Salts Addition for Different Beer Profiles

Step 1 Choose Flavour Profile

Different beer styles will call for different levels of minerals to achieve the flavour profile we are targeting. By adjusting the amounts of specific minerals found in your brewing water, beer can be made to taste fuller bodied, sweeter, drier, more bitter, or even sour.

The following minerals found naturally in water are the ones we adjust in brewing:

  • Calcium (Ca): Essentially flavour neutral. Promotes clarity and flavour stability of the final beer. Affects enzymatic activity in the mash, protein coagulation during the boil and benefits yeast health. Typical brewing range is 50-150 ppm.
  • Magnesium (Mg): Adds a sour, astringent flavour. An important yeast nutrient, required at a level of least 5 ppm. Levels above 125 ppm have a laxative effect (fun times).Typical brewing range is 5-40 ppm.
  • Sodium (Na): Rounds out flavours and accentuates sweetness. Lower concentration tends to produce a cleaner flavour. May taste salty above 150 ppm and harsh / sour above 250 ppm. Typical brewing range is 0-50 ppm, but some special styles (like Gose) may go as high as 250 ppm.
  • Chloride (Cl): Accentuates flavour by making a beer fuller bodied, rounder, and to appear sweeter. May taste salty above 250 ppm and will affect yeast health above 300 ppm. Typical brewing range is 0-250 ppm.
  • Sulphate (SO4): Accentuates hop bitterness / dryness / crispness. May become astringent above 400 ppm. Typical brewing range is 50-350 ppm.

 

The salts we use to adjust the mineral content of our water are as follows:

  • Gypsum / Calcium Sulphate (CaSO4): Adds Ca and SO4, lowers pH.
  • Calcium Chloride (CaCl2): Adds Ca and Cl, lowers pH.
  • Pure Epsom Salt / Magnesium sulphate (MgSO4), unscented: Adds Mg and SO4, lowers pH (very slightly).
  • Chalk / Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3): Adds Ca, raises pH.
  • Baking Soda (NaHCO3): Adds Na, raises pH.
  • Non-Iodized salt (NaCl), also known as Pickling salt / Kosher salt / Cheese salt: Adds Na and Cl, raises pH.

 

Guide line flavour profiles:

 

  • Balanced
    Profile: Ca=50, Mg=10, Na=16, Cl=70, SO4=70
    Description: Hit minimums on Ca and Mg, keep the Cl:SO4 ratio low and equal. Do not favour flavour / maltiness or bitterness / dryness. For balanced beers.
    Recipes:  Blonde Ale / Premium Lager, Cream Ale / Standard Lager, Schwarzbier, English Pub Ale, Irish Red Ale, Dry Irish Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, Witbier, Weizen / Weissbier, Dusseldorf Altbier, Munich Helles, Kolsch, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Tripel, Belgian Super Saison
  • Hoppy
    Profile: Ca=110, Mg=18, Na=16, Cl=50, SO4=275
    Description: High SO4 with restrained Cl which helps accentuate hop bitterness / dryness. For hoppy American styles.
  • Hoppy lite
    Profile: Ca=110, Mg=18, Na=16, Cl=50, SO4=100
    Description: Similar to the ‘Hoppy’ profile but with less Sulphate in order to go easy on accentuating bitterness / dryness. Used in some English styles.
  • Hoppy New England
    Profile: Ca=100, Mg=18, Na=16, Cl=200, SO4=100
    Description: Increased Cl with restrained SO4 which helps accentuate flavour over bitterness / dryness. The hop bitterness is smoother, less sharp, less dry than our ‘Hoppy’ profile. Helps support a silky smooth and rich mouthfeel. For hoppy New England style ales.
  • Soft
    Profile: Ca=21, Mg=5, Na=16, Cl=16, SO4=21
    Description: Just enough to acidify the mash while keeping the water soft.
    Recipes: Pilsner

 

Step 2 Find your Water Composition

 

The five minerals that create the flavour profile we care about in brewing are Ca, Mg, Na, Cl, and SO4. Most other minerals and compounds and most definitely all contaminants should be close to zero if the water is to be used for brewing. Have your brewing water tested, or obtain the parameter values for your local water report.

 

STEP 3: Calculate Salts Additions

 

Before we can calculate the amount of salts we need to add to hit our mineral targets, we need to know how much strike and sparge water we will be using.

We now have all the numbers we need to calculate the salt amounts required to hit our mineral targets. There are many tools available to perform these calculations. We like to use the free spreadsheet EZWaterCalculator as it’s one of the most intuitive and easy to use tools we have come across. Downloadable as well so you have something you’ll be able to use for life.

  1. Enter your values into the Step 1 of EZWaterCalculator. This is your starting water profile information (Ca, Mg, Na, Cl, and SO4) along with your strike / sparge water amounts (the ‘Mash Water’field is your strike water).
  2. Skip to step 4 of EZWaterCalculator.
  3. In Steps 4a and 4b of EZWaterCalculator adjust the amounts of Gypsum, Calcium Chloride, Epsom Salt, Chalk, and Baking Soda on the two ‘Mash Water Additions’ lines until the ‘Mash + Sparge Water Profile’ line in Step 5 matches or is close to the desired mineral targets.
  4. Most of the time we only add Gypsum, Calcium Chloride, and Epsom Salt (the top 3 salts in EZWaterCalculator Step 4a which adjust mash pH down). We recommend starting with these three as follows: Increase Epsom Salt until the Magnesium target is reached, then increase Calcium Chloride until the Chloride target is reached, followed by increasing Gypsum until the Sulphate target is reached.

 

And it is as easy as that. Your water profile is complete!

This guide is based on the Electric Brewery Salts Addition Guide

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