My house water PH is 5.2

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acefaser

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Ugh. I don't know what the heck is going on with my water. I don't have a PH meter yet (one is coming in the mail). I sent for a Ward Labs report a few weeks ago and this was the result:

PH 7.9
NA 9
CA 9
MG 1
SO4-S 2
CL 4
Hardness CaCO3 27
Bicarbonate HCO3 38
Alclinity CaCO3 31

Brewing yesterday my PH was really low and I thought I just screwed up my acid malt additions until I tested the water again today. Its showing PH 5.0-5.3 on the strips.
What can I do to fix this when I brew? I used the ezwater3.0 calculator to add salts, however now I dont know how accurate my water profile is if it changes that much in a month.
 

Zen_Brew

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Wait until the meter comes before you rack your brain too much. That PH sounds much to low for public water. Many factors can affect the accuracy of strips. The meter should give you a much more reliable reading. Hopefully you picked up some of the cal solutions as well. Then you know you are in the correct ballpark when you use the meter.
 

ajdelange

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It is possible to have water at a pH that low if it comes from a well but that is pretty low (even for a well) and given the Ward Labs report I doubt that it is really that low. But even if it were that wouldn't be a problem! The water is of low alkalinity and that translates to low buffering capacity and that translates to small influence on the pH of the mash. My advice is throw away the test strips and learn how to use that pH meter properly. And remember that it isn't the pH of the water that counts. It's the pH of the mash.

[Edit] And forget the advice in #3. That product does not work as advertised.
 

mabrungard

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You're a recipient of Rocky Mtn rainwater. The very low alkalinity of that water is VERY subject to a low pH swing. I'm betting that the current amount of snowmelt is driving down the alkalinity even further than when you had that sample tested originally.

It looks like you can consider your tap water similar to RO water and use the recommendations of the Primer.

You are fortunate, but you will need to learn to employ an alkaline mineral to control mash pH drop for some beers.

Enjoy!
 
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acefaser

acefaser

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Thanks for all the replies.
This all started because I saw a home test kit at Home Depot and wanted to run a "Home Test Kit vs Ward Labs" thread posting the results from each. I didn't expect the results to be that far off!
I don't like using the 5.2 buffer because I don't understand it and don't think it works that well. I try to change my water profile by the addition of salts. I know the strips are not that accurate but I would guess the water is close to 5.3 (somehow the bottom picture makes it look like 5.4 but its a little lighter). I have tried multiple strips and even used the home test kit from Home Depot.
Here is the Home Depot home test kit:



Here is the PH strips from the local brew store:

 

ajdelange

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I would guess the water is close to 5.3
That's very unlikely. For water with about the alkalinity level you report to have a pH of 5.3 would require it to be at equilibrium with about 0.15 atmospheres of CO2. The actual CO2 content of the air is about 0.0003 atmospheres. The only way your water pH could be that low would be if someone had dissolved acid in it. If it is runoff rainwater or snow melt that someone could be the collective citizenry with their sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions but your water authority would do something about that because the water's saturation index at pH 5.3 would be -3.66 i.e. quite corrosive to the distribution mains and your water authority would add alkali to bring the SI up closer to 0. The saturation pH is 8.96 and they probably wouldn't take it that high (higher than WHO recommendation) but 7.9, as indicated in the Ward Labs report is reasonable. Just hypothecating based on the given information.
 

ajdelange

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I know the strips are not that accurate but I would guess the water is close to 5.3 (somehow the bottom picture makes it look like 5.4 but its a little lighter). I have tried multiple strips and even used the home test kit from Home Depot.

Here is the PH strips from the local brew store:


I just remembered a trick I came up with when Kai asked me to participate in an experiment in which he measured samples with a meter, dipped test strips and sent off photos like yours to various people in the hopes that he'd get an idea as to how variable the readings would be. I'm color blind and so didn't think I'd be able to help but then remembered that most modern computers come with a utility that reads off the color of any pixel you put the cursor over. For your photo the green channel is the most sensitive to pH change as shown on the legend. Interpolating the green reading for the strip between the green readings of the 5.0 and 5.4 legend chips we find the pH of the strip to be 5.14. Doing it with the red channel we get 5.2 and, this is most interesting, the blue value for the strip isn't between the 5.0 and 5.4 patch values. The strip is much bluer. IOW the color of the strip isn't between the chip colors and it is no wonder that it is hard to make a determination even if you have normal color visions. This should lend some perspective on the value of strips.
 
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acefaser

acefaser

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Ok I got my PH meter and have been testing the water again. I have found the PH to be about 8.0 and that is the same as the Ward Labs report. My guess is that the PH strips were only for range 4.6 to 6.4 and using the strip in a solution that was so far out of range caused it to become a color that actually matched the color chart. Does this make sense? However I don't know why the house test strips were so far off. I guess the strips are just not worth dealing with.

