Experience with ACCUmash

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Experience with ACCUmash

Postby daryl » Mon Apr 11, 2016 11:48 am

To step up my brewing technique, I have been reading Gordon Strong's recommendation to treating RO water to achieve the desired mash Ph.

BIY does not stock all of the specific chemicals recommended by Strong, but Joe suggested that I try ACCumash.

It looks pretty simple to use. It looks like it only adds mineral and salts whereas Stong's approach (for some styles) uses acid amendments (to RO).

Have any of you tried ACCUmash? If so, how was your experience?
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby andrewmaixner » Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:45 pm

I got a multi-year supply of the standard necessary minerals and acids at BIY for the price of probably 3 packets of accumash:
Gypsum (CaSO4)
Epsom (MgSO4)
Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)
Calcium Carbonate (Chalk, CaCO3)
Lactic Acid 88%

And, as you mention, you are neglecting pH if you don't calculate the use of acid or acid malt to see if it should be needed.

I found the EZWater spreadsheet fairly simple to use, much easier than BrunWater
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby daryl » Mon Apr 11, 2016 2:03 pm

Andrew - do you use RO or distilled water? Or do you correct your tap/well water?

Many of our brewers seem to use RO water, either purchased or they have an RO system at home.
In the Fridge/On Tap: Bell's Brown Clone, Salted Caramel Porter, Barrel-Aged Porter
In the barrel/conditioning:
In the bucket: Czech Lager; P-nut Brittle Ale, Blueberry and Blk Rasp. Mead
In the queue: Tangerine Wheat, Pils Urquell Clone, American Wheat
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby DrPaulsen » Mon Apr 11, 2016 2:19 pm

I've been using RO water as a base for 6+ years now. For the entire time I have been adding minerals to the mash. I used to employ a variety of mash pH calculators, the full set of minerals available at homebrew shops (Andrew listed them above), and actively measured pH at the beginning, middle, and end of the mash. I found some interesting trends among the calculators vs my measurements, but I couldn't really find any improvements in the quality of my beer relative to the pH or specific mineral profiles I was shooting for. Furthermore, the amount of work it took to keep track of all this data was in no way related to the quality of my beer.

I've since switched to only adding Calcium Chloride and/or Calcium Sulfate in fairly small amounts to my mash (e.g. ~2 tsp total) and I've completely quit measuring pH. I would argue that my beers have actually improved over that time. I've learned that for light fizzy lagers, you need to be careful with adding too much calcium as it can add harshness at high levels of CO2 (turns out you can synthesize calcium carbonate by accident). I've also learned that keeping mineral content to the lower end gives you tremendous flexibility relative to the final bittering levels in your beers. I use a lot of whirlpool hops to build hop flavor profiles in my beers (up to 8 oz in a 5 gal batch) and, admittedly, I have almost no idea how much total bitterness I'm extracting from that hot hop stand. When using RO water as a base with minimal mineral additions, it seems like it's almost impossible to make a beer taste harshly bitter. It doesn't show up in any of the pH calculators, but I also sometimes like to add table salt to the beer in relatively small amounts. I tell myself it adds mouthfeel, but who knows if that's true.

In short, I highly recommend starting with RO water, minimizing mineral additions, and skipping all the calculators.
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby andrewmaixner » Mon Apr 11, 2016 2:59 pm

daryl wrote:Andrew - do you use RO or distilled water? Or do you correct your tap/well water?

Many of our brewers seem to use RO water, either purchased or they have an RO system at home.


Yes, I use RO from the store almost always -- quick extract batch may get tap if I don't have any RO around. (I stupidly passed on a free used RO system 2 years back)
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby Matt F » Mon Apr 11, 2016 3:09 pm

I had not measured PH until this past weekend. I used strips once back in 2002 but I found them too similar in color to mess with and just haven't. I use RO water filled at Hy-Vee. I only have added gypsum to the mash when making IPAs, otherwise left it alone. In the past few years I have been adding a small amount of gypsum and even smaller amount of Calcium Chloride and I like it. Now that I have a PH meter I am going to use that to fine tune some things. For example, I would rather be in the 5.2 to 5.4 range for a pale beer and this weekend I was at 5.6 before making any additions. I still did not adjust for PH and did my traditional cap full of gypsum and a little Calcium Chloride.

Like Lee said, go small for mineral additions. Too much can ruin a beer.
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby DrPaulsen » Mon Apr 11, 2016 3:26 pm

I know there's a lot of discussion about keeping the mash pH in the 5.2 - 5.4 range, but there's very little discussion why anyone actually needs to aim for those values. There are vague discussions of enzymatic activity rates in How To Brew and a few other entry level home brewing textbooks, but that's about it. Even in the brewing textbooks I've read, the only relationships I can find are driven by process efficiency metrics. I think if you're in a production brewery and you need to crank out beers every single day as quickly as possible, then pH likely matters. As home brewers, I can't believe it really matters that much and certainly there are no well-documented relationships between pH and beer quality or taste.

