Wow. Some great feedback guys! appreciate it.
AJ, I like your reasoning. I've been instilling it in my wife's brain that I can now brew 5 gallons for around $10-15 since I'm washing yeast now, too, but for me, it's always a tough justification. I still have several hundred bucks in equipment, and want to spend several hundred more! I just bought my all-grain setup for $500 from a guy on CL a couple months ago, so I feel like that's still too close to the top of the registry
If I do buy one, I'll be sure to let you know what I think of it.
Martin, Good to know. Sounds like you know a lot about pH meters. I'm just getting started here, so I really appreciate the look into them. What seems important to me is 1) replacable probes (surprised at how many low ends don't...) 2) Accuracy at least .02 and 3) some good reviews/recommendations. If I do end up buying one, I'll definitely give you guys some honest feedback on it.
Again, it's hard because it seems a good piece of equipment is a couple of hundred dollars. I was really hoping there was an 'industry standard' amongst homebrewers for pH meters (like the STC-1000 for temp control or March 809 for pumps). In homebrewing, there are so many other expenses. I could easily burn up $1000 bucks tomorrow, and not even think about pH meters. Between a kegging setup, fermentation control, brewpot accessories, electrical components, pumps, HERMS, etc, I have a hard time prioritizing one piece of equipment that gives me one data point. Obvously I'd like one eventually, but as it grows more expensive, it moves down my list.
I may be getting ahead of myself with the chemistry side. I am just on a chemistry kick lately i guess. just started the chemistry of brewing course through OU, and have been digging into water chemistry. (BTW read your BrunWater spreadsheet Martin, and that was very helpful).
I think I'll just estimate using Bru'nWater and other resources for a while first and see how my beers turn out. I think I have at least a beginners understanding of water chemistry in general, so I think I'll just start some basics like adding a bit of acid to the mash if I have a lighter grain bill, and making sure I build up my Calcium levels as well as Chlorides or Sulfides (depending on style) with salts. The one thing that still hasn't really clicked for me is Alkalinity... I have 55-75 mg/L (as CaCO3), which seems relatively low. So that means I may not need as many acids in my mash as some because there is less buffer (resistance to pH), correct? (Bru'n water should tell me, just trying to wrap my brain around it I guess).