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Beersmith pH Adjustment Adding Tons of Acid

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frittsbier

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Hello fellow brewers,

I've been dipping my toes into water chemistry lately and had some issues with the calculators out there. I have had no issues with determining which salts to add to hit a certain profile in Beersmith or Bru'n Water. However, it's the pH adjustment that's been giving me fits.

I made an Oktoberfest a few months ago. Added all my salts and incorporated into Beersmith the correct way (by making a water profile and adding water to the recipe). Beersmith then calculated a high mash pH - around 5.7. I simply used the mash pH adjustment tool built into Beersmith and found several weeks later I must've added WAY too much lactic acid because I had me a sour oktoberfest. It was a dumper :(

Thought I may have made a mistake until I went to brew a NEIPA the other day, and again the mash pH was projected to be high. So I went to add phosphoric acid this time, and Beersmith was suggesting to add 95mL of phosphoric acid (10%) to bring my mash pH from 5.7 to 5.2! WHA? Changing option to lactic acid also suggested massive amounts (like 10mL of 88%) that now I'm certain is what ruined my Oktoberfest.

Am I doing something wrong here? I've been digging all around Beersmith double checking my values and profiles, looking for anything that could be the cause of this because most people say it does a good job at estimating mash pH and accurate acid additions. I can't find any properties in my equipment or system that seem out of whack that could cause this. Does anyone have any clue why it's estimating such high acid additions to drop the pH just a few points? My water is pretty soft, in fact just got the results back from Ward labs:

pH: 7.9
Na: 22 ppm
Ca: 30 ppm
SO4: 45 ppm
Mg: 9 ppm
Cl: 26 ppm
HCO3: 80 ppm
Total Alkalinity (CaCO3): 66 ppm

I've worked it out in Bru'n Water and it confirms the acid addition values in Beersmith are significantly high. I know, I know... "just use Bru'n Water". I'm just trying to figure out what the hell is going on with the tool in Beersmith. I do appreciate Bru'n Water, but would like to consolidate to one program, especially if it supposedly has the capabilities.
Cheers :mug:
 
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frittsbier

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Bump. Anyone have high pH adjustment values from Beersmith?
 

cactusgarrett

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Don't think you're going to get any hits, here, as most people (from what I can tell) don't use Beersmith for the pH adjustment aspect. Brewer's Friend has some good tools, too, despite this going against your "one location" desire.
 

ajdelange

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I made an Oktoberfest a few months ago. Added all my salts and incorporated into Beersmith the correct way (by making a water profile and adding water to the recipe). Beersmith then calculated a high mash pH - around 5.7. I simply used the mash pH adjustment tool built into Beersmith and found several weeks later I must've added WAY too much lactic acid because I had me a sour oktoberfest. It was a dumper :(

Thought I may have made a mistake until I went to brew a NEIPA the other day, and again the mash pH was projected to be high. So I went to add phosphoric acid this time, and Beersmith was suggesting to add 95mL of phosphoric acid (10%) to bring my mash pH from 5.7 to 5.2! WHA?
That's about 103 mEq worth....
Changing option to lactic acid also suggested massive amounts (like 10mL of 88%)
... and that's about 113 mEq worth so that both options specify about the same quantity of protons to be added.

that now I'm certain is what ruined my Oktoberfest.

Am I doing something wrong here?
Clearly, if you are getting sour beer. Shooting for a mash pH of 5.2 may be the problem as that would give you something like 4.9 in the mash at mash temperature and who knows what in the fermenter - probably something like 4.8 at room temperature which is too low. If pH is too high yeast will excrete extra acid to lower it but I don't know that they can absorb extra acid to raise pH (though if they can regulate from one side you might expect them to be able to from the other). A more reasonable target for mash pH would be 5.4 or 5.5. Assuming linearity (mash is approximately linear and the simple pH estimators assume it to be so) your spreadsheets ought to estimate, respectively, 60% or 40% of the acid you used at targets of, respectively, pH 5.4 and 5.5.

