high pH & high titratable acidity

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

dlutter

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 7, 2011
Messages
123
Reaction score
35
Location
Wamego, KS
My question is: What should I do with this melomel that has a high pH and high TA?


Background info:
I have a blackberry melomel that I am making for my wedding in May. This is my 3rd or 4th batch of mead but the 1st where I am trying to do everything correctly.

I made it in mid-Oct, transferred to secondary in mid-Nov. Three days ago, I added campden tabs and ascorbic acid per the instructions(but 3 weeks later than instructed bc I mis-read them). The mead tastes pretty good. It is dry and a little tart in the finish.

FG: 0.994
pH on a dipstick: around 5-6 (I don't have a pH meter)

The next step said to test and adjust titratable acidity. I'm not sure I read the kit correctly but it started changing color around 0.6% and I called it finished at around 0.8-0.9%. Maybe it was finished below 0.8 and I didn't notice but I think that is unlikely.

Both pH and TA seem way too high. I have read this could lead to spoilage issues??? it is possible the ph strips are invalid (several years old). The TA kit is brand new.

Since it tastes ok, should I leave it alone or try to adjust something? The two suggestions I found online are either back-sweeten to around 1.010-1.020 or to adjust pH with phosphoric acid.

I only have 3 gal, so I can't do a lot of batch splitting to try things out and I would like to keep some of this for future consumption. I plan to bottle it after the Christmas holiday if I decide to leave it alone.

Any help or general advice on mead making is appreciated.
 

bernardsmith

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2012
Messages
5,344
Reaction score
1,805
Location
Saratoga Springs
Hi dlutter. Others may chime in with a very different response but this is mine. A concern about pH is to address two very different issues. The first is if the pH is too low. That will affect the action of the yeast. But your mead has fully fermented so that issue is completely moot.
There is never (for all intents and purposes) a problem with too high a pH unless you are talking about the likelihood of spoilage (acidity inhibits bacterial growth)... and that leads me to the second issue. To inhibit oxidation you age a wine or mead with K-meta. Technically, there is a need to know the pH in order to know precisely how much free sulfur a wine needs but if you are adding say, Campden tablets (1 per gallon) and not K-meta solution then you will be in the ball-park and again, the issue of pH is largely moot (the higher the pH - ie the more alkaline the wine - the more sulfur dioxide is needed to prevent oxidation).

TA is different. TA is about how the wine tastes. If TA is too low the wine will taste flabby and dull. If it is too high it will taste too tart. You can certainly measure the TA and make adjustments but (IMO) unless you are a commercial winemaker and you want to make each batch of a particular wine or mead taste very similar to any other batch with the same brand name then your interest is simply in determining whether THIS batch has enough "zing" to make the mead or wine a pleasure to drink. You said "it tastes ok"... OK. So what is there to adjust? True, typically, you might want to aim for a lower TA (around say 0.65 - .07%) but if you work to lower the TA you will raise the pH (and so make your wine more alkaline). TA and pH work in opposite directions

Bottom line - if you and some friends with good palates think that this mead is fine then leave well alone and if you are concerned about bacterial spoilage then assuming that we are talking about a mead with - what ? an ABV of 10 -14% ABV? I would think the risk of spoilage is insignificantly small. If what you made is a hydromel (an ABV of about 5 or 6% then I might store this in your refrigerator
Oh... and congratulations on your upcoming marriage.:mug:
 

bmwr75

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2014
Messages
106
Reaction score
14
The addition of ascorbic acid contributed to the tart taste you are experiencing. Might should have tasted it before you added the acid to see if the addition was needed.
 
OP
dlutter

dlutter

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 7, 2011
Messages
123
Reaction score
35
Location
Wamego, KS
Thank you, both.

bernardsmith, That explanation of pH and TA was very helpful. I also found your reply in this thread very helpful: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=581418 I forgot to measure OG but I was shooting for a mead rather than a hydromel. Friends with refined palates are on short supply around here so I will just have to trust my own palate.

bmwr75, I thought it was maybe the ascorbic acid giving the tart taste. I did taste it several weeks ago, prior to the ascorbic addition and it was not tart. It was pretty bland, as well. I think the tartness actually helps it out.

Sound like I should leave things alone. Thanks again
 

bmwr75

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2014
Messages
106
Reaction score
14
TA usually stands for Total Alkalinity, not total acidity. A liquid is alkaline if the pH is >7, it is acidic if the pH is <7.
 

bernardsmith

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2012
Messages
5,344
Reaction score
1,805
Location
Saratoga Springs
TA usually stands for Total Alkalinity, not total acidity. A liquid is alkaline if the pH is >7, it is acidic if the pH is <7.
I think TA in wine making is the abbreviation for "titratable acidity" - and I would suggest that the proof of that is that a pH of 8.2 is what you look for when you add (AKA titrate) Sodium Hydroxide (a base , or alkali) to your wine to measure the point when the amount of the base you are adding neutralizes the acidity of the wine. (This is the same point when the color of a color indicator changes). This is not the same as the pH which measures the strength of an acid. TA measures the amount of the acid present (not its strength)- A high TA can mean a low pH. The one caveat is that coincidentally, TA is typically a measure of the tartaric acid present (because most wine made commercially is made from grapes and the main acid in a grape is tartaric, but cider makers make their ciders from apples and malic is the key acid in an apple while other fruits may have other acids, eg citric so wine makers often loosely think of TA as being not "titratable acidity" but "tartaric acid". To determine the amounts of other acids present you need to a) know the main acids in the fruit you are fermenting and b) use a conversion factor because tartaric is stronger than malic and malic is stronger than citric
 

Masbustelo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2015
Messages
72
Reaction score
11
All of the above is very good, what has been said. But you are shooting in the dark without a pH meter. You are guessing because the strips you have are so inexact as to be practically useless. Also with a pH meter you can run accurate TA testing.
 

bernardsmith

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2012
Messages
5,344
Reaction score
1,805
Location
Saratoga Springs
All of the above is very good, what has been said. But you are shooting in the dark without a pH meter. You are guessing because the strips you have are so inexact as to be practically useless. Also with a pH meter you can run accurate TA testing.
But simply having a pH meter does not necessarily mean that you are likely to be more accurate or that your readings are going to be more reliable. You need to maintain the meter and frequently calibrate it... So you might be relying on an instrument that is fundamentally as inexact as those strips...
 

Masbustelo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2015
Messages
72
Reaction score
11
Maintaining a pH meter is quite simple, inexpensive and easy to calibrate. Assuming the meter is calculated correctly they are a thousand times more accurate than the test strips.
 

bmwr75

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2014
Messages
106
Reaction score
14
I stand corrected on how the abbreviation TA is used in the wine industry. Learn something new every day. My background is chemical engineering, so was putting forth how the TA abbreviation was used in the Bayer process to refine alumina from bauxite.
 
Top