Brewing salts in the mash

Sun Feb 14, 2016 12:32 pm

I haven't been able to find a concrete answer to this so my apologies if I overlooked it. Do brewing salts have any other use in the mash besides lowering the pH? I understand acid malt can be used to lower pH as well, but I'm curious if salts have any other function in the mash.
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Re: Brewing salts in the mash

Mon Feb 15, 2016 5:35 am

calcium salts aid in the reduction of oxalate in the mash and that reduces beerstone formation elsewhere in the brewery. If the water already has more than 40 ppm calcium, there isn't a strong reason to add more calcium via salts.

The other main reason to add salts is to improve the flavor of the beer. In some styles, an overly low level of salts can result in a bland tasting beer.
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Re: Brewing salts in the mash

Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:20 pm

Baking soda may be used to raise pH when needed -- this is used sometimes for very dark / black beers with a lot of roasted malts, which tend to be very acidic and might be necessary if your water is very soft to prevent an odd tart/sourness in the finished beer.
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Re: Brewing salts in the mash

Tue Feb 16, 2016 9:54 am

Thanks for the replies guys!

Ok. So here's where my train of thought goes so please feel free to correct me.

I use RO water because my local water source is loaded with crap. Now I've used several calculators to determine mash pH as well as measuring it. I brewed a brown IPA for nationals with an SRM around 18 and my mash came into the perfect range without salt additions in the mash. I added gypsum and calcium chloride to the brew kettle. Now my question is... How do you handle the scenario when needing mash salts to bring up the flavor profile on a darker beer but careful enough to not drive it into the acidic range? Especially since calcium carbonate does not absorb into water easily? I've thought about using baking soda but wouldn't that drive the sodium levels beyond normal?
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Re: Brewing salts in the mash

Tue Feb 16, 2016 5:53 pm

I use salts more for flavor than anything else... and it all depends on the recipe. I have a few different water profiles plugged into ProMash that I use. It's not hard to hit your pH, but it's also not always about staying under a maximum ppm - there are minimums as well. I'd never brew any style with straight RO. You need a certain amount of minerals in there for flavor.
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Re: Brewing salts in the mash

Tue Feb 16, 2016 5:59 pm

Too much sodium is indeed kind of a bad thing, and chalk (calcium carbonate) is more trouble than it's worth. I add my baking soda after the mash is done, as another kettle addition, and try to use water with little or no sodium to begin with. Then the sodium isn't such a problem. I don't use a lot of baking soda either, like just maybe 1 teaspoon in 5 gallons at the very most, just to kind of take the edge off the acidity without much flavor impact. If you've never tasted baking soda, try it -- it's pretty nasty stuff. Even worse is epsom salt, that stuff is horrible. IF I ever use epsom, and that's a BIG IF, it's only like 1/4 teaspoon in 5 gallons. Go easy on this stuff.

Bottom line: With water & salt additions, less is more. When in doubt, use less salts than you think you should.
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Re: Brewing salts in the mash

Wed Feb 17, 2016 5:04 pm

I use baking soda for raising the pH of my mashes because my experience with chalk has been that it did almost nothing. Even when I added quite a bit more than I thought I should to my mash, the pH tested too low (ColorpHast strips). I actually have never had to adjust my mash down, which is contrary to almost everything that you read out there. Everyone always talks about the pH getting too high, but in almost every instance I end up with a pH that is too low (4.8-5).

Even using baking soda to adjust, I have never gotten any feedback that it tasted salty so I don't worry about it. If I have flavor additions to add (to get the cloride/sulfate ratio right), I do it in the kettle.
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Re: Brewing salts in the mash

Thu Feb 18, 2016 4:21 am

i didnt expect this when i signed up here i just like beer but you guys are taking this to the next level pretty impressive to be fair
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