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Old 06-22-2012, 11:11 PM   #1
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Default Water Question

I have been brewing for a year now, half that time was extract and the second half has been BAIB. I have been hitting anywhere from 50% and 70% on efficiency range but never over 70%. I though it was my BAIB process but Ive done enough that Im questioning that. My next step is my water. I use well water from central Illinois and I used a PH test strip and I got about 7 or 8 right out of the tap. All Ive read said that my grains want about a 5ish. I have read the CP book and all the dots arnt connecting so Im hoping someone can put it in a more laments terms. I know I need to get the water analysis, but while Im working on that is there anything else I should do?

Thank you

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Old 06-23-2012, 01:49 AM   #2
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Given where you live your water is probably hard and alkaline. There may or may not be anything you can do with it. Your probable best bet until you get an analysis is to use RO water and follow the recommendations of the Primer.

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Old 06-23-2012, 01:59 AM   #3
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The pH right out of the tap really doesn't mean much. You need to know the alkalinity of your water and all the ion concentrations. If you have really high alkalinity, your mash pH might be too high. You can either 1) get a water report (best) or 2) check your mash pH and adjust accordingly.

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Old 07-30-2012, 06:35 PM   #4
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Thank you all, pabloj13, how do I check the ph and adjust it... and when do I check it?

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Old 07-30-2012, 07:18 PM   #5
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Thank you all, pabloj13, how do I check the ph and adjust it... and when do I check it?
There are some relatively cheap pH meters on the market (though I bet ordering a water report is cheaper). I have heard the test strips don't work so well with mash pH. From what I understand you want to check after 10 minutes or so.
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Old 07-30-2012, 07:26 PM   #6
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A pH meter is, IMO, as essential a piece of brewing equipment as a thermometer or hydrometer but if you water is really bad, and as I noted in an earlier post given your geographical location the chances that is is are high, all the pH meter will tell you is that you have a problem with mash pH that is easily predicted knowing no more than where you live. Therefore, your first step is to get your water analyzed (I already tried looking at you water supplier's yearly report and it is, as is so often the case, useless). An investment of less than $20 in a water test from Ward Labs is a sine qua non for anyone undertaking all grain brewing unless he can get the data elsewhere (such as from a brewing friend or by doing analysis himeself).

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Old 07-31-2012, 02:21 AM   #7
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I'm not going to go so far to say that the OP's water is too hard for brewing use, but its typical for the water of that region to have too much alkalinity that would require neutralization. If the neutralization requires so much acid that it leaves the water with an off flavor, then it is time to punt and dilute with RO water. I strongly recommend that having the water tested is the first step in the analysis of the water for brewing. With that inexpensive information, a brewer can start to assess and work with the water. A water report is the most essential component for brewing. A pH meter is only a 'nice to have' component and it requires a good bit of expertise to master and utilize. With a representative water report and effective knowledge, a brewer can make adjustments that can bring the brewing process into approximate range. The fine tuning that can be provided by a pH meter may be less useful and harder to accomplish for the new water adjuster.

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Old 07-31-2012, 03:02 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mandrew
I have been brewing for a year now, half that time was extract and the second half has been BAIB. I have been hitting anywhere from 50% and 70% on efficiency range but never over 70%. I though it was my BAIB process but Ive done enough that Im questioning that. My next step is my water. I use well water from central Illinois and I used a PH test strip and I got about 7 or 8 right out of the tap. All Ive read said that my grains want about a 5ish. I have read the CP book and all the dots arnt connecting so Im hoping someone can put it in a more laments terms. I know I need to get the water analysis, but while Im working on that is there anything else I should do?

Thank you
The mash is a natural buffer, so I would check the pH in the mash itself. If you are 5.2 to 5.6 I would say you are OK. If you end up higher than that, then I would adjust the water pH when you brew with citric or phosphoric acid (food grade). As far as efficiencies go, you are pretty low. While pH can impact efficiency, it is a minor factor and I would guess you have some other issue besides water chemistry such as grind or conversion.
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Old 08-01-2012, 12:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
With a representative water report...
As noted earlier a sine qua non.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
....and effective knowledge, a brewer can make adjustments that can bring the brewing process into approximate range.
The problem here is that it takes years to acquire the knowledge and experience necessary to get mash pH right and that even if one has the knowledge (i.e. he has a good model for the chemistry) he will have trouble obtaining data to put into that model. It is much easier to measure than successfully operate a model. And at best when using a model one is guessing. With measurement there is certainty.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
The fine tuning that can be provided by a pH meter may be less useful and harder to accomplish for the new water adjuster.
Couldn't disagree more strongly (no surprise there, I guess). First, with respect to usefulness: fine tuning of mash/kettle/beer pH is the difference between good and excellent beers. Were this not the case you wouldn't find the best brewers bothering with pH meters. Now some don't it's true and this is because one can stumble onto the secrets by nothing more sophisticated than trial and error. It was done thus in the past and was quite successful. But why waste all that time when a simple, relatively low cost device will take you straight to the right answer? Another reason that people don't use pH meters is that they have used them in the past and refined their processes to the point that they were getting the same readings on every brew. Obviously no need for such as they to check any further though they would be wise to do an occasional spot check (and most in that boat I know do).

