Problems getting pH up

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peebee

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Up until about a year ago I was having no problems with pH. I've soft water, the Salifert alkalinity test is no use (it reports somewhere between zero and the smallest increment it reads to), but I was getting on fine with "bicarbonate" set at 6ppm (calculated from smallest alkalinity increment from test kit and reported total hardness figure using Bru'n Water).

Then mash pHs started to fall: 5.2, 5.1 was the usual. Change pH tester, re-calibrated (once or twice), started arbitrarily reducing bicarbonate levels to try and get some restorative action out of the software (I was using Bru'n Water, but seems any of the calculators come up with reassuringly high figures that don't bear out in reality). Yesterday I'd got bicarbonate set at a bit over 2ppm and thought I'll have it now - mash pH came out 5.0. Bicarbonate will be set to zero for next time! And I'll probably make some arbitrary additions of baking soda or slaked lime.

My mash efficiencies have fallen recently, maybe connected? Brewhouse efficiency has been dialled down from 78% to 75% to compensate (some Chevallier Malt only gave me 65% recently). I'd been whinging that I bought a malt-crusher and got the opposite reaction to what everyone else said (i.e. my efficiencies fell) - perhaps this was just coincidence?

What might be going on? I've updated my water reports but apart from sulphate mysteriously increasing (from 16.6ppm to 59ppm) nothing really changing.
 

Dads_Ale

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Could it be that your water company is sourcing water from farther afield, especially in this hot weather.
At a recent talk with a Murphy representative she said this was becoming a problem in some areas, with at least one brewery having to test their water on a weekly basis.
 

Dutto

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Perhaps you aren't milling your malt sufficiently! Here's a photograph of the results from three different settings on my El Cheapo Mill.

Milled Grains.jpg


I generally use a setting near the middle photograph. There is a small amount of flour generated so I'm very careful when doughing in, to make sure that I don't get any lumps in the Mash.

The increase in the presence of sulphates may be due to your supplier increasing the alkalinity. Gypsum (a hydrated form of calcium sulfate) is often used and if you wish to start treating your water (personally I don't bother) it's readily available here ...

https://www.colchesterhomebrew.co.uk/colchesterhomebrewshop/prod_337756-Gypsum-Powder-100gms.html

PS

Malt Mill settings will "drift" so check after every brew!
 

peebee

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Could it be that your water company is sourcing water from farther afield, especially in this hot weather. ...
You are joking aren't you? Running out of water in … Wales! However, there has been talk of shipping some (more) of our water to England; but it's a touchy subject and I don't think they are close to doing it yet. When they do there will be a fair few other brewers facing the same problems as me.

I was looking out across Alwen reservoir less than two weeks ago (right next to Llyn Brenig, our main drinking hole) and it isn't showing signs of getting short - it was full like it always is.

Just reminding folk, who have water with the same mineral content as concrete, that us with water containing less than 100ppm total dissolved solids have our problems too.
 

peebee

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Perhaps you aren't milling your malt sufficiently! Here's a photograph of the results from three different settings on my El Cheapo Mill.
...
I generally use a setting near the middle photograph. There is a small amount of flour generated so I'm very careful when doughing in, to make sure that I don't get any lumps in the Mash.
I often worry if I crush my grain right, thanks for the photo. But I am crushing about the same as in the middle photo.

… The increase in the presence of sulphates may be due to your supplier increasing the alkalinity. Gypsum (a hydrated form of calcium sulfate) is often used and if you wish to start treating your water (personally I don't bother) it's readily available here ...

https://www.colchesterhomebrew.co.uk/colchesterhomebrewshop/prod_337756-Gypsum-Powder-100gms.html ...
Can't be doing with those fiddly little amounts; I use https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Calcium-Sulphate-di-Hydrate-99-Home-Brewing-Gypsum-500g-in-Foil-Pouch/141847042862?ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&_trksid=p2060353.m2749.l2649. Interestingly this does seem to be more finely milled than most gypsum I've used and more easily dissolved. Gypsum can be a right pain to dissolve in large quantities.
 

peebee

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If your pH drops then you need to add sodium bicarbonate (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_bicarbonate) to increase your pH.
Thanks. Aye, I said that in the OP - "I'll probably make some arbitrary additions of baking soda or slaked lime". But I don't like making "arbitrary" adjustments when I don't understand why I'm having to do it. Suggests I'm missing something important (and probably making things worse).
 

