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Question about adjusting the pH of my water

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animuL

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I tested the pH of my local tap water and found it to be very basic, about 8.2 pH. I'm brewing some wheat beer and was wondering if it would work to add some fresh lemon juice to the water (prior to mash) to get the pH closer to an ideal level. Also, I read that a mash pH of around 5.2-5.4 is ideal but I dont currently have a way to test mash pH so I'm wondering what pH to get the water to prior to the mash. Thanks for any help you can give!
 

BrewKnurd

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With just a pH reading, there is no way to know what your mash pH is going to be. Water chemistry is way more complicated than that. There are lots of brewing water spreadsheets that can help you calculate things, but you will need a lot more than pH. You'll need ion concentrations of your primary anions and cations as well.

Just curious, how can you measure the tap water pH but you can't measure mash pH?

Oh, and your water isn't really that basic. Mine is in the 8.6-8.8 range ;)
 
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animuL

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Thanks guys. I used my hot tub kit to check the pH which uses chemicals that turn the water yellow which I then compare to a chart. Since the mash isn't clear it won't work. I guess I need to get something to test the mash.
 

BrewKnurd

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Thanks guys. I used my hot tub kit to check the pH which uses chemicals that turn the water yellow which I then compare to a chart. Since the mash isn't clear it won't work. I guess I need to get something to test the mash.
Ha! that would ceratinly explain that. :D
 

ghpeel

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Honestly, I just buy Reverse Osmosis water ($1.50 per 5 gallons) and use the EZ Water Spreadsheet to figure out my minerals based on my grains and the style I'm shooting for. I used to get "chalky" tasting beers (mash pH problems) occasionally, even using that "5.2 pH Buffer" stuff, but now haven't since adopting this RO-based approach.

Municipal water can vary in its composition from week to week depending on a lot of factors, so an annual water report isn't guaranteed to be accurate.

I just twitch a little at the thought of taking what is honestly the hardest part of brewing (IMHO) and adding a variable that you can't possibly control or predict. I know MOST serious homebrewers use their water, so I'm in the minority here, but it irks me still.

I guess once I'm out of things to experiment with, I'll switch to my tap water to see if I can adjust it to make Stouts and Pilsners, but until then it seems like a lot of unnecessary work. Now if you have aspirations of every becoming a pro-brewer, that's different. They HAVE to deal with the local water, so that's a different game.
 

rico567

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Honestly, I just buy Reverse Osmosis water ($1.50 per 5 gallons) and use the EZ Water Spreadsheet to figure out my minerals based on my grains and the style I'm shooting for. I used to get "chalky" tasting beers (mash pH problems) occasionally, even using that "5.2 pH Buffer" stuff, but now haven't since adopting this RO-based approach.

Municipal water can vary in its composition from week to week depending on a lot of factors, so an annual water report isn't guaranteed to be accurate.

I just twitch a little at the thought of taking what is honestly the hardest part of brewing (IMHO) and adding a variable that you can't possibly control or predict. I know MOST serious homebrewers use their water, so I'm in the minority here, but it irks me still.

I guess once I'm out of things to experiment with, I'll switch to my tap water to see if I can adjust it to make Stouts and Pilsners, but until then it seems like a lot of unnecessary work. Now if you have aspirations of every becoming a pro-brewer, that's different. They HAVE to deal with the local water, so that's a different game.
I use RO water, too. Tried to figure out how to get the correct mineral content in water using the Br'un Water thing, and couldn't make heads nor tails of it. This EZ Water thing seems simpler, but even after adding all the ingredients, all it tells me is what my predicted pH is (which is nice to know), but no indication of how much of what mineral to add for a particular beer....
 

rockfish42

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I know MOST serious homebrewers use their water, so I'm in the minority here, but it irks me still.
If it makes you feel better, Gordon Strong multiple time Ninkasi award winner and the highest ranking judge in the BJCP uses RO water for his beers. Trying to create historical profiles or dealing with tap water inconsistency is nuts.
I was blessed with super soft water in San Francisco for years, but the stuff I get out here is only suitable for darker beers without silly amounts of acid addition.
 
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animuL

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Another question I have about my water is that its pretty high in chlorine (~2.0 ppm) so I filled 1 gallon jugs with it and set it out to allow the chlorine to gas off. Its taking longer than I expected, about 3 days now and there still is more than I am comfortable with. Is there a better way? Is the chlorine bad for brewing (Im just assuming it is)??
 

rockfish42

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Another question I have about my water is that its pretty high in chlorine (~2.0 ppm) so I filled 1 gallon jugs with it and set it out to allow the chlorine to gas off. Its taking longer than I expected, about 3 days now and there still is more than I am comfortable with. Is there a better way? Is the chlorine bad for brewing (Im just assuming it is)??
Your water might have chloramines in it, which really don't off gas. You can treat your water with sulfites or filter it with a carbon filter, alternatively just get RO water at the grocery store and add back reasonable amounts of minerals per the Brewing Science section's water chemistry primer.
 

sweetcell

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Honestly, I just buy Reverse Osmosis water ($1.50 per 5 gallons)
mind if i ask where you are buying RO @ $1.50/5 gal? at that price i'd definitely sign up for this switch.

what is the pH of RO - 7.0?

and i assume you would have to add minerals back to the water? or does yeast nutrient fill this gap?

