated for homebrewers
by George Fix. This mash schedule produces high yields and good fermentability.
The time at 40°C improves the liquefaction of the mash and promotes enzyme
activity. As can be seen in Figure 79 - Enzyme Ranges, several enzymes are at
work, liquefying the mash and breaking down the starchy endosperm so the
starches can dissolve. As mentioned in the previous chapter in the section on the
Acid Rest, resting the mash at this temperature has been show to improve the
yield, regardless of the malts used. Varying the times spent at the 60 and 70°C
rests allows you to adjust the fermentable sugar profiles. For example, a 20 minute
rest at 60°C, combined with a 40 minute rest at 70°C produces a sweet, heavy,
dextrinous beer; while switching the times at those temperatures would produce a
drier, lighter bodied, more alcoholic beer from the same grain bill.
If you use less well-modified malts, such as German Pils malt, a multi-rest mash
will produce maltier tasting beers although they need a protein rest to fully realize
their potential. In this case the mash schedule suggested by Fix is 50 - 60 - 70°C,
again with half hour rests. The rest at 50°C takes the place of the liquefaction rest
at 40°C and provides the necessary protein rest. This schedule is well suited for
producing continental lager beers. These schedules are provided as guidelines. You,
as the brewer, have complete control over what you can choose to do. Play with the
times and temperatures and have fun.
Multi-rest mashes require you to add heat to the mash to achieve the various
temperature rests. You can add the heat in a couple of ways, either by infusions or
by direct heat. If you are using a kettle as a mash tun, you can heat it directly
using the stove or a stand-alone hotplate. (See Fig. 84) The first temperature rest
is achieved by infusion as in the Single Temperature mash described above. The
subsequent rest(s) are achieved by carefully adding heat from the stove and
constant stirring to keep the mash from developing hotspots and scorching. The
mash can be placed in a pre-warmed oven (125 - 150 °F) to keep the mash from
losing heat during the rests. After the conversion, the mash is carefully poured or
ladled from the mash tun into the lauter tun and lautered. The hot mash and wort
is susceptible to oxidation due to hot side aeration (HSA) due to splashing at this
stage, which can lead to long term flavor stability problems.
Figure 84 - Mashing on the Stove- The grist is added to a pot of hot water on the
stove for the first temperature rest. The mash is then placed in the oven (warm) to
help maintain the temperature for the desired time. Then the mash pot is returned
to the stovetop to be heated to the next rest. After mashing the mash is transferred
to the lauter tun and lautered into the boiling pot. The mash tun is then used to
heat water for the sparge.
If you are using a picnic cooler for your mash tun, multi-rest mashes are a bit
trickier. You need to start out with a stiff mash (e.g. .75-1 quarts per pound of
grain), to leave yourself enough room in the tun for the additional water. Usually
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