Re: Persistent low mash pH

Mon Mar 14, 2016 4:16 pm

I'm hoping that you are adding an acid to your pale beers, but it does appear that your results with your amber beers agree with the somewhat low alkalinity of your tap water. However, that tap water may not have enough alkalinity to keep the mashing wort pH from dropping too low. Adding the baking soda should be the surest way of increasing mash alkalinity. I'm hoping that you are only adding that baking soda to the mashing water and not the sparging water!

As you note, baking soda does add sodium. But I've found that low levels of sodium seem to enhance the flavor of dark styles. However, if the flavor is not to your liking, then using pickling lime might be a better option for you. The problem with lime is that its purity is not constant and it eventually turns into chalk when moist air is allowed into the lime container. So, you might have to add a bit more lime than calculated to achieve your targeted mashing pH. That is kind of a sucky reality, but it might be worth it if your beer tastes better to you. I guess my warning about lime purity is just to prepare you to add a bit more lime if your pH's end up too low.

Keep working at it. Remember, my advice is only a starting point. You still have to refine that advice to fit your brewing, your beers, and your taste preferences.
Martin B
Carmel, IN
BJCP National
Foam Blowers of Indiana (FBI)

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Re: Persistent low mash pH

Mon Mar 14, 2016 4:36 pm

Thanks for the advice. For my sparging, I usually don't add anything to the water at all except maybe cutting it with RO water. I monitor the pH during the sparge and I don't seem to have any problems with it rising so I think I'm ok on that front. I will look into the lime, since I'm always game for trying something new.
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Re: Persistent low mash pH

Tue Mar 15, 2016 6:22 am

Also, you do have a bit of wiggle room with your sodium. I wouldn't go crazy with the baking soda, but adding a little isn't going to push you over the threshold. As Martin mentioned, a little sodium does help round out those maltier styles. If memory serves, the redline is around 150ppm with 110 ppm being a sweet spot.
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Re: Persistent low mash pH

Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:55 pm

Good Lord! Your brew water is worse than mine!

You could go RO and add minerals, but I tried to duplicate the local brew water and never got it to work right (too soft). I asked the head brewer at the major local brewery what he thought about that, and he said "Double the mineral additions". That's not science, that's guessing!

The water at the new house (yeah, I moved) is terribly soft, but the "Big City" just down the road has fantastic brew water, so when I go to town (a couple 'o times a week) I pissant brew water back home in 1 gal milk jugs. I have 10 milk jugs (so far) so it only takes 2 1/2 trips and I'm ready to brew.

I got a 40 gal barrel, but it's a major pain in the ass to haul it to town and fill it, and empty milk jugs come available every week or so, and it's just a matter of time until I shorten the load to two trips.

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Re: Persistent low mash pH

Sun Apr 10, 2016 8:33 am

So as an update, I got water from a different source (mother in law who lives in a different town) and their water is very soft. I did a 100% pilsner malt grist and that water strait and got 5.3. So, my universe makes sense (at least the water does).
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