Acidic water Ph 5.2 before mash

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FxdGrMind

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What to do? I can't get any body in my beers. Hop utilization (bitterness) is easy, but an IPA is way out of reach as without the malt flavors and mouth feel, the beer is just bitter and thin.

What and how much do I need to add to bring the Ph up to something more normal like 6.5?

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menschmaschine

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Do you have your water profile? It's not so much the pH of your water, but the mineral content. If your water is acidic, there's a good chance it is also very soft and low in minerals. Soft water has little buffering capacity and doesn't respond in a pH shift as well as harder water. IOW, your pH may not come down much more in the mash than where it already is.

The pH of the mash is what's most important. I'd worry about adding the appropriate minerals/salts for a particular beer style than the water's pH.
 
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FxdGrMind

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I'm on a Well, I got a test kit and there are very little minerals, no clorine, Alkalinity is only 80 ppm and the Hardness is 50 ppm.

I'm trying to make a Belgian, this is my second time, first one tasted great but absolutely no body in the beer.

One more thing, all my beers are good for limited times, where they go from Green to good tasting then turn bitter at some point, depending on beer, anywhere from 3-6 months.

As for softness it's not, if anything its "Hard", I add borax to my wash water to get better utilization of my soap and as example, soap in the shower does not foam at all, soap in the dish sink doesn't last long either. Dish washer, leaves spots unless you use a "Rinse" agent.

So if I were to adjust the Ph.. what to use? If it affects the minerals, there is plenty of room there.

As for taste of the water is tastes fine, no off flavors, very clean. Tastes like "Nothing".
 

remilard

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Assuming the test was accurate, the water is moderately hard. You will need to acidify for anything lighter than amber. I like acid malt.
 
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FxdGrMind

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"Acidify"?? From a Ph of 5.2 already before Mashing?

I haven't yet tested a Mash, but I can only assume that the Mash Ph is going to be less than 5.2 Ph. And I'm assuming that the two mashes that I had, were difficult due to Ph as the efficiency is barely 60%.
 

remilard

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Make a small test mash with pale malt, the pH will be 5.8 ish (at mash temp) or the results of your test kit are horribly wrong.

The pH of the water doesn't matter, very alkaline water can have a low pH, and vice versa.

For example, I have a RA of 12 and a pH of 9.8. You have an RA in the high 40s give or take based on the results of your test. Your water is quite a bit more alkaline than mine, despite the lower pH.
 

bierandbikes

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What finally happened on this issue? I too have pH of 5.2 coming out of the tap (well water). As I read about water pH and buffering capacity, I feel like everything is geared towards correcting highly alkalin water.

I have not done the mini-mash test although I will certainly check the mash pH on my next batch and see what happens.

Also, what causes the low pH? What type of rock/mineral should I expect to find at the bottom of my well?
 

mabrungard

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Low water pH is typically the sign of a water with little buffering capacity (aka: alkalinity). That is not typically too big a problem for many beer styles. But, it can be a problem when dealing with a style that has a more acidic grist like a dark beer or one with a high percentage of crystal malts. RO and distilled water have little buffering.

The solution is providing a way to increase alkalinity as needed to keep mash pH within bounds. Chalk is a relatively unreliable alkalinity producer. Baking soda works well, but you can't add too much or the sodium gets too high. Pickling lime is a good alkalinity producer, but its very strong and requires careful usage. These are all tough assignments if you don't have the tools to figure out what and how much to add. Bru'n Water is a software package that provides brewers with the 'how much' answer. But you still have to have an accurate scale to measure these minerals to avoid overdoing it. You never want to add too much alkalinity.

Given your locale in the Appalachians and the low pH, I expect that the well is not situated in a limestone aquifer. Its probably a rock like granite, gniess, or maybe sandstone. Get a water test with Ward Lab if you haven't already done so.
 

ajdelange

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Also, what causes the low pH? What type of rock/mineral should I expect to find at the bottom of my well?
The low pH is caused by respiring bacteria producing CO2 at levels orders of magnitude higher than at the surface. In a system which is in equilibrium with CO2 and limestone it is the partial pressure of CO2 which controls everything (alkalinity, hardness, pH).