Another question I have about my water is that its pretty high in chlorine (~2.0 ppm) so I filled 1 gallon jugs with it and set it out to allow the chlorine to gas off. Its taking longer than I expected, about 3 days now and there still is more than I am comfortable with. Is there a better way? Is the chlorine bad for brewing (Im just assuming it is)??
it is bad. easy way to remove: Camden tablets.
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/do-campden-tablets-de-chlorinate-water-59467/
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/campden-chlorine-66937/
 

stubbornman

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RO water is about 30 cents a gallon at Whole Foods and may be a few cents less at the WalMart Culligan water filling station...
 

BigEd

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I tested the pH of my local tap water and found it to be very basic, about 8.2 pH. I'm brewing some wheat beer and was wondering if it would work to add some fresh lemon juice to the water (prior to mash) to get the pH closer to an ideal level. Also, I read that a mash pH of around 5.2-5.4 is ideal but I dont currently have a way to test mash pH so I'm wondering what pH to get the water to prior to the mash. Thanks for any help you can give!
Forget the pH of the water, it is the mash pH that is important. Please do yourself a favor and read the sticky posts in the Brew Science section on brewing water and adjustments to same. pH test papers are cheap and while they may not be as accurate as a meter they are at least a good start to being able to measure your mash pH. There are also many threads in that section and at least one is sure to describe a similar situation to yours. :mug:
 

SouthBay

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+1 to RO with mineral additions. In the grand scheme of things, a few dollars for water that you can rely on is totally worth it.
 

ghpeel

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I use RO water, too. Tried to figure out how to get the correct mineral content in water using the Br'un Water thing, and couldn't make heads nor tails of it. This EZ Water thing seems simpler, but even after adding all the ingredients, all it tells me is what my predicted pH is (which is nice to know), but no indication of how much of what mineral to add for a particular beer....
EZ Water won't tell you what minerals to add to your beer because that itself is a fairly broad topic with a lot of opinions, and there's just no easy way to do it in that format.

Here's what I do. For any given style that I'm trying to replicate, say "English Pale Ale", I google "Water profile for English Pale Ale". From there, check out peoples posts on various forums where they'll list their mineral composition. It will usually look something like:

Ca 90, Mg 10, Na 1,8 Cl 77, SO4 127, ratio:0.60
From there, you can open up EZ Water and start putting in minerals. Look at that "Step 5" section in the spreadsheet, and you'll see the beer's mineral profile change (it will match the above format). When you get close to the profile you were shooting for, then you've got it in the ballpark.

Adding Gypsum drives up that SO4 number, while adding Calcium Chloride drives up the Cl number. More gypsum = sharper hop flavors, more Calcium Chloride = more smooth malty flavors. So if the recipe is an American IPA, you know that your gypsum will probably start off higher than your Calcium Chloride.

The addition of acid malt will move pH down without affecting mineral profile, so you might want to leave the acid malt blank, then get your mineral content to match up, then adjust the acid malt to hit the desired pH level.
 

SouthBay

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EZ Water won't tell you what minerals to add to your beer because that itself is a fairly broad topic with a lot of opinions, and there's just no easy way to do it in that format.

Here's what I do. For any given style that I'm trying to replicate, say "English Pale Ale", I google "Water profile for English Pale Ale". From there, check out peoples posts on various forums where they'll list their mineral composition. It will usually look something like:



From there, you can open up EZ Water and start putting in minerals. Look at that "Step 5" section in the spreadsheet, and you'll see the beer's mineral profile change (it will match the above format). When you get close to the profile you were shooting for, then you've got it in the ballpark.

Adding Gypsum drives up that SO4 number, while adding Calcium Chloride drives up the Cl number. More gypsum = sharper hop flavors, more Calcium Chloride = more smooth malty flavors. So if the recipe is an American IPA, you know that your gypsum will probably start off higher than your Calcium Chloride.

The addition of acid malt will move pH down without affecting mineral profile, so you might want to leave the acid malt blank, then get your mineral content to match up, then adjust the acid malt to hit the desired pH level.
+1.

I use Brun Water to do pretty much the exact same thing. I like Brun Water because it comes pre-loaded with historical water profiles and some pretty solid profiles for things like 'Amber Malty' and 'Yellow Bitter' to help get you in the ball park.

Depending on your tap water profile, you may not need 100% RO water, and can just use it to dilute the tap. For example, if i put in 20% RO/ 80% tap water into my mash, the resulting profile is pretty similar to the Dusseldorf water. Then its just a matter of using the right minerals to get the sulfates right, etc.
 

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I'm a fan of Brun'water because I found it more accurate and easier to use once I read a bunch of stuff and listened to podcasts. But the objective is the same as EZ. Bru'nwater is definitely more complicated looking.

My advice is to start with RO water until you get a water report from Ward Labs. It's pretty simple to add a few grams of minerals to make RO water whatever you need it to be for that particular beer style.

I usually mix my water with RO because it's so alkaline and I often go straight RO for pale beers. Plus I have to add Campden Tabs to get rid of the chloramines so that doesn't help.

You can adjust the Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, etc. to get good yeast health, and tweak the pH to where it needs at the same time. But when adding those minerals, you are usually adjusting the flavor components at the same time, so for instance if I needed to increase the sulfate for a hoppier beer, I might add CaSO4 since it adds calcium AND sulfate. Whereas if I needed more Chloride for a maltier beer, I would add Calcium Chloride, so I get calcium and the Chloride I need.

If I needed more magnesium and sulfate, I'd add Epsom salt, which is Magnesium Sulfate. Etc.
 
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