Does pH need to be measured?

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Gizzygone

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I’m trying to improve the quality of my beer, so I’m looking into an RO system...

I’m also trying to keep from over-complicating things...

If I buy an RO system, and then start using software to build a water profile, is there any need to have a pH meter?
 

jjw5015

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I’m trying to improve the quality of my beer, so I’m looking into an RO system...

I’m also trying to keep from over-complicating things...

If I buy an RO system, and then start using software to build a water profile, is there any need to have a pH meter?

Wouldn't hurt. Can't trust all software as gospel. Everyone's system is different.
 

doug293cz

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None of the software is accurate in all cases, but they usually get you close enough that you won't have issues caused by pH. And, lots of brewers make great beer just using the software.

Also, measuring the mash pH is just a confirmation. By the time the pH stabilizes in the mash, it is too late to make a pH adjustment to that mash (although you can adjust the BK pH if you want to.) If your measurements tell you the software was off significantly, then the corrective action for mashing is to adjust the water treatments for the next batch of the same recipe, using the same grains. If you really want to nail the pH for an important batch, make a small test mash to measure the pH, and then adjust the water treatment for the "real" mash.

Brew on :mug:
 

Bassman2003

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I like having a pH meter but in the end, close is pretty good. Software will get you close so if money needs to be allocated, there are probably more important areas like refrigeration or chilling. Or yeast handling.
 

bracconiere

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I’m trying to improve the quality of my beer, so I’m looking into an RO system...

I’m also trying to keep from over-complicating things...

If I buy an RO system, and then start using software to build a water profile, is there any need to have a pH meter?

you can afford a RO system, but not a meter? i tried the software approach, had me adding so much gypsum, my beer wouldn't even ferment...get hard man! lol, buy a ph meter, and be sure to keep your probe wet! lol
 

auburntsts

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What did brewers do before the invention of pH meters? It's like anything in this hobby, you can dive in as much or as little you want but it's really brewer preference. Great beer can be brewed without a meter just as crappy beer can be brewed with it. If the software is getting you the results you want using your system then no need to fix something that's not broken IMO.
 

brew703

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I used to be concerned with PH. I use Bru N Water and i just add what it says and assume all is good. I have an el cheapo PH meter and I've checked the mash ph within 10 min and it was close to what Bru N Water shows so now I just dont worry about it. It was more of a hassle than anything trying to make sure the meter was calibrated.
 

cheesebach

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I agree with the comments above that it's really a matter of whether the benefits are worth the cost/effort for you. Sure, there are a lot of things that I would rank above it in relative importance (fermentation temp control, kegging, etc.), but it certainly has provided me useful information and I continue to take measurements with every batch. It's not too different from a hydrometer in that its a measurement tool that isn't going to make your beer better on its own, but provides useful data to help diagnose problems and find areas to improve on future beers. By the time I take a final gravity reading, it's probably too late to do anything about it for that particular batch, but does that mean taking a FG measurement isn't useful? Definitely not. Same goes for pH.
 
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Gizzygone

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Good to know: I think my main apprehension is the amount of work a pH meter takes to get working...

Yea yea yea: I know; it’s not TOO bad, but they’re an extra fiddly bit to add on a brew day, with extra stuff to store.

I wasn’t sure if one can assume the rough pH of the water coming out of the RO system or not.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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RO water pH is so close to irrelevant with respect to its impact upon mash pH and/or wort pH as to for all practical purposes to be ignored. And for most tap water it is the same with regard to its pH. All that matters with regard to waters impact upon mash and/or wort pH is the alkalinity, the volume, and the concentrations of calcium and magnesium ions. The rest of pH is up to the grist.
 

Day-Day

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I just buy distilled water, I just don't trust the consistency of tap water in general... even if the tap water is good... it might be inconsistent and throw off your target water profile/ph, even if you have a quality water report.. the water could be different a few months down the road.

You can go with an RO setup.. but that's a big initial investment if you're penny pinching (like me haha). Bru'n water will get you close to your target water profile and mash ph... and if you start with distilled each time it eliminates some unknown variables.. blank slate.

My process is find my water profile online, plug that into Beersmith and it will spit out my water additions (aka brewing salts), open up Bru'n Water and input grain bill and water additions and see if my target water profile is close to where I want it, if I need to reduce mash ph, I add some acidulated malt to the grain bill input.

Depending on what exactly you are trying to improve in your beer, will determine the types of changes in your setup and process you need to make.

Have you identified the issues you want to fix in your beer?

Are these issues going to be fixed by using an RO setup?

If there are certain flavors you don't like, or you're having oxidation issues, etc., etc, an RO setup might not fix your issues.

Get my drift...

Don't put the cart before the horse... or something of that nature.
 

kh54s10

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I brewed 106 batches before buying a pH meter. On the one that I used the pH meter it was no better and really pretty confusing. I also got a RO system and made water adjustments per software. I was asked why I added 2 things that they said worked against each other. The software told me to..... I may go back to straight tap water without even using Campden tablets, which I never added for the first 6 years of my brewing. ;)
 

dmtaylor

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I’m trying to improve the quality of my beer, so I’m looking into an RO system...

