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Adjusting pH of Distilled Water

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I am trying to learn about adding salts and adjusting pH. The best way I know to do that without buying an RO system is to start with a known water source--distilled.

Should I be concerned with the pH of the water? I've assisted another homebrewer and he seems to add a lot more salts that I am adding (he uses RO water). Should I be adding more to adjust pH? I use BeerSmith3 and getting familiar with adding distilled water and matching a profile to know how much of which salts I need to add. I do not know how to find the pH I should be at and when.

Any help you can provide would be great!
 

Silver_Is_Money

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Due to its absorption of CO2 from the air (and the H2CO3 'carbonic acid' that CO2 forms when combined with water) the pH of RO water is generally on the order of roughly 5.85. That plus the fact that it has no significant quantities of ions from which to derive buffering (or the ability to resist change in pH) means that its pH is irrelevant. The same can be said for most tap or spring water with regard to its pH (since it generally offers little resistance to change in pH). But for the latter, its alkalinity (as measured in mg/L or ppm CaCO3) if high enough becomes the buffer of major concern, and which must be addressed.

Generally the pH you want to achieve during the mash is centered around 5.4, and spans 5.2 to 5.6 (as measured at 25 degrees C., for samples taken 30 to 60 minutes into the mash).
 

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Salts are not generally added with mash pH adjustment in mind, but for the flavor they bring with them. Acids and bases are better used for mash pH adjustment, so as to avoid adding higher quantities of minerals that may negatively impact flavor.
 

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Adjust the water for profile/flavor first by adding Calcium Chloride and/or gypsum. Then review what the estimated mash pH will be when this adjusted water interacts with the grain.

If predicted pH is too high, add acid to reach the target. If it's too low, add baking soda to reach the target.
Target mash pH should be in the range of 5.2-5.6, lower for light beers and higher for dark ones. 5.3-5.4 is a good smaller target range and this keeps things a bit more simple.
 

McKnuckle

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Yes, that's correct. Although beware - BeerSmith's mash pH calculations are the subject of some scorn on these boards. Most people use one of the dedicated water spreadsheets such as Bru'n Water or Mash Made Easy for pH estimates.

BeerSmith should be fine for mineral additions, since those use simple formulae based on grams/liter to determine how much ppm are added (for Ca, Cl, etc.).
 
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Yes, that's correct. Although beware - BeerSmith's mash pH calculations are the subject of some scorn on these boards. Most people use one of the dedicated water spreadsheets such as Bru'n Water or Mash Made Easy for pH estimates.

BeerSmith should be fine for mineral additions, since those use simple formulae based on grams/liter to determine how much ppm are added (for Ca, Cl, etc.).
Thanks for the additional info. I also have Bru'n Water so will see if i can navigate it to see mash pH (I downloaded it, but haven't used it yet...this will be my 2nd brew dealing with water adjustments).
 
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So after comparing the two, looks like are just a bit different (by 0.05). Looks like I would add a teaspoon (0.3 tablespoon) of lactic acid (88%). The question now is when should I add it? If during mash, should I add half with strike water and half with batch sparge?
 

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Add the acid to the water volume that will be used in the mash, and do so before doughing in.

You need to match the process that your spreadsheet is evaluating to reach its predictions. If you are adding salts to the entire volume vs. just the mash water, those two techniques will result in different mineral concentrations within the mash, and hence different mash pH values. So pay attention to that distinction.
 
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Add the acid to the water volume that will be used in the mash, and do so before doughing in.

You need to match the process that your spreadsheet is evaluating to reach its predictions. If you are adding salts to the entire volume vs. just the mash water, those two techniques will result in different mineral concentrations within the mash, and hence different mash pH values. So pay attention to that distinction.
I am not sure I understand that. My short history of brewing (just over a year now) has been buying 5g jugs of water from a machine. As the mantra when I got started...if the water tastes good, your beer will taste good.

Now I am diving into using distilled water, salts, and potentially...pH.

My last brew was the first time using salts. I had BeerSmith calculate how much salts I needed for distilled water using a Blonde Ale profile. A local homebrewer suggested that I split the salts...half for mash and half for batch sparge (I am not equip'd fly sparge capability yet). I haven't tried that beer yet so I have no idea how it will taste...kegging it early next week. I am brewing another Blonde Ale (having a summer BBQ in a month) and trying to learn another step.

Of note, my HLT can't hold the full volume of water that I need so I have to reheat water during my mash for batch sparge.
 

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