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I have found resources that both advocate and highly advise against this practice. We recently brewed a IIPA (Bear Flavored's Heady Topper clone) that has 3lbs of hops, plus hop extract in 14 gallons. We didn't add any gypsum to our 4ppm sulfate water. I want to make this the best beer possible. I tried adding untreated gypsum to a prior IIPA (in the glass) and wasn't thrilled with the results.

Questions:

-Why does adding gypsum to the strike water/mash differ from adding it to the glass, or to the beer post fermentation? -Would there be any way to mimic adding it to the mash after fermentation? Maybe making a heavily gypsum-ized starter beer, fermenting it, and blending? -What about adding gypsum to boiling water, chilling and adding that to the beer? Does boiling salts change the way they behave on the palette or diffuse into the beer?

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The salts not only affect your tongue, they effect the chemistry of your mash, sparge and boil. I don't think you can recover that effect by adding them after fermentation. Suggest you read the water section in Palmer or the Water book for more. –  uSlackr Jul 26 at 16:16
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that's an excellent answer uslackr, I'd move it to an actual answer (instead of a comment) –  Wyrmwood Jul 29 at 19:52

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+50

Gypsum does two things:

  1. It releases calcium ions into the mash, which combine with phosphates from the grain to create an acid, thus acidifying the mash.

  2. It provides sulphate ions which contribute a flavour. It's widely reported that sulphates accentuate hop bitterness and give a slight saltiness to the beer.

If you took all your gypsum and added it only to the glass, then you'd miss out on the first point. However, if you can get the mash pH in line using other means (e.g. acidulated malt), then it's quite reasonable to add salts to the glass or during packaging.

John Palmer advocates this in his book Water. I have tried it - preparing known quantities of various salts and adding them to different beers to observe the effect. It does produce a taste difference, although it takes some finesse to improve the beer this way.

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This gave me the confidence to try it. I added 1/16 of a gram, dissolved in water to a half pint (would take the beer to 150ppm sulfate), and it was a noticeable improvement. I may try adding more sulfate to get the beer closer to 200-250ppm sulfate just to see, and do a blind triangle test with some other people. By and large though, I think this made a huge improvement, so thanks! Bounty well-deserved. –  Pietro Aug 15 at 14:25

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