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Old 04-14-2007, 07:40 PM   #1
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Default The Power of H+

I am new to brewing, not real dumb, but still looking for a lot of answers. I hope this can help someone else.

Heres what I learned last night. I was into about 6 or 7 pints of IPA, so cut me SOME slack.

I have tried to understand all the things involved while I am getting set-up to AG brew. I have found a lot on water chemistry, and am blessed with really good well water. But I have tried doing searches for info on wort pH, but 'Search' doesn't like short word terms like 'pH'. I found nothing in the WIKI. I have found some stuff from Palmer on acceptable pH range, but it is tightly coupled to knowing your exact water chemistry, and I just want to know what I need, and what to do to attain a GOOD pH, and why it's important and what happens when it's off.

So, I asked the local 'Master. Here's what I got.

First, you HAVE to be in the range of about 5.2-5.5. If you are not in this range (and it's better to be on the low side than the high), the beer will taste blah, bland, and if you do everything right, but miss the pH correction, your beer will be disappointing. Correct pH wort produces beer that is crisp, and has distinct flavors.

So, what do you do about it? Litmus is easy to use but not that clear as you must interpret the result, and litmus gets old sorta quickly. An electronic pH meter calibrated with a liquid 'Standard' is real accurate, but expensive and awkward or cumbersome to use.

So, what do you add to fix high pH? Palmer says calcium chloride or calcium sulphate (gypsum), but my buddy says he just uses phosphoric acid.

When is this most important? If you brew a pale beer, trying to get a proper pH wort, pre-boil, is something to have to work at a bit, as kilned dark malts are acidic, so darker beers need less work.

How do the Germans do it (brew a pale beer, no dark malts, with correct wort pH) and stay true to the Gehsundhite (!) Law? Acidulated Malt.

http://www.byo.com/referenceguide/grains/grains4.html

Malt L G Decription
German Grains
Acidulated (Sauer) Malt 1.7-2.8° 1.033 High lactic acid. For lambics, sour mash beers, Irish stout, pilsners and wheats


And I said, 'oh.'

If anyone can offer more on this subject I think that it would help a lot of other people.

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Old 04-14-2007, 07:48 PM   #2
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Malt is acidic. If your water is netral then you will be hitting the proper PH range. Dark malts are more acidic. Thats why people with slighty alkaline water supplies can make ambers and dark beers fine but may have problems with pilsners. High PH (alkaline) strips husky tannis from the grains.

What is the PH of your water? Odds are you will not need to do anything to it.

Hardness is another matter, some styles like hard water, some like soft.

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Old 04-14-2007, 07:50 PM   #3
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Palmer's book How to Brew addresses this in good detail, and also stresses this is something we shouldn't stress about. Typically, the acid in the malt more than offsets any pH problems.

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Old 04-14-2007, 08:13 PM   #4
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The Brew/Pub is about 8 miles away, so water should be fairly similar. I have had many different houses with well water and this is one of the best if not THE best water I have had. But the only real direct advice I can get is from the Brewmaster and his type of beer making is doing it so that everything IS done right. Yeah, so far my only Buddy in the hobby is a Professional. He checks every batch of every recipe, and does make corrections to all of them. His batch size is 30 barrels, though.

My aim is to make basically only IPA's, Stouts, and psuedo-lagers with ale yeast (summer). The pale beer is maybe gonna need some help, the IPA's and Stouts may not, but I want to KNOW what I have to work with for pH. I may just as well do a quick check of each one, or at least until I see where they fall on the scale, and get the hang of re-current recipes. I want a K.I.S.S. style of brewing, but I want to make sure that what I AM doing I am doing right. Did that make sense?

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Old 04-14-2007, 11:23 PM   #5
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I cheat and use pH 5.2 buffer. It locks the pH in regardless of the water chemistry. One less thing to worry about.

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Old 04-15-2007, 09:30 AM   #6
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'thing with 5.2 buffer is that it doesn't really help with sparge water.

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Old 04-15-2007, 01:45 PM   #7
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I was told not to worry about the water; just make SURE that the wort pH is low enough, preboil.

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Old 04-15-2007, 02:02 PM   #8
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I'm in the "don't worry about it" camp. I too am fortunate enough to have well-water. It's great. And I add 5.2 to the mash water before striking, I never add anything to the sparge.... If your water tastes good, use it.

I'd say, brew away and look into getting your water checked later! cheers -p

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Old 04-15-2007, 03:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henry Hill
I was told not to worry about the water; just make SURE that the wort pH is low enough, preboil.
That's 100% accurate by my understanding. Palmer says that's one of the most common misconceptions homebrewers make, trying to correct the water pH, and not the wort pH. His exact words were that this thinking is "putting the cart before the horse". Different grainbills will combine with your water to give you different pH. So, there is no magic pH target for strike water, if I'm getting this.

Still, this 5.2 pH buffer seems intriguing to me. I read that it gives a good boost to mash efficiency, but I'm kind of veering off track here.
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Old 04-15-2007, 03:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greg75
Still, this 5.2 pH buffer seems intriguing to me. I read that it gives a good boost to mash efficiency, but I'm kind of veering off track here.
I dunno about that, I didnt notice any difference when I used it. It does make your water look all weirded out though. It also smells like crystal meth or something, really chemically smelling stuff...I stopped using it, but Im sure it works.

As far as 'THE POWER OF HYDROGEN IONS' I dont know much about water, but those little H+'s do a lot to drive ATP production.
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