Brew Dudes

Homebrewing blog and resource

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How Mike Simplified Water Chemistry For Homebrewing

Mike has struggled with hitting his final gravity on his beers. Not every beer finished fermenting before the target gravity was met. It was intermittent and enough to sound the alarm for Mike to take action and fix it.

His troubles started with his switch to direct fire mashing but he didn’t know if that was the problem. His solution was to put into action a five beer, ten pound project. Because there were some many variables in his brewing process, he streamlined his process so he could find out what the issue was.

He picked one process for mashing, boiling, and chilling and stuck with it for 5 brew sessions (beer) using 10 pounds of base malt each. With the base malt the same (another factor he made less variable), he followed the same process to track mash pH, efficiency, and attenuation.

Watch this video to learn more about his process and his findings:

Mike’s Findings

Mike’s five beers:

  • English Pale Ale
  • Brown Ale
  • American Pale Ale
  • American Pale Ale with Homegrown Hops

Here’s what Mike concluded:

He feels like we (as hobbyists) have over-complicated water chemistry. There are two things that we need to focus on – water chemistry as it pertains to mash pH, which is the most important thing, and water chemistry in the kettle for flavor.

If you need to adjust your tap water to maintain a 5.2 to 5.4 pH for the mash, then you will be set up for excellent beer.

Don’t worry about trying to emulate water from a different part of the globe. The brewers from those areas were probably adjusting their water too!

Based on our water analysis and the Bru’n Water calculator, Mike added lactic acid to his mash to get the pH into the sweet zone of 5.2 and 5.4. He saw a big improvement to his efficiency of extracting sugar from his grains to his wort. With that, his attenuation was better as well.

So – the big lesson was to work hard to get your mash pH in check. Everything else down the line will fall in place.


Water Chemistry Experiment To Find Malt Balance

As the true scientist he is, Mike put together a water chemistry experiment to find malt balance for his Brown ale. He brewed one for the community brew and wasn’t to his liking. He was not happy with his finishing gravity. He re-brewed and with a little water chemistry adjustment, he was able to brew something much better.

Check out this video of us tasting his second brew:

What We Learned

Mike’s adjustments to the recipe included changes to his malt, hops, and yeast but the big reveal was that he made changes to his process. He dialed in his mash temperature and paid close attention to his Chloride to Sulfate ratio in his water throughout. He got his final gravity down to 1.009!

He used our tap water and added brewing salts to have a 2 to 1 Chloride to Sulfate ratio with a little acid in the mash to adjust for proper pH.

It was a success – I am happy for Brew Dude Mike.

Cheers and Brew on!

Enigma Hops Profile

We brewed another SMaSH beer to get a handle on a hop variety that we don’t know too well. This beer used Enigma hops and we present this profile video so you can get our perspective on what this hop can do for you. Watch!

But Are They Enigmatic?

They are an Australian variety and the packet I bought was from the 2018 harvest. The alpha acid percentage listed on the package was 19%! I had Mike take a whiff of the pellets and they packed a punch.

That punch didn’t translate strongly into the aroma of the beer. It was very grassy to me. Mike found floral notes (Geraniums) the aroma and flavor, which was pleasant.

The commercial descriptors included raspberry, red currant, light tropical fruits, and pinot gris. We found that these were not really strong.

There was strong dank thing going on. We felt that these hops were be a nice early addition to a boil, maybe as a substitute to Warrior or Simcoe. Definitely blend them with stronger flavor hops.

Cheers and brew on!

Sabro Hops Profile

Hey – I really enjoy brewing SMaSH beers with new hop profiles. I like it because I get to learn first hand what these hops are all about. After they are ready to drink, we turn on the camera and talk about them. Hopefully, you get something out of our evaluation. This time around, we brewed with Sabro hops!

Sabro Hops Aromas and Flavors Takeaways

This hop to me screamed lime flavors. There was a little melon on the nose, but in the flavor, it’s all lime with some coconut. This hop would be great as a solo hop in a American Blonde Ale. With all the alcoholic beverages that have strong lime flavors, try making a light beer with those descriptors through late hop additions.


The Irish Red Ale Showdown

Both Mike and I brewed an Irish red ale. That’s what you do when you buy an extract kit for the first time in many years and it’s the spring time. We sat side by side and tasted our brews. See us compare notes in this Irish Red Ale Showdown!

Tell Us More About Your Extract Brew

Well, right off the bat, my “red” ale was darker. Mike’s had a copper color. I had a lot of roast barley in mine along with two different caramel malts.

We used the same yeast yet the aromas were different. The flavor in my ale was strong where Mike’s was a little lighter.

This style seems simple but it is difficult especially when it comes to getting the color right. Some tweaks for next time will help us get there.


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