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Old 12-03-2010, 05:29 PM   #1
vNate
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Default Conflicting advice on water treatment?

I've been reading up on water chemistry and I think I understand it.

Ideally, I would buy a $75 pH meter. Mash in and then adjust by adding acid to lower or Chalk or baking soda to increase. This would make all my confusion go away.

Since I don't have a pH meter, the next step was to get a water report from Ward Labs and then try the various spreadsheets. EZ Water Calculator v2 seems pretty smart, taking into account the difference between crystal and roasted grain, not just relying on SRM.

Here is my water:
Ca 58, Mg 35, Na 12, Cl 25, SO4 24, Alkalinity as CaCO3 224.

When I enter my water into this for a dark beer with 2lbs roasted and 2lbs crystal, it recommends adding say 6.6g NaHCO3 and 7.2g CaCO3 to hit 5.2 in my 10 gallon mash. This includes a 30% dilution in order to lower my magnesium. This puts my Alkalinity up to 359 and my Residual Alkalinity at 260 and estimates my Mash pH at 5.21.


When I read the sticky "A Brewing Water Chemistry Primer" it says to dilute until your water is soft, which would be 85% for me. Then the baseline is to add 6.8g of CaCl2 and to skip the Sauermalz for a dark beer. If I take those recommendations and put them into the EZ Water Calculator with the same grain estimations, it says my Alkalinity will be 34 and my residual alkalinity will be -12 with an estimated Mash pH of 4.97.


If I do nothing but dilute my water by 30% to lower the Magnesium under 30ppm, then EZ Water says my Alkalinity will be 157 and Residual Alkalinity will be 113 with an estimated Mash pH of 5.08. This seems half-way between the two suggestions. I'm tempted to go this route.


This all leaves me a little confused. I've read in other threads of people making dark beer with really low alkalinity and their mash pH turns out fine, but the huge disparity between the two methods seems weird, I just don't understand why this can be.


Sorry for the mechanical nature of this post. I know you all probably get tired of offering water profile advice. Is the moral to this story, "go buy a pH meter" ?

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Old 12-03-2010, 05:34 PM   #2
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Many of us are lazy and use a buffering product like pH5.2. It will lock in the pH for almost any water and mash.

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Old 12-03-2010, 05:40 PM   #3
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ColorpHast strips are a pretty inexpensive way to get decent accuracy. http://www.sanitationtools.com/Produ...38&Category=65
$20 with shipping. Also, get the 4-7 narrow range strips.

That have a systematic error of -.03, so if the strip says 4.9 you're really at 5.2.

I wouldn't rely on calculators or spreadsheets. I usually have to lower my mash pH even with lots of dark grains.

I've had mixed results with 5.2. I haven't been really impressed with that product, and after reading up on it, it doesn't always do what it claims, and it adds additional ions to your water profile.

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Old 12-03-2010, 05:58 PM   #4
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Yes, the moral of the story is to buy a pH meter. I have been using the spreadsheets for a while now and I notice that my beers are good but don't seem to *pop*. I finally broke down and bought a pH meter myself. I guess it I would compare it to trying to figure out ABV without taking any hydro readings.

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Old 12-03-2010, 06:30 PM   #5
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Moral #2 is to not add alkalinity (especially with your water) for any reason other than that you have a measurement of the mash pH that you trust which is low.

You will need to acidify the mash dozens of times for every time you need to add alkalinity.

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Old 12-04-2010, 04:56 AM   #6
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+1 to remilard and machine shop.

A pH meter would be nice to have, but you need to calibrate and store it properly. The cheapest meters I found, including your calibration and storage solutions, were about $60-70, IIRC. I cut my pH strips in 2 so I can get 200 tests for $20. I doubt I'll go through that many in 50 brews. The rate I brew, that's two years.

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Old 12-04-2010, 01:56 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the advice. I just ordered the colorpHast strips Nateo recommended. I'm sure I'll pick up a nice pH meter eventually, but at this point I'd rather spend extra money on Christmas presents for my family.

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Old 12-04-2010, 02:18 PM   #8
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I mixed up my decimal point, the error is -0.3, not -0.03.

http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php...st_vs_pH_meter

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