Finished pH of a pilsner or gold lager...

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kenlenard

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Fellow Beerheads: I have been on a pH kick lately (see my other thread about pale beers) and I am looking for some specific information. For awhile now, I have been tasting commercial beers and wondering about certain characters they have and where it is coming from. It occurs to me that there is some very interesting character when your finished beer has a lower pH. Get this: Over the weekend I was bored so I decided to take the pH of some finished beer I was drinking. I took the pH of a pilsner of mine (that did not come out that great) and it was 4.3. I also took the pH of a Red Lager (4.4), a pale ale (4.3) and an ESB (4.3). All of those were my beers. I also took the pH some commercial beers: Hofbrau Oktoberfest (4.2), Stiegl Goldbrau from Austria (4.1) and Pacifico from Mexico (4.0). The Stiegl and the Pacifico (while not homebrewer's dream beers) were lower in pH and had a very bright, crisp, snappy taste to them. Does anyone here make a gold lager and shoot for a specific kettle pH so that the finished beer pH is around 4.0 or 4.1? I once asked what that "European lager" character was... bright, crisp, slightly grassy, aromatic, etc. and many people said that it was the fresh german grain, local german hops, years of brewing experience, etc. and I'm sure it was. But finished beer pH has to be a part of it. This is not something I want for all styles but I like that refreshing, slightly acidic character in pale beers. Thoughts?
 

ajdelange

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Ales tend to have lower pH's than lagers with values in the low to mid 4's whereas mid 4's up to 4.6 or 4.7 are more typical of lagers. Yeast have pH ranges that favor their growth and development and will adjust the pH of any medium in which they find themselves to this pH to the extent that they can. As a consequence of this the thing that determines the pH of the beer is the yeast more than the pH of the wort. This does not mean that you should make it hard for them. Kettle pH should be 5 - 5.4 for any beer. You might want to shoot for the lower end of that range for ales and the higher for lager though I think 5.2 is a pretty good target for either.

The pH values you have reported all seem a bit low. How did you measure them?
 
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kenlenard

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The pH values you have reported all seem a bit low. How did you measure them?
Yeah, someone else asked me about that and the answer is that the beers were cool (around serving temp so 40s, 50s) and carbed. It has been mentioned to me that it may have been better for the samples to be warm and flat so that everything would be consistent. I failed to see that distinction but I think I get it. Also, I'm surprised to hear you say that ales have a lower finished pH than lagers. I had heard people say that lower pH was better for pale beers and higher pH for darker beers which seemed to make more sense. I'm probably guilty of trying to oversimplify things.
 

ajdelange

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The cold won't shift pH that much but a couple of volumes of CO2 can lower it by 0.1 or so. Your measurements almost look as if you used strips instead of a meter.
 
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kenlenard

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I used my meter (a Milwaukee PH55) which has shown signs of losing its mojo in the past. It seems to be behaving itself lately and all of those readings were made with that meter.

I am making a gold lager tonight with 7 lbs of Best Malz Pils and 2 lbs of Best Malz Vienna, some Magnum and Hallertau and 2308. I'm using 50% distilled water (4 gallons mash, 4 gallons sparge) and I'm going to try to get my mash pH to 5.2, then acidify the [batch] sparge water and get it to about 5.5pH before heating it and adding it to the grains and then I'm going to check the kettle pH and try to get it into the 5.2, 5.3 range. My hope is a pale gold beer with that acid snap I mentioned. Thanks AJ.
 

adam01

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This is definitely on the topic I'm pursuing. A crisp edge to my lager.

I've measured the pH pf several of my beers lately. I'm using a Milwaukee SM101 meter.
The commercial value here will be my target for this saturday brew.

beer beer pH temp C
warsteiner 3.8 12
Dunkel

My beers are more in the range of 4.0-4.2. I didn't record the mash pH of these though.
I'm brewing my lager with distilled this time + a bit of calcium (2.28g)
 

zwiller

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Ken, what's your typical lagering time? You might find like I do that dialing in pH accelerates the process. I typically brew ales but had a really good draft pils that inspired me. I am thinking 30 days to glass? Of course it may improve over time but I am not entirely convinced I need 3-6 months... Off my rocker?

Any updates on your other pH tests?
 
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kenlenard

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Ken, what's your typical lagering time? You might find like I do that dialing in pH accelerates the process. I typically brew ales but had a really good draft pils that inspired me. I am thinking 30 days to glass? Of course it may improve over time but I am not entirely convinced I need 3-6 months... Off my rocker?

