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Old 08-18-2013, 09:25 PM   #1
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Default pH adjustments at mash

So I did search, but it seems like there are two camps when it comes to water: 1) don't care and 2) chemistry major. I do care, but....

I am resisting the slippery slope of playing with water chemistry and trying to keep things simple. Generally, I get good efficiency but on occasion, my numbers are off, so I wanted to test the waters of mash pH adjustment, so to speak.

I got a pH meter, calibration and storage solutions, and some lactic acid. I followed the calibration instructions, and measured a sample of my Maibock at the beginning of the mash today, letting the sample cool first.

I got 5.8 - yikes! Probably due to the absence of anything remotely dark in the recipe. Well, I looked around on the internet and found a post on another forum that suggested adding 1 ml per 10 L mash water. For me, BIAB, that meant 3 ml.

I sort of winged it, as I have nothing that measures liquid on such a small scale yet, but I did manage to get the pH down to 5.3.

So, after all that, here's my question: Those calculators like EZwater and BrunWater look pretty powerful, but as I said, I am following the KISS principle for now. I want to measure mash pH directly, and adjust up or down. Is there some tool I can use just to figure out lactic acid additions, assuming I need to adjust down? The rule of thumb I found does not seem to take into account starting pH, so I don't trust it.

Thanks for any guidance.



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Old 08-18-2013, 10:42 PM   #2
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You've already learned how to adjust pH down -- add a measured amount of lactic acid and measure the pH change. Online calculators only get you ballpark since everyone's water is different. Use EZwater or Brunwater (whichever you find easier) to estimate how much lactic acid you'd need per gallon to drop the pH 0.1, and go from there. Start off conservatively, of course.

And remember that this whole "water chemistry" thing is really two issues -- (1) water pH, which is super easy to deal with as you're seeing, and (2) appropriate mineral content for the beer, which is much more complicated. The home brewing community knowledge on this mineral content issue is really in its infancy. Some folks will argue that minerals is actually super easy too -- the solution being to use soft water for everything!!



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Old 08-18-2013, 11:13 PM   #3
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Thanks. I may get to the point of paying attention to overall mineral content instead of just pH at some point down the road. For now, I'll look at the two calculators you mentioned, and figure out how to use them for my narrow purposes. Thankfully, the acid addition appears to give a fairly immediate reaction in terms of mash pH, so sneaking up on the sweet spot is doable.

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Old 08-18-2013, 11:16 PM   #4
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Do you have a water report?

I use acid malt to adjust ph down in light beers and baking soda to adjust up in really dark beers. Baking soda has sodium though so you have to watch the overall mineral content if you use it

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Old 08-18-2013, 11:25 PM   #5
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I think this is the easiest mash calculator to use.

http://www.brewersfriend.com/mash-chemistry-and-brewing-water-calculator/

You need to know your water report. If you haven't had your tap water analyzed, the city's water report is better than nothing for estimation purposes.

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Old 08-19-2013, 12:11 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by progmac
Do you have a water report?

I use acid malt to adjust ph down in light beers and baking soda to adjust up in really dark beers. Baking soda has sodium though so you have to watch the overall mineral content if you use it
Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy_Bugger
I think this is the easiest mash calculator to use.

http://www.brewersfriend.com/mash-chemistry-and-brewing-water-calculator/

You need to know your water report. If you haven't had your tap water analyzed, the city's water report is better than nothing for estimation purposes.
Don't have a water report yet. It's pretty cheap, so I may do it. Our town's report doesn't include everything you'd want if you were going to get really scientific about it, if I remember correctly.

The water tastes ok, so i figure it's probably alright for many / most styles. For now, I'll just add baking soda to the arsenal and worry about mash pH. Thanks all!

Edit: just noticed what you said about sodium in the baking soda. Maybe it's not that simple. Is there something that raises pH that is otherwise fairly neutral?
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Old 08-19-2013, 12:21 AM   #7
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Quote:
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Edit: just noticed what you said about sodium in the baking soda. Maybe it's not that simple. Is there something that raises pH that is otherwise fairly neutral?
I think some people use pickling lime. Ive never tried it, though.
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Old 08-19-2013, 11:51 AM   #8
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Sauermalz is so easy to use that it is, for that reason alone, very appealing. Add 1% w/w for each 0.1 pH drop desired. In the OP example adding 3 - 4% would drop pH from 5.8 to 5.4 to 5.5. Some variation from this rule of thumb is to be expected.

The Primer is built on KISS. OP might want to read that.

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Old 08-19-2013, 01:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange
Sauermalz is so easy to use that it is, for that reason alone, very appealing. Add 1% w/w for each 0.1 pH drop desired. In the OP example adding 3 - 4% would drop pH from 5.8 to 5.4 to 5.5. Some variation from this rule of thumb is to be expected.

The Primer is built on KISS. OP might want to read that.
Thanks - I did read the primer, and was pretty excited about it because it is simple. Then I continued to read the comments afterwards, and managed to get myself somewhat confused as people debated the finer points. Probably should have just stopped reading at the OP in that thread!

Most strategies I am seeing people take seem to involve assumptions about what the pH will be instead of what the pH actually is. For example, using Sauermalz in the grist would involve an anticipatory assumption that my mash pH would be too high without it. As a newbie to water chemistry, I'd be afraid to include it and find that I guessed wrong, making the problem worse.

I suppose with RO as a known baseline, it's safe to make those assumptions. I was just looking for a way to make quick tweaks on the fly. Thanks for the suggestions!
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Old 08-19-2013, 01:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grv
...
Edit: just noticed what you said about sodium in the baking soda. Maybe it's not that simple. Is there something that raises pH that is otherwise fairly neutral?
Maybe it's just my chicago water, but I never find a need to raise mash pH. Even brewing a big dark stout with 15% roasted/toasted/crystal only gets my pH down to 5.6. So don't worry about it until you know you have an issue.


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