Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Influence Of Grain DI pH On Mash pH

Distilled water, or highly purified water such as reverse osmosis water, are deficient in minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Because of the mineral deficiencies distilled water has zero alkalinity. It lacks the ability to resist pH change, it has zero buffering capacity. In the mash, grain introduces acid buffers that change the pH level of the mash. Lighter colored malt has a pH buffer value near pH 5.8 and darker colored malt has a pH buffer value near 4.7.

The optimal mash pH range required to ensure the most effective enzyme conversion in the mash, and the most efficient hop utilization in the boil, is in the pH range from 5.3 to 5.5. Brewing water used in the mash should be buffered in a way that will enable it to overcome the acidic buffer introduced by the grain. The acid and mineral levels of excellent brewing water provides enough alkalinity to hold the mash within the optimal pH range of 5.3 to 5.5.      

What Happens In The Mash?

What is DI pH and why is it important? The term DI pH is derived from the word distilled as in distilled water and pH as in pH value. You can determine the DI pH value of any grain by finely crushing 40 grams of grain, mixing it in with 100 milliliters of distilled water and then heating the resulting mash to 125°F for 20 minutes. A pH reading taken of the resulting wort when cooled to 77°F is the DI pH value of the grain. Various grain types, and sometimes the same grain type sourced from several maltsters, will have different DI pH values. Accurately calculating brewing water adjustments to optimize enzyme activity in the mash is largely dependent on knowing the correct DI pH value for each grain.

What happens in the mash tun during the mash? The mashing process can simply be stated as 'a mixture of grain and water, heated to a temperature of 149°F to 155°F in order to trigger the enzyme conversion of starch to sugar'. But there is more to it than that. The ratio of grain to water commonly referred to as the mash thickness, also affects the efficiency of conversion. It is a combination of mash temperature, mash thickness and pH that have an affect on mash efficiency.
  • To calculate mash efficiency take a hydrometer reading of the pre-boil wort volume, drop the decimal point then subtract 1000 from the reading, Next multiply that number by the pre-boil wort volume in gallons and then divide that number by the total pounds of grain in the recipe.
  • Example: With a pre-boil gravity of 1.048, dropping the decimal point and then subtracting 1000 equals 48. Multiplying 48 times 13 gallons of pre-boil volume equals 624. Dividing 624 by the 23 pounds of grain used in the recipe equals an extract efficiency of 27.1 
It is important to point out that the conversion of starch to sugar becomes much more efficient when the pH of the mash is between 5.1 and 5.3 at mash temperature. The same mash sample when cooled to 77°F measures between pH 5.3 to 5.5, something to keep in mind when referencing mash pH values.

The DI pH Values Differ Between Grain Types

How does the pH and the temperature of the mash influence my beer? Alpha and beta amylase enzymes in the mash convert starch into non-fermentable and fermentable sugars. The alpha amylase enzyme breaks down starches into glucose (dextrins), producing non-fermentable sugars that add fullness and body to beer. The optimal temperature range for the alpha amylase enzyme is between 145°F to 158°F and the optimal pH range is between 5.3 to 5.8.

The beta amylase enzyme breaks down starches and sugars into maltose, producing the highly fermentable sugars that are preferred by yeast the most. The optimal temperature range for the beta amylase enzyme is between 131°F to 149°F and the optimal pH range is between 5.0 to 5.6.

Test Mash Sample Used To Record Grain DI pH

A 149°F mash is will produce wort that makes a thinner, drier, higher alcohol beer. A 155°F mash produces a wort that makes a maltier, sweeter, fuller bodied beer. To a somewhat lesser extent a mash pH of 5.5, favoring the alpha amylase enzyme, will produce a less fermentable wort. Where a mash pH of 5.2, favoring the beta amylase enzyme, will increase the fermentability of the wort.

The available window of opportunity for a brewer to influence the fermentability of their wort is very narrow. Mashing at temperatures lower than 149°F, or higher than 155°F, will cause enzyme activity to slow down considerably resulting in a decrease in conversion efficiency.

Enzyme activity slows down when the mash pH falls below 5.1, or rises above 5.3 at mash temperature, resulting in a decrease in conversion efficiency. Mash temperatures or pH values that fall too far outside of their optimal range, change the shape of the enzymes causing them to become denatured, which reduces their ability to convert starch to sugar.     

Brewing Water Accuracy Is Dependent On The DI pH Value Of The Grist

Why is it important to know the DI pH values of the grains used in the mash? On average when grains are mashed using reverse osmosis or distilled water, the pH of the mash ends up in the 5.8 to 6.0 pH range. Lacking the buffering needed to resist pH change, distilled water will seek an equilibrium relative to the acid content of the grain, if left unchecked. It is important to point out that a mash pH of 5.8 to 6.0 is well outside of the optimal pH range for both the alpha and beta amylase enzymes.  

The acid content of different grains will vary from grain type to grain type and from maltster to maltster, even when they are producing the same type of grain. The acid content of a roasted malt can have a DI pH of 4.71 and the acid content of a pilsner malt can a much higher DI pH of 5.75. It is also true that 2-Row malt produced by Rahr can have a stated DI pH value of 5.56 while a 2-Row malt produced by Briess can have a DI pH value of 5.70. Some maltsters provide inaccurate information regarding the DI pH of their grain while other maltsters provide no information at all, which confuses the interpretation of DI pH values even further.

Testing Grains For Their DI pH Value Is Worth The Effort

Determining the DI pH of any grain can be accomplished by crushing 40 grams of malt and then stirring in 100 milliliters of distilled or reverse osmosis water to produce a 1.2 qt/lb ratio mash. Allow the mash to reach equilibrium by letting it settle for at least 20 minutes. During this time the pH of the mash will change. The darker the malt is the higher its acid content and the lower the pH value will be. Conversely the lighter the malt is the lower its acid content and the higher the pH value will be. Use a recently calibrated pH meter to take a reading of the test mash and then record the pH value as the DI pH value of the grain tested.

