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pH questions

I know that brewing water pH is more about minerals than it is merely a pH number. I am waiting on a water analysis from my county water provider, but I am brewing before they will have the results to me.

I bought a pH meter, and I’m going to test my tap water before brewing. Without knowing the minerals, I plan on still trying to lower my water pH to an appropriate level with phosphoric acid, though I’m not sure what level to try for. Again, I know this is a loaded question, but I don’t know if I should just aim for an even 7.0 for now? I know I want the mash to be around 5.4-5.6 but I want to do so with minerals not acid. I also have no idea how to calculate the desired pH level for my particular brew.

So if I do indeed just try to get to 7.0, should I be doing that for strike AND sparge? I’ve never worried about pH in brewing before but I’m trying to learn

I found this video helpful when I was first playing with water chemistry/ all grain:a nice tutorial, most brewers use BrunWater, beersmith or Brewers Friend but this gets you up and running:
you tube video on homebrewing water adjustmens - Bing video

I have found this too, but it requires me to enter in the mineral levels for it to work propwrly… So it needs data I don’t have for now.

This is all just to learn more about it all, really. I have been brewing for years and there’s still much to learn.

Then I would get that data first. You want your sparge water around pH 5.4. Not 7.
Your brewing water in the BK will need your water data to approach it correctly, but a mash ph of 5.3 -5.4 is typical.
You could also use distilled and add brewing salts. Again best employed with a brewing water chemistry program that takes into account your grain bill.

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OK, so I adjust my water with ACID to hit a desired pH. The “salts” I add to the boil…
Now here is my adjustments for the mash… I do BIAB… Full volume water… I brew for 10 gallons into the fermenter… My starting volume is 13.5 gallons…
For the lighter colored brews, I will correct the water to 5.8 pH… I will land at 5.2 pH once mashed in… I have gone below that in the first trial and errors of this application. Baking soda will help to bring you back up should you go too low…
Darker colored brews, I will correct to 6.1 pH… I don’t brew stouts so I haven’t a clue what to correct too… I use a gizmo that looks like a syringe, but measures out in .5 teaspoon increments… So do little corrections at a time… keep track… Once you get the hang of this, it will change your brew… And I like my results… Patience grasshopper! Sneezles61

So for a lighter colored beer you would bring the strike water to 5.8? Or the sparge water? Or both?

The experts (of which I am not one) will tell you that the pH of the water you start with matters not. It’s the pH of the mash that’s important. And that pH depends slightly on the pH of the water, but mostly on the grain bill and it’s buffering capacity.So, instead of getting a pH of your water, take one of your mash after the initial 10 minutes or so, and adjust accordingly.

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Its both… For the sake of simplicity, lets keep it to Hot Liquor Tank… HLT… I’ve found that correcting the HLT DOES matter. The grist and the Hot Liquor together will exhibit a pH value… Now if your not correcting IN the HLT, you won’t reach the pH we strive for… The value, 5.8 pH that I give you, is from my water source and light grain bill… I’ve found repeatedly my mash pH settles to 5.2…
Yes I will test my mash after 15 minutes its been mixed…
If you correct only the strike water in the HLT and use it all up mashing in, then proceed to rinse with untreated liquor, the pH will begin to rise and with it, pull protiens and tannins with it… The protiens cause hazy brews, and the tannins bring a bit of sharpness…
You don’t have to correct, and still make a good brew… but taking the next steps, will help your brew stand out…
Play with it… you can ask til your blue in the face, but when you start to put the ideas to work, you’ll gain more understanding… Sneezles61


I’m starting to not believe that “Gypsum brings out the flavors of malt”. I might believe the “more rounded” descriptor when gypsum is added. I’m feeling these days that gypsum makes a “mush” taste profile that I’m not into. I think I make better beer by adjusting what malts I use then trying to bring my malts in balance by adding gypsum.

I will “try” Gyp with hoppy brews once in a while… I don’t really perceive any difference when using it… So to me… why use it?
If I read right, Gyp is a Hydrogen positive salt, which should lend to lowering of pH… I haven’t gone that far to investigate… Perhaps one of you will and report your findings? Sneezles61

How does not treating the liquor increase pH? I don’t understand. You aren’t saying you need to lower the pH to stop the pH from lowering but that’s what I am imagining.

The Alkaline side of the water is whats then allowing the proteins and tannins now to bond with the water… Sneezles61

I talked to a professional Brewer with a strong chemistry background. Obviously they said the best method is to get a water analysis done, but here is the other info I got:

  • DO lower the strike water pH. Anything around 6ish would be fine

  • at ~170 degrees for the mash, we have around 20 minutes to act on mash pH before it’s too late. A little more than 20 minutes but 20 is a good number. Before 20 minutes is up for sach rest, DO adjust the pH of the mash to around 5.2-5.6

  • DO adjust the pH of the sparge water to be very near the desired pH of your mash. No point in accidentally changing the pH of the wort now.

Now, as we all know, changing the pH with a food safe acid is an OK method but it doesn’t 100% fix the issue at hand, but it’s a good place to start. Adding the minerals/salts is the best method but it’s not always NECESSARY.

Hope this helps anyone who has questions like me

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Sounds like you are on the right track. Probably the only wrong answer is doing nothing to your water, unless you are blessed with amazing source water. My homebrew improved significantly when I went all grain and started adjusting the water…which really are inseparable for a good result.

My only comment would be to eventually pick a brewing program which does ALL of your bullet points above by definition. It sounds like doing it piecemeal would involve a lot of “flying by the seat of your pants” without a program.

And Voodoo, flying by yet e seat of my pants is how I came to my conclusions…
For the peeps that do extract brewing, the pH was corrected when it was made, so pH isn’t really a concern for them. Sneezles61

Altering the ratio as well as the total amount of sulfate(via gypsum) to chloride(via calcium chloride) will definitely affect flavor. Your comment “Gypsum brings out the flavor of malt” had me scratching my head. I even went on a google tangent to see if I had somehow missed something , but no. Gypsum will enhance hop flavor and perceived bitterness. Chloride will enhance maltiness and give a more rounded /pronounced malt profile.
Interesting and a bit confusing also was the podcast from Denny and Drew revisiting NEIPAs and what causes the soft mouthfeel in those beers. Apparently some of those beers when tested were high in sulfates (even one of the vaunted Treehouse beers)which was counter to what homebrewers we’re guessing…

I have no doubt😂 …You’re an original, and I’m sure your approach makes good beer!

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Me too… since that comment came from the video you posted.
I think descriptors like “enhance” are completely subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Me too… since that comment came from the video you posted.
I think descriptors like “enhance” are completely subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Hah, lol. Haven’t watched that video since I was starting out, as I said. There could be anything in there…I do think it’s a great video for brewing water chemistry beginners 'cause he actually plugs numbers in while you’re watching and(appalling :flushed: inconsistencies aside) found it more helpful than some of the brewing ‘texts’ such as Water by Palmer.

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That book is WWAAYYY too difficult to understand… but, if you can read some of the stuff and then put the book down… let it roll around in your head… It may make sense. Sneezles61

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