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Old 01-23-2009, 03:15 AM   #1
Ike
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Default ph importance and options

I'm relatively new to AG (just a few batches) and am wondering about the importance of ph in my mash. So far, I haven't worried too much about it, but, as most of us at one point might have wondered, I recently thought to myself, "well, what if I start tinkering with...?" You get the idea. So my initial question is:

Should I invest in 5.2 stabilizer and forget about it or would it be, at some point, useful to invest in a ph meter, etc? why, why not?

(mind you I use filtered water I get at the local supermarket dispenser)

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Old 01-23-2009, 04:25 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Ike View Post
I'm relatively new to AG (just a few batches) and am wondering about the importance of ph in my mash. So far, I haven't worried too much about it, but, as most of us at one point might have wondered, I recently thought to myself, "well, what if I start tinkering with...?" You get the idea. So my initial question is:

Should I invest in 5.2 stabilizer and forget about it or would it be, at some point, useful to invest in a ph meter, etc? why, why not?

(mind you I use filtered water I get at the local supermarket dispenser)

5.2 is the lazy way out IMO. It will stablize mash pH (small "p", big "H") with most, but not all, waters but unless you know what is in you water you could easily be missing other brew water components which can influence other factors. First see if you can get a list of the mineral and other ions in the water. In most cases you can make some small additions of common brewing salts for specific beer styles to insure the mash pH falls into place. In addition you will also be able to have enough sulphates for hoppy ales or enough carbonates for dark brews. Check out the link below for a nice primer on brewing water. You don't have to go nuts and you don't have to match listed waters exactly but a small effort in the water department is a good way to make the next step up in brewing.

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Old 01-23-2009, 05:16 AM   #3
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I suggest you keep brewing the way you brew. But start reading up on water chemistry and mash pH. It can get complicated and you may have to read several authors until it makes click. Then start applying what you learned to your brewing.

Don't buy a pH meter yet. They are really nice and handy but also an investment and take maintenance. But pick up a pack of those colorpHast strips. They are good enough for your early ventures into mash pH. If you want to go deeper into the water chemistry stuff you cab always get a pH meter later. The strips are a good back-up anyway.

You said that you get the water from the grocery store. Is this water reverse osmose filtered? If it is you are in luck as this is very soft (almost distilled) water and you can add brewing salts to design the water to your needs. For that you need to pick up a few salts (gypsum, epsom salt, calcium chloride, baking soda and chalk) and a scale with a +/- 0.01 - 0.001 g precision. They have them on e-bay for cheap.

I'm suggesting that you keep brewing the way you brew now b/c it seems to work and I don't want you to stress out over the water chemistry as it can be overwhelming in the beginning.

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Old 01-23-2009, 03:52 PM   #4
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I'd only recommend 5.2 if you had fairly hard water. For water with a reasonable lavel of hardness, the components of the malts will bring the mash to the proper pH (for most styles). If your water is from a reservoir, you should be fine.

I started messing with my water to solve some taste issues. My water is high in carbonates and this led to a harsh bitterness. I now treat for this and the bitterness has smoothed substantially.

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Old 01-23-2009, 04:04 PM   #5
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I have used 5.2 on a handful of batchs and found I get lower efficiency. I determined this was caused by the sparg being buffered as well. I added some acid to the sparge water and the efficiency went up. I made another brew with out 5.2 and the efficiency went up.

Sooooooooo, for my brewing water here in Lincoln I decided not to use it anymore until I build my water from scratch.

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Old 01-23-2009, 04:35 PM   #6
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I'd only recommend 5.2 if you had fairly hard water. For water with a reasonable lavel of hardness, the components of the malts will bring the mash to the proper pH (for most styles). If your water is from a reservoir, you should be fine.

I started messing with my water to solve some taste issues. My water is high in carbonates and this led to a harsh bitterness. I now treat for this and the bitterness has smoothed substantially.
I've been told that water Hardness/Softness has nothing to do with pH. Not sure if that's completely true or not as I'm still learning about water, but I've heard that from a couple different people.
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Old 01-23-2009, 05:01 PM   #7
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I've been told that water Hardness/Softness has nothing to do with pH.
Yes, that is true.

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Old 01-23-2009, 05:44 PM   #8
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Kai,
Not to get too off-topic but is the following also true?

Water hardness/softness does affect residual alkalinity which then affects mash pH. And mash pH is really what the brewer is most interested in.

I'm trying to learn some water chemistry too...one baby step at a time.

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Old 01-23-2009, 05:48 PM   #9
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You said that you get the water from the grocery store. Is this water reverse osmose filtered? If it is you are in luck as this is very soft (almost distilled) water and you can add brewing salts to design the water to your needs. For that you need to pick up a few salts (gypsum, epsom salt, calcium chloride, baking soda and chalk) and a scale with a +/- 0.01 - 0.001 g precision. They have them on e-bay for cheap.

Kai
I'm pretty certain it is reverse osmosis filtered. The water is definitely soft and has seemed to work out well. Only with my 80 Schilling did I add some salts. After a few mishaps concerning over zealous specialty malt use, however, I've adopted the "less is sometimes more" attitude and will approach water pH similarly.
Next (and more pressing/practical) question: I'm brewing a Best Bitter today and have been reading Ray Daniel's Designing Great Beers for info on proper water. Burton-upon-Trent is one good example of proper water for an authentic BB. With my several gallons of supermarket water in mind, would it be prudent to follow Daniels' advice, that "if you are starting with 5 gallons of very soft water that contains little or no mineral ions, you could add 5 teaspoons of gypsum to achieve mineral concentrations that are near the Burton levels." (p.170) He also advises adding a little salt (table) and Epsom salts. Granted, I'd have to better research the composition of my H20, but I was thinking about trying it out anyways.
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Old 01-23-2009, 08:40 PM   #10
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Many water report are available on-line. Some of these mainly deal with contaminants so you may have to phone your water company,and see if you can talk to one of the technicians. I called mine and mentioned I wanted to know my water chemistry for brewing and the guy was "oh I know just what you want, I'll put it in the mail"

Your water report should list permanent hardness - this is Ca and Mg and does not play a role in pH. Then it should also list temporary hardness (or called alkalinity). This is important as this is the measure of the buffering capacity of your water, and this plays a role in determining your final mash pH.

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