Sorry Martin... B'N'W problem

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kenlenard

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Notice: I did post this on Brew-Bros and also on NB so I apologize to anyone who may be seeing this for the second time.

I'll admit that I am new to B-Water but I want to use it because I keep hearing people say that it gets them very close on pH and it takes away a lot of guesswork, etc. You get some very good predictability with it, as they say. So I made an amber lager last night and I had my BNW output ready to go. I'm going to include everything here in case someone sees where I went wrong... no point in being vague because it will lead to vagueness.

Beer: 7.75 lbs Best Malz Pils (2L), 1 lb Best Malz Vienna (4.5L), 8 ounces CaraMunich II (45L) and 2 ounces of C80. I entered all of that into BNW along with my source water and the fact that it was 25% distilled. The source water is Ca 34, Mg 12, Na 13, Cl 21, SO4 27 (that's 9x3) and Bicarb 138. I mash with 4 gallons (3 gals tap, 1 gal distilled) and batch sparge with the same. I added .8g of CaSO4 to the mash as well as 3.2g CaCl. In BNW, I entered into tab 3 (light blue column) that it was .2g of gypsum per gallon of mash water and .8g of CaCl per gallon of mash water. The estimated color of the beer was about 8 SRM. BNW suggested that I needed 3ml of lactic acid 88% to get to a mash pH of 5.2. To be conservative, I added 2ml to the mash water before I heated it. I got everything mixed and took the pH with my meter (which had just read my 4.0 and 7.0 solutions properly as well as my tap water which is always 6.6... no trouble with the meter) and got 4.9. I measured the pH three times and it was 4.9 each time... I also cooled the sample to around 70° each time and one of the measurements was about 30 minutes into the mash). Remember too that this was with 1ml of acid less than BNW suggested. The color of the wort was right around the predicted 8 SRM or so... not darker. I'm not suggesting this is a bug because I'm sure it's not. But I am clearly using this wrong. I have been through the tabs a hundred times. I must have a switch flipped or a setting wrong. I did email the file to Martin (sheepishly) but thought I would post it here. Anyone care to look at this? Thanks guys.
 

zwiller

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I think there's a good chance all the snow we've had may have lowered the alkalinity of the tap water and forced the results lower. I think it was very cool that you brewing instinct told you to ease up on the acid addition! That said, there are a few quirks with BNW and I suppose you could have entered different water volumes on different pages or something.
 

ajdelange

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The water and malts you listed would, with 2 mL of lactic acid, should produce a mash pH of about 5.5 subject mostly to the accuracy of my assumptions about the base malt (DI pH 5.7, linear buffering of about -35 mEq/pH-kg at DI pH). Even were the DI mash pH as low as 5.6, which is at the lower end of the base malt range, the mash pH would be, unsurprisingly enough, about 0.1 pH unit lower at 5.4. With 3 mL lactic and 5.6 DI pH we'd expect a mash pH of about 5.4. I do seem to recall Martin posting here that Bru'n water tends to under estimate but I don't think it is by that much so indeed you may have made some entry wrong.

But 4.9 is way too low on the actual pH. In such cases the first thing I always suspect is the meter. You should check its readings in the buffers immediately after a suspicious reading like this one. It is not unheard of for a meter to calibrate nicely and then be off by a couple of tenths 5 minutes later.

Because of the relatively large proportion of base malt it is the major contributor to proton deficit (31.3 mEq) with the water in second place at 23. The lactic acid (3 mL) is just enough to neutralize the malt PD with the colored malts and calcium reaction providing a few more protons. To get errors of the magnitude you are seeing there would have to be a dramatic difference between the amount of acid, water alkalinity or base malt properties or an order of magnitude difference in the amount of the darker malts or a combination. Check the meter first.

You seem quite certain of the color depth of the beer (8 SRM). How are you determining that? It has nothing to do with the question at hand but I am very interested in peoples' ability to judge beer color without instruments.
 
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kenlenard

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I know a lot of brewers who use Lake Michigan water both in Illinois and Wisconsin and it seems that whatever they do at the processing district keeps the water consistent at all times. I suppose it's possible that could change due to extreme conditions but I will say this one more time for the west coast... the water is always a pH of 6.6. Always. Other brewers and local brewpubs have confirmed this. I was standing in the brewery at a commercial place with the head brewer, he whipped out the meter he uses (a 2-prong jobbie) and a glass of tap water... 6.6. My meter read my 4.0 and 7.0 solutions perfectly as well so I think the meter is okay.

I was trying to think if I maybe added 2ml of acid to the mash water and then forgot I did that and did it again. But it can't be. I filtered the tap water and added the 1 gallon of distilled to it when all of my brewing equipment (including the acid) were all still in the basement. I brought it all up, measured out 2 milliliters with a dropper, added it to the mash water and heated it. Measured out the CaSO4 and CaCl with a small digital scale that has been solid for me for years. It measures grams and ounces with no trouble or question.