I’m also trying to keep from over-complicating things...

If I buy an RO system, and then start using software to build a water profile, is there any need to have a pH meter?

No, no need for a pH meter. Water and pH isn't as important as many brewers think. Millions of people make excellent beer without ever measuring pH. If starting with RO water, as long as you aren't stupid about adding too much salts, especially Epsom (throw your Epsom in the trash), it's virtually guaranteed that your beer is going to turn out great even with no pH measurement.
 

Qhrumphf

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There's more to brewing and pH than just the mash.

pH will tell you quite a bit about fermentation, for example. And finished beer pH tells you a lot about stability.

You can certainly brew without it, and make good beer without it.

But knowing and controlling pH through out the whole process is part of ultimate consistency in brewing.
 

kh54s10

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There's more to brewing and pH than just the mash.

pH will tell you quite a bit about fermentation, for example. And finished beer pH tells you a lot about stability.

You can certainly brew without it, and make good beer without it.

But knowing and controlling pH through out the whole process is part of ultimate consistency in brewing.


It's just that we see so much that comes across that:

You can't possibly make good beer with tap water. You can't possibly make good beer without water adjustments. You can't possibly make good beer if you use a siphon. You can't possibly make good beer without hydrometer readings throughout the process. You can't possibly make good beer if you don't take pH readings.... etc. And when I say that I like at least 75% of my un-altered, un-measured beers better than most commercial beers, they say commercial beers suck.....
 
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Gizzygone

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I suppose I should hold off on the RO water for now: and try distilled to see if building water profiles helps any.

I suppose where my confusion lies is in that we expect distilled water to be a pH of 7, but supposedly it’s lower due to absorption of CO2....

So if that’s the case: wouldn’t I need to change my source water pH in order for online calculators to factor in the correct additions?

I wonder if pH strips would be enough?
 

kh54s10

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I suppose I should hold off on the RO water for now: and try distilled to see if building water profiles helps any.

I suppose where my confusion lies is in that we expect distilled water to be a pH of 7, but supposedly it’s lower due to absorption of CO2....

So if that’s the case: wouldn’t I need to change my source water pH in order for online calculators to factor in the correct additions?

I wonder if pH strips would be enough?

Maybe hold off on buying a RO system. From what I have read RO and distilled are very close in properties so I doubt there would be a significant difference between the two.

I don't know about the starting pH of the waters.

pH strips are not very accurate..

I would almost suggest that you forget about pH entirely and use bottled spring water.

Like I have said, I brewed for 8 years without a meter or even making any water adjustments. I am working into water treatments "to make my beers even better" So far without noticeable differences. 3 or 4 with water adjustments, and one with pH readings.
 

auburntsts

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IMO the only big difference between buying distilled (or RO for that matter) at the store and buying an RO system is convenience. From what I gather, and I’m no expert by any means, is the water chemistry difference between the two is negligible, albeit not exactly the same. So you have ask yourself is the cost savings of dragging jugs home the store outweigh spending ~$100-$200 on an RO system and having water at your fingertips whenever you want it.
 

Cavpilot2000

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I think it is very helpful but not critical.
Software will usually get you in the ballpark, and if you are okay with ballpark, you probably don't need it. I have been using one for years, and have found that in almost every batch, I was within plus or minus 0.1 pH of my target from the software (almost always slightly below target), so I consider that a pretty good validation of the SW.
I tend to brew styles that are all in similar families (German lagers or pale ales), so there isn't that much variation in the ingredients I choose, so I expect a degree of consistency. SOme people might think that being off from your target by 0.1 pH is a big deal. There might be cases where you are aiming for a very specific effect where more accuracy matters more, but in almost all cases, if you aim for the middle of the optimal ranges, you won't be far off, and I can pretty much guarantee no brewer ever can tell the difference in a beer that was mashed at 5.3 instead of 5.4.

All that said, I still use one to continue to validate my process and ensure I'm not drifting more than about 0.1 from my target.

Also, I have found times when it was super helpful to have it though to correct errors. For instance, recently I was doing two batches. I did not realize until I was in the mash that I had added all of the acidulated malt for BOTH batches to one. Panicked, I checked the pH. instead of the 5.5 I was aiming for, I was at 5.1. Okay, not ideal, but not catastrophic either. I was able to correct it by not adding any acidifying additives (CaCl, gypsum, etc) to my infusion or sparge water, and by the end of the mash, I was up to 5.3. Not ideal for me, but good enough. Without a pH meter, I might have just scrapped the batch or not known how well my corrections had worked. Information is power.

YMMV
 

Bassman2003

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Better is often hard to quantify. The basis for focusing on water is to choose to have the starting water bring an impact the final product or start with a neutral, clean slate. If you are choosing to use water with minerals (1st option) then he next step is to decide to modify it for more success in brewing a certain style or overall efficiency or yeast performance or just leave it alone.

