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Mash Water pH

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Hermit

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I admit the science of how PH is measured isn't my area of expertise. That said, I do know that when it comes to brewing, it's the PH of my mash AS IT'S TAKING PLACE that is important. Personally, I don't even measure it. I take experts advice and use my water parameters and grain bill to estimate it. Since adopting this practice my efficiency, and most importantly my beer, has been excellent.
I enjoy learning about beer, but I have to draw the line when someone is trying to dissect something down to a level that can't possibly help me make better beer. I guess my final thought is, WHO CARES!!!
Yet you come here taking issue with the procedures by those that have done extensive research?
 

ajdelange

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If I needed laboratory grade equipment to test each phase of my brewing process to make good beer, I'd quit brewing yesterday.
i don't recall anyone making that assertion.

Fortunately I happen to know that measuring details down to the micrometer level doesn't make beer taste good.
For a guy that's read 6 HB books you seem to know an awful lot. And in measuring beer color and bitterness we measure to the nanometer (wavelength).

I'm sure MIT grad students could analyze my Grandma's apple pie, but I doubt they could make it taste better.
You may be right about MIT because AFAIK they don't have a food sciences dept. but there is little doubt in my mind that a uni that does have one (UCD?) or the CIA (the one in Kingston - not the one in Langley) could.


Also, what's the use of all this hair splitting when most home brewers are cutting with an axe anyway?
There are many ways to enjoy this hobby. For some just getting blasted on something they put together is sufficient. Others of us want to understand the process as fully as we can. It has been pointed out that this is the Brew Science thread.

Are you guys professionals or something?
I don't know about pro's but some of us advise pro's or write for their journals or have them as customers. Others are acquainted with pros through brewing clubs, professional relations, local beer promotion organizations etc.

What happened to RDWHAHB??
I assume that one of the books was NCJHB.
 

Kaiser

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Let me chime in here as well.

Regarding pH and temperature, I don’t care about the actual pH at mash temp. When brewers try to figure out the benefits of different mash pH environments they make a bunch of mashes with different pH environments. They then test the room temp mash pH and plot whatever characteristic they are looking for over these pH values. Based on that they then decide on a desirable mash pH target. In the end it doesn’t matter if the actual pH at mash temp was 0.1 pH lower or 1.0 pH lower. As long as we test pH the same way it was tested when the optimal pH range was established we are fine.

Unfortunately John Palmers How To Brew didn’t see it like this and brewers latched onto the idea of mash temp pH, room temp pH and the ominous 0.35 pH difference.

You may want to read these articles on the topic of mash pH:

http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=How_pH_affects_brewing
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Starch_Conversion#pH_and_brewing_water

The first one also touches on why mash pH control is important and that it does more than just increase your efficiency. Mash pH control is not guaranteed to make your beer better nor should the “optimal” mash pH range be seen as a dogma. But it’s a starting point that works for most brewers.

Kai
 

ajdelange

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The point was made earlier by mmonacel that saccharification usually finishes pretty quickly, maybe 20 minutes or so after temperature is reached. I've read this before, and I'm guessing that is true. It seems to have been in my brewing anyway.

If we have to cool the mash liquor sample down to room temperature to get an accurate pH reading in order to adjust mash pH, how would one go about measuring and adjusting it in such a short window of time? I can hardly cool down my sample in that time.

Is there a good method to dealing with this?
The only really good way of dealing with this is to not have to adjust and that means getting it right out of the gate. This can be tough for someone just starting out but with experience you will eventually be able to hit it pretty closely. Before that point a spreadsheet can be of help and, above all unless you are really pressed for time, a test mash i.e. a pound of the grist heated to strike temperature to which water treated as intended for mashing. Wait a few minutes and then check pH with a meter. If it is not right add acid or base, wait and check again repeating as necessary

The scaled amount from the test mash should get you pretty close in the actual mash. If you are only off a little don't worry about it but make an adjustment the next time you brew.

If you do adjust in the mash be aware that being off a tenth or even 0.3 isn't going to be enough to denature the enzymes. Just get it back to where you want it to be and hold there.
 