On the color of the beer and grains... I mentioned on another board that when I had the CaraMunich 45 and the C80 in bags next to each other, the Cara45 looked a little darker which I thought was weird. It was clearly labeled from Rebel Brewer "CaraMunich II" (which is 45-46L). I sniffed it and thought it smelled a little like Special B which is very dark... 155L or so. But then I chewed some and it just tasted like Grape Nuts or regular old crystal malt. Is it possible Rebel gave me Special B? Sure but would it make the pH dive to 4.9 even with me leaving off 1ml of acid that BNW suggested? Also, I use Special B quite a bit and this beer did not have the color that 8 ounces of Special B would bring. As far as the color of the beer AJ... I suppose it's just 15 years of brewing a lot of beer between SRM 5 and 10 that made me look at this wort and think to myself "The SRM projection was 8 and this looks very close to 8". I would have guessed 7-8 if someone asked me what the color of the beer was.

One more thing: I punched all of these numbers into the newest version of EZ_Water (which has the grist composition now) and it showed a pH of 5.51 with all of the parameters I entered. BNW showed 5.2 so the two apps don't agree. I'm still trying to figure out if it was something in BNW or something in reality that caused the difference. Martin did respond to my thread over on NB and he said my entries looked correct and that he is stumped as well. Too many variables here for me to isolate the issue but I suppose I need to go back and just deal with reality and not software and make changes based on what I see and not on what an app suggests. I have more batches coming up next week and all of this has made me a little JUMPY! LOL.

Thanks for the replies guys.
 

ajdelange

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I know a lot of brewers who use Lake Michigan water both in Illinois and Wisconsin and it seems that whatever they do at the processing district keeps the water consistent at all times. I suppose it's possible that could change due to extreme conditions but I will say this one more time for the west coast... the water is always a pH of 6.6.
The pH of the water has very little to do with it. The important parameter is alkalinity - not bicarbonate, not pH.

My meter read my 4.0 and 7.0 solutions perfectly as well so I think the meter is okay.
The meter should read 4 and 7 (or approximately that depending on temperature) but it is equally important that it does so over a period of time. Some meters calibrate and then drift rapidly - minutes or less. I am not suggesting that this is what happened here but as I said in my last post it is not uncommon. Anyone using a pH meter should do a stabilty check as outlined in the pH calibration sticky.


I was trying to think if I maybe added 2ml of acid to the mash water and then forgot I did that and did it again.
That is the sort of error that would be necessary to explain what you saw given that the pH meter checks out.


But it can't be.
Oh well.


As far as the color of the beer AJ... I suppose it's just 15 years of brewing a lot of beer between SRM 5 and 10 that made me look at this wort and think to myself "The SRM projection was 8 and this looks very close to 8". I would have guessed 7-8 if someone asked me what the color of the beer was.
I'm making the statement in a book that experienced individuals know what a beer of a given SRM (or EBC) color looks like and I'm looking for backup for the validity of this statement. Beer color depends very much on the size of the glass. A pils at the top of the classical flute can be 25 or more CIELAB color difference units different from the beer at the bottom. And yet we can tell the approximate SRM rating of the beer and could do so were it in a Maß, The question is, of course, as to how we do this.

One more thing: I punched all of these numbers into the newest version of EZ_Water (which has the grist composition now) and it showed a pH of 5.51 with all of the parameters I entered. BNW showed 5.2 so the two apps don't agree.
pH estimation is fairly easy to do if you have data on each of the grist and water components. Water is no problem if you test yourself. The malts are a different matter. It is quite laborious to obtain the full data set for a malt and it has not, in general, been done. I've done the complete measurement set on, I think 4 malts and Kai Troster has done rough measurments on quite a few. But the chances that the malts you are actually using match the ones either of us measured is small. That's why I have to guess at the DI mash pH and buffering of the malt you used and the answer depends on those guesses. Other programs that estimate mash pH work the same way except that you have no idea what parameters the particular calculator assumes for the particular malt even if they do use a parametric model and I don't think many of them do.
 
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kenlenard

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AJ: Thanks again for the reply and your insight into this... always greatly appreciated.

Two things:

1. The meter. I am a meter newbie and at first I think I did some things wrong. What I realized was that the solutions for calibration are good for a short time when you pour them into a glass. Pour the solution, use it for calibration or measurement and throw it out. At first I might pour some solution into a glass, calibrate and then the next day try to measure the 4.0 solution I poured the previous day and it would read 3.6. Then I thought the meter needed to be calibrated (AGAIN!?) but it didn't. It was the solution breaking down or however you want to describe it. Before and after the batch I did on Friday, my meter was humming along measuring 4.0, 6.6 and 7.0 without fail so as hard as it is for me to cling to the accuracy of this meter... I'm doing just that.

