Water pH...are we brewers or chemists?

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Jason Horlacher

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First off, I hate chemistry...but I feel like a chemist reading about water pH and additives.

Since I am over in Germany, I dont think I can get a good, accurate water content.
Not that I know what to do with it anyways...

What do you do for your water and what should I look for when I first start all-grain? I do have some pH test strips. What would be some easy tips if the pH balance is out of wack?

Could I just use the 5 gallon Culligan water jugs and be done with it????:tank:
 

FlyGuy

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You don't need to fuss with pH. If your tap water is not excessively hard or soft (that should be obvious) and it tastes good to drink (especially if you filter it first), then chances are it will be good to brew with. If you are really worried, get some FiveStar 5.2 pH stabilizer -- a tablespoon in your mash is all you need to forget about ph and water chemistry! :mug:
 

Spyk'd

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The easy answer is, use bottled water and forget about this...


BUT, you'd be taking the easier and more expensive way out.


I've seen filtering mentioned and buffer solution mentioned as well. As long as your water tastes good and you filter out any 'unknowns', then you are good to go. If you have low efficiencies, then buffer your mash.


You have to know what is wrong with the water before you can fix it...

:cross:
 
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check your local town website for a water quality report. if you can find that and post the information then we can help you determine if your water is usable. like spyk'd said, if it tastes good then usually just a pH adjustment is all you *might* need. a lot of folks either buy water or use a reverse osmosis filter (RO) because their water is awful. another reason to use RO water is so that you can add back minerals in order to mimic a particular regions water to brew a particular style.

you might have a good accurate water content, you just have to find out.

let us know what you find.
 

shafferpilot

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Get ready with your PH strips when you do your first. BTW they kinda need to be the right ones. You need resolution down to 0.3 ph to know if you have the right level. I've seen strips that only have about 1.0 ph resolution and that won't give you usable info. If it's too high your efficiency will be crap, but you'll know to get some 5.2 . If it's in the right range, you're golden. Bottled water is a last resort.
 

Soulive

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I use bottled water for mashing. I can't be bothered with the pH stuff. I'm in this for enjoyment and I don't enjoy thinking about water makeup...
 

njnear76

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Soulive said:
I use bottled water for mashing. I can't be bothered with the pH stuff. I'm in this for enjoyment and I don't enjoy thinking about water makeup...
Really? Our water is moderately hard, which makes it pretty good for most styles. I would use the 5.2 PH buffer for light beers though.
 

Tonedef131

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I have to use RO water since my well water is full of iron. So my choice is use my hard water that is full of iron or completely softened water. I don't like those options and since I work at a water purification company I get 5-gallon bottles of RO or DI water for free. So I just add some minerals to my RO water and it has been working fine so far.
 

sarcastro

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I have been told that spring water, with noting added, is the best to use. Started out using Meijer Spring water, and it worked great. I was sick of purchasing water for every batch, so I decided to start filtering my own. It is nice cause All-grain brewing takes more water, and I dont need to worry about not buying enough. I use the stabilizer for the PH.
 

pjj2ba

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Actually, we're Biochemists. We set up proper conditions for enzymatic reactions, for which temperature and pH are very critical. We just do it in a mash tun, rather than a test tube. We don't worry to much about substrate concentration, other than to decide how much alcohol we want in the finsished product.

Same with fermentation, we set up ideal conditions for the biological conversion of sugars to ethanol.

Yup, biochemists we are. Thirsty ones!
 

rjhockey

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I have a question that goes with this, I went to brew the other day and before I did I checked the PH at 6.2, I was like woah because the last brewday it was 5.4, so I tossed in some 5.2 and checked it again, it was still 6.2 my question is, is 5.2 supposed to drop it down to 5.2 right away or what? Please explain 5.2 to me since i've never really got it the person who taught me how to brew just said to use it.
 

pjj2ba

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Was this pre-mash or during the mash? Pre- mash is much less important in most cases. The buffering capacities of all but the hardest waters are low enough that the pH should be pretty close once the grains are added. If the pH was 6.2 AFTER adding the grains, then this would need to be addressed

My first thought is are you sure your pH measurement was accurate? How much 5.2 did you add? I can add a teaspoons worth to 3 gal. of my fairly hard water and it goes right to 5.2

The pH should change pretty quickly as the reactions we're dealing with here are pretty quick - assuming a thorough mixing - unless your water has a high buffering capacity. In this case it will take more 5.2 to get the pH right. There are seasonal changes in water quality so this might be what you are seeing. One might see some creep in the pH after the initial rapid change as some more pH affecting compounds dissolvbe out of the grains. again, this would probably only be likely with very hard water.