Now, I got PH buffer solutions 4.0 and 7.0 and have been calibrating my PH meter. I am having problems with the PH meter being off when I return to the previous solution. I first calibrate it in the 7.0 solution, rinse it off then calibrate it in the 4.0 solution. When I recheck the 7.0 is is off by .5 PH reading about 7.5. It happens the exact opposite going the other way calibrating it using the 4.0 solution first. 7.0 is good and the 4.0 becomes about .5 off. Can one of the solutions be off? I hope its not the meter.
 

ajdelange

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Ok I got my PH meter and have been testing the water again. I have found the PH to be about 8.0 and that is the same as the Ward Labs report. My guess is that the PH strips were only for range 4.6 to 6.4 and using the strip in a solution that was so far out of range caused it to become a color that actually matched the color chart. Does this make sense?
Yes, I'm sure that's it. Remember that I noted that the color of the strip was not actually between two colors on the legend (more blue than the legend patches).

However I don't know why the house test strips were so far off. I guess the strips are just not worth dealing with.
Yes, that's pretty much true from what I can tell.

Now, I got PH buffer solutions 4.0 and 7.0 and have been calibrating my PH meter. I am having problems with the PH meter being off when I return to the previous solution. I first calibrate it in the 7.0 solution, rinse it off then calibrate it in the 4.0 solution. When I recheck the 7.0 is is off by .5 PH reading about 7.5. It happens the exact opposite going the other way calibrating it using the 4.0 solution first. 7.0 is good and the 4.0 becomes about .5 off. Can one of the solutions be off? I hope its not the meter.
Something is not kosher here. It is characteristic of inexpensive meters that they drift but 0.05 is more reasonable than 0.5. I'd suggest carefully re-reading the instructions and going through the calibration again with fresh buffers. I've cut and pasted some detailed instructions below. Try to follow those as closely as you can consistent with the instructions furnished by your meter's manufacturer. Try to do everything at close to the same temperature.

1. Store the electrode in a storage solution recommended by the manufacturer. This will often be a saturated or nearly saturated solution of potassium chloride.

2. Prepare fresh 4 and 7 buffer solutions using deionized water. Several manufacturers sell capsules of powder which contain the buffers’ chemical components. These are simply added to a specified amount of DI water (50 or 100 mL) just before use. Premixed buffers are also sold in sealed packages (similar to the ketchup packages from fast food restaurants). These work as well as the buffers one mixes on the spot and are obviously more convenient but tend to be, because of the packaging, more expensive. Premixed buffers are also sold in bulk i.e. 1 L bottles or 4 L jugs or cubitainers. If buffers in this form are being used check that they are not beyond their expiration dates and pour small amounts of each into a clean beaker or preferrably, sealed container, at the beginning of each brew day. Do not return used buffer to the bulk storage.

3. Remove the storage cap from the electrode. If the electrode is the refillable type, insure that it contains adequate fill solution, top up if neecessary and, whether you top up or not open the fill hole so air can enter the electrode body allowing fill solution to freely flow out through the reference junction.

4. Rinse the electrode with a stream of DI water from a wash bottle. Blot dry with clean tissue or paper towel. Don’t touch the actual electrode bulb when you do this. You don’t need to get all the adhering water, just the bulk of it. Wicking of water into the paper is adequate.

5. Turn the meter on, allow it to stabilize for a few minutes, and then lower the electrode into the first buffer solution. With most modern meters it does not matter which one you go into first as these meters have automatic buffer recognition. Following the manufacturer’s instructions put the meter in calibration mode and initiate calibration if necessary (e.g. press the ‘read’ or ‘Cal’ button).Move the electrode around in the buffer a little to rinse any adhering DI water off the bulb and away from the reference junction.
Wait until the reading stabilizes. Modern instruments tend to have stability indicators which beep or otherwise alert the operator when the reading is stable (hasn’t changed by more than a threshold amount in a given period of time). These often also instruct the operator to move on to the next buffer when stability is detected. In others you may have to determine when the reading is stable yourself and indicate this to the meter by pressing a button. Follow the manufacturers instructions and/or prompts on the meter’s display.

6. When instructed to move to the second buffer, remove the electrode from the first buffer, shake adhering buffer off and rinse with a stream DI water. Blot away as above and insert the electrode in the second buffer. Move electrode around in second buffer.

7. When the second reading is stable, take whatever action is necessary to complete the measurement as above. In some meters there will be an option for a third buffer. In those meters you will have to do something (e.g. press an ‘exit’ button) to indicate to the meter that calibration is complete with 2 buffers.

8. The instrument will now calculate the calibration parameters (slope and offset) and, in some cases, display these to you in the case of slope either as a percentage (should be near 100) or a number like 57.3 which is the number of millivolts change per unit change in pH at some reference temperature. The offset will be a millivolt number which should be small i.e. a few millivolts (it can be negative). If the meter presents those numbers, write them in your log book. They represent a record of the rate at which your electrode is aging. Fancy meters will automatically store the calibration data, tagged with time and date, in the meter’s memory.

9. Take whatever action is necessary to indicate that the calibration to be accepted (e.g. press a ‘store’ or other button).

10. Remove the electrode from the second buffer. Shake, rinse and blot as before.

11. Place in sample.
 
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