PistolsAtDawn

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The only really good way of dealing with this is to not have to adjust and that means getting it right out of the gate. This can be tough for someone just starting out but with experience you will eventually be able to hit it pretty closely. Before that point a spreadsheet can be of help and, above all unless you are really pressed for time, a test mash i.e. a pound of the grist heated to strike temperature to which water treated as intended for mashing. Wait a few minutes and then check pH with a meter. If it is not right add acid or base, wait and check again repeating as necessary

The scaled amount from the test mash should get you pretty close in the actual mash. If you are only off a little don't worry about it but make an adjustment the next time you brew.

If you do adjust in the mash be aware that being off a tenth or even 0.3 isn't going to be enough to denature the enzymes. Just get it back to where you want it to be and hold there.
I figured that you would say something of that nature. Thank you for the reply, my good sir! :mug:

EDIT: Oh, hey! I see on your AHA page (here) that you have Leonbergers! I have one named Brutis, and he's about 11 years old if you can believe it. I don't think I've ever met a dog who has more personality than Brutis, nor one that causes as many inquiries from random folks as to his breed.
 

BrewKnurd

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I take experts advice and use my water parameters and grain bill to estimate it. Since adopting this practice my efficiency, and most importantly my beer, has been excellent.
Then should I point out that it is precisely one of these experts (AJ) that you have been arguing with to no end about this? :p
 

Kaiser

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I like the idea of being able to predict mash pH and necessary adjustments w/o having to do test mashes.

When I brew I’m usually doing lots of other tasks and I really don’t want to spend time adjusting mash pH. Ideally I’d like to skip mash pH measurements completely and have done that on a number few beers. Especially when I have brewed them before and still have the same bag of base malt at hand. I rather predict the mash pH of my planned grist and water treatments and then test only once to check if the prediction was close enough.

A test mash allows you to account for variations of malt pH characteristics that are difficult to predict from just color. But even that can be accounted for by actually testing the malt in a single test mash (with distilled water) and using the result as an input to the mash pH predictor. That works well for brewers who buy their malt in bulk.

As an example. Last weekend I brewed a Maibock using Best Vienna and Weyermann Munich II. The Vienna has a DI water pH of 5.8 but based on its color it should be closer to 5.5. This stumped me when I used malt from this bag the first time (http://braukaiser.com/blog/blog/2011/03/30/vienna-malt-mash-ph-surprise/). This is one of the reasons why I added DI water pH entry to the Brewer’s Friend mash chemistry calculator. Based on my knowledge of the “out of line” Vienna DI water pH I was able to predict that I needed about 2% acid malt in the grist as opposed to not needing any acid malt. The predicted mash pH was 5.55 and measured a mash pH of 5.51. This was a decocted beer and I was aiming for a higher mash pH.

I have seen other brewers test DI water mash pH for their grain and I’m encouraged by that development since this allows us to get around the color based prediction that is not correlating all that well.

What I’m also saying is that if you use a mash pH predictor to design your water and mash treatments you are basically basing your decisions on the many test mashes I have done to develop the model that predicts the mash pH. You should also understand that it is only a prediction. Over time you’ll be able to judge how well this prediction works for you and you either gain or lose confidence in it.

Kai
 

ColoHox

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I'm no expert, but have read at least 6 home brewing books
I would think in at least one of those books you would have noted that it is written at pH and not PH.

Also, I dont think most people appreciate the true difference in pH values. The pH scale is logarithmic so a pH of 5 is 10 times more acidic than pH of 6, for example.
 

HopinJim

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Yes, there is a simpler way and that's not to do any calculations at all. The basics are set forth in the Primer in the Stickies. The general idea is that you get the alkalinity out of the water by diluting it with RO to the point that the alkalinity is no longer significant or that you use 100% RO water. You then, based on the type of beer, use a specified amount of sauermalz (acidulated malt) usually 1 - 3% on the assumption that base malt will, with low ion water, come to a pH of about 5.7 and that you want to be about 0.3 lower than that. If you use darker malts you use less sauermalz up to light gravity stouts where you use no sauermalz. Heavier stouts: you are on your own. These may require that you add alkalinity.