A pH meter does have a learning curve, can be misused and can, occasionally, even lead one astray. They probably shouldn't be undertaken casually by those who degreed in poetry in college but as we say "Wine is made by farmers, beer is made by engineers." which means that many, if not most, home brewers have some level of scientific, technical or mathematical training and for them a pH meter is a lot less complicated than the average smart phone. Actually it's a lot less complicated than a smart phone for a poet too but the engineering types have probably been exposed to the concept of pH somewhere in their education whereas the poet probably hasn't.

Technology has given two gifts to home brewers in the past 7 years or so. One is reliable pH meters at affordable prices and the other is inexpensive RO units. Armed with those anyone can master brewing water - a subject which has plagued all grain brewers since home brewing really got going 20 - 30 yrs ago. No one has to avail himself of either but anyone who doesn't is picking a tougher path for himself than he has to.
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Old 08-04-2012, 02:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post

The problem here is that it takes years to acquire the knowledge and experience necessary to get mash pH right and that even if one has the knowledge (i.e. he has a good model for the chemistry) he will have trouble obtaining data to put into that model. It is much easier to measure than successfully operate a model. And at best when using a model one is guessing. With measurement there is certainty.
To reach a fine degree of brewing refinement, I'll agree with AJ's sentiment. But to reach a coarser degree of refinement, I'll contend that Bru'n Water has provided thousands of brewers with the ability to quickly refine their brewing water adjustments and enhance their beers.

Measurement is certainty, but the untrained brewer is still left not knowing what to do with that information. A tool like Bru'n Water further enables the brewer to make appropriate decisions for adjusting their brewing water.

Information without the knowledge on how to use it is: Useless.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
Couldn't disagree more strongly (no surprise there, I guess). First, with respect to usefulness: fine tuning of mash/kettle/beer pH is the difference between good and excellent beers. Were this not the case you wouldn't find the best brewers bothering with pH meters. Now some don't it's true and this is because one can stumble onto the secrets by nothing more sophisticated than trial and error. It was done thus in the past and was quite successful. But why waste all that time when a simple, relatively low cost device will take you straight to the right answer? Another reason that people don't use pH meters is that they have used them in the past and refined their processes to the point that they were getting the same readings on every brew. Obviously no need for such as they to check any further though they would be wise to do an occasional spot check (and most in that boat I know do).

A pH meter does have a learning curve, can be misused and can, occasionally, even lead one astray. They probably shouldn't be undertaken casually by those who degreed in poetry in college but as we say "Wine is made by farmers, beer is made by engineers." which means that many, if not most, home brewers have some level of scientific, technical or mathematical training and for them a pH meter is a lot less complicated than the average smart phone. Actually it's a lot less complicated than a smart phone for a poet too but the engineering types have probably been exposed to the concept of pH somewhere in their education whereas the poet probably hasn't.
I too am disappointed that far too many commercial brewers don't utilize pH measurements more often in their brewing quality control. But its my experience that this is more the norm for the profession. If the raw ingredients and recipes are consistent, then the mash pH will be consistent also. Therefore, many pro brewers do not bother to check pH when they brew the same thing week after week. Its the craftbrewer and homebrewer that brew something different every week that don't have the opportunity to brew and rebrew a recipe a half-dozen times that need a tool like Bru'n Water. They need a tool that gets them in the ball park every time. Trial and error is more effective and surer than any other method, but not many brewers have that interest in brewing the same recipe to dial it in. And then if any of the ingredients change...you get to start all over again!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ajdelange View Post
Technology has given two gifts to home brewers in the past 7 years or so. One is reliable pH meters at affordable prices and the other is inexpensive RO units. Armed with those anyone can master brewing water - a subject which has plagued all grain brewers since home brewing really got going 20 - 30 yrs ago. No one has to avail himself of either but anyone who doesn't is picking a tougher path for himself than he has to.
I fully agree and utilize those gifts with every one of my brew sessions. To brew great beer, these might be tools that any brewer could consider. But this does not mean that the path to great beer has to follow that path.

Knowing your tap water quality is the most important step any brewer can take. Reviewing that water quality with respect to generally agreed upon ranges for the various ions is the next step. If none of those ions are at high levels, then a brewer can make adjustments to that tap water to suit the next brew.

The recommendations of the Water Primer on this Forum are very effective and useful to those brewers who either have tap water that has very low mineralization or who use RO water. If a brewer doesn't have really pure water or the time or resources to use RO, then the recommendations of the Water Primer may not be very useful. For those brewers, a program like Bru'n Water along with their tap water report may be a better option for brewing better beer.

I still stand by my original statement.
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