Any updates on your other pH tests?
Zwiller: No, I don't think you're off your rocker. There was a BN show not long ago where they were talking about letting the lager primary go for about 50% and then raising the temp a few degrees and then again at 75%, etc. which apparently speeds up the process. They were saying 3 weeks from grain to glass and that the lagers were outstanding. Very interesting. My tests with pale beers and pH are still in various stages of fermentation so no results for a while yet. I will update when I have something to share. Cheers & good to see you over here.
 

zwiller

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Thanks. Will check that out. I was thinking something like a 2 week primary, a 2 day D-rest, and cold crash for 2 weeks. Slowly ramping it up makes sense too. The beer that inspired me was Statopramen. Mind blowing FRESH. My wife was freaking out since I practically pounded it...

Best of luck on those beers.
 
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kenlenard

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Thanks. Will check that out. I was thinking something like a 2 week primary, a 2 day D-rest, and cold crash for 2 weeks. Slowly ramping it up makes sense too. The beer that inspired me was Statopramen. Mind blowing FRESH. My wife was freaking out since I practically pounded it...

Best of luck on those beers.
I was in Brataslava, Slovak Republic last June and had a fresh Staropramen at a beautiful little outdoor biergarten. OMG. Many of those beers over there (Hofbrau, Stiegl, Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Zipfer, Paulaner, Augustiner...) were spectacular and nothing like you can get over here. For someone to experience that here, brewpubs would need to attempt to make them fresh because the real deal is already past its prime when it gets here... generally.
 

zwiller

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I was in Brataslava, Slovak Republic last June and had a fresh Staropramen at a beautiful little outdoor biergarten. OMG. Many of those beers over there (Hofbrau, Stiegl, Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Zipfer, Paulaner, Augustiner...) were spectacular and nothing like you can get over here. For someone to experience that here, brewpubs would need to attempt to make them fresh because the real deal is already past its prime when it gets here... generally.
:rockin: I think a homebrewer might be able to pull it off. I remember I once made a NGP and I was floored with the floral notes... I was like, Beck's doesn't smell like this. At the time, I thought it was a fault...
 

indianaroller

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I haven't read that book. Seems odd they would cite such a high ph for lagers. But what do I know...


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ajdelange

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They list British ales and lagers as between 3.9 and 4.2., Pilsner Urquell as 4.6, "German Premium" as 4.2 - 4.6 , 4.51 for "Bavarian Bright", 3.8 - 4.7 for American lager.

Narziß says 4.25 - 4.6 for normal bottom fermenting beers and has some separate data on top fermenters. Alt and Kölsch: 4.15 - 4.40; Weizen (Krystal): 4.1 - 4.3; Weizen (Hefe): 4.1 - 4.4; Berliner Weiße is, of course, off the chart at 3.2 - 3.4

My last two lagers came in at 4.5 and 4.65.

Keep in mind that the commercial brewers are well aware that lower finished product pH tends to improved flavor, colloidal and microbiological stability and may, thus, be adjusting pH down or at least using practices that lead to lower finished beer pH.
 

GotPushrods

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Keep in mind that the commercial brewers are well aware that lower finished product pH tends to improved flavor, colloidal and microbiological stability and may, thus, be adjusting pH down or at least using practices that lead to lower finished beer pH.
I've always wondered what goes on here. My lagers never finish as low as many commercial ones. I have considered that they may be doing this, although I've never read anything supporting it. For some reason finished beer pH is just not a widely covered topic.

I've experimented with phosphoric acid with completely unscientific and mixed results. I have a Vienna on tap right now at 4.6. I might do 2 tests, with phosphoric and lactic acid, taking it down to 4.2 and see what I think.
 

mabrungard

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I've experimented with phosphoric acid with completely unscientific and mixed results. I have a Vienna on tap right now at 4.6. I might do 2 tests, with phosphoric and lactic acid, taking it down to 4.2 and see what I think.
Lagers are often around that 4.5 mark, so your result isn't out of line. Ales are lower. If you are checking this effect in the glass, then it will be a good experiment. I don't expect that you will need to go that low (4.2) if its a lager, but its worth a check.

If you had a chance to read my article on Bavarian Water in Zymurgy, you will see that I feel that lactic acid is an integral component of Bavarian beers. It's not typically at a level that is overtly notable, but I do think its a favor component.
 

thegreatmaibockaddict

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Suggestion: Try adding a couple of ounces of acidulated malt to the mash. I have been doing this for years without thought, so I can't really say it does this or that, but my pale lagers have a nice crispy snap to them.

Don't think its needed when adding some darker malts such as Munich, but my pils recipe is always enough malt to hit my target gravity, plus 2 oz acidulated....
 
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