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Old 09-04-2013, 02:47 PM   #61
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Used to use it, beer seemed fine to me. Got a Ward Labs analysis and some pH strips, modified my water with Phosphoric acid and (rarely) salts as needed depending on the style, and my beers have been noticeably better and the pH has been right on. For me, no more 5.2.

I don't think 5.2 destroys your beer, but I don't think I've ever talked to a serious, experienced AG brewer who uses it. That tells me something. Just my opinion.

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Old 09-04-2013, 03:07 PM   #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dsjohns View Post
Just an anecdote to provide some noise to the factual discussion.

Brewed Janet's Brown 3 weeks ago and used 5.2 stabilizer from the recommendation of a friend. We are in Boston and are cursed with high pH (9.6), high alkalinity (39.8), and low "hardness" (no specific ions are given). The words on the jar seemed convincing, and I figured it couldn't hurt. Just tapped the keg and the beer tastes awesome, however it ends with a definite salt taste. After a few minutes it almost feels as if I have eaten a saltine. Never had this sort of effect with beers of similar style, and I'm very disappointed. Even more so because I have gone on a brewing frenzy the past 3 weeks and have 3 more beers fermenting that might have similar fates.

I'm not smart enough to say it doesn't do anything for the pH, but I can say that for my water and my preferred styles, it looks to be something to avoid.
Just so you know, the MWRA water reports, which cover Boston, are available online on a monthly basis, and have all the information you need to use the correct additions rather than a bodge like 5.2. The low ion count of Boston municipal water means that you can correct the water fairly easily, it can be done approximately with a Campden tablet to kill the chloamine (1/4 per 5 gallon) and a simple Burton Salts mix for maltier English styles, or with individual salts if you want to target other specific water profiles. The high pH and alkalinity isn't a problem, as it's from a very small amount ions, so it's easy to adjust. Use Bru'n water to calculate the right additions.
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Old 09-04-2013, 04:04 PM   #63
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I used 5.2 when I started paying attention to pH and such, it gave kind of a salty finish to my wits and IPA. But it made my pale ales and lagers undrinkable, had to pour a few batches out. I stopped using it and just add lactic acid to my mash until my pH is right. If your water needs the salts I'm sure it makes great beer, but I will never use it again.

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Old 09-04-2013, 05:46 PM   #64
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I posted a 'review' of Five Star 5.2 pH stabilizer some time ago - here's a repost for those that may be interested. I added it and measured the results with my pH meter. (Long story short: It barely changes the pH in my very soft water):

Quote:
What about 5.2 pH Stabilizer?

5.2 pH Stabilizer is a product sold by Five Star Chemicals that according to their website "is a proprietary blend of buffers that will lock in your mash and kettle water at a pH of 5.2 regardless of the starting pH of your water". The manufacturer states that one tablespoon per 5 gallons of finished beer is all that is required.

At first glance it would seem like an easy way to always lock your mash in at a pH of 5.2 for perfect starch to sugar conversion.

We tried this product with a simple blonde ale using our very soft city water which has a high pH of over 8 (relative to room temperature) when untreated right out of the tap. This beer was made mostly with lighter coloured 2-row grain. There were no darker grains that would help lower the pH into the proper 5.2 pH range so we knew that some extra help would be required even after we added our usual brewing salts to alter the flavour profile the way we wanted. Many of the brewing salts we use lower pH, but often not enough.

Even though our water's pH is very high it's very soft (has a low buffering capacity or residual alkalinity) so it doesn't take much to lower the pH. Normally if our mash pH is still higher than 5.2 (relative to mash temperature) after we add our brewing salts and re-measure, we add a bit of 88% lactic acid to bring the pH down further. It usually only takes one milliliter (mL) or two at most. This seemed like a good test to try the 5.2 pH Stabilizer instead.

We mixed in our grain with the strike water (called 'doughing in'), along with some salts, and let it sit for a few minutes. Our mash pH measured 5.59 (relative to mash temperature). The grains and salts had dropped the pH of the water from over 8 all the way down to 5.59. Not bad, but still too high, as it should be around 5.2 to 5.3.

So we added 2 tablespoons of 5.2 pH Stabilizer (the instructions say to use 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons of final product and we're making 10 gallons), stirred well for a few minutes and then measured again to find that it was now 5.55, or a drop of only 0.04. Hmmm, not very much of a drop at all. What happened to that claim of "locking in our mash pH at 5.2 regardless of the starting pH of our water"?

So we added two more tablespoons and saw another small incremental drop in pH to 5.51. This is clearly not working as well as we had hoped. We stopped there as we did not want to add a total of ~20 tablespoons of this product to our beer to attempt to lower the pH to 5.2 as required.

It's important to note as well that this product only addresses mash pH. We don't know exactly what "food-grade phosphates" are used (they don't tell) so we don't really know what it will do to the flavour profile of the beer.

We've heard other brewers that swear by 5.2 pH Stabilizer. It may be that the product works as advertised, but only for water with a mineral profile and pH that falls within a specific range. What mineral profile and pH range? We don't know. The manufacturer doesn't specify.

We recommend that brewers instead learn how to adjust their water using salts with known flavour outcomes and measure the pH themselves. This ensures that *you* the brewer remain in control of the mash pH and flavour profile and that you know exactly what you're drinking.

If you don't want to follow our upcoming instructions on how to manipulate water, then by all means use 5.2 pH Stabilizer, but we would suggest that it be used sparingly (no more than a tablespoon or two per 5 gallons, and only in the mash). Measuring the outcome with a pH meter would also be useful so that you have some idea of how much it's actually helping.