This approach will usually get you a good beer. It's more or less the way people brewed in the days before they had computers and it's the way I brew now but I have done thousands of spreadsheet calculations and have the benefits of that experience.

A better approach is to take the grist you propose to use, put a pound of it in a pot with 3 pints of water, heat to strike temp and measure the pH with a good meter. Now add acid or base until the desired pH is reached. It takes a fine hand and you may overshoot. If you do start over until you get the hang of it. Keep track of the total acid required and scale that from 1 pound of grist to your full batch size. You are measuring the 'alkalinity of the mash.
Ok, so I'm a noobie here, so let me get this straight. Is there anything wrong with me taking the EZ-Water spreadsheet, inputting my local water profile and my grain bill, then just adjusting the projected pH using Acid Malt (1-3%) to bring me close to the desired pH? Will the low level of Acid Malt affect the flavor or color of my beer that much? BTW, my local water is really low on ions...in fact a head brewer at one of the local craft breweries lives here, and said that no treatment was necessary for extract, but to filter out the chlorine if doing all grain. I didn't ask him about making any other adjustments...
 

BrewKnurd

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Ok, so I'm a noobie here, so let me get this straight. Is there anything wrong with me taking the EZ-Water spreadsheet, inputting my local water profile and my grain bill, then just adjusting the projected pH using Acid Malt (1-3%) to bring me close to the desired pH? Will the low level of Acid Malt affect the flavor or color of my beer that much? BTW, my local water is really low on ions...in fact a head brewer at one of the local craft breweries lives here, and said that no treatment was necessary for extract, but to filter out the chlorine if doing all grain. I didn't ask him about making any other adjustments...
The caveat with this (and the reason AJ recommends a test mash) is that a good number of assumptions going into it. It assumes your water profile information is correct, that the pH impact of the grains is correct, etc. Spreadsheets are based on approximations and generalizations, and then of course are only as good as the information that is put into them.

None of which is to say don't use a spreadsheet, I use Martin's all the time. But understand that the spreadsheet cannot perfectly predict things, particularly when water sources, grain suppliers, etc are changing. So I check my pH of every mash, and use my results to make changes to how i adjust the water in the first place. For instance, I was finding my pH was coming in repeatedly higher than predicted. I assume my actual water is higher alkalinity now that in was when the water report was done. So I just bumped up the alkalinity input of my water until i got results that were consistent. Perfect? Not at all, but its worked for me. :p
 

Spartan1979

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Ok, so I'm a noobie here, so let me get this straight. Is there anything wrong with me taking the EZ-Water spreadsheet, inputting my local water profile and my grain bill, then just adjusting the projected pH using Acid Malt (1-3%) to bring me close to the desired pH? Will the low level of Acid Malt affect the flavor or color of my beer that much? BTW, my local water is really low on ions...in fact a head brewer at one of the local craft breweries lives here, and said that no treatment was necessary for extract, but to filter out the chlorine if doing all grain. I didn't ask him about making any other adjustments...
That's basically what I do. I've learned that, for me and my water, EZ-water is about 0.2 higher than what I actually get, so I keep that in mind. I also use acid malt to adjust my pH, the only time I noticed any real flavor effect was in a wheat beer and it the slight sourness actually tasted pretty good. I usually only add an ounce or two for 5 gallons.
 

eric19312

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So I've been working with the new calculator on brewer's friend. Way cool thanks Kai!

I'm brewing an American amber ale. Put in my grist and water. Set water target to balanced 1. Added a bit of salts to get water dialed in. Ended up with predicted pH of 5.4.

I have some lactic acid and see 2.5 ml would get me to 5.3, and 4 ml would get me close to 5.2.

I don't have a pH meter or strips yet.

