Brewing Salts for Beer Making

salts play a crucial role in the -making process, helping to adjust the chemistry to create the desired characteristics in the final product. These salts, which include gypsum, calcium chloride, epsom salts, chalk, sodium chloride, and baking , can be easily obtained from homebrew supply stores or even your local grocery market.

One of the most commonly used brewing salts is gypsum, or calcium sulfate. Gypsum is added to the brewing liquor to increase the mineral content, specifically calcium and sulfate. This adjustment helps enhance the palate fullness and overall quality of the beer. By bringing calcium and sulfate to the water, gypsum helps achieve the desired beer characteristics.

Another useful brewing salt is lactic acid, which is particularly popular for Pilsner style lagers. Lactic acid serves a dual purpose in brewing. It helps reduce alkalinity in the water and also improves yield. By using lactic acid, brewers can achieve a better balance of flavors and improve the overall brewing process.

Magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salts, is another commonly used brewing salt. This salt is used to increase acidity in the brewing liquor. By adding magnesium sulfate, brewers can adjust the pH levels of the water, which is essential for achieving the desired flavor profile in the beer.

In addition to these salts, brewers often use potassium metabisulphite, also known as Campden tablets, to eliminate chlorine or chloramines in the water. These compounds can negatively impact the flavor and aroma of the beer, so removing them is crucial for a clean and pleasant end product.

Calcium chloride is another brewing salt that is often used to increase the calcium and chloride content in the water. This adjustment can help enhance the mouthfeel and overall body of the beer, resulting in a more satisfying drinking experience.

When using brewing salts, it is important to note that some brewers choose to only treat their mash water, while others treat both the mash and sparge water. Additionally, some brewers may choose to add acid to control the pH levels, while others focus solely on adjusting the mineral content. The choice ultimately depends on the brewer's preferences and desired outcomes.

Brewing salts are a valuable tool in the beer-making process, allowing brewers to adjust the water chemistry and create the desired characteristics in their final product. Whether it is adding gypsum for increased calcium and sulfate, using lactic acid to reduce alkalinity, or adjusting the acidity with magnesium sulfate, these salts play an essential role in achieving the desired flavor profile and overall quality of the beer. So, the next time you embark on a brewing adventure, don't forget to consider the impact of brewing salts on your water chemistry. Cheers!

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What Are Brewing Salts?

Brewing salts, also known as mineral salts or water salts, are chemical compounds that are commonly used in the brewing process to modify the mineral content of the water. These salts play a crucial role in adjusting the pH level, enhancing enzyme activity, and influencing the overall flavor profile of the beer.

Here are some commonly used brewing salts and their purposes:

1. Gypsum (CaSO4 or calcium sulfate): Gypsum is one of the most widely used brewing salts. It provides calcium ions (Ca2+) and sulfate ions (SO4 2-) to the brewing water. Calcium ions are essential for health and enzyme activity, while sulfate ions contribute to the hop bitterness and enhance the perception of hop flavors in the beer.

2. Calcium Chloride (CaCl2): Calcium chloride is another important brewing salt that provides calcium ions and chloride ions (Cl-) to the water. It increases the calcium content and helps promote yeast health and flocculation. Additionally, chloride ions can accentuate the sweetness and round out the beer's overall flavor.

3. Epsom Salts (MgSO4 or magnesium sulfate): Epsom salts contain magnesium ions (Mg2+) and sulfate ions. Magnesium ions are beneficial for yeast metabolism and can help prevent certain off-flavors in the beer. However, excessive use of Epsom salts should be avoided, as high levels of magnesium can lead to a laxative effect.

4. Chalk (CaCO3 or calcium carbonate): Chalk is primarily used to increase the alkalinity of brewing water and raise the pH level. It provides a source of calcium ions, but its solubility is limited, and it can be difficult to dissolve in water. Chalk is less commonly used nowadays, as other brewing salts offer better control over water chemistry.

5. Sodium Chloride (NaCl): Sodium chloride, or table salt, provides sodium ions (Na+) and chloride ions to the brewing water. It can be used in small quantities to enhance the perception of sweetness and balance the beer's flavor. However, too much sodium chloride can lead to a salty taste, so it should be used sparingly.

6. Baking Soda (NaHCO3 or sodium bicarbonate): Baking soda is occasionally used in brewing to increase the alkalinity of water and raise the pH level. It can also act as a buffer, helping to stabilize the pH during the brewing process. However, excessive use of baking soda can introduce unwanted flavors and should be avoided.

It is important to note that the specific amounts and combinations of brewing salts used will depend on various factors, including the style of beer being brewed, the water source, and the desired flavor profile. Brewers often use water testing kits and brewing software to calculate and adjust the appropriate amounts of brewing salts for their recipes

Why Use Brewing Salts?

Brewing salts are used for several reasons in the brewing process. They play a crucial role in adjusting the mineral content of the brewing liquor to achieve specific beer characteristics and improve the overall quality of the brew.

Here are some key reasons why brewing salts are used:

1. pH Adjustment: Brewing salts are used to modify the pH level of the brewing water. This is important because different styles of beer require different pH levels for optimal brewing. By adjusting the pH, brewers can create the ideal environment for yeast activity and ensure proper fermentation.

2. Water Profile Modification: Brewing salts are used to modify the mineral content of the brewing water. This is particularly important in regions where the local water supply may not be suitable for brewing certain beer styles. By adding specific salts, brewers can mimic the water profiles of beer-producing regions known for specific styles, such as Burton-on-Trent for English ales or Pilsen for Pilsners.

3. Flavor Enhancement: Brewing salts can enhance the flavor of the final beer. For example, calcium chloride is often used to enhance the maltiness and fullness of the beer, while gypsum can add a crisp and dry character. By carefully adjusting the mineral content, brewers can achieve the desired flavor profile for their beer.

4. Yeast Health: Brewing salts can also contribute to the health and vitality of the yeast during fermentation. Certain minerals, such as magnesium and zinc, are essential for yeast metabolism and growth. By ensuring an adequate mineral content in the brewing liquor, brewers can promote yeast health and improve fermentation efficiency.

Brewing salts are used to adjust the pH, modify the water profile, enhance flavor, and promote yeast health in the brewing process. They are an essential tool for brewers to achieve the desired beer characteristics and produce high-quality brews.


Brewing salts play a crucial role in adjusting water chemistry to achieve desired beer characteristics. These salts, including gypsum, calcium chloride, epsom salts, chalk, sodium chloride, and baking soda, can be easily obtained at homebrew supply stores or grocery markets.

Gypsum, or calcium sulfate, is commonly used to increase the mineral content of brewing water, providing calcium and sulfate ions that contribute to the fullness of the beer's palate. Lactic acid is particularly beneficial for Pilsner-style lagers, as it reduces alkalinity and improves yield.

Magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salts, can be used to increase acidity in the brewing process. Additionally, potassium metabisulfite, in the form of Campden tablets, effectively eliminates chlorine or chloramines from the water.

When using brewing salts, it is important to consider the specific water chemistry and desired beer characteristics. By adjusting the calcium, sulfate, chloride, and magnesium levels, brewers can create a more balanced and flavorful brew.

While some brewers choose to only treat their mash water with salts, others may also use acids to control pH levels. However, it is not necessary to add acids if salts are already being used to adjust water chemistry.

Understanding and utilizing brewing salts can greatly enhance the brewing process, allowing brewers to create beers with consistent quality and desired flavor profiles.

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Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.