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IPA style pH impact

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cani0501

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I've been brewing for quite a while and I just wanted a little input from the community on what I might be doing WRONG in terms of my IPAs. I've brewed some really great IPA's that rival some of the better IPA's (NEIPAS, West Coast) that I've had touring the country. From some fantastic IPAs out of Fort George in Oregon, to the staples from Hill Farmstead, FOAM, TH and Trillium I've enjoyed quite a few but I digress.

The issue I'm having, is that my IPA's lack that "commercial" shine to them (in terms of flavor). Color=Spot On, Haze=Spot On (in the NEIPAS), Mouthfeel=Spot On, Hop Flavor/Aroma=lacking. There are off flavors I can't really describe (along the lines of pure lack of fruitiness/aroma) that the hops describe. My sanitation practices are very good. I have many vessels I brew on. A traditional grainfather, a G70 grainfather, and a 10 gal Electric Brewing system I build (3 vessel)-strong boil, great hot break, efficient chilling on all systems. I have SS fermentors all with temp control and glycol chilled to dial in the ferm temps and cold crash. I keg the brews, and fully purge the kegs of O2 by filling with starsan, then emptying with c02.

The one thing that I'm not great on...and the topic of this discussion...is pH control in ALL aspects of the brewing process. I use brewers friend to calculate the estimated pH of the mash, and put it somewhere between 5.2 and 5.4 (usually around 5.3 to give a margin of error, knowing that if it's off, it will be hopefully within the range).

I don't adjust the knockout pH nor do I generally check it. I've heard that some of the more successful breweries adjust the knockout to 4.6 but before I go to try this method I wanted some input from other brewers who have had success with post-boil pH adjustments and it's impact on hop flavors and aromas. Even more, maybe people have adjusted the pH after WP hops and adjust the pH on the final wort going into the FV.

I just figure there has to be a 'trick' that the industry (commercial/really great NEIPA/IPA breweries) are doing that. I've heard in the podcast with Equilibrium that they discovered a technique while drinking their beer that altered the game for them and they put into practice with their brews.

Long winded explanation, I know, but any insight would be great.

Thanks!
 

jddevinn

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What is the source of your water? What profile are you adjusting it to?
 
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cani0501

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What is the source of your water? What profile are you adjusting it to?
jddevinn I have a RO system, so my water is 100% RO. I adjust to around 200ppm Cl, and 75-100ppm of SO4 then adjust down if needed to the estimated mash pH with Acidulated. This is when I brew my NEIPA/DIPAS. If I brew West Coast my SO4 is higher, I sometimes omit the Cl. I just measured the pH of my latest DIPA which had12 oz Simcoe DH and 2 oz Simcoe Cryo DH. It was 4.46.
 

jddevinn

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You don't adjust for any other targets? Magnesium? ect? from RO for a typical recipe what are you adding? Any Epsom, Magnesium..
 

Dgallo

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First thing off the top I will say is that this big name breweries you mentioned specifically TH, HF, and Trillium literally get the best hops that the world has to offer, so sometimes you just can’t get there from an quality of ingredients standpoint. That said, I have a few ipas that rival even those brewers.

Ph certainly has an effect on the final quality of the beer. The sweet spot I found is from about 4.3-4.6. Within that range my pallet can’t detect much difference. Also with that said I don’t believe ph is what your issue when it comes to the brightness of the aroma/flavor (ph can effect the perceived flavor however), I have a feeling it has to do with your dryhopping process. Are you dropping yeast out of suspension prior to adding them? And at what temp are you dryhoping at?
 
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cani0501

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You don't adjust for any other targets? Magnesium? ect? from RO for a typical recipe what are you adding? Any Epsom, Magnesium..
Not generally. I have on many of my brews manipulated the sodium and magnesium in the water but have not noticed a large enough contribution to the final beer to make it a regular part of my process.
 
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cani0501

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First thing off the top I will say is that this big name breweries you mentioned specifically TH, HF, and Trillium literally get the best hops that the world has to offer, so sometimes you just can’t get there from an quality of ingredients standpoint. That said, I have a few ipas that rival even those brewers.

Ph certainly has an effect on the final quality of the beer. The sweet spot I found is from about 4.3-4.6. Within that range my pallet can’t detect much difference. Also with that said I don’t believe ph is what your issue when it comes to the brightness of the aroma/flavor (ph can effect the perceived flavor however), I have a feeling it has to do with your dryhopping process. Are you dropping yeast out of suspension prior to adding them? And at what temp are you dryhoping at?
I dry hop usually during high krausen, but when I dont and dry hop after fermentation is complete, I do not usually remove the yeast first. Usually usually dh at 68 degrees depending o the recipe.
 

Dgallo

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I dry hop usually during high krausen, but when I dont and dry hop after fermentation is complete, I do not usually remove the yeast first. Usually usually dh at 68 degrees depending o the recipe.
There’s were your process is different than the big NEIPA and WC ipa guys. None of them are dryhoping the majority of their hops during fermentation. Practically all post fermentation and then They will soft crash at to low 50s to drop the yeast out of suspension and removing It. Then they dryhop between 50-60
 
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cani0501

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There’s were your process is different than the big NEIPA and WC ipa guys. None of them are dryhoping the majority of their hops during fermentation. Practically all post fermentation and then They will soft crash at to low 50s to drop the yeast out of suspension and removing It. Then they dryhop between 50-60
Right on. That's great insight. Thank you.
 

couchsending

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As has been said the quality of the hops you have access to sadly aren’t anywhere near what the best breweries in the world are using. Ditch the mid ferm DH. Plenty of breweries DH without soft crashing first but all are definitely removing a significant portion of the flocced yeast before adding hops. Gotta keep O2 pickup to the absolute minimum. Be especially cognizant of purging your lines thoroughly. Hop flavor/aroma is the first thing to go with any o2 pickup.

Do you have a good pH meter? I couldn’t tell by your post.. Calibrated all the time?

pre and post boil pH can have different impacts on the final beer. There are quite a few chemical reactions that happen more or less effectively at different pH values all throughout the brewing process.

You don’t want to adjust KO pH to 4.6. It would take a lot of acid to get there and it would probably be noticeable in the flavor of the finished beer. 5.1-5.0 would be a better target. There are numerous reasons for this and a lot of them are debatable. Yeast will lower pH on its own and some think they get to a certain pH regardless of the pH the wort starts at. Others would say lowering the ph to a certain level can aid in fermentation by doing some of the work for the yeast.

Large DH additions can significantly increase pH. Ideally you want to be below 4.4 at the end of fermentation before adding dry hops and sometimes lower.

Research how pH impacts every aspect of the brewing process. Measure and adjust and see how it impacts your beer. You’ll learn a lot along the way.

Personally with RO water I’m measuring mash pH twice, kettle full pH, pH of collected last runnings, pH at 30, pH before and after WP, and at every gravity sample during fermentation and post DH. It’s rare that I will adjust once the beer is in the fermenter but I’ve done it. Each one of those measurements provides valuable info about how the whole process is coming along and if the necessary reactions are working as they should.

Also try different acids. Lactic, phosphoric, citric, acid blends.. all have different thresholds and different profiles.
 
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cani0501

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Do you have a good pH meter? I couldn’t tell by your post.. Calibrated all the time
I do have a nice Milwaukee pH meter. I did just attempt a low ko pH by adding lactic to 4.7. I then added all my wp hops. I will also do a soft crash today to drop yeast as well as purge all transfer lines prior to transfer per suggestions. I think the beer is great at that lower ko pH.
 
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