Calcium…O Calcium

It is often said that Calcium is good for your bones and good for your beer. Canberra’s water @ 13 is fine Ca wise for Pils but a bit low for many styles (O Vienna @ 200 or Burton @270)

Here is a bit from (you will get a 404, mine is an old copy)

<<Of the ions required for brewing, calcium is by far the most important. This is because of the acidifying effect that calcium has on the wort. […] A combination of the presence of calcium ions and the decrease in pH has a number of effects on the brewing process:

  • The lower pH improves ß-amylase activity and thus wort fermentability and extract. The optimum pH for ß-amylase activity is about 4·7. Wort produced from liquor containing no calcium has a pH in the order of 5·8 – 6·0, compared to values in the range of 5·3 – 5·5 for worts produced from treated brewing liquor. The activity of the ß-amylase then is greatly enhanced by the addition of calcium, this enzyme increasing the production of maltose from Amylose, and thus making worts more fermentable.
  • Calcium has a beneficial effect on the precipitation of wort proteins, both during mashing and during the boil.

Protein-H + Ca2+ (r) Protein-Ca ¯ + 2H+

The hydrogen ions released further reduce the pH which encourages further precipitation of proteins.

Proteins are also degraded, that is converted to simpler substances by proteolytic enzymes called proteases. These are found in the malt, and have optimum activity at pH values of about 4·5 – 5·0. The reduction in pH then caused by the presence of calcium encourages proteolysis, further reducing protein levels and increasing wort Free Amino Nitrogen levels (FAN).

FAN compounds are utilised by the yeast during fermentation for the manufacture of amino acids, and an increase in FAN levels in the wort improves the health and vigour of the yeast.

High protein levels in beers also have negative effects, making beer more difficult to fine and encouraging formation of hazes, in particular chill hazes. Product shelf life can also be adversely affected.

  • Calcium ions protect the enzyme a-amylase from inhibition by heat.

a-amylase is an endo enzyme, cleaving the internal 1,4 glucosidic links of amylopectin resulting in a rapid reduction in wort viscosity. The optimum temperature range for

a-amylase activity is 65°C – 68°C, but the enzyme is rapidly destroyed at these temperatures. Calcium stabilises a-amylase to 70 – 75°C.

It can be seen then that the presence of calcium has positive effects on the activity of a-amylase, ß-amylase and Proteases, some of the most important enzymes in the brewing process.

  • The drop in pH encouraged by Calcium ions in the mash and copper helps afford the wort and subsequent beer produced a greater resistance to microbiological infection.
  • The reduced pH of the sparge liquor reduces extraction of undesirable silicates, tannins and polyphenols from the mash bed. The extraction of such materials is encouraged by alkaline sparge liquor. These materials are very undesirable, contributing to harsh flavours, hazes in the finished beer and decreased beer stability.
  • Calcium precipitates oxalates as insoluble calcium oxalate.

This again occurs in both the mash tun and the copper. If oxalates are not removed they can cause hazes in finished beers and also contribute to the formation of beerstone in FV’s, CT’s and casks. Oxalates are also thought to promote gushing in certain beers, although this is not generally a problem to the micro brewer.>>

Generally speaking you will use Calcium Chloride for maltier beers and Calcium Sulphate for hoppier beers or ideally a combination of the two.

More to come