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Mash PH, Acid Rest, Efficiency and lighter vs. darker beers

Wildrover

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So, as mentioned in my questions in other threads, I've been looking through Palmer's book, searching the net and pondering my high efficiency for my last two darker beers, at least with dark malts (i.e. a pete's wicked clone and a Breckenridge Avalanche Clone) and my lower efficiency for my last lighter summer ale (Mo's summer ale BYO July-August 2007) and I think I may have stumbled upon something but wanted to see if it passes muster here before I act on my hunch. 

I have never paid too much attention to my mash ph or water chemistry.  The water here in Florida is generally pretty hard so I've been buying "drinking water" from the grocery store.  I'm not sure of its chemistry or ph either but I'm sure its softer than anything that comes from the pipes here in St. Pete.  I also generally make all my beers, regardless of style, with this water and without worry about things like ph.

So, my journey on the net (including this very forum) have lead me to believe that I might be getting less than stellar efficiency on my lighter beers (generally around 65%) because the ph might be too high and the lighter grains have no ph reducing "stuff" but the darker beers I make, usually ambers on up through stout are usually > 75% because the darker grains have something in them that will lower the ph to a point that is better for starch conversion and consequently greater efficiency.

Now, I'm getting ready to brew the Allagash clone in the newest BYO and this is all Pilsen malt which means If I'm correct about the mash ph, this recipe has no ph lowering darker grains to really make for an ideal environment for starch conversion.  From what I've been reading, this is where the acid rest comes in.  This rest may help in the ph lowering area which will allow for greater starch conversion and consequently greater efficiency. 

So, with all of that?

1).  Does this sound right?
2.)  When is an acid rest a good tool to help with mash ph. I realize it might never be needed but when might it be helpful.  I'm guessing whenever you are absent darker grains and you know your ph is too high?
3.)  I'm guessing I now need to start paying more attention to my mash ph.  Exactly how do I do this?

Thanks in advance

WR
 

BeerSmith

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The pH is important for mashing - in fact I just finished an article on it for the blog which will come out in the next few weeks.  pH will vary depending on your water and how much darker malt (which lowers pH) is in the mash.  You want to target a pH of 5.1-.3 going into your conversion mash step.

The best way to control it is to measure each batch with some precision pH strips (you need to be careful since there is also a temperature adjustment here for hot mash unless you quickly cool it).  After you have measured it there are a variety of ways to bring it down (it almost always needs to go down).  These include an acid rest (which does not work as well for highly modified malts), adding lactic or other acids, adding acid malt and a few others.  Then you measure again to make sure you hit your target.

More details on the blog in a few weeks...

Brad
 

Wildrover

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Thanks Brad, looks like I've been neglecting a pretty important component.  It also makes sense that I've been getting away with it with my dark beers but not my lighter beers.

What do you think of this 5.2 stabilizer I keep seeing touted all over the hombrewing net.  Is it really the magic pill that people make it out to be?
 

BeerSmith

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Hi,
  Yes the 5.2 stabilizer works very well as long as your starting conditions are not excessively out of balance.  It essentially adds buffers that negate some of the alkalines. 

  For a quick easy solution, and no need to measure, I think it is a great solution.

Cheers,
Brad
 

Wastegate

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I use PH Stabilizer 5.2 when making lighter beers, I use to use PH Strips to check it before I add it to the MT. But it was always dead on 5.2, so I stopped using the PH Strips. Note: I did not have to use as much as the container advertised. I only use about 1/2 to get the correct adjustment in PH.

Cheers

Preston
 

bkrzyzak

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I am looking into the PH and acid rest as well.  I use bottled spring water.  I just bought the test strips but can not find anywhere how to use them.  Can you test regular water?  Do you test the mash? Does temperature matter?  I have never had a problem with my beer and I brew a lot of wheat beers.  Efficiency always comes out great. 
I'm also a little confused on the efficiency tool on beer smith.  It might be a dumb question but when I raise the efficiency percent the original gravity and srm goes up.  Obvious the goal for brewers is to get a better efficiency..what is a good effficiency for home brewers and batch sparging.  I'm usually right in line with all the metrics..

1.  How and when do I use the PH Strips
2.  Can you give me a brief run down the the efficiency tool on beersmith

Thanks
 

CR

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The only pH strips , I know of, that are worth a damn are the ColorPhast strips
They are very good. 






 
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