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Old 08-20-2013, 12:09 AM   #1
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Default acid additions - can't live without them!

I brew all-grain with RO water and salt so I get the following for a pale ale:
Ca 110, Cl 50, SO4 200

When brewing a pale ale (e.g. 2-row + 10% caramel 60), I find it impossible to get my pH in the 5.2-5.4 range without adding lactic acid. It takes me anywhere from 4 to 6 ml of lactic acid to get down to sub 5.4.

Wondering how anyone can brew a pale beer using soft water and get their pH at a reasonable level without using acid additions. Seems impossible.

How come they don't make acid additions more explicit in recipes. For example, the northern brewer all-grain recipes should say "check pH, add lactic acid as necessary". It seems obvious now, but I could have avoided a few batches of tannic beer.

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Old 08-20-2013, 12:23 AM   #2
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I have become a regular user of the mash chemistry calc on Brewers Friend:
http://www.brewersfriend.com/mash-chemistry-and-brewing-water-calculator/

It let's you dial in your grain bill and your water specs and predicts residual alkalinity in your mash and your resulting mash pH.
I have found it to be dead on.

You can plug aciduated malt into your grain bill and see how much you will need to drive down alkalinity in your recipe.
You can also work with straight up acid additions, salts, etc.

This thing is a stress reducer!

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Old 08-20-2013, 12:26 AM   #3
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Yep, I've been using EZ-Water calculator but find it to be off for my acid additions.

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Old 08-20-2013, 12:29 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joenearboston View Post
Yep, I've been using EZ-Water calculator but find it to be off for my acid additions.
EZ water has been off for me (too high) on every brew. I tried three different ones on every brewday, but found that one (bru'nwater) works perfectly for me so I'm down to only using that spreadsheet.

I use mostly RO water (with an occasional mix of some of my tap water), and I usually do have to add some acid to my mash to get the pH perfect, except for in my stout.
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Old 08-20-2013, 12:46 AM   #5
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Good to know.

Does bru'nwater handle phosphoric acid well (and how it can precipitate Ca)?

I've been using lactic acid but wanted to try phosphoric acid to avoid taste impact.

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Old 08-20-2013, 12:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joenearboston View Post
Good to know.

Does bru'nwater handle phosphoric acid well (and how it can precipitate Ca)?

I've been using lactic acid but wanted to try phosphoric acid to avoid taste impact.
Bru'n Water does include calculations for phosphoric acid, but you are mistaken about the potential for typical phosphoric acid additions precipitating excess calcium from the wort. AJ performed some precipitation analyses for a range of calcium and orthophosphate concentrations and determined that it does not occur in most cases. Another consideration is that malt phytins and other phosphatic compounds at around 10,000 ppm. The addition of a 100 ppm or so of orthophosphate via a phosphoric acid addition is not going to make a large difference in the calcium precipitation potential.
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Old 08-21-2013, 06:30 PM   #7
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If tannins are what you're worried about, I don't think acid additions are necessary. Before I brewed using Bru'n water, I didn't make any adjustments to my water and I'm sure many times my mash pH was high. I don't remember noticing tannins in my beer. Most often, you can get the pH down with salts, unless it's a super light beer like a 3 SRM pilsner or something.
I mainly don't want to get a pH meter and deal with all that mess. I'd rather use a little acid malt and be done with it. I know it's not perfect, but it gets me in the ball park and makes beer I like (for the most part, it's always a work in progress). Could the beer be better? Probably, but I don't think there's an end point in terms of making better beer. It's always going to be getting better with more knowledge, more practice, more experimentation. Perhaps I'll get a pH meter someday and think, "Holy crap, what a difference this makes!" But I kind of doubt it...

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Old 08-21-2013, 08:43 PM   #8
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I use Bru'n water. I put in a grain bill using 9 lb pale malt, and 1 lb crystal, using distilled water. I then added gypsum and calcium chloride to roughly match your figures. It estimated a mash pH of 4.9 (at room temperature) and reported that I needed more alkalinity.
My tap water is fairly soft, but not as soft as R.0, and with slightly different additions (Ca = 80, SO4 = 160, Cl2 = 22) it estimates a mash pH of 5.3. When I started using Bru'n water, I did actually measure my pH with a meter, and as far as I could tell, the estimated pH was fairly accurate. I do however need to add acid to the sparge water to avoid tannins, and I also do a thick mash (1 qt per lb), which will help to lower the mash pH.

-a.

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Old 08-22-2013, 12:59 AM   #9
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I have to add acid to all my beers except for really dark ones. However, my last 2 beers, a saison and a golden strong, both had a low mash pH, like 5.2 at room temp. Not sure why, as I used the same procedures I always do. I also had low mash efficiency on both. Usually EZ water is spot on for me, and I'm right about 80% eff. I use all DI water with salts added back.

Typically a low pH increases eff, so I'm really confused what happened.

As you said, I'm not sure anyone can get their mash pH correct in light beers w/o adding acid. Some people don't care.

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Old 08-22-2013, 04:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beersk
Perhaps I'll get a pH meter someday and think, "Holy crap, what a difference this makes!" But I kind of doubt it...
You might be surprised. It seems a lot of people just stop after brewing good and really good beer. That last effort for the diminishing returns of "little stuff" like carefully controlling mash pH is what makes great beer. You'll realize when you get there why it's worth the effort.
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