Doing nothing is always a choice. That is fine but easy and convenient is not always best, often only good enough. Side by side testing would be interesting to taste the flavor impacts. Although it can be style dependent. I use some distilled for lighter styles but all tap water with adjustments for non-clean beers. But when we think about it, how much does it really impact in the end? Tough to know as we are hobby brewers and not brewing every day to get more data.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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...I suppose where my confusion lies is in that we expect distilled water to be a pH of 7, but supposedly it’s lower due to absorption of CO2....

So if that’s the case: wouldn’t I need to change my source water pH in order for online calculators to factor in the correct additions?

I wonder if pH strips would be enough?

Look at it in this ballparked relative this way. Compare the impact of a few thousand to million stray Carbonic Acid molecules dancing around in the distilled water (from CO2 absorption) and bringing its measured pH down to 5.6-5.8 vs. literally trillions of ions being liberated into the water (Wort) via the grist. Which appears for all practical purposes to be totally insignificant in this picture? Distilled water pH, or grist induced mash pH?
 
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Qhrumphf

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I suppose I should hold off on the RO water for now: and try distilled to see if building water profiles helps any.

I suppose where my confusion lies is in that we expect distilled water to be a pH of 7, but supposedly it’s lower due to absorption of CO2....

So if that’s the case: wouldn’t I need to change my source water pH in order for online calculators to factor in the correct additions?

I wonder if pH strips would be enough?
It's not the water pH that matters, but its buffering ability (alkalinity). Of which distilled water has none.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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to acidify the mash....way to much....over 10 years ago...memory is fuzzy, didn't have a meter...pretty sure it was overkill....i just stand by my opion, without a meter, don't try, it'll be beer. maybe just a little less efficient

In general, acidification is for mash pH adjustment and mineral additions are for flavor.
 

bracconiere

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In general, acidification is for mash pH adjustment and mineral additions are for flavor.

well i know i use epsom salts for a reduction in mash ph, now i do it a tad at a time though, with a meter.....and my tap water must be all over the place, i measure ph, and most of the time the ph needs to be raised, last few batches though, i've had to acidify...for me, just for a couple extra points of efficiency, my pedestrian taster wouldn't be able to tell the difference between mineral content....
 

couchsending

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The breweries making the best beer in the world are taking pH measurements more times throughout the process than you could probably imagine.

Mash pH is important but there are plenty of other pH measurements/adjustments along the way that are IMHO even more important depending on the beer you’re making.

I guess it all depends on your definition of what’s “good” or what’s “fine” in your beer.

You can make great beer with tap water, you can make great beer with RO water. You just need to know exactly how to work with each source to produce the results you’re looking for along the way. I have absolutely horrible well water, especially for making Pale beer. I know how to make good beer with it and avoid the negative consequences it can have on the beer but it’s a huge PITA so I don’t bother that often.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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If I buy an RO system, and then start using software to build a water profile, is there any need to have a pH meter?


Try plugging your recipes into a half dozen or so of such mash pH adjustment advice software packages, and the broad diversity of pH adjustment advice you will receive in return should give you the answer.

My new line of thinking (not original to me by any means, just new to me) is that the place where pH truly needs to be measured via a reliable pH meter is just prior to initiating the boil step, and kettle pH adjustment should be made at that juncture such that post boil and cooling the Wort will come in at a measured 5.0 to 5.2 pH.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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When addressing professional brewers on the subject I ask "How many of you check pH and have never had more than perhaps a third respond that they do. I can't attest as to whether this group contained the best brewers in the room. I have also had professional brewers tell me "You home brewers take this stuff much more seriously than we do."
A.J. deLange: Https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/threads/ph-how-important-is-adjusting-for-ph.655119/#post-8385019

I presume we can take from this that something more than 2/3 of professional brewers completely ignore pH monitoring.
 
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dmtaylor

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When addressing professional brewers on the subject I ask "How many of you check pH and have never had more than perhaps a third respond that they do. I can't attest as to whether this group contained the best brewers in the room. I have also had professional brewers tell me "You home brewers take this stuff much more seriously than we do."

Well... for whatever reason, in this hobby, this is nearly a fact: about 1/3 of us are engineers (and other kinds of scientists?), 1/3 are IT guys, and the other 1/3 just want to make beer. The engineers and IT guys tend to overthink everything, that's what they (we) do. Real life commercial brewers on the other hand have a different mix. Engineers and IT guys might not want to quit their day jobs to become commercial brewers who make about 25-35% as much on average.
 
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brewbama

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I use a water calculator to get a guesstimate of mash pH. I’ve measured pH at various points in the process and have become accustomed to what to expect. Based on the information I have, if my pH meter probe breaks (again), I probably won’t replace it.
 

philm63

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The available software for water adjustments is good to have - it gets you pretty close as long as you start with knowing what your water has in it, and use the inputs correctly.

Measuring your pH can certainly better inform you at each step but as far as I have seen it is not absolutely necessary. I do it, but I'm an engineer and I have to know! Does it make my beer better? Dunno. But I sure know (or at least I THINK I know) what's going on every step of the way...
 
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