BREWERS DROOP

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I had big ph changes when switching to Crisp malt,So I have got myself a mill and uncrushed grain,found a lot of fine flour in the 25kg sacks I ordered.So will see on the next brew crushing my own.
 

BREWERS DROOP

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Perhaps you aren't milling your malt sufficiently! Here's a photograph of the results from three different settings on my El Cheapo Mill.

View attachment 14372

I generally use a setting near the middle photograph. There is a small amount of flour generated so I'm very careful when doughing in, to make sure that I don't get any lumps in the Mash.

The increase in the presence of sulphates may be due to your supplier increasing the alkalinity. Gypsum (a hydrated form of calcium sulfate) is often used and if you wish to start treating your water (personally I don't bother) it's readily available here ...

https://www.colchesterhomebrew.co.uk/colchesterhomebrewshop/prod_337756-Gypsum-Powder-100gms.html

PS

Malt Mill settings will "drift" so check after every brew!
What mm setting do you use? On the middle crush
 

strange-steve

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Apologies if I've misunderstood your post, but it seems like you've been reducing the bicarbonate level when in fact you should be increasing it if the pH is too low.
 

Sadfield

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Apologies if I've misunderstood your post, but it seems like you've been reducing the bicarbonate level when in fact you should be increasing it if the pH is too low.
I read it as, PeeBee was reducing the data for Bicarbonate in software, not psychically.

I'm no chemist, however, I would be surprised if only the Sulphate has increased, water needs to exist in equilibrium and so an increase of one ion will need to balance out with others.
 

strange-steve

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I read it as, PeeBee was reducing the data for Bicarbonate in software, not psychically.

I'm no chemist, however, I would be surprised if only the Sulphate has increased, water needs to exist in equilibrium and so an increase of one ion will need to balance out with others.
Ah yes, so I did misunderstand then.
You're right though, the sulphate won't increase in isolation, there'll almost certainly be a calcium increase along with it. That in itself doesn't explain the pH drop though, it's impossible to say really without knowing the water composition and grain bills.
 

Dutto

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What mm setting do you use? On the middle crush
This is the Mill set up for milling at 1.1 to 1.2 mm as per a feeler gauge. I use an embossed Credit Card to set the mill faces parallel and then adjust the width with the feeler gauge and the screw/nut assemble at the end.

The two mill faces seem to be slanted but they are more of less parallel during the actual milling process.

Mill Set for Milling.jpg



PS

With regard to changing water pH please don't forget the Camelford incident. It's still in the news after nearly 30 years!

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-44727036
 

private4587

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I know its slightly off topic but i have the opposite effect of Peebee, I use Bru'n'water in my water calculations using 100% RO water and 50-50 RO/tap water. I adjust salts to give me roughly a PH of 5.4, but when i come to take my mash Ph after approx 10min into the mash i find that i am getting a Ph reading of about 5.8-6. This is using two Ph meters to have comparisons. My BH efficiency is about 68%. Any ideas?
 

NIGHTSKY BREWING

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This is the Mill set up for milling at 1.1 to 1.2 mm as per a feeler gauge. I use an embossed Credit Card to set the mill faces parallel and then adjust the width with the feeler gauge and the screw/nut assemble at the end.

The two mill faces seem to be slanted but they are more of less parallel during the actual milling process.

View attachment 14378


PS

With regard to changing water pH please don't forget the Camelford incident. It's still in the news after nearly 30 years!