2. The grains. I have always assumed that the calculations of the apps are going to be "close" because afterall we're dealing with natural products and this Crystal 80 may not be exactly like that Crystal 80. Totally understandable. But that wouldn't explain the huge drift I saw.

My guess is that I will get accustomed to all of this (BNW, the meter, my system, various colored beers, etc) and start getting used to all of it. My switch from strips to meter tells me that I was not lowering my mash, sparge and kettle pH as much as I should so there are a lot of adjustments happening at the same time in my brewing. Armed with all of this, I see pale beers like helles, kolsch, pils, dorts, etc. that I want to make again now that I have some new tools in my toolbox. BNW was supposed to be one of those tools and I think it still will be one... but I need to know if I did something incorrectly. There is still a mystery as to why my mash pH was much lower than BNW predicted. Thanks again & cheers.
 

millstone

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Ken, have you checked/calibrated your "dropper"? I use a 10ml injector that I calibrated by measuring various amounts of water and weighing them. If I'm correct 1ml of water should weigh 1gram, but not sure if 1ml of lactic acid weights 1gram.

tom
 
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kenlenard

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Ken, have you checked/calibrated your "dropper"? I use a 10ml injector that I calibrated by measuring various amounts of water and weighing them. If I'm correct 1ml of water should weigh 1gram, but not sure if 1ml of lactic acid weights 1gram.

tom
I have not done that but I guess my thinking was that a dropper is a pretty good way to measure something that small. I realize that I'm just eyeballing the liquid in the dropper and lining it up with the marks so there are likely to be some small discrepancies. Otherwise, I'm not sure how to calibrate it or verify it.
 

millstone

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I used my gram scale and a small cup of water. I first weighted the cup of water, then poured in water to the 2ml mark on the injector/dropper and re-weighted the cup. Did the same from 4ml up to 10ml in 2ml increments.

tom
 
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kenlenard

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I used my gram scale and a small cup of water. I first weighted the cup of water, then poured in water to the 2ml mark on the injector/dropper and re-weighted the cup. Did the same from 4ml up to 10ml in 2ml increments.

tom
Well, I could check that but I would say that this large-scale drift should not be from a slightly-off dropper, would you agree? I'm sure that looking at all of the different variables, some are going to be slightly off. Maybe my 3.2g of CaCl was actually 3.3 (although the scale said 3.2 and has been accurate for me) and my .8g of gypsum could have been .9 and my 2ml of lactic acid could have been 2.2ml and my grains could have been slightly darker than normal but all of those things put together shouldn't cause this problem... and remember that I only put 66% of the acid BNW recommended into the mash.
 

mchrispen

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kenlenard,

So I am inputting this into the paid version of BNW to double check the work... evaluating if something has corrupted in your version of the spreadsheet.

I had to estimate the alkalinity - I assumed it was around 113 ppm CaCO3, given the bicarbonate levels and a pH of 6.6.

I entered your recipe on the Mash Acidification page, but get a 6.2 SRM estimate, not 8 as you indicated. This is a 9.38 lb total grist at 1.71 qt/lb ratio.

I added in your exact additions, and achieved the identical addition weights, into 4 gallons mash and 4 gallons sparge, with the dilution rate set to 25% DI.

Before adding any acid, I am seeing an estimated mash pH of 5.65. You are targeting 5.2.

Adding in 0.76 ml/gal = 3 ml acid (88% lactic) which should yield an estimated 5.25 target.

How consistent are these numbers? It seems only the SRM disagrees?

FYI - to get to 4.9 (4.87 actually) - you would need to add 6 ml of lactic acid. That might suggest you double dosed accidentally.

I have had BNW spreadsheet get corrupted and yield weird errors. I copy and pasted my inputs into a brand new version of the spreadsheet and everything then worked fine. Otherwise, with only a few exceptions (always my error in the brewhouse) Bru'n has been pretty accurate for me. Of course, Br'un estimates and cannot be 100% accurate - and all software will have some sort of edge case issues.
 

mchrispen

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I bumped over to NB's forum and see that Martin has responded. I hope that one off brew doesn't discourage you too much. As mentioned, I find the application fairly accurate.

If you have the time, it would be interesting to see if a small test mash returns the same result now.

I do hope that your beer comes out tasty regardless!
 
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kenlenard

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Matt: Much appreciated.