Addendum: After much research we believe to have found some old information from Five Star Chemicals that describes what is in the product. To quote the company:

"... The 5.2 stabilizer is a blend of two salts. They are neutralized versions of phosphoric acid. They are monosodium phosphate (Na H2 PO4) and disodium phosphate (Na2HPO4) in the right ratio they will form a buffer that locks the pH at 5.2..."

We have no idea how either of these salts affect the flavour of beer so we still suggest that most people stay away and instead treat their water and mash using salts with known outcomes per our instructions. The common salts we use have been brewed with for many years (they exist naturally in water) and the outcomes are widely known.
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Old 09-04-2013, 06:49 PM   #65
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Thanks for posting your review. It perfectly describes my experience and that of many others I know who have tried 5.2.

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Old 09-04-2013, 07:05 PM   #66
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My water is very low in sodium (7ppm), fairly hard (185ppm total CaCO3), and sorta low pH (7.7).

"5.2" has worked for me.

In a side-by-side comparison of using straight tap water v. tap water treated with 1 Tbsp "5.2" I had the results as followed (note these are pH at actual mash temp - yes, I know that's bad for the probe, but they were calibrated at that temp as well):

post mash pH w/o "5.2": 5.45
post mash pH w/ "5.2": 5.18

mid sparge pH w/o "5.2": 5.82
mid sparge pH w/ "5.2": 5.29

Grain bill was 10lb 2-row, 1lb munich, 0.75lb 60L, and 0.5lb flaked barley
Mash was 1.268qt/lb

Now, with that being said, it seemed to work for me in this specific instance, probably due to the grain bill, water already low in sodium, and moderately low pH.

I've since gone to building water using my tap water and additions of CaCl, CaSO4, and lactic acid as needed for the profile I'm looking for.

I'm in the "don't use 5.2" camp, even though in some limited circumstances, it has, in fact worked as advertised for me. Mainly, I don't recommend using it because 1) it's been proven time and time again to not work for lots and lots of people, and 2) building water is so dang easy with just a bit of playing around with Bru'N Water or the other calculators out there.

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Old 09-05-2013, 05:12 PM   #67
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Quote:
Originally Posted by firemostale View Post
OP here....

I definitely noticed and improvement on my mash efficiency, but I also have now noticed a "salty" taste, more if an after flavor where my mouth feels weird after drinking one or two brews.

I am
Ditching the 5.2, and going to a RO system. Quite frankly mash efficiency is not as important to me as taste.

The comparative brews I did. (Identical recipes, on with 5.2 and one without) indefinitely noticed a difference. I'm done with the stuff.
Props for doing your own research and changing your mind after seeing the evidence. Hopefully your experience encourages more people to drop the 5.2 habit!
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Old 09-05-2013, 06:42 PM   #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AZ_IPA View Post
My water is very low in sodium (7ppm), fairly hard (185ppm total CaCO3), and sorta low pH (7.7).

"5.2" has worked for me.

In a side-by-side comparison of using straight tap water v. tap water treated with 1 Tbsp "5.2" I had the results as followed (note these are pH at actual mash temp - yes, I know that's bad for the probe, but they were calibrated at that temp as well):

post mash pH w/o "5.2": 5.45
post mash pH w/ "5.2": 5.18

mid sparge pH w/o "5.2": 5.82
mid sparge pH w/ "5.2": 5.29
This is the first report I have ever seen by someone using a pH meter and who apparently knows how to use one to the effect that "5.2" 'works' so it is very interesting. We know that the product can't be buffering at 5.2 because it has so little buffering capacity so something else must be going on. Here's what I think it must be: Five gallons of water at pH 7.7 with alkalinity of 185 (to match the hardness i.e. assuming all the hardness is temporary) to which 5 grams (about a tsp full) of monobasic sodium phosphate (which is what "5.2" is mostly composed of) will settle at a pH of about 6.67. At that pH the water will be saturated WRT apatite with as little as 3 mg/L calcium (calcium hardness of 7.4 ppm as CaCO3). As the water in question doubtless contains a lot more calcium hardness than this it is clear that it will be super saturated (at pH 6.79) and I would expect that if you dissolved the "5.2" in small amount of RO or DI water and added that to the tap water a precipitate would form and the pH would drop as a consequence.

Now if the pH be lowered to 5.45 with some acid other than phosphoric this water, dosed with "5.2" as above, would not be saturated WRT apatite. But if it were acidified with phosphoric acid it would be close to saturation. So this is what I think is happening. The mash doesn't contain phosphoric acid but it does contain a lot of phosphate - enough that a pH drop can be expected when any amount of calcium ion is present. Here you have quite a bit of calcium and there is doubtless a shift of a couple of tenths pH because of that without "5.2". Augment the phosphate with "5.2" and saturation becomes super saturation, more calcium precipitates and there is an additional drop in pH (beyond Kolbach's observation) from the additional protons released.

I'm not saying that this is indeed the explanation but it seems to make sense and, in fact, has given me insight as to how "5.2" does what it is able to do which is, in most cases, lower pH a bit but not nearly as much as claimed. Perhaps the way to meet the label's claim is simply to add a ton of calcium to your mash or mash liquor.



Grain bill was 10lb 2-row, 1lb munich, 0.75lb 60L, and 0.5lb flaked barley
Mash was 1.268qt/lb

Now, with that being said, it seemed to work for me in this specific instance, probably due to the grain bill, water already low in sodium, and moderately low pH.

I've since gone to building water using my tap water and additions of CaCl, CaSO4, and lactic acid as needed for the profile I'm looking for.

I'm in the "don't use 5.2" camp, even though in some limited circumstances, it has, in fact worked as advertised for me. Mainly, I don't recommend using it because 1) it's been proven time and time again to not work for lots and lots of people, and 2) building water is so dang easy with just a bit of playing around with Bru'N Water or the other calculators out there.[/QUOTE]
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