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Old 07-01-2013, 02:06 PM   #1
barhoc11
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Default pH Strips Make me Angry - Need Help

I finally decided to start actually monitoring my pH in my mash with my latest batch of Centennial Blonde. I have always just assumed that the EZ Water spreadsheet was correct and I would add the appropriate amounts of acid to get me in the 5.4 - 5.6 pH range. This has given me good results in the past but as most of you know, we always want to see if we can improve a little more if possible so I wanted to just make sure my pH ranges were correct.

After buying a pack of the brewing pH strips from my LHBS, I did a reading on my tap water and it seemed to be at 6 pH or higher (only able to test up to 6). I figured this was a good sign and that I could trust these strips a little for my upcoming brew day.

Brew Day:

Based on EZ Water I was planning to add 3ml of Lactic Acid to get my pH down from 5.64 to 5.47 (room temp) BUT after adding my brewing salts (which should have little impact on pH) to my mash, I tested and the strips seem to show that my pH was actually around 5 or even a tad lower so I didn't add any of the Lactic Acid. I was still debating adding some acid because this just didn't jive with the EZ Water spreadsheet I had setup but I held off thinking I could trust the pH strips.

My efficiency was great and things went as normal but I am looking to see if anyone can provide me some feedback on how accurate the EZ water spreadsheet is and if I should even bother with trying to test my pH. I would rather not buy a pH meter and have to hassle with the buffering and stuff that goes along with it. I just feel like the EZ Water and Brun Water spreadsheets are pretty solid and if you can provide a good profile of your water report, they should get you very close based on all of your inputs but maybe I am being naive.

Any thoughts?

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Old 07-01-2013, 02:55 PM   #2
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The first thing I'd suggest you do is put some identical numbers into both spreadsheets and see if you get the same pH predictions. You won't. So which is right? Who knows? The only way to find out is to brew the beers and measure the pH using proper technique and equipment. Spreadsheets are based on models and the models require accurate data. To get accurate data for a mash pH prediction one must do an elaborate, time consuming set of measurements on each malt used in the grist and when I say each malt I don't mean that I can run Weyermann's Pils and put the data on a website. I mean the lot of Weyermann's Pils that you are going to use for your particular brew. It is much, much easier to take a portion of the grist you intend to mash and mix it with a small amount of the water you are going to use and measure the pH of that. This will give you a good prediction of the actual mash pH but even then it won't be spot on. Part of the problem is that pH drifts over time. The question you need to ask of any spreadsheet developer is 'pH when? At strike? Ten minutes later? Twenty minutes later?' And another question is 'What temperature?'.

Test strips are notoriously bad for use in determining mash pH. Your low pH reading is typical. Quite a bit of work has been done on this and you can find references to it all over the internet. In particular check out Kai Troester's (Braukaiser) stuff. One of the things I found while participating on one of Kai's experiments was that it was difficult to compare test strip colors to package legend colors because the test strip colors lay off the curve in color space that connected the legend colors.

pH meters can be a bit of a pain to use and maintain but if you want to really improve your brewing one is, like it or not, in your future. The good news is that they are much less expensive and more robust than they were even a few (10?) years ago.

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Old 07-01-2013, 04:44 PM   #3
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EZ Water and ColorpHast strips can only get you in the ballpark. For my last several batches, I've used a Hanna pH meter, ColorpHast strips, and EZ Water. The strips have read 0.4 to 0.6 low,* and EZ Water has predicted 0.0 to 0.3 low. A pH meter is needed if you want any accuracy.

* The strip errors (for 6 batches) were: 0.4, 0.6, 0.6, 0.4, 0.4, 0.5. My conclusion: the strips are useless because they read extremely low, plus the error isn't consistent. Others have found more like 0.3 error.

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Old 07-01-2013, 05:17 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpeedYellow View Post
EZ Water and ColorpHast strips can only get you in the ballpark. For my last several batches, I've used a Hanna pH meter, ColorpHast strips, and EZ Water. The strips have read 0.4 to 0.6 low,* and EZ Water has predicted 0.0 to 0.3 low. A pH meter is needed if you want any accuracy.

* The strip errors (for 6 batches) were: 0.4, 0.6, 0.6, 0.4, 0.4, 0.5. My conclusion: the strips are useless because they read extremely low, plus the error isn't consistent. Others have found more like 0.3 error.
Brewkaiser's wiki page states you a mash of 5-6 is acceptable, with 5.3-5.5 being optimal. That to me says that strips are going to be "good enough" for most brewers. Sometimes "ballpark" is good enough...
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Old 07-01-2013, 05:37 PM   #5
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Thing is that there is a vast difference between acceptable and optimal (or let's be real, near optimal) beer.

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Old 07-01-2013, 05:59 PM   #6
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Thanks for the feedback everyone, it looks like I will be buying a pH meter sooner than later. Any good links to threads that discuss a simple and easy to use meter?

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Old 07-01-2013, 07:51 PM   #7
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From the under $100 'pen' types to the $200 one that uses my iPhone as the electronics to the over $1000 lab bench top instruments that can be controlled by your computer basic use is all pretty much the same. The material at http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/ph-...ration-302256/ will give you a general idea as to what is involved.

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Old 07-01-2013, 09:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Thing is that there is a vast difference between acceptable and optimal (or let's be real, near optimal) beer.
True, but that isn't what we are talking about....do you think you can taste the difference between a beer mashed at acceptable pH versus optimal mash pH?
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Old 07-01-2013, 10:42 PM   #9
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Oh yes. Definitely. I often describe the difference as the difference between a beer that makes you say "OK" and one that makes you say "Ah". Another guy who got the religion said proper pH made all the flavors in his beers brighter.

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Old 07-02-2013, 08:48 PM   #10
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Are those sub $10 pen type ph meters from ebay/china any good? The yellow candy bar type ones that are proliferate at that price point. They seem ok online and review up ok but nobody talks about the longevity of them. I've got a couple of types of pH strip on order, narrow band 3.5-5.5 and 5.5-7.5 or something similar from memory and figured they'd get me 'ballpark' from tap water, to mash pH ranges but now I'm considering a meter. I'd likely forget it though if the barrier to entry (cost) is significant for the right tools.

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