Because I had a similar issue with BNW a few weeks ago (and I was working with another BNW 'guru' on another board), I cautiously only added 2ml of the 3ml that was suggested. I would never add 6ml of lactic acid to the mash as I just know that is way, way overboard. But all of your calcs appear to be the same as mine.

As an aside, I always enter my grains & hops into the calculator at Tastybrew.com. I know it's old-school and simple but I have always done that, printed out the recipe and then either the page from EZ_Water or BNW and kept those together and then I take brewday notes on those pages so everything is in front of me if I have to troubleshoot. The Tastybrew.com calcs showed an SRM of 8 so that's where I got that. Also, I see that my BNW shows a MALT COLOR UNITS of 8.7 and an ESTIMATED BEER COLOR (SRM) of 6.6 so I think we're on the same page. But you would think that the lower the SRM, the HIGHER the pH would be, not the other way around.

Another brewer and I were playing with this once and we both got to the point were BNW wouldn't lower its mash pH number no matter how much acid we added. It got to 5.4 and wouldn't go lower for either of us. Not sure if there is a bug but I still don't get how I reached a 4.9 mash pH while adding less acid than BNW suggested. Stumped!
 

mabrungard

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Ken, are you saying that your scale only reports to the nearest gram? That is probably OK if you are brewing 50+ gallon batches. But for the typically smaller homebrew batches, you really have to use a scale that reports to the nearest tenth of a gram. That could be a significant error cause, but probably not a huge one. However, the acid volume measurement is a critical one. If you have a scale that reports to the nearest tenth gram, then you should be able to perform that check of weighing the mass of 1 ml of water. But if your scale only reads to the nearest gram, that check is WORTHLESS!

The problems you are having don't seem to be in character with the way that I've set Bru'n Water to err. If anything, the pH prediction tends to be very slightly lower than observed. And this can be true when comparing the Bru'n Water results to those of other calculators. My empirical results indicate that low mash pH's are created in some cases and there are several calculators that report that the pH will be several tenths higher for that grist. Since I've observed and measured that result with those very acidic grists, Bru'n Water was purposely (and properly) calibrated to those results.
 
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kenlenard

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Ooh, not sure how I gave the impression that the scale didn't go to tenths. It does. I wouldn't be able to measure .8g of CaSO4 or 3.2g of CaCl otherwise. Okay, I just got my dropper, my scale and a glass of water. I pulled a milliliter into the dropper and put that amount into the scale hopper... 1.3g. Then I did it again just for redundancy. I carefully looked at the level in the dropper and then squirted that amount into the hopper... 1.4g. What should it be? Is the weight of 1ml of water the same as 1ml of acid? Anyway, does this test tell you anything?
 

mabrungard

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1 ml of WATER should weigh 1 gram. I think that 88% lactic would come in at 1.21 grams if I remember correctly.

If you measured 1.3 or 1.4 g with water, I think we found the problem.
 

GotPushrods

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A nickel is very reliably 5.0 grams. Great for testing scales, and eliminates measurement errors.
 
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kenlenard

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Okay, just went and weighed a nickel on my scale. 5.0 grams on the dot. GotPushRods... thanks for that. Didn't know that a nickel was 5 grams and I've probably had this scale for 6-7 years so it's good to know it's still working nicely. I think it was $8 on eBay. :p

Okay, then I did the water trick again. When you pull liquid into a dropper, the liquid is clinging to the sides of the vessel and it makes it a little tricky to tell how much you have in there. I'm sure there's a scientific term for the "curve" you see... lower in the middle, higher on the ends. Under some better light I carefully measured what I thought was a milliliter and weighed it. 1.1 grams. This certainly could suggest I added more than the 2ml I thought I added but my guess is that an overage would have been in the 2.2 or 2.3 range and remember that BNW suggested 3. I definitely was not approaching 3ml. In the future I will be looking closer at the dropper to make sure I'm lined up better but Martin, I think you would agree that this is not large enough to cause this. Maybe a bit more acid, slightly darker grains, slightly less alkaline water than usual... maybe.
 

mtnagel

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The curve is called the meniscus and you want to measure at the bottom of the curve. Here's an exaggerated example:



Also the density of 88% lactic acid is 1.21 g/ml. So if Bru'n Water says to add 3 ml, you could weigh out 3.63 g of 88% lactic acid (3 ml x 1.21 g/ml).
 
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kenlenard

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Excellent information. I feel like the last measurement I took looked more like the one in your picture. Thanks for that mtnagel.
 
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kenlenard

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I have version 1.16 from July 2013. Is there a newer one and if so, do we know that the version I have had bugs?
 

mchrispen

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I think we eliminated bugs or bad information in the spreadsheet with Martin's confirmation and with the test run I did. I really do not think it is the spreadsheet. That said - seems like a whole bunch of us are jumping to defend Bru'n Water, which should help make the case that it is not the problem. So while debugging a bad brew(s) - everything must be questioned... and have to accept that sometimes - the problem cannot be completely resolved. You have been very patient with the proposed problems. It may be an accumulation of minor things...

