cost effective and practical. Standard pH strips lack the precision needed to measure down to atenth of a point pH, and electronic meters are expensive and require frequent replacement of theelectrodes to maintain accuracy.Another practical consideration is that the mash is usually hot, so you need to adjust the pHreading for temperature. Hot wort will almost always provide a higher pH reading than theactual wort. You can compensate for this either by rapidly cooling the sample to roomtemperature before measuring or applying a correction factor after taking the reading. Check thedocumentation with your pH strips to determine the appropriate correction.
Methods for Adjusting Mash pH
There are several methods available to the homebrewer for adjusting the pH of your wort. Asnoted earlier, in most cases you will need to lower your pH to reach the 5.2 target level.
Calcium and Magnesium Salts:
Three salt: Gypsum (CaSO4), Epsom Salt (MgSO4)and Calcium Chloride (CaCl) can be added to lower your pH. The calcium andmagnesium ions in these additions reduce the alkalinity of the water. Note, however, thatthe sulfate and chloride ions react with the phosphates from the mash, which can lead toundesirable flavors. As a result you need to limit the amount added. You can calculateappropriate amounts using a water tool such as the one inBeerSmith. Suggested limitsare 50-150 ppm for calcium, 50-150 ppm for sulfate, 0-150 ppm for chloride and 10-30 ppm for magnesium. See our article on water profiles for more information.
Food Grade Acids -
Acid additions counter the H+ ion and directly lower the alkalinityof the mash. Popular additions include phosphoric acid, sulfuric acid and lactic acid. Allof these contribute other flavors and ions to the beer as well, which can again cause problems if used in excessive amounts. Phosphoric acid is used to make soda, and willcontribute phosphates to the mash. Lactic acid will add lactates, and is used in manyBelgian styles to sour the beer. Sulfuric acid will contribute sulfates. In general youshould add the minimum needed to achieve your target pH. The amount will varydepending on the concentration of your acid and wort volume.
Acid Malt -
Because of German purity laws (the Reinheitsgebot) that prevent additivesto German beer, sour malt (called acid malt) is used to aid in the brewing of light beers tolower mash pH. Acid malt is made by souring malt with lactic bacteria for a short periodwhich effectively creates lactic acid. Adding acid malt is effectively equivalent to addinglactic acid to the mash. Adding one percent of acid malt effectively lowers the pH of themalt by approximately 0.1 pH.
Sour Mash -
Another technique developed by the Germans is to create a sour mashwhich again contains lactic acid produced by lactic bacteria. The technique is to mash aquantity of grain, cools it to about 80F and then adds some fresh malt (which containslots of lactic bacteria naturally) and lets the mixture sit overnight. The bacteria willquickly sour the mash and start fermenting it, again creating lactic acid. The next day thissour mash can be mixed with a regular mash to lower its pH. The challenge with sour mashing is that it can be somewhat inconsistent in pH and also labor intensive.
Acid Rest -
Though seldom used today thanks to modern highly modified malts, an acidrest in the 95F (35C) range can break down phytins in the malt into phytic acid that willlower the mash pH. This was traditionally done in German triple decoction mashes, andis most effective when used with undermodified malts.