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Phosphoric versus Lactic acid

I’m at the point where i’ll soon need to make some acid purchases. I’m using lactic currently.

Lactic at 88% in the mash requires less volume than NB phosphoric at 10%.

But there are opinions that lactic in to high amounts can impart a sourness and that phosphoric is a choice for brewing use. It has the least flavor impact since there are already similar anions in the mash.

What are your comments of either lactic or phosphoric acids?

The choice of acid can be influenced by the degree of acidification needed for your water. If the acidification needs are low, then almost any acid could do since you may not be able to taste them. However as the degree of acidification rises, then the flavor of the acid may become apparent. In my opinion, when the tap water has less than 150 ppm bicarbonate, lactic acid can be used without flavor effect. Above that level, a brewer may want to employ phosphoric acid since it has less flavor impact.

Another consideration in brewing German styles is that lactic acid is the only acidification allowed and it’s flavor effects may be a desirable characteristic in their beers. In most cases, the waters used across Germany are pre-boiled by brewers to reduce their bicarbonate content to less than 150 ppm and there is not an overt flavor from the lactate ions.

I use phosphoric for the reason Martin mentioned, the bicarbonate is so high in my water (300 ppm) I’d be concerted about being able to taste the impact of the lactic addition. Quickly realized after using 10% phosphoric to correct my water I’d be going through A LOT of it so I got a gallon of 85% phosphoric which I use a syringe to measure and should last me quite awhile. :cheers:

I use lactic, but dilute down my water with reverse-osmosis water so that my bicarbonates are in a reasonable range such that my lactic additions are on the order of 1-3 ml, total, per batch (5 gal).

My water report has the bicarbonate at 108 ppm, still under the threshhold mentioned by Martin.

I’m leaning towards phosphoric acid for heaviest use since it has less flavor impact. But I also love the German styles. Looks like I’ll need a little lactic also.

Thanks for the answers guys. cheers :cheers:

[quote=“Silentknyght”]I use lactic, but dilute down my water with reverse-osmosis water so that my bicarbonates are in a reasonable range such that my lactic additions are on the order of 1-3 ml, total, per batch (5 gal).[/quote]Did that too for awhile but got tired of having to get so much RO water since I mostly do 10 gallon batches. Knew it should work but I was nervous doing a soft water beer like a Helles but it worked out as planned and tasted as good as when I did the beer with RO water.

A good Helles water would be the ‘boiled’ version of the Munich water profile shown in Bru’n Water. It has a modest calcium content, but the bicarbonate content is still a bit high for brewing a Helles. That requires an acid addition and this is where the addition of lactic acid would be a useful component in creating the beer flavor.

Interesting discussion. I have used only lactic acid and at times up to 6 ml (5 gal batches) depending upon the beer. I have high carbonate water and generally dilute about 50/50 with RO. I can smell it in the mash/sparge water but my taste senses can’t pick it up in the beer. If lactic used at higher levels, can any of of you actually tatse it or is this a preventive measure ? thanks

Lactate ion can be tasted by the average taster at about 400 ppm. Since one ion of lactate is added for each ion of bicarbonate neutralized with lactic acid, it appears that neutralizing several hundred ppm of bicarbonate is feasible. Reportedly, some German beers can have around 300 ppm lactate. I’ve never noted a lactate flavor in German beers excepting for Berliner Weisse.

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