Everyone has hit on the big issues:
1.) Accuracy of the water report for that given day. A fair swing in alkalinity could explain the problem. You could do a batch with 100% DI water to eliminate the muni water as a variable (despite the assertions it is very consistent).
2.) Accuracy of the recipe. Less likely - given that you would have had to add a LOT more crystal/roast to drop the mash pH so precipitously. The only thing I would consider is that perhaps you got some aciduated into the grist somehow by accident - but VERY UNLIKELY. This happened to me once when I changed a recipe to use phosphoric instead of aciduated and milled to the old recipe, but I caught the problem before I added the liquid acid.
3.) Accuracy of measurement for additions - both liquid and dry. Again, potentially dramatic, but unlikely given that you are very careful. AND you hit 4.9 after adding only ~2 ml lactic...
4.) Massive inconsistency in malt production, or mislabeled malts. It seems you are careful about the brands you use - but perhaps monitoring malt sheets might indicate a change. Very unlikely to be the issue.
5.) Double dosing an addition - mineral or acid. You indicate that you are very careful about this, so unlikely. Can happen if you are distracted... or someone is helping and adds when you were not aware.
6.) pH Meter calibration, drift or user error. Again you indicate your confidence in the calibration. Perhaps take a second round to revisit your calibration and measurement procedures?

If this is the third or fourth time you see inconsistency, then I would give another spreadsheet or tool a go. If it is the first, then any of the above could compound to produce a bad result. At some point, my defense of Bru'n Water is pointless as we cannot replicate the problem virtually. I still maintain it works well for me and provides very good results. That said - I occasionally have inexplicable problems with a mash - and have to assume that I did something incorrectly on brew day, after double checking my work in Beer Smith or Bru'n Water.
 

zwiller

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Your good. No bugs that I am aware of. I was using an older version until recently...

If it is any consolation, I understand your frustration. Having owned 3 meters and with the last 2 I really tried hard to maintain it well (calibrate store etc) I ALWAYS got funky readings from time to time... Back in the day when these spreadsheets were coming out (the end of the dark era :D) I saw ALOT of variation between them and a meter. It was also interesting that I saw ALOT of variation between different spreadsheets as well. In the end, BNW was the one that most closely resembled the results that I got with my meter so I stuck with it. I now brew sans meter and I am definitely less frustrated. RDWHAH.

Since our water is similar, my gut is telling me your meter is off and you would need 3ml to hit 5.2. I know this because I am fanatical about minimizing using lactic acid. In any event, the beer will be fine because the pH is within range. I am drinking a dang fine IPA brewed deliberately at 5.6...

Since we have the water pros subscribed I have to ask. Ken's water alkalinity is moderate (138ppm) but his pH is acidic (6.6). That is very unique to me and wonder if that could be a factor?
 
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kenlenard

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Thanks Matt.

Yeah, I have to say that everything you posted is correct as far as I know. I measured out the grains and milled them right before starting the mash and I filtered the water and used the distilled water in both mash and sparge water, the beer ended up about the same color as projected (pale amber) and I have checked and rechecked my meter and also my scale (which weighed out a nickel at 5.0 grams so it seems okay). I started this thread by saying that I don't think Bru'N'Water is the problem but that it could just be that I have something set wrong or I'm using it wrong. I admit that it is a little intimidating because there is so much stuff on each tab and if someone told me that I used it wrong, I would NOT be surprised. But if Martin said my inputs looked solid then the only possibility is that I somehow mismeasured or doubled something. I have to say that when I start a mash, I know that it's a very important time for that beer and everything that happens in that time is critical to how well the beer will be. So I am very careful about weighing out CaCl or gypsum (plus I know how much I usually add and I would have had to add bucketfuls to get my mash pH that low) and I'm usually wringing my hands about temp, pH and everything else happening at the moment. I have a darker ale coming up this week (my Signature Ale) which is maybe SRM 10 and I think I'll use all filtered tap water, punch the numbers into BNW, try to get the mash pH set but maybe only add *SOME* of the acid BNW suggests first and then check it. This will be with Rahr Pale Ale malt which Martin has said lowers pH a bit more than other base malts. I will update this thread after that batch and describe what I saw. Thanks again to everyone who replied here & cheers to you!
 
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kenlenard

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Since we have the water pros subscribed I have to ask. Ken's water alkalinity is moderate (138ppm) but his pH is acidic (6.6). That is very unique to me and wonder if that could be a factor?
I have often wondered about this because a lot of water supplies are in the 7s or 8s so high bicarb plus a pH of 6.6 is slightly off the map.

