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Lactic Acid ph Adjustment/Beersmith ruined my bitter?

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DCUSA

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I recently started paying attention to mash ph and making proactive adjustments with lactic.

I brewed an ordinary bitter 12 days ago, and using Beersmith's calculator to hit 5.20, added 8 ml of 88% lactic to my mash. 5 gallon batch. My ph meter was reading 4.8 after that, but I don't fully trust it because it's cheap and I don't maintain it well.

I read later that day that 1.6 ml/g lactic is controversial at best. The beer fermented fine at 67F to 1.010 and stopped there. I let it rest at 71 for a few days and then cold crashed for a couple more. Kegged it last night and force carbed overnight.

The first few cold samples have been distinctly tangy; more than enough to ruin it for me. I don't know if it's the lactic, if it's still too young, an infection, or if it's somehow the marris otter and EKG playing tricks on my palate. I am pretty obsessive about sanitation. I lid the kettle at flameout and counterflow chill to 68, then gravity fill straight into a thoroughly sanitized fermonster and sealed it immediately. I did wait about 3 more hours to pitch, and I did not love the smell of the active fermentation in my keezer, but the smell of the finished beer is on point.

I brewed virtually the same recipe last year and it was one of the most smooth and enjoyable ales I've ever made.


96% Marris Otter
2.5% Amber
1.5% Black Patent
30 IBU's from 60 minute EKG, 15 minute EKG, and flameout EKG. Modest amounts of hops.
OG 1.042 FG 1.010 SRM 7.7
WLP Dry English
 

VikeMan

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What's your (tap) water profile?
 

Qhrumphf

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What temp are you reading that pH at? 5.2 at mash temp is a good pH. 5.2 at room temp is likely too low.

Additionally, unless your water is highly alkaline that's quite a bit of lactic acid. Even if your water is alkaline enough to require that much acid and your pH itself was good, it could be lactate (the conjugate base of lactic acid, ie what the lactic acid leaves behind). Some people find it desirable in certain circumstances, others do not care for it in any appreciable concentration.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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My initial opinion (given the lack of requisite details) is that (provided you measured your pH reading at room temperature) you may have needed to add closer to ballpark 12-18 mL of 88% Lactic Acid whereby to hit an honest 4.80 pH, with somewhere around 16 mL being my best guess. It is highly unlikely (again, in my opinion) that you actually drove the pH that low with 8 mL of Lactic Acid.

10^-4.80/10^-5.20 = 2.512

Looking at this highly rudimentarily, it would require in the ballpark vicinity of 2.5X more acid to hit pH 4.80 than to hit pH 5.20.
 
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Qhrumphf

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If the OP calculated acid based on room temp measurement, but read it at mash temp, then the measured pH would be lower than expected. You'd know better than I would if the normally referenced 0.2-0.3 shift between mash temp and room temp would change as you get outside of typical mash pH values (common sense says it could but I don't take that on face value). In any event, I also doubt it'd be enough to calculate 5.2 and measure 4.8. But if measurements are less precise that could be at least part of the explanation. Either that, or measurements or calculation (or both) are wrong.

Can't say much without more details.
 

Yooper

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When I first started using acid, I did a little experiment with the taste threshold and my tap water. I had a gallon of water, and added small increments of 88% lactic acid to it until I could taste it. For me, 1 ml per gallon was under the taste threshold but over that and I could get a distinct tang.
Maybe that would work for you for next time?
I switched to phosphoric acid after that, since I can't taste that. But still, I wouldn't overacidify based on Beersmith's terrible water calc, and would recommend a different water calculator. There are two or three that are really good.
 
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DCUSA

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Thanks everyone. For clarity, I was using the BS calculator to estimate acid addition to get from (estimated) 5.65 to (estimated) 5.20.

I was reading ph at mash temp, and it was showing 4.7-4.8. I knew at the time that such a low ph from 8 ml lactic was not plausible, but it reinforced my thinking that 8ml is too much.

For water, I built a balanced profile from distilled.

I spent 5 years brewing good beer without ph adjustments. Maybe an occasional ph strip to see if I was in the ballpark. I will probably go back to zero acid additions, or a couple ounces acid malt on base heavy bills.

Main takeaway I think, is that I got too hung up on 5.2, and BS gives some wildly aggressive acid additions. What about BS mineral additions calc? Should I do all my water stuff in an alternative software? I am new to water chem as well.

I pulled another sample at full carbonation, and it’s more in line with Fullers than I thought. The twang might become less noticeable after more conditioning.
 

VikeMan

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Main takeaway I think, is that I got too hung up on 5.2, and BS gives some wildly aggressive acid additions. What about BS mineral additions calc? Should I do all my water stuff in an alternative software? I am new to water chem as well.
If you're looking for a good one that is also easy to use, I'd recommend MpH. Currently, it's at version 4.2. I would make sure to download that one and not earlier versions.
 