Based on these calculations alone should I use the lactic acid or leave it out? If so how much? This is a 5 gal batch so probably below taste threshold...
 

ajdelange

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I'd try some of the other calculators to get an idea of what the pH prediction spread might be. Intuition tells me that some acid will be required even though you clearly have some colored malt but I'd go with a minimal amount to be on the safe side. pH 5.4 is fine but I'm a bit skeptical that you will actually be at 5.4. Not saying you won't be though.
 

eric19312

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I'd try some of the other calculators to get an idea of what the pH prediction spread might be. Intuition tells me that some acid will be required even though you clearly have some colored malt but I'd go with a minimal amount to be on the safe side. pH 5.4 is fine but I'm a bit skeptical that you will actually be at 5.4. Not saying you won't be though.
Thanks for the suggestion. Sorry for the longish post but now I'm even more confused about whether to add the lactic.

I re-looked up my water profile and found the city updated recently so used the new numbers. Ended up slightly changing my salt additions after checking out Bru'n Water who kindly provided a profile for a balanced amber. Ended up adding
4g Gypsum
2g Epsom salt
2g NaCl
3g CaCl

to get from source water -> finished water
Ca 6.7 -> 61
Mg 1 -> 7
Na 4.8 -> 29
SO4 ND (0) -> 94
Cl 5.6 -> 88
Bicarb 28 -> 28

Grist is 11lb base (MO), 8oz melanoidin 23L, 8oz crystal 120, 2oz chocolate 350L

For each calculator I looked at adding the salts to the mash only (option 1) vs. to the full water quantity (option 2).

Brewer's Friend
Option 1, pH 5.49
Option 2, pH 5.56

Bru'n Water
Option 1, pH 5.1
Option 2, pH 5.1

Ez water calculator
Option 1, pH 5.64
Option 2, pH 5.68

Now what? Bru'n Water is an impressive calculator with lots more inputs than the other calculators and it suggests I should add some baking soda...

The other two calculators are more in agreement so I am sort of inclined to believe them.

If anyone wants to check my math or my reading of my water report, here is a link to the report: http://65.36.213.246/dwqr2012/wellFiles/Distribution Area 14.pdf
 

mabrungard

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Now what? Bru'n Water is an impressive calculator with lots more inputs than the other calculators and it suggests I should add some baking soda...

The other two calculators are more in agreement so I am sort of inclined to believe them.

If anyone wants to check my math or my reading of my water report, here is a link to the report: http://65.36.213.246/dwqr2012/wellFiles/Distribution Area 14.pdf
Well the best way would be to have a calibrated pH meter at the ready, and then add all the minerals excepting the baking soda. Check the mash pH about 5 minutes after you've mixed the mash well or recirculated. If the pH is too low, add the baking soda. Its better for the mash pH to be too low than too high. My experience shows that you'll need the alkalinity, but its easy to evaluate that if you have a measurement tool!

By the way, I've been cautious in adding alkalinity too. The method above is how I initially approached this problem. I've been amazed that Bru'n Water was right every time that it said alkalinity was needed. Since I already had the calculation, adding the alkalinity mineral (lime) was ready and waiting.
 

ajdelange

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I wish I could tell you that one of those is better than the others but I can't. I can tell you that all 3 authors put a lot of time and work into those spreadheets and they represent the best understanding those guys have. In this case it really turns on the titratable acidity of the dark malts. If your dark malts are more acidic that what a particular spreadsheet uses as a model for that malt your pH will be lower and conversely. I can say that the impression I have gotten here (and this is not anything more than an impression based on peoples' comments) is that Bru'n water tends to estimate low and EZ high. Friend is too new but I note here that it splits the difference more or less. Were I you I guess I would go without acid and without alkali but I would get a pH meter in hand as soon as possible. Your'e driving at night with sunglasses on if you don't.
 

eric19312

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Appreciate the advice. Too bad, heard Kai's interview on Home Brew Radio recently and was hoping that using a calculator would avoid need to get a pH meter. He didn't say that but it was what I was hoping for.

pH may be a project for the future, it is not like I was actually having a problem before I started tinkering with it...
 

Kaiser

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I would brew the recipe as you planned. Either option should work.

Without being able to measure mash pH you can't really tweak mash pH unless you are willing to brew the beer multiple times with different acid additions.

I think your actual mash pH will be around 5.4, +/-0.1 to be conservative, based on similar recipes I brewed.

Kai
 
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