Zwiller: I'm going to triple check my meter and calibrate it again if necessary before this next batch. Thanks for the response.
 

mchrispen

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One thought...

Martin should confirm, but it might be possible to predict the mash liquor pH and alkalinity before mash in. I would suggest perhaps looking at the prediction with the recipe zero'd out (eliminating the buffering of the mash). Since Martin recommends adding the acid and the mineral additions before heating the strike water... perhaps a future version of Bru'n could show that number. It would allow us to confirm with a pH reading as well as perhaps TDS estimates.

You could also confirm with a test mash before risking a large batch.

Honestly, you hit on a key element. That is confidence and focus during the busy mash in. Initially, I was quite nervous and a bit panicky when I first started measuring mash pH. Once I setup a simple mechanism and a pH station, then it because a lot easier. I spent a good deal of time with a specific mash to work out the procedure and compare with my expectations. Part of my issue was to ensure that I measured accurately and repeatability each time. I can now take a measurement at any point during the mash or boil and usually have the measurement out within a few minutes. PM me if you would like and I can describe the procedure in details... you can also search around here - there are a few variations on the theme as well. Once you are very comfortable with the procedure - the anxiety goes away.
 
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kenlenard

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One thought...

Martin should confirm, but it might be possible to predict the mash liquor pH and alkalinity before mash in. I would suggest perhaps looking at the prediction with the recipe zero'd out (eliminating the buffering of the mash). Since Martin recommends adding the acid and the mineral additions before heating the strike water... perhaps a future version of Bru'n could show that number. It would allow us to confirm with a pH reading as well as perhaps TDS estimates.

You could also confirm with a test mash before risking a large batch.

Honestly, you hit on a key element. That is confidence and focus during the busy mash in. Initially, I was quite nervous and a bit panicky when I first started measuring mash pH. Once I setup a simple mechanism and a pH station, then it because a lot easier. I spent a good deal of time with a specific mash to work out the procedure and compare with my expectations. Part of my issue was to ensure that I measured accurately and repeatability each time. I can now take a measurement at any point during the mash or boil and usually have the measurement out within a few minutes. PM me if you would like and I can describe the procedure in details... you can also search around here - there are a few variations on the theme as well. Once you are very comfortable with the procedure - the anxiety goes away.
To be clear: I used to get my dry grains into the MT and just dump my weighed-out additions of CaCl and CaSO4 onto the grains, dump my heated water in there, stir and then check pH and add acid. With BNW, I was hoping to add the acid to the mash water which would make things flow better during that hectic time. Getting a good pH reading does not happen in 15 seconds so being patient and keeping your head in that situation is key.
 

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I used to do the same thing. Martin posted on his Bru'n Water facebook a procedure that calls for adding the minerals and acid directly to the strike water before heating to ensure everything completely dissolves and is available to facilitate conversion since the process starts while the grist is hydrating. I do not believe this caused the low pH issue. Below from that post:

WHEN TO ADD WATER ADDITIVES?

When should you be adding minerals and acids when brewing? Common choices include adding them directly to the mash or to add them to the water prior to adding grain. Here are reasons that they should be added to the water prior to adding the grain.

An important reason is that 'sometimes we just screw things up'. Say you add too much of a mineral or acid? It is much less costly to dump a pot of water than a tun full of mash. Adding the minerals and acids to the water is a kind of a safety factor in case of screw ups!

Another consideration is that by adding those additions to the water first, you can verify that they have dissolved fully and that they are fully distributed in the water by mixing. If minerals and acids are added to the mash, it is more difficult to insure that those components are fully distributed through the mash. It takes a lot of mash mixing to make sure those constituents are well distributed.

An exception is when lime needs to be added to the mash to avoid an overly low mash pH. Adding a dose of lime to water can cause the existing calcium to drop out of the water. Fortunately in the cases when additional alkalinity is needed, there probably isn't much calcium or bicarbonate in that water and the lime addition won't cause additional calcium to drop out. So it's probably not imperative that lime be added only to the mash and not to the water first. So if your water has low Temporary Hardness (aka: low calcium and bicarbonate), then it is not imperative to add lime only to the mash. It is OK to add it directly to the water then!

Add minerals and acids to the water prior to doughing in the grain.​

Cheers, Matt
 
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I could certainly try that. Looks like I might be brewing on Wednesday this week. Very simple recipe... 9 lbs of Rahr Pale Ale malt, 4 ounces of C40 and 4 ounces of Special B. I'm going to make it with all tap water. Add 1.2g of CaSO4 and 2.5g CaCl to the mash. BNW shows that I need 3ml of acid added to the mash to get the mash pH to 5.2. Something tells me that I'm going to be low if I do it though. I might add 1.5ml plus the additions to the mash water, heat it and then check the pH. FWIW, the new version of EZ_Water says I need 5ml. Ugh.
 

