Using gypsum salt to increase bitterness and reduce ph levels

Sunday, December 18, 2022

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 chloride. Basically, it's another handy mineral beer salt (usually found in rock form but ground into a powder). 

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.  This is handy when using hops. 

gypsum salt for brewing

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

How much gypsum should I add to my beer to reduce pH levels?

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

Getting 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 that 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.

use gypsum salt to reduce ph level

When to add gypsum in the brewing process?

Gypsum is typically added to the brewing water during the mashing process.

Specifically, it should be added to the water before the malt is added, and it should be fully dissolved before mashing in. This allows the gypsum to adjust the water chemistry and lower the pH level of the mash, which can improve the efficiency of enzyme activity and the extraction of sugars from the malt.

It is important to add the gypsum to the brewing water at the correct time, as adding it too late in the process can result in a harsh, minerally flavor in the beer. 

How is gypsum used for hoppy beers?

Gypsum acts to suppress harshness and astringent flavours.

Gypsum is often added to hoppy beers to add a perceived dryness and enhance the hop bitterness. The sulfate ions in gypsum can enhance the perception of hop bitterness by adding a sharp, clean and almost puckering taste, while the calcium ions can help to clarify and stabilize the beer, and contribute to a dry finish.

Additionally, Gypsum can also help to balance the pH of the mash, which is important for enzyme activity and the extraction of sugars from the malt.

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 will lay this balancing act 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 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

gypsum salt to reduce ph guidance

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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