hist-brewing: Re: hist-brewing-digest V1 #718

BrewInfo brewinfo at xnet.com
Mon Nov 13 10:30:50 PST 2000

Kel writes:
>> >angus at iamawitch.com writes:
>> >
>> >> darker malt will add more color, not body.  When you use dark malts you'll
>> >> lower the pH of the mash so a buffering with CaCO3 or NaHCO3 is needed if
>> >you
>> >> want a fuller body, a higher pH in the final brew is often percieved as
>> >'more
>> >> body'.
>> >
>> >It really depends on your water chemistry; I live in eastern PA, and our
>> >water is already fairly high in CaCO3 (~150ppm, as calcium). For dark beers,
>> >I add no salts at all to my mash water, except perhaps a small amount of
>> >MgSO4, to enhance bop utilization. The higher pH itself does not cause the
>> >"more bady", but affects the mash, giving a less attenuative wort.
>> I was under the impression that the attenuation is mostly affected by the yeast strain put into the wort or rather, different strains will ferment a wort of OG x down to various FGs, hinging on the strain's attenuation.  How much does the addition of various salts alter the attenuation ?  Any figures available ?
>Hmmm. I can't address this water chemistry stuff.

I can.  MgSO4 (Epsom Salts) does not increase hop utilisation.  It can increase
the *perception* of bitterness, because sulphate lends causes the bitterness
in the beer to linger into the finish.  Compare Pilsner Urquell (very low
sulphate and 40 IBUs) to DAB (rather high sulphate and only 32 IBUs).  The DAB
actually tastes more bitter.

>However, attenuation is affected by yeast strain, available "convertible" sugars and available oxygen, nutrients and trace elements. pH is a factor but usually full mashed worts have more than enough tannins to lower pH to an acceptable range. Fermentable and unfermentable sugars play a factor in the attenuation of
>the wort. Unfermentable sugars create much of the body or "mouth feel" of a brew.

Actually, protein is a much bigger factor in body and mouthfeel (see Fix's second book for an actual text reference, although the first mention of this is in
the Homebrew Digest around 1989 or so where I posted information I gathered
from an email discussion with Dr.Fix.  Search for "Fix" and "body" in the 
1989 or 1988 homebrew digests).  Dextrins (those unfermentable "sugars") do
lend some body, but protein is a far bigger factor.

I don't know what you mean by "convertable" sugar.  "Fermentable" perhaps.
Starches are converted to sugars and dextrins during the mash.

Finally, tannins do not lower pH and if you are making any effort to extract
tannins from your malt, then you are in error.  What lowers pH in the mash
are the reactions between phosphates in the malt and calcium in the water
and acidic compounds created during high kilning or roasting.  These compounds
are *not* tannins.

>I highly recommend Dave Miller's "Complete Handbook of Homebrewing" or Ray Daniel's "Designing Great Beers." This is clearly detailed in either.

Dave Miller does a good job of explaining mash pH.  A quick scan of Designing
Great Beers didn't yield any information on body or mouthfeel and neither is
in the index.  The discussion of pH, however, is rather weak.  Daniels' fails
to distinguish between anhydrous, dihydrate and other forms of calcium
chloride, each of which contribute vastly different amounts of both calcium
and chloride ions.  Ray includes a discussion of pH relative to Chicago water
and presents a formula to predict mash pH based upon alkalinity, calcium
and magnesium.  He claims that for Chicago water, pale malt will result in
a mash pH that is way too high.  However, I happen to have brewed all my
200+ batches with Chicago water and my experience shows that either his
formula is wrong or he is using some odd pale malt: I have gotten a fine
pH (mid 5's) from straight Chicago water and 100% (British and Belgian)
pale ale malt.

>"Abby, Ellen and Alan" wrote:
>> I am following with interest the gruit discussion but noted last night
>> in Al Korzonas's book Homebrewing vol. 1 on page 216 there is a footnote
>> that reads:
>> "sweet gale and wormwood are mentioned in the sidebar on gruit and are
>> available to homebrewers but should be avoided because they are
>> dangerous."
>Clearly Al Korzona's work has a flaw. There is no clear evidence that sweet gale
>is dangerous in brewing concentrations useful for bittering. Al is an
>experienced and respected home brewer frequently contributing to brewing
>discussions at rec.crafts.brewing. Not everyone agrees with him there, nor must
>it be so here in this forum. He is entitled to his opinions and likely has good
>reasons for presenting them.
>I do not agree with him on this topic.

Al Korzonas's work has many flaws, but I don't agree that this is one of
them.  Perhaps I should have said "*can* be dangerous".  All validated
errors (and a lot of additions, especially in the yeast section) are
documented on my website (http://www.brewinfo.org/brewinfo).  Click on
the hyperlink to the book and from there go to "Errata."

You are free to disagree.  As this was a footnote, it was impossible to
reference (as I have done throughout my book).  My reason for believing
that wormwood and sweet gale should be avoided is because they are listed
as dangerous in Cindy Renfrow's "A Sip Through Time."  Incidentally, sweet
gale is not a bittering agent and I'm not sure that wormwood is either.

I had limited space to write what I had in mind.  If you think it merits
clarification, I could add my reference to this statement in my Errata
page.  Incidentally, since I wrote the book, it has been brought up here
that the compound in wormwood that is considered dangerous (thujone) is
found in similar concentration in sage which is used extensively in
cooking, so there is some data suggesting wormwood may be safe.  Sweet
gale is an abortifacient (causes spontaneous abortions).  I have yet to
hear authoritatively at what concentrations either begins to be a health
risk and, as such, I feel it is still best to err on the side of caution.
Thus, I feel that some kind of cautionary note is required.

If you could determine the level at which each of these herbs become
problematic, I would not only include this information in my Errata page
and in subsequent editions, but also include your name among the many who
have provided such information.  Mind you, pointing out an issue without
a *referrenced* correction doesn't make it into the Errata.


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