Oginme

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If you're looking for a good one that is also easy to use, I'd recommend MpH. Currently, it's at version 4.2. I would make sure to download that one and not earlier versions.
The MpH model is one of the two which are imbedded in BeerSmith (latest version: 3.1.08). You have the option on the mash tab of using this as the default mash pH model or switching to the Brun water model.
 

VikeMan

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The MpH model is one of the two which are imbedded in BeerSmith (latest version: 3.1.08).
Do you know if it's MpH 4.2 that's embedded? 4.2 is a pretty significant change from the previous version.
 

couchsending

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What yeast did you use? And what temp did you ferment it at.

With RO there’s no way you needed 8ml to get to 5.2 in a 5-6 gallon batch.

Get a better pH meter and learn how to maintain it.
 

Oginme

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Do you know if it's MpH 4.2 that's embedded? 4.2 is a pretty significant change from the previous version.
Running it side-by-side with Mark's spreadsheet it seems to behave the same. Other than that, I cannot say absolutely that it is the 4.2 model.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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No mash pH adjustment assistant spreadsheet or online software can capture all of the inherent wild malt and unmalted grain or adjunct variabilities and intertwined chemical complexities occurring within the mash whereby to "accurately" predict mash pH as measured by factual measurement at the EBC standard # 8.17 of 20 degrees C. ATC will not at all help in this, so you must measure wort at 20 degrees C.. At this juncture we don't even understand the degree to which mineralization will suppress the mash pH, as Kolbach's work from the 1930's (repeated in the 1950's post WW2) is now known to be way off, yet all software (except mine to my knowledge) accepts Kolbach as gospel truth. The degree of pH suppression caused by the presence of calcium within the mash is likely far less than presumed by most software. That is only one major problem among many. To place faith in software to literally peg your mash pH for all cases and situations and recipes and methodologies is akin to believing in the tooth fairy.

A few other problem issues found by applied science as opposed to theory (which are not likely addressed by software):
1) Magnesium may actually disrupt calcium's ability to depress mash pH and hinder it until the boil step
2) Calcium from calcium chloride and Gypsum may not depress mash pH identically
3) Dissociation constants have known "disruptors" which will partially negate their usefulness to math modeling pH within the mash
4) Decoction, step mashing, and single infusion lead to different mash pH results ranging to about as much as 0.3 pH points
5) No one knows the ever changing and decreasing purity of their calcium chloride prills. They can most typically be anywhere from about 95% to 75.5% pure. But they can also be even less pure than 75.5%. And you can't tell by looking at them.
6) Without testing, no one knows the actual phDI's of their malts
7) Without testing, no one knows the actual acidities of their malts
8) We don't even agree as to when a mash pH measurement should be taken, and it makes a huge difference
9) Sodium may depress mash pH to some measure, but software ignores this
10) Malt's calculated buffering capacity may act variably within the mash. Some (likely most) software presumes it to be 100% ideal, and some reduces it internally by a fixed 40%, such that it's impact is seen at the level of 60% (I believe MpH to be in this camp, because DM Riffe is fully to be credited with discovering and attempting to quantify this phenomenon), and some (mine for example) allow the end user to set the percentage of variability for the buffering capacity of the aggregate grist.

Permitting end user variability as to Kolbach's degree of pH suppression caused by calcium and magnesium, and variability as to the impact of the grists buffering capacity upon pH, permits the end user to dial in their software over time whereby to mimic reality for each methodology and recipe. Aside from this, there is again the acceptance of the tooth fairy. Believe at your own risk.
 
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DCUSA

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What yeast did you use? And what temp did you ferment it at.

With RO there’s no way you needed 8ml to get to 5.2 in a 5-6 gallon batch.

Get a better pH meter and learn how to maintain it.
WLP Dry English Ale. 66 ferment in keezer (measured by tilt). Warmed to 70-71 for a 3 days at the end of primary.
 
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DCUSA

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Update, about 2 weeks after original post. Keg conditioning seems to have helped a lot. Maybe I'll call it the malt and hops flavors balancing out over time It seems to be closer to the mark. Bready, toffee flavor that I really wanted, with the ekg hop bitterness meshing better overall. I'm also wondering if my brain really wants to like ekg pale ales but in reality I do not. I did a 19th century ekg ipa I did a couple years ago did not live up to expectations.

I also let the serving temp rise from about 36 to 42. The frigid version of this beer may have been muting the malt character.

Maybe I'm just used to all of my american pales tasting great from the keg 10-14 days after brew day.

All in all, not one of my best beers, but it's bordering on enjoyable now. I'm quitting lactic acid additions in favor of small amounts of acid malt.
 
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