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-44727036
Lov the Mill ....What make is it?????.
 

foxbat

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I know its slightly off topic but i have the opposite effect of Peebee, I use Bru'n'water in my water calculations using 100% RO water and 50-50 RO/tap water. I adjust salts to give me roughly a PH of 5.4, but when i come to take my mash Ph after approx 10min into the mash i find that i am getting a Ph reading of about 5.8-6. This is using two Ph meters to have comparisons. My BH efficiency is about 68%. Any ideas?
Do you stir the mash before taking a sample to ensure it's well distributed and do you let it cool before testing? I actually don't bother testing until the end of the mash because I don't intend to adjust on-the-fly and just take a reading for reference in case I need to change something the next time. Using Brunwater for calculations and Ashbeck + salts + lactic acid I've always been very close to the predicted number for the pale ales and lagers I normally brew.
 

peebee

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Ah yes, so I did misunderstand then.
You're right though, the sulphate won't increase in isolation, there'll almost certainly be a calcium increase along with it. That in itself doesn't explain the pH drop though, it's impossible to say really without knowing the water composition and grain bills.
Thanks. Figuring if I'm adding the bicarbonate or just reading about it does my head in - sorry, should have been clearer.

The basic figures from the Web site are:

Capture1.JPG


These haven't changed over the last few years. Note the "Calcium" is calculated from the hardness (comes out 18.8 if I do it) and isn't actually tested for. I queried what the Magnesium content would be as it must be included in that calculated figure and was told there is no measurable Magnesium in the water so they don't report it.

Water's pH is about 7.4 to 7.8. I used the figure from the Salifert alkalinity test kit to estimate bicarbonate (in Bru'n Water). Note I was using the smallest figure the test kit could return. Comes out 6ppm bicarbonate. All was well, the mash pHs predicted by Bru'n Water were coming out pretty good. And then 12 months ago it goes wayward. The mash last weekend was 5.0 when predicted as 5.18 (Bru'n Water), even having arbitrarily reduced bicarbonate in the water report (Bru'n Water) to 2.4ppm. That mash was 7% crystal, 93% pale (with about 0.5% chocolate for colour), and even a pinch of slaked lime (amount as calculated in Bru'n Water, added to the grain, not the water) 'cos I was getting desperate.

And the last 12 months coincides with bad mash efficiency figures (but also coincides with grinding my own malt - bad for me is less than 75% brewhouse efficiency). Interestingly the colour expectations are way too pale - that doesn't bother me but I see that's a possible side-effect of low pH mashes.

I've attached the full report and the older report. Cheers.
 

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Dutto

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Lov the Mill ....What make is it?????.
It's one of these from The Home Brew Shop ...

https://www.the-home-brew-shop.co.uk/cgi-bin/sh000001.pl?WD=mill&PN=Basic_Malt_Grain_Mill.html#SID=271

It cost me £19 before the referendum vote!

Here's the set up using an old FV.

The second photo shows a modification I made to the end bearing. The last photo is of the dehumidifier (unscented) that I keep in the FV to ensure that there is no dampness when the mill is set aside.

Malt Mill 1.jpg


Mill End Bearing.jpg


Mill with dehumidifier.jpg
 

strange-steve

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Other than the slaked lime, what other adjustments did you make?
 

peebee

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Other than the slaked lime, what other adjustments did you make?
Hey, thanks a lot.

Over 12 months I've brewed dark and light beers (even the dark one, with roasted malt, came out pH5.3), but this most recent one:

In 22.5L mash water …
7.5g Gypsum
3.4g Calcium Chloride
2.0g Epsom Salt
1.1g Salt

… and 0.6g Baking Soda on top of the 0.24g Slaked Lime.

'Twas based on Graham Wheeler's "Bitter" adjustments. Water treated night before. Water temperature about 20C and gypsum added and stirred in first ('cos gypsum can be a pain to dissolve).


Footnote: In looking back at recipes to answer this, maybe the problem has only been the last six months, not twelve. December 2017 brews were still coming out around the expected pH.
 

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