Using gypsum to increase bitterness and reduce ph levels

gypsum salt for brewing

Using Gypsum to make hoppy beers taste great

You may have heard that to lower the pH of your beer water, you can use calcium chloride, it works and works well but if you are looking to make a beer that would benefit from a bit of bitterness, gypsum might be the solution.

Gypsum's scientific name is calcium sulphate (CaSO4·2H2O) so you can see it's got something in common with the chloride. Basically, it's another handy beer salt. 

It does do a few things for your beer. If you add it to your mash, it will help lower the pH. A second effect is that the increased sulfate content will help to accentuate the bitterness of your beer. 

A handy trick is that if you desire to increase the sulfate level to produce a more bitter beer enhancement but don't want to alter change your mash pH level, you can elect to place it directly into the kettle

In doubt about the pH level of your water? Use a pH meter.

How much gypsum should I add to my beer?

Generally speaking you really only need to change the pH if your water needs some assistance.

Get your source of water analyzed will allow you to make a real judgment about how much gypsum to add, but frankly who has time for that? 

If you wish to increase the bitterness of the beer, you're going to use it anyway right? This is particularly the case if you need to harden the water as you wish to brew an ale or bitter.

Maybe that's a bit of a gung-ho attitude but whatever. That said, I did read an idea that pointed out adding gypsum to water which has an unknown status is like adding salt to a meal you've never tried. 

In terms of adding gypsum, a lot depends on how hard your water is. If your water is low in sulphate and you're making a beer such as an IPA then adding about 7-8 grams of gypsum to a 5 gallon batch is probably all you will need.

How is gypsum used for hoppy beers?

Gypsum acts to suppress harshness and astringent flavours.

Brewers can take advantage of this to use large amounts of hops without contradicting or causing disharmony with other components of the hop. Don't push it though, too much calcium carbonate with lay this balance to waste.

What is the 'Burton Snatch'?

If you're brewing wort or water features too much sulphate, you will get that rotten eggs smell which is sometimes known as the Burton Snatch.

This is why it is important you don't add too much gypsum to your brew. To be clear, in the case of using sulphate, this is the cause of the sulphur smell you may get a whiff of and not the smell of an infected beer.

The name 'Burton Snatch' comes from the history of beers brewed at the place of Burton-on-Trent, England. The water of that area was naturally high in sulphate and when used for a brew or two, excess sulphite would cause the whiff when a beer was poured.

The snatch smell, if we can call it that, is now infamously tied to beers brewed using the region's water supply

Do I need to use gypsum if I am using malt extract kits?

You probably do not need to add gypsum if you're using a malt kit. Given kits are designed to be the wort you need to make the beer you want to make, it seems unlikely given modern manufacturing standards that it should be necessary to add gypsum.

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