Mike has struggled with hitting his final gravity on his beers. Not every beer finished fermenting before the target gravity was met. It was intermittent and enough to sound the alarm for Mike to take action and fix it.

His troubles started with his switch to direct fire mashing but he didn’t know if that was the problem. His solution was to put into action a five beer, ten pound project. Because there were some many variables in his brewing process, he streamlined his process so he could find out what the issue was.

He picked one process for mashing, boiling, and chilling and stuck with it for 5 brew sessions (beer) using 10 pounds of base malt each. With the base malt the same (another factor he made less variable), he followed the same process to track mash pH, efficiency, and attenuation.

Watch this video to learn more about his process and his findings:

Mike’s Findings

Mike’s five beers:

  • English Pale Ale
  • Brown Ale
  • American Pale Ale
  • American Pale Ale with Homegrown Hops

Here’s what Mike concluded:

He feels like we (as hobbyists) have over-complicated water chemistry. There are two things that we need to focus on – water chemistry as it pertains to mash pH, which is the most important thing, and water chemistry in the kettle for flavor.

If you need to adjust your tap water to maintain a 5.2 to 5.4 pH for the mash, then you will be set up for excellent beer.

Don’t worry about trying to emulate water from a different part of the globe. The brewers from those areas were probably adjusting their water too!

Based on our water analysis and the Bru’n Water calculator, Mike added lactic acid to his mash to get the pH into the sweet zone of 5.2 and 5.4. He saw a big improvement to his efficiency of extracting sugar from his grains to his wort. With that, his attenuation was better as well.

So – the big lesson was to work hard to get your mash pH in check. Everything else down the line will fall in place.