As to the choice of spreadsheets: each has its own model of malt acid/base properties (none of them very robust) and so will give you different pH estimates or estimates of the acids and bases you should add. A very general impression garnered from reading HBD for years is that Bru'n water tends to model dark malts as being more acidic than they actually are in many cases (malts are, within a given color range, quite variable) and so wants you to add less acid or more base. Beersmith seems to be the opposite but as not many, AFAIK, use it the comments I've seen are few. You might also want to try some of the other spreadsheets out there such as Brewer's Friend and the one at
https://mashmadeeasy.yolasite.com. This latter one, like the others, starts with the color of the malts but allows specification of the DI mash pH of each malt if you know it (it's easily measured) and as a poor estimate of this parameter is the largest entry in the pH estimate error budget, being able to specify it improves accuracy appreciably.


Does anyone have any clue why it's estimating such high acid additions to drop the pH just a few points? My water is pretty soft, in fact just got the results back from Ward labs:

pH: 7.9
Na: 22 ppm
Ca: 30 ppm
SO4: 45 ppm
Mg: 9 ppm
Cl: 26 ppm
HCO3: 80 ppm
Total Alkalinity (CaCO3): 66 ppm
Without knowing what malts you chose nor their quantities I can't say specifically what is going on but if I propose to mash 10 lbs of grist made up of 40% Wyermann Pils, 40% Weyermann Vienna and 20% Weyermann Munich I at a ratio of 1.4 qts/lb of water (3.5 gal) with the given alkalinity and calcium content I'd expect a mash pH of about 5.67. Were I to want pH 5.2 I'd have to add 84 mEq of acid. I'm guessing you did something like this and the acid I calculate is reasonably close to the amount you got from the program. If I choose a more reasonable target pH of 5.5 I would only need 29 mEq of acid and for 5.4 I would need 47.
I do appreciate Bru'n Water, but would like to consolidate to one program, especially if it supposedly has the capabilities.
I often advise people who want to use spreadsheets to put their data into several and take the average of the answers they get. I also advise them to understand the mechanisms so that they can tell when a spreadsheet is giving an erroneous answer but few are willing to do that. Best of all is to make test mashes. Then it doesn't matter whether you or the spreadsheet have committed an error.
 
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trav77

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Bump. Anyone have high pH adjustment values from Beersmith?
I never dug too far into the reason why, but yes, for me BeerSmith always seems to predict much more acid needed than BrunWater. Since I've had very good success with the latter, I never bothered using BeerSmith's predictions.
 
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frittsbier

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Thank you, ajdelange for your thorough response and analysis. I've gathered some incredibly helpful info from your other posts on this forum. Thank you to the others that responded as well. I'm happy to hear someone else has experienced the same. I ran through the numbers on a new recipe the other night, and again it confirmed Beersmith estimates much more acid than the same in Bru'n Water.

I appreciate the tip of shooting for a pH in the higher range of the spectrum. That is fascinating yeast can secrete acid to lower the pH - I had not heard that before. Also, I've learned it's safer to live on that side and I can always adjust to dial it in if I remake the batch.

I wanted to utilize Beersmith's pH adjustment tool because it contains all the info built in: from the recipe ingredients, equipment, mash conditions, built in water profile, etc. but I think you're correct that the best way to go about it is to try out some other spreadsheets/tools and determine the variances to best approximate my mash pH. If I'm going into water treatment, it would be silly to get lazy at this point. I will check out those other sources that were mentioned, thank you.
 

Oginme

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Jumping into this kinda late, but the BeerSmith tool works fine for salt and mineral additions. Not so accurate for acid additions. I don't regularly add acid to my mash water, as I can get to my target pH with simple mineral additions with a minimum of issue. That said, I've looked at the calculation for acidulated malt and it appears to be about 5x to 10x too high versus what I have traditionally used in the past for the few recipes I have that malt in for pH adjustment. From comments made on the BeerSmith forum, I gather that the acid additions are in the same ballpark.
 

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