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Ken, I REALLY don't like to add minerals to the mash. As pointed out in that posting that Matt referenced, it is so much better to fully dissolve the minerals into the mashing and sparging water before adding to the grain so that you can be assured that those ionic components are evenly and fully distributed. It takes a lot of stirring to get things mixed up very well.

By the way, is this a RIMS? If not, the mixing becomes a critical issue. Oh heck, even if you have RIMS, I found that out the other day. I was mashing a Hefe with my RIMS and decided to scrimp on rice hulls. The flow rate sucked and I had forgotten to add the acid addition to the mashing water prior to mashing in. WELL, I had a really low pH in that wort sitting on top of the grist for about 15 minutes. It took forever to get the acid distributed through the mash and wort. (Note to self: Follow your own advice...I'm a dumba$$).
 
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kenlenard

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Cylindrical cooler with an SS braid. No direct-fired ability so heating mash water on the stove, etc. I mentioned in my last post that I would add the acid and additions to the mash water before heating and try that. But on this upcoming beer, I'm going to be a little more conservative on the acid addition to the mash water. If it's not low enough, I can always add a little more.
 
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kenlenard

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I could certainly try that. Looks like I might be brewing on Wednesday this week. Very simple recipe... 9 lbs of Rahr Pale Ale malt, 4 ounces of C40 and 4 ounces of Special B. I'm going to make it with all tap water. Add 1.2g of CaSO4 and 2.5g CaCl to the mash. BNW shows that I need 3ml of acid added to the mash to get the mash pH to 5.2. Something tells me that I'm going to be low if I do it though. I might add 1.5ml plus the additions to the mash water, heat it and then check the pH. FWIW, the new version of EZ_Water says I need 5ml. Ugh.
Gang... here's an update. I started this beer today around 5:30. Added 1.2g of gypsum and 2.5g of CaCl to the mash water along with 1.5ml of lactic acid. All filtered tap water for this beer. I checked the mash (more on my meter later) and it was 5.4. I added another 1ml of acid to the MT and settled in at 5.2. So BNW suggested 3ml and 2.5 was correct and that doesn't mean that BNW wouldn't have been correct if I entered 2.5ml total (although I'm pretty sure I was working my way up with acid and this was the first entry that got me to 5.2). Anyway, seems reasonable and I'm happy with what happened this morning.

On my meter: I called Milwaukee Instruments yesterday to tell them that my meter would show "WRNG" when calibrating the 4.0 point. Jason in support suggested soaking my meter in white distilled vinegar overnight. I placed the tip into some white distilled vinegar and noticed that some small pieces of filmy schputz were floating in the vinegar. Seems I had some residue left on the probe. How, I don't know. I left the meter in there for about 30 minutes and calibrated. It calibrated cleanly without the WRNG message. Then I put it back into the vinegar. This morning I rinsed it off and calibrated it. WRNG! Then again. WRNG! Then rinsed it and calibrated again. It calibrated cleanly and read the 4.0, 7.0 and my 6.6 tap water properly. Who knew a meter would be such a PITA and source of stress!?!?! Ugh. Could my 4.9 pH on the previous batch have been due to some schputzy film on the probe? Possible, I suppose.

Cheers guys... thanks for all of the help and replies on this thread.
 

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Gang... here's an update. I started this beer today around 5:30. Added 1.2g of gypsum and 2.5g of CaCl to the mash water along with 1.5ml of lactic acid. All filtered tap water for this beer. I checked the mash (more on my meter later) and it was 5.4. I added another 1ml of acid to the MT and settled in at 5.2. So BNW suggested 3ml and 2.5 was correct and that doesn't mean that BNW wouldn't have been correct if I entered 2.5ml total (although I'm pretty sure I was working my way up with acid and this was the first entry that got me to 5.2). Anyway, seems reasonable and I'm happy with what happened this morning.

On my meter: I called Milwaukee Instruments yesterday to tell them that my meter would show "WRNG" when calibrating the 4.0 point. Jason in support suggested soaking my meter in white distilled vinegar overnight. I placed the tip into some white distilled vinegar and noticed that some small pieces of filmy schputz were floating in the vinegar. Seems I had some residue left on the probe. How, I don't know. I left the meter in there for about 30 minutes and calibrated. It calibrated cleanly without the WRNG message. Then I put it back into the vinegar. This morning I rinsed it off and calibrated it. WRNG! Then again. WRNG! Then rinsed it and calibrated again. It calibrated cleanly and read the 4.0, 7.0 and my 6.6 tap water properly. Who knew a meter would be such a PITA and source of stress!?!?! Ugh. Could my 4.9 pH on the previous batch have been due to some schputzy film on the probe? Possible, I suppose.

