Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Water treatment 1920 - 1939

While looking for a brewing log for Barclay Perkins Brown Ale, I stumbled across the page with their water treatments. It's surprisingly sophisticated, with five different methods used.

Some of it seems a little weird. Things like adding salt and gypsum to the grains in the mashtun. And why would they boil some water and just heat some of it to 170º F? And why add salt in the copper? perhaps one of you brewers could explain.

Water treatment
In the 1930's, Barclay Perkins treated all their brewing water. These are the water treatment entries at the front of their brewing log for 1936-37:

Mild Ales (X, XX, A)
Company's liquor - treated cold 2/3 oz. salt and 7/12 oz gypsum per barrel in HLB [Hot liquor Back].
Heated to 170º F and allowed to drop to mashing heat. Half hour before mashing add 1/8 pint per barrel of bi sulphite lime. Salt in coppers - 3 oz per barrel.

DB (Brown Ale)
Company's liquor - treated cold 1.5 ozs. salt and 4 ozs gypsum per barrel in HLB [Hot liquor Back].
Heated to 170º F and allowed to drop to mashing heat half hour before mashing.
Salt in coppers - 2 oz per barrel.

KK (Burton)
Company's liquor - treated cold 3 ozs. salt and 3 ozs gypsum per barrel in HLB [Hot liquor Back]
Boiled overnight. Half hour before mashing add 1/8 pint per barrel of bi sulphite of lime.
Salt in coppers - 1 oz per barrel.

PA (Bitter)
Company's liquor - treated cold. Boiled 5 minutes and allowed to drop to mashing heat. 5 ozs CaSO4 & 1 oz. MgSO4 per barrel in HLB [Hot liquor Back]

All Black Beers (Porter and Stout)
Company's liquor - Boiled 5 minutes and allowed to drop to mashing heat.
2 ozs salt and 1 oz gypsum per barrel of liquor used over the goods added to grist.
Salt in coppers - 3 ozs per barrel.

As you can see, the water for each type of beer was handled quite differently. For some was boiled, for others heated to 170º F. Quite a few different chemicals were added - salt, gypsum, calcium sulphate, magnesium sulphate, calcium bisulphate - in different combinations and amounts.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Do you have any idea of the original mineral profile of the water used ?

Joe Walts said...

Hey Ron,

Keeping the mash pH withing a specific range will ensure that the malt enzymes can adequately convert starches into simpler sugars. For most brewing waters, pH is usually too high. Calcium reacts with malt phosphates to lower the wort pH, and gypsum has calcium in it. Hopefully I won't be starting a geeky tangent discussion by saying that it doesn't really matter if the gypsum is added directly to the mash or to the water beforehand (the differences are situational). In addition, carbonates in the water increase mash pH. To deal with high-carbonate waters, brewers often precipitate out the carbonate as chalk (calcium carbonate). Chalk solubility in water decreases as temperature increases, so heating the water helps to get it out. Boiling helps even more, and a third method is to add slaked lime (calcium hydroxide). Yes, doing so gets rid of calcium in addition to carbonate, but the carbonate is more influential than the calcium.

Salt is more of a mystery to me. Chloride enhances body to some degree, but brewers could solve two problems at once by adding calcium chloride instead of (or in addition to) gypsum. Maybe people just liked salty beer.

Ron Pattinson said...

Laurent, no idea about the composition of BP's water, I'm afraid.

jonbrazie said...

I'm no expert by any means, but do you know what kind of salt they were referring to? Standard table salt? Or was it more of a "brewing" salt? If it were the latter, it could have been any of a few types of salts used to raise or lower the mash pH.

Ron Pattinson said...

rabbi, I'm pretty sure they mean sodium chloride by salt. The chemical names of all the other additions are specified.

jonbrazie said...

Ron, if that's the case it's completely beyond my knowledge, which is admittedly very limited. At the very least, maybe the chloride could lower the pH, and the sodium could be used to round out the flavor.

Anonymous said...

Table salt isn't unheard of as a liquor treatment - it adds chlorides for body and mouthfeel and has the advantage of being very soluble. You can add it at any stage - even in the pint glass (try it). Though the rates mentioned here are 2 to 3 times the accepted maximum of 1 oz/bbrl. I'd imagine the resultant beer to be a bit cloying and possibly salty...

Andrew Elliott said...

I'm sure a lot of the additions had to do with getting the proper pH -- gypsum and lime, but I think the salt addition was for flavor. It can enhance the perceptions of different flavors and characteristics and bring life to foods. Have you ever baked bread and forgotten to add the salt? Pretty "flat" tasting. Some may argue that it works only for savory foods... try baking some cookies and leaving out the salt -- they taste pretty dull and lifeless.

I don't know how much would be the proper amount to use, before things tasted too salty, but figured i'd offer my observations from my failures in cooking and baking.

Anonymous said...

How's this for a guess on the salt in the mash?

They were already adding the gypsum to the mash (for the obvious reasons) so it was easy to add the salt then too.

Makes sense to me.

Ron Pattinson said...

What I wondered about was why there were so many different water treatments. I understand why PA and Stout might be different, but why would KK and Brown Ale be different?

The Mild Ales, PA, KK and DB didn't use any dark malts. Just some crystal in everything but the PA. All the colouring came from sugars.

Joe Walts said...

What would the hopping be like for the KK and Brown Ale? Gypsum tends to make hoppy beers taste hoppier while chloride makes malty beers taste maltier. Darker malts lower mash pH - not just malts that were burned to a crisp, but crystal and brown/amber malts as well - and reduce the need for calcium.

If neither of those explains the differences in water treatments, the brewers could have just been following conventions that predated scientific knowledge of water chemistry. That seems to happen a lot in the brewing industry today.

Ron Pattinson said...

Joe, the KK was the most heavily hopped. Surprisingly, the Brown Ale, in terms of hops per quarter of malt, was more heavily hopped than the standard PA.

These are the exact figures:

KK 5.7% crystal, 11 lbs per quarter, 2.94 lbs per barrel

DBA 10.7% crystal, 7.5 lbs per quarter, 1.2 lbs per barrel

PA 0% crystal, 7 lbs per quarter, 1.47 lbs per barrel

PA Export 0% crystal, 9 lbs per quarter, 2.16 lbs per barrel