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Old 07-16-2011, 12:08 AM   #1
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Default Citric Acid

Hi all,

For my next brew, I'd like to mess with my water a little. One of the things I'd like to do is lower my mash and sparge water PH. My starting PH is about 6.2, so it's pretty low already.

I know many brewers use lactic acid, but my LHBS did not have any. They did however have citric acid in powder form.

Is this acceptable for lowering PH in my mash and sparge, or will I end up with lemonade?

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Old 07-16-2011, 02:35 PM   #2
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Citric will work as long as your water's alkalinity is not too high. You should download and use Bru'n Water, it has the tools to work with many acids.

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Old 07-16-2011, 03:35 PM   #3
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Do you mean the pH of your water is 6.2 or that this is the pH of your mash? If the former, it isn't very telling as the pH is caused by dissolved CO2 which will fly off as the water is warmed in the HLT or mashtun. If the latter, it definitely needs to be lowered. Without knowing anything about your grist composition or the water itself it is hard to make any recommendations.

If you look in the really old home brewing books (Bravery etc.) you will find citric acid in almost every recipe which represented (to me anyway) recognition that mash pH is a factor which should be controlled and that acid is often required to accomplish that. The second generation of home brewing books seemed to forget or choose to ignore this and citric acid was not mentioned in them (that I remember). Now that we (home brewers) have a deeper understanding of water and mash chemistry the idea of using acid is again emerging but citric acid is never on the list of acids suggested for the job. This tells me that the flavor of citric acid is too strong. Other than this it would be an excellent choice as it is easy to handle as a powder and has 3 protons to give even the last of which would come into play to some extent at mash pH meaning that you wouldn't need as much of it, on a molar basis, as say, phosphoric. This fact might be its saving grace in situations where there isn't that much alkalinity to be dealt with i.e. you might be able to do the job with a small enough amount of citric that you don't hit the flavor threshold but the observation that no one seems to use it in brewing makes one suspect that this is not the case.

As a general comment I'd resist the temptation to "mess" with your water without having fuller information on what it is you are hoping to "fix".

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Old 07-16-2011, 07:55 PM   #4
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My original water pH is 6.2, and my alkalinity is not very high, at 77.3 (as ppm CaCO3).

My calcium is very low (2.5) and sulfates too (13) so I am trying to bring those both up, but not using anything with more sodium as my sodium is relatively high at 112. I also need to watch my chloride to sulfate ratio as my Chloride is quite high at 127. Magnesium is basically non-existant in my water.


According the the E-Z water spreadsheet, if I add 5 grams of Gypsum and 2.5 of epsom salts to the mash, it will bring up my Calcium to 57, and my sulfate to 194, and Magnesium to 11.

The beers I've been making have turned out quite well, but one thing I definitely notice is that the hop aroma does not come through at all. I'm hoping that increasing Ca and SO4 will help with this.

Edited to add, this is based on an 11lb (total) grain bill with 1 lb of crystal.

The spreadsheet says my mash pH will be about 5.65, which is at the high end of the acceptable range, but I shouldn't need much acid to lower it, I would think.

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Old 07-16-2011, 08:35 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SookeBrewing View Post
My original water pH is 6.2, and my alkalinity is not very high, at 77.3 (as ppm CaCO3).

My calcium is very low (2.5) and sulfates too (13) so I am trying to bring those both up, but not using anything with more sodium as my sodium is relatively high at 112. I also need to watch my chloride to sulfate ratio as my Chloride is quite high at 127. Magnesium is basically non-existant in my water.
So sounds as if you are on a well and not too far from the JDF (I'm assuming that's where the sodium and chloride are coming from but it could be elsewhere). The low alkalinity and hardness are a blessing. The high sodium and chloride potentially a curse. You might want to give serious consideration to cutting 1:1 or even 2:1 with RO water. The former would approximately halve everything and the latter reduce to about 1/3 i.e. sodium down to 37, chloride at 42, alkalinity at 26 and very low calcium. Sulfate at 4 could also be considered as virtually absent. Unfortunately, there is no other way to get rid of sodium and chloride than dilution with RO or treatment of the whole volume through an RO system which amounts to the same thing.

Now it may turn out that even these levels of sodium and chloride are not problematical for you but I would certainly think that you would want to experiment with lower levels.


Quote:
Originally Posted by redwood View Post
According the the E-Z water spreadsheet, if I add 5 grams of Gypsum and 2.5 of epsom salts to the mash, it will bring up my Calcium to 57, and my sulfate to 194, and Magnesium to 11.
The spreadsheets are fine for calculation of mineral additions such as these. It's only when you start adding bicarbonate and carbonate that they fall down somewhat. Magnesium is something you do not really need to worry about as malt contains plenty and magnesium generally isn't considered flavor positive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by redwood View Post
The beers I've been making have turned out quite well, but one thing I definitely notice is that the hop aroma does not come through at all. I'm hoping that increasing Ca and SO4 will help with this.
Sulfate will have an effect on perceived hops bitterness but I would look into some other things if aroma is disappointing. First off, of course, is to be sure that you are using a good measure of aroma hops and adding it late in the boil - even at the end of the boil. The essential oils that are responsible for aroma are quite volatile. It doesn't take much heat to drive them out of the beer.


Quote:
Originally Posted by redwood View Post
The spreadsheet says my mash pH will be about 5.65, which is at the high end of the acceptable range, but I shouldn't need much acid to lower it, I would think.
Assuming that your base malt is a pale ale malt that's probably a fair estimate of the mash pH. Maris Otter, for example, seems to have a distilled water mash pH of pretty close to 5.6 and you don't have enough alkalinity, especially if you do dilution, to pull that very far. Nonetheless it is likely that a bit of acid will be necessary to get you into the 5.3 - 5.3 region. You could use citric for this but another thought would be sauermalz if you can get some of that. A percent or 2 sauermalz in the grist should have you just about right.

You probably do not need to treat your sparge water. It would be best to verify that with a pH meter but at your alkalinity level you shouldn't go over 6 before having collected as much as you want. With an RO dilution you can be certain you are safe. With out, you are very probably safe.
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