The pH of Beer When Making Beer at Home
Instead of spending vast amounts of money on store-bought beer, making your own may be more fulfilling. You can learn how to make beer at home, but it might take some time to get used to the technical details, like pH balancing. So what should the pH of homemade beer be?
The pH of beer made at home should be 4.1-4.5. Most homebrewers aim for a pH of 5.2-5.6 at the beginning because this produces a clearer, more flavorful beer. The fermentation process reduces the pH until it settles at 4.1-4.5, with some beers being even lower on the scale.
The pH scale ranges from 0-14, with levels 0-7 considered acidic, while levels above 7 are alkaline. In the rest of this article, I’ll teach you how to check your homemade beer’s pH level and explain how the reading affects your final product.
How To Check Homemade Beer’s pH Level
You should check the pH level of your product a few times throughout the brewing process. The first time should be after about fifteen to twenty minutes into the mashout phase of brewing and the final time should be after the fermentation process is complete.
1. Check the pH Level of the Mash
To check the pH level of your mash, boil the water and then mix in the grain for about 10-15 minutes. Don’t measure the mash directly from the mash tun to avoid injury; instead, take a sample using a ladle and test that.
A pH meter is an excellent device to help measure the pH level of your mash. The VivoSun pH and TDS Meter Combo works great if you’re looking for a digital device that gives you precise readings.
To use it, just calibrate it and dip it into your sample. The screen will show you the exact pH of your sample. This device is great for those who prefer precise, numerical readings over vague, color-coded ones.
Otherwise, you can use Plastic pH Test Strips for a more general, cost-effective solution. These strips aren’t as precise, but they will still give you a good enough reading to help you brew effectively.
Just dip them into your sample and match the resulting color with the accompanying color chart. The strips usually range from red to blue, signifying different pH levels. Generally, reds and oranges signify acidity, while greens and blues are neutral to alkaline.
If you’re using a pH strip, your sample should make it turn orange or light pink, depending on the brand. However, remember that some brands may have completely different colors, so always consult the color chart before using the strips.
At this stage, the mash target pH level should be around 5.5.
2. Check the pH Level of the Wort
The wort is the finished product after the mashout. You should check its pH levels both at the beginning of the boil when you add hops to your beer and at the end.
The beginning sample should be the same as your mash target, which is 5.5. Once the wort finishes boiling, the pH level should read slightly lower, at 5.1.
Remember that temperature changes during the brewing process can cause chemical reactions that change the pH level of the product. That’s why it’s important to check the pH before and after boiling the wort.
3. Check the pH Level of the Final Product
The pH level of the final product after fermentation should be 4.5. However, different ingredients, yeast strains, and grains produce different pH levels. So, most brewers settle on a final pH reading of 4-5.
You may find yourself wondering why the pH level of beer matters so much. The pH level of beer significantly impacts its flavor and aroma. Most barley-based beers are around 4.0-4.5 on the pH scale, but other varieties might be even less.
pH Levels’ Impact on Beer
An accurate pH level records molecular information about the components in water, mash, yeast, etc.
When brewing and fermenting beer, the ingredients’ various molecular components interact at different temperatures to create the finished product.
If you want more information, I’ve got an excellent article on how to remedy pH levels that are too low or too high – with in-depth explanations of the science behind the enzymes, molecules, and other components that make up a flavorful brew.
Your ideal beer should:
- Taste smooth and strong. It should not be too tangy, bitter, or acidic.
- Be clear. The liquid should be fairly transparent, with little (if any) particles seen when examining the brew in a glass.
Your beer should not:
- Be milky, cloudy, or hazy. An opaque beverage is not safe to consume.
- Taste sour, metallic, skunky, rotten, or acidic like vinegar.
Although some beers can be corrected if they taste slightly off during fermentation, the above signs indicate that microorganisms or bacteria have spoiled the beer.
Low pH also facilitates bacterial growth, producing a weak-tasting beer.
If you think your brew is spoiling, you can try a few techniques to course-correct. You can use the following to either increase or decrease the acidity of your beer.
- Calcium carbonate
- Acids like phosphoric acid or muriatic acid
- Lime, salt, and chalk – also known as ‘slaked lime.’
These ingredients all work to raise or lower your brew’s pH level. You can use these ingredients to “correct” the pH of your brew at different stages.
Remember that perfecting homebrew skills takes practice, effort, and consistency. Having the right tools and resources will help you along the journey.
In conclusion, pH levels are incredibly important for your homebrew’s overall taste, texture, and aroma. Using a digital pH meter or pH strips will keep you informed on the pH levels of your brew throughout the entire brewing process.
You should regularly check the pH level of your beer throughout the brewing process. There are three main stages when you need to check the pH levels.
- At the mashout stage
- Before and after boiling your wort
- After the fermentation process