Author Topic: Measuring mash pH  (Read 6905 times)

Offline jmwrightmegg

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Measuring mash pH
« on: January 22, 2012, 12:45:38 PM »
I am pretty new to all-grain, about 20 batches, but I have never measured the mash pH.  When I read basic brewing books (Papazian, Palmer) before I started brewing a number of years ago, I don't remember that step mentioned as being very important.  I see a lot of the experienced brewers mentioning their mash pH quite often.  In a nutshell, what is the issue with mash pH, and is it necessary to measure the pH in every batch, or just with certain styles?

Offline denny

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2012, 02:18:02 PM »
I am pretty new to all-grain, about 20 batches, but I have never measured the mash pH.  When I read basic brewing books (Papazian, Palmer) before I started brewing a number of years ago, I don't remember that step mentioned as being very important.  I see a lot of the experienced brewers mentioning their mash pH quite often.  In a nutshell, what is the issue with mash pH, and is it necessary to measure the pH in every batch, or just with certain styles?

You want to keep your mash pH within range (5.2-5.7) for several reasons, fermentation quality and lack of tannins among them.  Although classically temp was cited as the factor in tannin extraction, in actuality pH plays a much more important role.  I don't measure the pH for every batch, but that's because I've done it enough to establish benchmarks for various styles.  For example, for beers like pale ales and IPA, I know that midrange colored beers will need little to no adjustment with my water.  Likewise, I know that for very pale beers I'll have to reduce the pH and for very dark beers I'll have to increase it.  Grain has a natural tendency to reduce pH and the darker the grain, the more reduction you get.  At the very least, it's important to know what's in your water and what the pH is.  Then, if you don't want to mess with adjusting the water, at least you can brew beers that match the composition of your water.
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Offline jmwrightmegg

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2012, 03:03:54 PM »
Denny,

Can you please recommend a resource relating to what pH is best with what beer styles?

Offline denny

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2012, 03:13:21 PM »
John Palmer's How to Brew has some great info, as does Martin's Brungard's excellent spreadsheet, available free at https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/ . It does calculations to help you adjust your pH and mineral content and has a section about water chemistry in general.  A great place to get your water tested is www.wardlab.com .  Get test W-6 for $16.50.
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Offline Malticulous

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2012, 03:57:20 PM »
Unless you have major problems with your water adjustment is just fine tuning flavor. Well, it has been for me. It may have helped efficiency too.

Offline jmwrightmegg

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2012, 05:17:18 PM »
Thanks for the info and references.  I will analyze my water to see what beer styles I will be most successful at where I live.  I'm a little depressed, because I really didn't want to add the complication of treating water to the brewing process. 

Offline euge

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2012, 05:25:51 PM »
Thanks for the info and references.  I will analyze my water to see what beer styles I will be most successful at where I live.  I'm a little depressed, because I really didn't want to add the complication of treating water to the brewing process. 

This is the crux of the problem for many who transition from extract to grain. The confusion starts when their beer isn't as good as it was with extract and grain is technically supposed to produce better beer.

I often just brew with extract when in a hurry and not wanting to mess with the water.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2012, 07:25:56 PM »
Thanks for the info and references.  I will analyze my water to see what beer styles I will be most successful at where I live.  I'm a little depressed, because I really didn't want to add the complication of treating water to the brewing process. 

With my tap water I could only brew good stouts and porters.  I have had to do more to brew good German Pilsners.  The water stuff has paid off.  If you are lucky you might be able to brew good Amber to Brown beers with your water, and that might be what you like to brew!
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Online mabrungard

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2012, 06:20:57 AM »
Unless you have major problems with your water adjustment is just fine tuning flavor. Well, it has been for me. It may have helped efficiency too.

Many brewers don't even recognize when they have a problem.  Water problems are especially insidious since all the other brewers around them make beer that tastes the same as theirs.  You've got folks with high alkalinity that can't make fair light-colored beers and folks in another area with low alkalinity can't produce a decent stout.  If you're lucky, you have modest alkalinity and can do a half-way decent job with a wider variety of styles.  

The good thing about brewing is that almost regardless of the water used, a brewer will come out with a product that resembles beer.  In some cases, really good beer and maybe not so good for other styles.  But, the bottom line is that understanding your water is an important step to producing great beer.  Fine tuning flavor can be helpful, but correcting major deficiencies in water hardness and alkalinity make it easier to produce great beer across a wider range of styles.  

Armed with a little bit of knowledge (water report), a brewer can now use tools like Bru'n Water to figure out better ways to work with their water and make better beers.  
    
« Last Edit: January 23, 2012, 02:25:47 PM by mabrungard »
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Offline ultravista

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2012, 07:13:23 AM »
What are you using to measure PH? Digital meter or paper strips?

Offline redzim

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2012, 07:15:27 AM »

With my tap water I could only brew good stouts and porters.  I have had to do more to brew good German Pilsners.  The water stuff has paid off.  If you are lucky you might be able to brew good Amber to Brown beers with your water, and that might be what you like to brew!

+1 to that, and to Martin's comments as well.  I can make anything darker than a Pale Ale with my water, but for Pilsners, Kolsch, Cream Ale, etc I had a heck of time getting something I like. It was only after I started messing with building my own water in the last year that I am getting results I like.   Other people have the reverse problem (they need to mod their water for dark beers.)

In either case, learn about your water and tweak it if you are serious about accurately brewing a wide range of styles. This definitely involves getting a pH meter and learning how to use it, and for what.  And I cannot understate how helpful both Martin's and Kai's spreadsheets have been in learning to tweak/build water.  Various other people on this forum have also been extremely helpful in educating me in this field. (big props to "HopfenUndMalz"!)

-red
« Last Edit: January 23, 2012, 07:48:02 AM by redzim »

Online hopfenundmalz

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2012, 07:42:35 AM »
What are you using to measure PH? Digital meter or paper strips?

Get a pH meter, and the calibration and storage solutions.  Money well spent to improve the quality of the beer.

Red - thanks for the compliment.
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Offline rshwayder

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2012, 11:06:00 AM »
I find pH meters to be overkill and extra maintenance.

If you get some colorpHast 4.0 - 7.0 strips, you're probably good to go. The 4.0 - 7.0 is the pH range it will test for, so it's perfect for testing pH in the mash.
http://www.amazon.com/ColorpHast-9582-4-7-Test-Strips/dp/B003TV3GQ2/ref=sr_1_1?s=industrial&ie=UTF8&qid=1327341589&sr=1-1

I should point you to some tests done by BrauKaiser that seem to indicate that colorpHast strips read roughly 0.3 pH lower than pH meters do.

So, I tend to aim for a reading of 4.9 to 5.4 on colorPhast strips and have very good results (I prefer to hit the middle of the range somewhere). I ran out of these strips last week when brewing and I'm using water that I'm not used to. Unfortunately, my efficiency was pretty bad.
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Offline euge

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2012, 11:22:09 AM »
I was never happy with the pH strips though the one's used had a resolution of 2. :-[ Pick up a cheap digital meter $27 or so and you'll never look back. It'll take all the squinting, comparing and guesswork out of the process as opposed to reading strips.
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Offline jmwrightmegg

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Re: Measuring mash pH
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2012, 11:49:48 AM »
So what chemicals do you guys have at hand to adjust the water?  Or does a "pH stabilizer" like this from Morebeer work just as well?

http://morebeer.com/view_product/19873/102199/52_ph_Stabilizer_-_1_lb