Cheers guys... thanks for all of the help and replies on this thread.
That's exactly what happened with my meter- it's been sent back to Milwaukee Instruments twice, and I've purchased three new electrodes. It worked great a couple of times, but now it's not even usable. I was very unhappy with my meter, that's for sure!
 

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Wort contains protein which would love to coat your bulb and clog your junction. This is the best explanation for your weird pH readings offered to date. There are pH electrode cleaners which contains enzymes designed to attack protein coats. The more generally applicable Zymit should work equally well.
 

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Sorry to read about the issues you guys have but it basically is the same experience I've had with them. I think it's possible these handheld things are mostly designed for light use such as aquariums etc and brewing just is too much stress on them. I wager the measurements during mashing are what that do it, high solids/proteins. Sparge water acidification and final pH are probably OK.
 

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This thread starting me wondering - so I did a test mash today in a 1 quart drink cooler.

All mineral and acid measurements were weighed on a gram-weight scale, and the grain to the nearest tenth of ounce. I mashed in first with RO water - intentionally added the tiny mineral adjustments to the mash, along with a small acid addition. I was attempting to strike at 156F with a pH of 5.4, and a 1.5 qt/lb water/grist ratio. After a few minutes of stirring, visually well mixed with no dough balls, I sealed the vessel and gave it a good shaking. Letting that sits for a few minutes, I took some pipettes and drew 5 samples into shot glasses from various levels in the mash, as well as measured temperatures in various levels and areas of the mash with a NIST traceable digital thermometer. I was frankly very shocked at the distribution of values. The pH varied from 4.8 to 5.7, and the temperature varied from 166F to 150F.

I decided to stir again vigorously, this time with a whisk. I whisked for at least 3 more minutes, which caused a temperature drop. I added hot water to bring up the temperature to about 1.75 qt/lb ratio, which stabilized the mean temperatures. The pH measurements continued to range from 5.0 to 5.6. I closed up the vessel and let it sit for another 30 minutes. At that point, I checked temperatures, which only varied about 1-2 degrees between locations. I only took 3 pH readings from various levels in the mash, which ranged from 5.4 to 5.55. However, conversion tests (iodine on paper towels) showed conversion was not complete at that point (about 40-45 minutes into the mash). At 60 minutes, I checked the mash again, drained the mash into a pot and the first runnings were right at 5.43, and right onto my expected gravity of 1.058. I should add all samples were cooled to around 70F.

I now wish I took better notes about where in the mash each sample was taken, and a more scientific approach. I did not write down all of the measurements - nor could I take a temperature reading at the sampling location accurately. So no precise repeatability, and of course, a single set of data. Take the above with a grain of salt. Also - the iodine test is not terribly reliable, and I did not test the conversion samples on a refractometer.

My point? It seems that static mashes are highly susceptible to stratification of temperatures (which I knew) but also pH, and I assume concentration of enzymes or their activity. I am wondering if some of the inconsistency we generally see in mash readings are from readings from a mash site that is not representative of the entire mash, either concentrated or diluted. I now wonder where the ideal sampling location might be - if there is one at all, perhaps a vorlauf-like procedure in the middle of the mash with a larger wort sample? I got a consistent reading on the runnings of this mash as it was collected and homogenized. I brew on a RIMS system, and never really worried about liquor mineral distribution as I generally pump pretty quickly with a course crush. Martin's comment about acid staying on the top of his RIMS mash is what triggered me to check. While not scientific - my observation seems to uphold Martin's assertion of treating the strike liquor before mash-in to maximize the distribution of minerals and acid to the grist, but also support that mash-in requires fairly rigorous stirring to ensure complete hydration and temperature distribution beyond just eliminating dough balls.

Perhaps someone else is doing a test mash soon that could verify my observations?
 
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kenlenard

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Wow, Matt.... good stuff. The only thing I can say is that when I take a small sample for the mash, I have a frozen metal cup I use to quickly lower the sample temp and I stir the mash like I'm getting paid for it and draw the sample as I'm stirring because I had heard that there could be stratification of pH. The range of temps and pHs you saw make me want to go back to buying commercial beer. LOL. Anyone for a Busch Light!?!?!?!

Cheers and thanks for the experiment.
 

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Matt, dude, great job. Back in the day of weird meter stuff, I saw large differences from samples drawn from the grant and from on top of the mash. I stir every 10-15 minutes. With my setup, the samples from the grant were always quite lower than from the top of the grain bed.

Yes, Ken, a round of Busch light on me! Actually, how about Old Milwaukee Light to keep it American?
 
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