Just enter the DI pH values of grains that have been tested into ezBrewingWater-RO© and be confident that your brewing water profile has been accurately optimized for those grains when they are mashed.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


 ** Version 2 Now Available **

ezBrewingWater-RO© is a water chemistry calculator created specifically for homebrewers who want to use the best water possible when brewing their beer. When starting out with an RO water source there is no need to interpret water reports or having to guess at water variances associated with seasonal change. Building a brewing water profile, using reverse osmosis or distilled water, is easy to do because salts and other impurities have been stripped away. When starting out with pure brewing water you replace only the salts needed to match the style of beer that you are brewing. Then adjust the pH of your brewing water to optimize enzyme efficiency in the mash. ezBrewingWater-RO© makes even the most complicated brewing water profiles easy to do. With a little practice you will be designing your very own brewing water profiles and actually enjoying the process.  

ezBrewingWater-RO© - The easy way to perfect brewing water!

RO and distilled water have extremely low alkalinity and they are devoid of salts and minerals. They both make the ideal water source to use when creating brewing water profiles that are perfect for any style of beer. ezBrewingWater-RO© makes it easy to choose just the right amount of salts and minerals needed to season brewing water to suite your taste. Adjusting the pH of your brewing water so that the mash stays within an optimal pH range, based on the type of grains used in a recipe, has never been easier to do. ezBrewingWater-RO© is the easy way to perfect brewing water!

Download ezBrewingWater-RO© Version Two 

Homebrewers already know that water is the single largest ingredient used in the beer that they brew. Many have heard it said, or possibly read somewhere that "If your water tastes good, you can brew good beer with it" and yes, of course, that makes perfect sense. But what exactly is in water that makes it 'taste good' and what enables it to make 'good beer'? After all, the water piped into your home today looks and tastes just fine. It contains no sediment, it is sparkling clear in a glass and it tastes good; even if it were to have a slight chlorine aroma. Water like this should be perfect for brewing a 'good beer' right? The simple answer is no, at least not by today's homebrewing standards.

Getting Started:

Enter The Volume Of Water To Be Treated

ezBrewingWater-RO© was created to be used with reverse osmosis, commonly known as RO water, or distilled water. Both types of purified water, RO, and Distilled have been stripped clean of any salts, minerals and other impurities that the source water contained. The water produced by either process has extremely low alkalinity, is devoid of salts or minerals and makes the perfect base water to use when creating any brewing water profile. RO and distilled water are both inexpensive to use and are readily available to buy in many local stores.

Enter The Grains Used In Your Recipe

The flavor and alkalinity of RO water can be restored by replacing measured amounts of salt and mineral content that were stripped away during filtration. Adding measured amounts of gypsum, calcium chloride, Epsom salt and Baking Soda to RO water also adjusts the sulfate to chloride ratio of your brewing water; making it more suitable for any style of beer. The pH level of your mash water can be raised by adding Baking Soda or it can be lowered by adding Lactic Acid, or the mash itself can be lowered by the addition of acidulated malt directly in the mash.

The type of grains used in a recipe determines the acidity of the mash, darker more acidic grains will lower mash pH much more than lighter grains such as 6-Row and wheat. To achieve the best enzyme activity and conversion of starch to sugar the recommended mash pH range is between 5.3 and 5.5 at 77F. Wort produced using a water profile that keeps the mash pH within this range, or 5.1 to 5.3 at mash temperatures, also helps to enhance the performance of yeast during fermentation while discouraging the growth of bacteria. 

Enter The Amount Of Salt, Mineral And Acid To Match Your Beer Style

Homebrewing combines the art of recipe creation with the science of brewing, including the science of water chemistry. Throughout recorded history, the most famous styles of beer originated in unique geological locations. Two prominent styles that come to mind are Kölsch from Cologne, Germany and Dry Irish Stout from Dublin, Ireland. The soft waters of the Cologne Basin give Kölschbier its authentic soft mouth feel while the hard, alkaline waters of Dublin, Ireland accentuate the dry creamy mouthfeel of Stout.

Review The Calculated Water Alkalinity And Mash pH Values

Eliminating chlorine is a very important first step when preparing your brewing water. Chlorine in brewing water is notorious for causing off flavors in beer but fortunately, it is easily removed by slowly running the water through an activated carbon block filter. Chloramines in brewing water will also cause off flavors in the beer and they can be removed through activated carbon block filtering too. The ability to remove chlorine and chloramines are governed by the amount of activated carbon that the water flows through and by the length of contact time the water has with the activated carbon.  

Now that all traces of chlorine or chloramines have been removed the brewing water is perfect for brewing a 'good beer' right? Yes it is, but unfortunately, it is not good enough to brew a great beer. Great beers are brewed using water that has the just the right levels of salts, minerals, alkalinity, pH and a few other important properties. The improvements needed to turn good brewing water into great brewing water requires the use of some very powerful chemistry formulas. A water chemistry calculator like ezBrewingWater-RO© lets you focus on creating the perfect water profile for your next beer without having to worry about the complex chemistry that is involved.


If it were not for the pioneering spirit of visionaries such as John Palmer, Colin Kominski, Kai Troester, AJ Delange and Martin Brungard, brewing water calculators like ezBrewingWater-RO© would not be available to the homebrewing community today. Their tireless dedication and commitment, to applying the laws of science and water chemistry to homebrewing, has given rise to the immense popularity and the superior quality of homebrewed beer.