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Old 02-08-2012, 12:43 AM   #1
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Default pH/water treatment question

So I'm trying to become a more consistent brewer, fine-tuning my mash and pH. (My pH is naturally a bit high, and my sulfate/chloride ratios tend to naturally fall on the bitter side)--I don't always want that. But I'm wondering ....

1. I've been led to believe that it takes about 15 minutes for the mash pH to really settle in.

2. I've been led to believe that most of the mash is converted in the first 15 minutes of the mash.

3. So, (a) does it really do any good to adjust the mash with more water treatment after the first 15 minutes? And (b) if adjustments do make a difference still, do you count this first 15 minutes as part of the hour-long mash, or do you start counting the hour when you make the adjustments?

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Old 02-08-2012, 12:17 PM   #2
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The PH actually changes throughout the brew process. You would have to keep taking readings and adjusting at every stage. A member of our beer group is a chemist and he does this but my opinion is that if its not broke don't fix it.

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Old 02-08-2012, 12:53 PM   #3
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I find that when using liquid acids, the pH change is nearly immediate. In the conversations I've seen from brewers using Acid Malt, the time for the pH change to stabilize seems to be longer. I suppose that is a function of extracting the embedded acids from the grain matrix.

I am not a fan of Acid Malt since there is far too much variation from maltster to maltster for the amount of acid in these malts. From what I can tell, you could have on the order of 100 percent variation in acid content when moving from maltster to maltster. That shouldn't be a problem if you stick with a single malt supplier.

I'm also not a fan of Acid Malt and the rule of thumb that each 1% acid malt addition results in 0.1 pH drop. The buffer system in the water and malt is more complicated than that. That rule of thumb is the same as saying that each X mL of 88% lactic per pound of grain will drop the mash pH 0.1 pH units. It just doesn't hold true.

For those brewers that brew lighter and more delicate styles, I do concur that acid malt should add interesting flavor nuances in comparison to the sterile cleanliness of liquid lactic acid. +1 for acid malt in that case. This probably doesn't matter in beers that have more flavor that would cover those nuances.

All of that said, I do feel that a brewer should have an idea of what acid or alkaline needs their mash will require BEFORE the mash begins. Experience is one way to gain that knowledge. Once you've brewed a beer or class of beers long enough, a brewer will know that X amount of acid or alkaline will be needed in the mash to produce a desirable mash pH. Using a program like Bru'n Water is another way to evaluate and approximate what the acid or alkaline needs will be BEFORE mashing.

Getting mash water right before mashing does foster conditions that will improve the enzymatic reactions in the mash. Chasing the mash pH does mean that those enzymatic reactions did not occur under the conditions the brewer might have desired.

Getting the mash pH right via chasing still has some benefit. A number of kettle reactions are improved when the wort pH is in the ideal range. So getting the pH in range late is better than never getting it in range.

Enjoy!

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Old 02-08-2012, 03:35 PM   #4
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Many here will tell you ph of the starting water does not matter and not to worry about it, it is the mash ph that matters - true for most of the county I suppose. After chasing down a weird astringency issue that just started about 5 batches ago - I finally discovered my water district changed how they treated water due to the extreme draught Texas has been in for the last few years. I then discovered my starting ph was over 8.0 and the grains were not bringing it down to under 6 in the mash - too late to really correct efficiently by the time you discover this. I treated my mash water prior to mash to 1 tsp of Phosphoric acid (10%) and it immediately dropped the ph to just over 6. Treated my sparge water to 2 tsp and final ph of the wort actually came in under 5 - so live and learn. I now have Bruin'water to estimate more accurately next time.

Tried the hydrometer sample last weekend of that porter I just did and the astringency is hardly noticable (may be green hop bitterness) and the grain flavor is extremely enhanced from my previous batches (have no idea if ph modification helped that - but it was a welcome discovery). Can't wait to try it after a few weeks aging to see if that fixed my issue.

I would say treating your water before the mash does have benefits "in some cases" like mine.

Just my $.02

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Old 02-08-2012, 04:26 PM   #5
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I agree. The point is to try and adjust ahead of time and use the pH meter to check your adjustments. You might find that you are consistently under the target pH (or over) and you may need to add a bit more or less to achieve the desired pH.

But knowing your water and having a spreadsheet to figure out your plan of attack can get you at least in the ballpark, and that is a great place to be if you want to hit a home run.

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Old 02-10-2012, 01:38 AM   #6
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Thanks all. I've been using EZ Water Calculator to get me getting me closer to guesstimating what is going to happen once treatment and mash come together. Sometimes it's off, sometimes amazingly close--still trying to figure out the variables that make a difference. I want a system that is repeatable, but I'm also realizing I can't get anal about this. There are some variable in Mother Nature, and I just have to try to get close to hitting my numbers.

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Old 02-10-2012, 12:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homercidal View Post

But knowing your water and having a spreadsheet to figure out your plan of attack can get you at least in the ballpark, and that is a great place to be if you want to hit a home run.
I like that. "You have to at least be in the ballpark to hit a home run."
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Old 02-10-2012, 02:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markgalli View Post
Thanks all. I've been using EZ Water Calculator to get me getting me closer to guesstimating what is going to happen once treatment and mash come together. Sometimes it's off, sometimes amazingly close--still trying to figure out the variables that make a difference. I want a system that is repeatable, but I'm also realizing I can't get anal about this. There are some variable in Mother Nature, and I just have to try to get close to hitting my numbers.
I use EZWater as well. It, for me, has been pretty darn accurate with measured mash pH. I love the simplicity of it. I do use Brun' Water on occasion for various reasons, but EZWater is much more user friendly. I test my mash pH 15-20 minutes in to see where I'm at. If I'm relatively close I close up my mash tun and get other things ready. If its to far off I use lactic acid to help lower pH. Never had it drastically low so I've never had to adjust up.
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Old 02-10-2012, 04:22 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DD2000GT View Post
Many here will tell you ph of the starting water does not matter and not to worry about it, it is the mash ph that matters - true for most of the county I suppose. After chasing down a weird astringency issue that just started about 5 batches ago - I finally discovered my water district changed how they treated water due to the extreme draught Texas has been in for the last few years. I then discovered my starting ph was over 8.0 and the grains were not bringing it down to under 6 in the mash - too late to really correct efficiently by the time you discover this. I treated my mash water prior to mash to 1 tsp of Phosphoric acid (10%) and it immediately dropped the ph to just over 6. Treated my sparge water to 2 tsp and final ph of the wort actually came in under 5 - so live and learn. I now have Bruin'water to estimate more accurately next time.

Tried the hydrometer sample last weekend of that porter I just did and the astringency is hardly noticable (may be green hop bitterness) and the grain flavor is extremely enhanced from my previous batches (have no idea if ph modification helped that - but it was a welcome discovery). Can't wait to try it after a few weeks aging to see if that fixed my issue.

I would say treating your water before the mash does have benefits "in some cases" like mine.

Just my $.02
Hey, I'm in Garland too. Did you get a water report faxed from the water district recently? The last report I have is from October
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Old 02-12-2012, 11:27 PM   #10
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And what are you all using for a pH meter? I have a Milwuakee pH 56, that is accurate to .05, but I'm wondering if I need something accurate to within .01 or .02 if I am really interested in repeatability.

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