A couple of people have pointed out that it is not water pH but rather the alkalinity which sets mash pH. OP has alkalinity of 80 and hardness of 50. His probable problem is high mash pH. For most beers, and certainly for beers with little or no dark crystal or roast malts some acid will be required to bring the pH into the desired range. Every situation is unique but terms like bitter and thin and descriptions of beer with little flavor and mouth feel are strongly suggestive of high mash pH.

My recommendation would be to brew the beer as before with 1% sauermalz, then 2% looking for improvement. I also, as I always do, strongly recommend obtaining a pH meter, learning how to use it and monitoring mash pH as a guide to how much acid to add. 2% will probably fix the problem but could be too much or not enough. Much better to measure pH and know.

Final note: if you allow the water to stand for hours and measure the pH over time you will find it increasing as the extra CO2 is off gassed. Eventually you will have water with pH 7 or above and akalinity of around 80. Perhaps you would find it less counter intuitive that it is necessary to add acid to that to establish proper mash pH.

Final final note: If you are measuring water pH with test strips it's actual pH is probably more like 5.5. You need a meter to get accurate readings.
 

mabrungard

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The low pH is caused by respiring bacteria producing CO2 at levels orders of magnitude higher than at the surface. In a system which is in equilibrium with CO2 and limestone it is the partial pressure of CO2 which controls everything (alkalinity, hardness, pH).
That is true in carbonate (ie: limestone) aquifers, but not necessarily true in non-carbonate aquifers. In the case of non-carbonate aquifers like the person probably has in the Appalachians, the rainwater is saturated with CO2 at 1 atmosphere and is also likely impacted by sulfur dioxide to form acid rain. pH levels as low as 4 can be produced. The lack of buffering from the local geology allows that depressed water pH to persist in both ground water and surface water.

Bacteria can further depress the water pH as mentioned above.
 

ajdelange

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OP has 80 ppm and 50 ppm hardness, most likely most of which is calcium. Assuming his pH is really closer to 5.5 that is consistent with about 0.3 atm subterranean CO2. As to bierandbikes, I don't know his water chemistry but he lives only 60 mi. from the famous (limestone) Luray Caverns and water all over the state is moderately hard so I really think it is probably bacterial CO2/limestone that explains his low pH. Given where he lives I expect his water is somewhat similar to mine i.e. possessed of appreciable alkalinity which atmospheric CO2 can't provide. Atmospheric CO2 will bring deionized water to pH 5.67 but only introduces alkalinity of 2.5. Whether buffered by limestone or not subterranean CO2 still lowers pH. The 0.3 atmosphere number I threw out above, not that it is valid in either of these gentlemens' cases, would cause distilled water to come to pH 4.2.
 

MTBbrewer

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One more thing, all my beers are good for limited times, where they go from Green to good tasting then turn bitter at some point, depending on beer, anywhere from 3-6 months.
Did anyone ever answer this question because I am having water issues and this has happened to me also. As far as water issues I think I may have them worked out after responces I have recieved, and reading the Water Primer.
 

ajdelange

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We have two poster's here. OP is from the PNW. He has hardness of 50 and alkalinity of 80. His water has been exposed to limestone and the low pH comes from respired CO2. The second poster is from near Fredericksburg, Virginia. He also has low pH caused by respiring bacteria (you don't get to 5.2 from equilibration with atmospheric CO2 if limestone is present). My well water comes from an Appalacian aquifer. Hardness runs about 110 and alkalinity about 80. Clearly there is limestone present which, were it not, would mean no Luray Caverns (unless we are suggesting that in carving out those caverns all the limestone was removed from the local geology). My pH is in the low 6's (never seen it as low as 5.2 though and I'm suspicious of those readings). This poster's water is probably something like mine as Fredericksburg isn't that far from me.

The important thing for both posters (and readers) is that it is not the pH of the source water that is important but its alkalinity. It is this which determines the proton deficit of the grist water component and, therefore, the amount of acid required to offset it. It is fascinating that in other than xeric regions the chemistry of well water is largely determined by soil bacteria. Readers should also be aware that waters from such wells are not, when they come to the surface, at equilibrium. That makes alkalinity measurement tough. When I did my new well up here in Quebec the intitial pH reading was 7.2, no, 7.3, 7.4, hold on, now it's 7.5 and now 7.6 and if I waited overnight, for example, it would probably have gone even higher.

The Fredericksberg bloke will probably find sand at the bottom of his well.
 

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