In my mind, it's best to just focus on beer flavor and completely ignore pH. Any step a brewer takes in terms of a recipe inclusion or process step should be trace-able back to their goals for the beer. This is why I'm a big fan of starting with RO water and adding minerals to build a flavor profile to the water rather than aiming for a pH target. Until someone comes up with a good model for how mash pH directly affects beer flavor, I can't see why any home brewers would worry about it.
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby Matt F » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:31 pm

I am lease worried about PH precision in the mash. I figure close enough is good. I have been reading more about final PH in the end product to the point where some Brewers make adjustments just prior to packaging. Acidity level has a significant impact on flavor in all beers but gets the most attention in sours.
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Hopodile Dundee IPA (Conan)
Hopodile Dundee IPA (1318)
Saison
MashBros Black IPA

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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby DrPaulsen » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:36 pm

Good point. I have heard that pH matters for the finished beer, with a variety of opinions regarding what the ranges should be. I can imagine being able to lower the pH with phosphoric acid in a finished beer, but I've never really been able to figure out how to raise the pH. Is there a good liquid base out there?
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby carrisr » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:12 pm

I agree with most of these points. As long as you start with water with fairly low mineral content you can't go too wrong. A little calcium is said to aid protein precip and helps the yeast. Either a little calcium chloride or gypsum will get you there. Because I find it easy to do and I enjoy tracking the data, I do use Bru'n Water Pro to craft my water profiles and a pH meter to confirm it. Ive found Bru'n Water to be pretty much dead on. But I'll skip it if I'm in a hurry. Like Lee, I've been playing with a touch of sea salt (non iodized) in darker beers.

Recent testing by others seems to indicate that mashes tend to settle around 5.4 pH on their own later on whether they are l bit above or below to start with.

I use phosphoric acid rather than lactic since it has a neutral flavor. I had to buy way more of it than I need just to get it, so if anyone wants to try it let me know.


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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby karl » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:15 pm

I too had tried messing with mash pH. And, found that the messing around seemed to actually reduce the quality of the beer. The reading I did indicated that the modern malts typically developed sufficient acidity in typical municipal water and pH adjustment was not necessary unless using more historic malts. Further, my measurements indicated that the mash pH reached the 5.4 to 5.6 range at the end of the mash even starting with unmodified Cedar Rapids city water. I just stopped worrying about it.

As I recall from "Good Eats" the only food-grade alkalines available are lye, baking soda and vinegar. Lye is too dangerous to use practically. And, baking soda and vinegar would have deleterious effect on flavor. So, I think we're stuck there.


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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby andrewmaixner » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:38 pm

karl wrote: vinegar

That's an acid (acetic acid)

food-grade Lye could be used with proper dilution, people use it to clean keg lines all the time.
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby daryl » Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:39 pm

Gordon Strong's book Modern Homebrew Recipes, specifies the addition of acid or salts, depending upon the style of beer.

Profiles of phosphoric acid and/or CaSO4 and/or CaCl2; the acid is generally 1/4 tsp per 5 gallons of water; the other salts are in small quantities, sometimes added to the mash, sometimes added to the boil....and sometimes both.

It appears his philosophy is attempting the replicated the appropriate water profile appropriate to the beer style. It seems he no longer measures PH or actively adjusts PH when he brews.

My next brew is going to be a traditional Pale Ale (English Bitter); and I think I will use Palmers Grain Bill and Hop Profile and Gordon Strong's recommended amendments for his Pale Ale:

1/4 tsp of Phosphoric Acid 10% per five gallons of water
1/2 tsp CaCl2 and 1 tsp of CaSO4 - both added to the mash for a final volume of about 5.5 gallons.

Does this look reasonable for this style?
Someone asked about raising PH; Palmer recommends using Calcium Carbonate or Sodium Bicarbonate.
In the Fridge/On Tap: Bell's Brown Clone, Salted Caramel Porter, Barrel-Aged Porter
In the barrel/conditioning:
In the bucket: Czech Lager; P-nut Brittle Ale, Blueberry and Blk Rasp. Mead
In the queue: Tangerine Wheat, Pils Urquell Clone, American Wheat
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby DrPaulsen » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:01 am

One caveat - be careful with the phosphoric acid if you're using RO water in your HLT. I did that one time and it made my HLT very shiny. I discussed this with Kai Troester (guy behind the Brewer's Friend pH calculator) and he told me that if the water doesn't have any buffering ions, there is no reason to add acid. Gordon Strong made a comment in one of his books that he first saw HLT water treated with acid while at Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp. Since Sierra Nevada does not start with RO water, that would make sense, but it doesn't necessarily translate unilaterally to other situations.
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Re: Experience with ACCUmash

Postby karl » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:03 am

Vinegar... Oopsie.

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