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Kettle pH for a pilsner

Fellow Beerheads: I have been on a pH kick lately (see my other thread about pale beers) and I am looking for some specific information. For awhile now, I have been tasting commercial beers and wondering about certain characters they have and where is it coming from. It occurs to me that there is some very interesting character when your finished beer has a lower pH. Get this: Over the weekend I was bored so I decided to take the pH of some finished beer I was drinking. I took the pH of a pilsner of mine (that did not come out that great) and it was 4.3. I also took the pH of a Red Lager (4.4), a pale ale (4.3) and an ESB (4.3). All of those were my beers. I also took the pH some commercial beers: Hofbrau Oktoberfest (4.2), Stiegl Goldbrau from Austria (4.1) and Pacifico from Mexico (4.0). The Stiegl and the Pacifico (while not homebrewer’s dream beers) were lower in pH and had a very bright, crisp, snappy taste to them. Does anyone here make a gold lager and shoot for a specific kettle pH so that the finished beer pH is around 4.0 or 4.1? I once asked what that “European lager” character was… bright, crisp, slightly grassy, aromatic, etc. and many people said that it was the fresh german grain, local german hops, years of brewing experience, etc. and I’m sure it was. But finished beer pH has to be a part of it. This is not something I want for all styles but I like that refreshing, slightly acidic character. Thoughts?

As often as you brew, I bet it won’t take long for you to arrive at your own decision. That said, I would suggest just go ahead and try 5.2. I know you want to do it. :lol: I would take it easy with the lactic acid (<2ml) but that’s me.

I was going to guess 5.2 for this reason: Many beers I make have a kettle pH of 5.5 and come in around 4.3. I don’t assume I know that the pH of the final beer is “always a little more than 1 point lower than the kettle pH” but it seems that a 5.5 going to 4.3 might mean that a 5.3 or 5.2 would go down to 4.1 or 4.0. I’m going to noodle with this a little bit and employ it on this pilsner I’m making over the weekend. Thanks Zwiller… many thanks yous.

I believe the pH scale is logarithmic so not sure if would translate to this linear comparison. In other words pH4 is 10 times more acidic than pH5 and 100 times more acidic than pH6. Not sure how those translate to comparing kettle pH vs. finished beer pH though but it would seem that it wouldn’t scale linearly.

Yeah, that’s why I said I wasn’t going to draw a straight line because I wasn’t sure if that was accurate. Having a kettle pH of 5.2 would be pretty low compared to some of my other beers so it’s a place to start. When that beer is done, I will check the finished pH of it and see where it lands & adjustments can be made from there. Thanks guys.

The ultimate criterion is how you like the beer. It appears that most brewers and drinkers do like beers that are mashed in the 5.2 to 5.6 range. Darker beers tend to be enjoyed at a slightly higher pH while paler beers tend to be enjoyed more at a lower mash pH. Use the range with your own perspective and the heck with what others say. If it meets your expectations, then case closed.

If you think it is the acidity itself that lends a favorable flavor, you could add small amount of acid to one of your finished beers, like the red lager at 4.4, and see what happens.

you are 100% right on the P.H. scale it gos 10x 100x 1000x 10,000x.
there for, PH 8 is 10x more then 7 and PH9 is 100 x more then 7. works that way in both directions. now RA fits into the mix some where also, not sure if that gos by the same scale or not.

So would anyone care to guess where to get the kettle pH so that the finished beer pH ends up around 4.0 or 4.1 or are there too many variables here?

Based on my digging you can expect a full point drop from fermentation for lagers and a tad more for ales. The main variable is the yeast but also Ca. Although I think autolysis is mostly myth there is a direct correlation to higher pH in finished beer and old yeast. I would think 5.2 into kettle with a .1 drop from boil would give you 5.1 KO wort and with full point drop 4.1. More Ca in the kettle will drop the pH more. From memory, 50ppm should drop pH .1 and 100ppm as much as .2. So with 100pm Ca and kettle pH at 5.2 you would likely hit 5.0 then 4.0 in finished beer.

That’s good stuff. My Ca will only be around 60ppm on this one so it should be okay. I will probably still look at 5.2 or 5.3 for my kettle pH and see where it goes. No need to turn this into a batch of vinegar on my first attempt at this.

I’m going to throw this out there for anyone who can answer it: I was playing with EZ_Water 3.0 just now and entered in my water, the fact that I will be using 50% distilled, adding about 5g of calcium chloride to the mash, 4 gallons of water for the mash, 4 for the sparge, etc. It said I needed to add 5ml of lactic acid to get to a pH of 5.2. But is it thinking that I’m adding all of that acid to the mash or is it thinking 2.5ml mash, 2.5ml sparge or what? It sounds high but based on the pils from last Friday… I’m not so sure. I had to add about that much for that beer as well.

Here are the readings from my last German Pilsner. ( I followed advice given on your web page)

9.5lbs Pilsner
1lb Chit Malt

95% RO water (I have no idea what ppm of minerals were here)
Calcium 40
Mag 1
Sodium 1
Chloride 36
Sulfate 43
Bicarb 14
Added .5mL of Lactic Acid 88% to the sparge water.

Mash PH 5.5 ( all PH readings are at 77F)
Sparge PH 5.7
Pre Boil PH 5.65
Post Boil PH 5.57
Finished Beer PH 4.35

Pitched 3 (almost expired) packs of rehydrated 34/70 @ 51F fermented at 52F. :cheers:

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