5.2 is a mix of phosphate salts that when dissolved in water will create a buffer at a pH of 5.2. The pH of this solution will stay constant as you add other materials to the water, be it something either acidic or basic - up to a point - the buffering capacity. The more 5.2 you add the higher the buffering capacity and the more acid or base you would have to add to alter the pH. In the amounts brewers typically use there is no affect on the taste of the beer. Add too much though and it can give a minerally taste.
 

rjhockey

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pjj2ba said:
Was this pre-mash or during the mash? Pre- mash is much less important in most cases. The buffering capacities of all but the hardest waters are low enough that the pH should be pretty close once the grains are added. If the pH was 6.2 AFTER adding the grains, then this would need to be addressed

My first thought is are you sure your pH measurement was accurate? How much 5.2 did you add? I can add a teaspoons worth to 3 gal. of my fairly hard water and it goes right to 5.2
I pulled the water right from my tap (Filtered under the sink), and put it in my HLT. I then before I do anything always test the ph. It was 6.2, I pulled out the 5.2 put in 1 teaspoon and mixed it up... And with out checking again started the flame. (The reason i've been checking the PH more is the last few batches I made tasted HoRRIBle ever since i started using tap water, yet I like the tap water to drink. So I thought the ph may be to high.) When I checked the ph again before mashing in, it was 6.2 still which flipped me out.. So i added a tablespoon for good measure, same result. At which point i became discouraged and canceled my brew day. :sad: I am going to get meijer spring water tonight and do it that way but the cost isn't worth it which is why i switched to tap, and I'd like to stay with tap, but I have 6 empty carboys, and I want to fill one, so the need to fill one out ways cost efficiency.
 

Kaiser

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I found a crude water report for Otterberg (http://www.werke-otterberg.de/03.aktuell/). Crude, because it doesn't list the content of the various minerals. If you really need a better report you may have to call or write them.

But the water is fairly soft and I would not do anything to it except when brewing really dark beers (stouts, shwarzbier ..). This will help for your first AG. You can get fancy with the water later if you like or have off-flavors that you contribute to brewing water / mash pH.

Kai
 

boo boo

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The problem is that you are trying to acidify you water without acid. The 5.2 ph is a mixture of salts that will only work with your water and in the mash itself.
You should be less concerned with your water ph and more concerned with your actual mash ph, as that's what counts.
Check your ph of the mash and adjust if you need to.
 

jdoiv

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^+1

When I add the 5.2 buffer to my strike water and test the pH, it'll come up around 6.2. Once I add the grains in, the pH will drop to 5.2-5.4. Don't worry about the water's pH. Just the mash.
 
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Since you're in Germany...
Stick to a style that was historically brewed there.


Incidently that style will tell you alot about the water characteristic.
 

pjj2ba

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A tablespoon should have easily adjusted the pH.

I'm assuming you are using a pH meter since you give a specific pH value that you wouldn't get from a test strip. Has it been calibrated lately? In the lab I will always check this before using it. Typically first at pH 7.0, and then either 4 or 10 depending on if I'm measuring something with a low or high pH. I those are spot on, then I'll proceed to my sample. You might double check with another method.

Also, when you heat water the pH will naturally rise. How much I'm not sure. If you are meausring pH with a pH meter, hot water will absolutely give you an innaccurate reading, they are calibrated for 68 F - just like refractometers. On should cool a mash sample before measuring pH (unless you sprung for a model with ATC). pH stips don't have this problem. I've never bothered with checking the pH prior to mash-in so I can't really comment. Maybe someone else will chime in who has measured the pH at a whole bunch of steps. It very well could be that once you added the grains, your pH would have been fine.

You could always make a test sample, say 20X less of both the water and the grains, mash this in as you normally would (150F or whaterver) and check the pH. Just make sure to use the same proportions.

The problem is that you are trying to acidify you water without acid. The 5.2 ph is a mixture of salts that will only work with your water and in the mash itself.
Well no, actually there are plenty of salts that will alter the pH and act as acids (or bases) and do a perfectly fine job of altering pH. The salts in 5.2 will very effectively lower the pH of a solution (or raise if it is too acidic). Granted, an acid might do the job quicker with less material, but it is very easy to overshoot your target pH. That is the nice thing about 5.2 - you can't overshoot.
 

drayman86

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Interesting thread.

I recall tackling the subject of pH in tap water when I was attempting a new type of tropical fish in my tanks.

Long story short....pH will change in tap water that is just drawn from the tap vs. tap water that has been allowed to aerate for a period of time. It all essentially comes down to the amount of CO2 dissolved in the water, in equilbirum with that in the atmosphere.

My advice from homebrewing and fishkeeping experience; don't get too hung up on pH. Unless your tap water is from one of the very extremes (very, very soft or very, very hard), you shouldn't have too much trouble brewing with what comes out of your tap.

http://fins.actwin.com/aquatic-plants/month.9712/msg00260.html
 

boo boo

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pjj2ba said:
A tablespoon should have easily adjusted the pH.


Well no, actually there are plenty of salts that will alter the pH and act as acids (or bases) and do a perfectly fine job of altering pH. The salts in 5.2 will very effectively lower the pH of a solution (or raise if it is too acidic). Granted, an acid might do the job quicker with less material, but it is very easy to overshoot your target pH. That is the nice thing about 5.2 - you can't overshoot.
I stand corrected. http://www.brew-winemaking.com/ProductPDF/4836.pdf
 
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