Water Adjustment and PH

Discussion in 'Beginners Brewing Forum' started by JockMcBrew, Sep 16, 2020 at 10:31 PM.

  1. JockMcBrew

    JockMcBrew New Member

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    Hi Folks

    Just beginning to get into All grain on a wee scale, Last year I done some 5 litre batches that came as a set from the local home brew store, I then became quite obsessed wi a PDF which the well known Scottish Craft Brewers BrewDog release each year, DIYdog. In which they reveal the recipes for all of their beers.

    In this book each recipe is a 5 Gallon recipe of which I use brewers friend to scale doon to 5 litre, I also read a fair bit on the perfect water parameters. I went to the trouble of getting my local water report and using the water calculator added some tiny amounts of Gypsum, Calcium Chloride, Magnesium, and LActic acid to match the Light and Hoppy profile on here... I matched it pretty close to a 10 litre bucket of brew water. However I noticed the water pre brewing was now at a PH of 4

    Can somebody explain how I can adjust water for a specific beer without creating this PH problem or.. is this even a big problem for my brew today I adjusted by adding more Bicarb, which took it to PH 6.. i then had to readjust the mash back down to 5.4.. I am now confused if this will have messed up my original water perimeter

    Oh and the Water Profile for Edinburgh on here is very different from the official one I have.
     
  2. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    First, use the water profile you have. Likely much more accurate than the tables here. I seem to remember they were scraped from some website, I've seen these tables all over the brewing literature and they are not to be trusted. Brewers have modified their water for hundreds of years, if not longer, so there's no guarantee that the water used for brewing, even if the water report was accurate, was what you see in the tables.

    You adjust water for two reasons. The first is to adjust the pH so that it stays in the sweet spot of 5.2 - 5.6, lower for lighter colored beers, higher for darker ones. For that, all you need is calcium, magnesium and acid or, in rare cases, alkalinity should the mash pH fall out too low, generally in dark beers with lots of highly roasted malt. This part is simple chemistry and the water calculator handles it pretty well. If you have to add acid or adjust pH down using salts, don't add bicarbonate, simple stuff like that. Adjusting flavor is a bit more of a trial and error thing. Here's where the sulfate and chloride come in, as well as the beer's finished acidity. You can adjust for flavor at any time.

    I've done the adjust pH down, then back up with bicarbonate. Bottom line is adjust your mash pH first, then after the mash you can add whatever you'd like to adjust flavor. I find table salt to be one of the most useful additions....

    Hope this helps!
     
  3. JockMcBrew

    JockMcBrew New Member

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    Thanks for the information mate very interesting, So would you say in future rather than adjusting water prior to the mash, Am I better just going with my local water, prioritising PH adjustments for the Mash, then adding any flavour enhancing adjustments after the boil, also im aware my local water is soft, if I chose to brew a dark stout etc would pH adjustments in the mash remedy this ?
     
  4. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    Well, first of all you want to get your mash pH right, AND add your gypsum, calcium chloride, etc, to the mash unless it drives the mash pH too low (and it shouldn't unless you're using a ton of acidic blank malts). Then, if you have more flavor ions to add, you can add it to the kettle as you sparge (not after the boil).

    There are some additions that you could add to the mash to increase the mash pH (baking soda, pickling lime) and some that decrease the pH (gypsum, calcium chloride and table salt). If you haven't seen it, we have a three part article that is about this, for beginners:
    https://www.brewersfriend.com/2017/11/19/brewing-water-basics-part-1/
    https://www.brewersfriend.com/2017/11/19/brewing-water-basics-part-1/
    https://www.brewersfriend.com/2018/02/13/brewing-water-basics-putting-it-all-together/

    There is nothing wrong with planning to have some goals for the water chemistry- but those profiles may not be exactly what the breweries used (they may have preboiled to reduce bicarbonate, for example), or may not even be obtainable with your water. (For example, chalk will not dissolve without extraneous measures). Still, I like the "light and hoppy" profile for my APAs and some of my IPAs, and I use it. One thing to keep in mind if you see a bicarbonate level in the profile is that there is NEVER actually a target for bicarbonate- you only need enough bicarbonate to hit your mash pH target, and usually a "good" amount of bicarbonate is 0.
     
  5. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    I think in two stages, recipe additions, then mash adjustments.

    Our water is pretty clean so I need to add some calcium to help the fermentation. As I need to add calcium I think of which flavour I want to emphasise. More gypsum for the hoppier/drier beers, more calcium chloride for the beers with more mouthfeel. I don't add a lot so there's generally only a small change to the pH from these additions. So that's the recipe based, 'flavour' additions.

    Then I wait until I'm about 10 minutes into the mash and get a pH sample. If it's high I'll just add some phosphoric acid to get it into range. If it was too low I'd add some slaked lime. Thankfully it hasn't been low yet, as I don't have any slaked lime.

    If the water calculator was telling me the flavour additions were going to push me out of range, I might consider adding them to the boil, but our water is pretty neutral, so I haven't had to do that yet. I'm also pretty light on the flavour additions so that may be helping me there. I know a lot of traditional British profiles are as much as 10 times more salts than I add. That would provide me challenges.
     
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  6. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    I go with Mark's process, just backward. I'm building from RO water so I have a blank slate. My priorities for water:
    - 50 ppm Calcium in the mash
    - Mash pH between 5.2 and 5.6
    - Sulfate and chloride.

    I wrote an article in the last issue of BYO describing how to tweak beer flavor at packaging using salt solutions. You can actually add flavor salts at any time up to and including just before drinking.
     
  7. JockMcBrew

    JockMcBrew New Member

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    This is all brilliant information guys cheers, I will now be using my tap water with a quarter of a campden tablet to sort chlorine/chloramine,
    I will then concentrate on Mash PH adding the suggested adjustments if needed, I'll then leave any flavour enhancing adjustments to sparge/post boil stage. As nosybear suggested I plan on taking a batch pint and using it to play about with salts and additions etc to get the perfect flavours, I had never even thought of this.

    Thanks again
    Slainte
     
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  8. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    That's a good plan! I would suggest that many of the flavor ions impact the pH, and while it's not to be used as pH control as a primary agent, calcium sulfate and calcium chloride (the most common additions) do have a small effect on lowering mash pH. So I use them in the mash only, so that my mash pH is in the intended range and sparge with RO water with no additions.

    Speaking of sparging, make sure you sparge with either RO water or add acid to tap water so that you have a low alkalinity water. You can add your additions there if you would like, except remember to never add alkalinity to the sparge water (so no baking soda, lime, chalk, etc).
     
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  9. mgraber

    mgraber New Member

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    I guess my question is why you were concerned about the water PH "pre brewing" as it is of no consequence to the mash PH.
     
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