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Adjusting Sparge water pH with lactic acid

As I’m working through water adjustments for my 2014 brewing, I’m wondering about my sparge water pH. I build all of my water from RO and I treat my sparge water by adding salts into the mash, but I don’t use lactic acid. I don’t have a pH meter, so I’m trusting that Bru’n Water is getting me where I need to be.

How important is the lactic acid additon to sparge water? I’m batch sparging, so I have a hard time believing that it’s going to make a huge difference in the tiny window of time that it takes for me to sparge. I don’t have any lactic acid on hand, but I’m thinking I should pick some up.

Where do you get lactic acid? (Edit: I see I can get this at NB or Midwest). And how do you go about making the addition? I know the basic rule of “add acid to water,” but is that all you do? Just dose the water in the HLT before running it into the mash tun and stirring? I’ve been adding the brewing salts to the mash tun rather than to the HLT, because I read that they’ll dissolve better in the actual mash than in plain water.

I believe for the acid you want to add at room temp, then warm up. Get a bunch of disposable plastic syringes from a pharmacy supply, they are cheap and graduated in mL. Lactic acid is quite strong, I’ve read phosphoric is less noticeable but I don’t have any experience with it.

I’ve used both 88% lactic acid and 10% phosphoric acid. Both work, just use an eyedropper to squirt in a few milliliters or add a 1/2tsp. Really your’e right, theres quite a bit of buffer left in the liquid in the grain after the first runnings, but if your house water is hard the acid does insure against a problem as far as tannin extraction.

FYI: When we have an accurate water report, we add acid to water that hasn’t been heated because the amount of acid calculated is based on THAT alkalinity. When you heat water, you start reducing that alkalinity. Adding the acid dose that was calculated based on the original alkalinity means that you will end up overdosing the acid.

It is OK to add acid to hot water, but you will need to determine what the alkalinity of that water is in order to properly calculate the acid dose.

It’s not the temperature, it’s the change in alkalinity!

[quote=“mabrungard”]FYI: When we have an accurate water report, we add acid to water that hasn’t been heated because the amount of acid calculated is based on THAT alkalinity. When you heat water, you start reducing that alkalinity. Adding the acid dose that was calculated based on the original alkalinity means that you will end up overdosing the acid.
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Invaluable tip! Thanks, Martin.

If I interpret this correctly, this basically means that you should be adding your mash chemicals (acids included!) to the strike water before/as you begin heating it up… not to the mash tun, into which you’d pour the already-hot water?

[quote=“Silentknyght”][quote=“mabrungard”]FYI: When we have an accurate water report, we add acid to water that hasn’t been heated because the amount of acid calculated is based on THAT alkalinity. When you heat water, you start reducing that alkalinity. Adding the acid dose that was calculated based on the original alkalinity means that you will end up overdosing the acid.
[/quote]

Invaluable tip! Thanks, Martin.

If I interpret this correctly, this basically means that you should be adding your mash chemicals (acids included!) to the strike water before/as you begin heating it up… not to the mash tun, into which you’d pour the already-hot water?[/quote]
That is how I do it. I poured over Brunwater info a few months ago when I downloaded the spreadsheet. Thanks Martin for such a handy program and for weighing in on these threads.

Since I have started using Bru’nwater, I have experimented with using the sparge acid additions it recommends and leaving them out. My experience is that I can almost always omit the addition. Because when you batch sparge you are not diluting the buffering power of the grain as you do when you fly sparge, the pH remains pretty much what it was in the mash. Get the mash pH right and you’ll almost certainly have the sparge pH right. The exception is that if you have extreme water chemistry.

I sometimes use phosphoric in the mash but I have never acidified my sparge water (batch sparge). My water is pretty neutral so I always assumed it wasn’t necessary.

Austin water is pH9.8, so a little lactic or phosphoric helps achieve the proper kettle and post-boil pH. If you can handle it correctly, buying the stronger versions is a big cost saver over the 10% LHBS bottles.

Well, you guys are easing my mind now. As I said, I’m brewing with 100% RO water, since my tap water is really hard. It’s a small investment to fill up water at the grocery store, about 35 cents/gallon.

Denny, are you omitting the sparge addition just to be pragmatic? :lol: Are there any beer styles that would benefit from the full mineral dose, in terms of flavor contribution from the minerals? Or is the main goal just to control the pH?

I’m relatively new to the water game, but quickly learning. Thanks to the shared knowledge of the community!

[quote=“El Capitan”]

I’m relatively new to the water game, but quickly learning. Thanks to the shared knowledge of the community![/quote]
+1 to this. I’ve had a few people ask me about home brewing. My advice usually consists of

  1. buy How to Brew
  2. join a forum
  3. download Beersmith and Brunwater
  4. keep a notebook
  5. helpful websites (such as dennybrew.com)

I don’t really have a good answer to that. I’m still experimenting to find which styles need what and when. When I omit the sparge additions, it’s because the recipe has previously turned out so well without them that I don’t want to mess with it. So at least then I have prior experience to judge by. But I’m still learning and experimenting, just like everybody else!

At the very least, its good to know whether you need to make an addition or not. This is going to depend on your water, but also how much bound water versus sparge water you’re mixing together. Bigger beers with more malt mean more bound water with more buffers. I don’t think the buffers are in the malt itself, they dissolve into the water that is bound. There may be a certain amount of reation on the surface of the grain but I think mostly it is happening in the liquid.

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