best ph meter brewing beer

The importance of water when brewing beer is often overlooked. Water makes up the bulk of the beer and can have a drastic effect on the beer’s final makeup.

One of the primary ways brewers can understand their water is by measuring its pH. Knowing the pH of the water, mash, and wort throughout the brewing process can help brewers in several ways.

Because it helps brewers understand the water they are working with, a pH meter can be an invaluable tool in the beer brewing process. In this article, we’ll explore why the best pH meters can help the beer-brewing process and look at a range of choices for home brewers.

Why Does the pH of Beer Matter?

pH measures the percent of hydrogen ions in the beer to determine how acid or alkaline it is. You probably remember the pH scale from high-school chemistry. It ranges from 0-14 and measures how acidic or basic a substance is, with pure distilled water measuring a 7 and being neutral.

Controlling the pH of the beer is a more advanced tactic, and compared to other elements of brewing usually doesn’t have as big as an effect. In many cases, beginner brewers can put pH aside when starting.

Most municipal and store-bought water will be suitable for the average home-brewer. However, if you are using well-water to brew beer then measuring and understanding the pH of your water is more important.

As beginner brewers get more familiar with the process, understanding, and tracking pH throughout the brewing process can provide important benefits.

  • Consistency – brewing beer at the same pH helps you brew the same beer recipe more consistently.
  • Enzyme activity – pH affects enzyme and yeast performance and can help increase extraction during fermentation. Enzymes convert malt starches to sugar best within a specific pH range (about 5.2 – 5.6). If a mash is too acidic or alkaline enzyme activity could be impaired and even halted completely.
  • Flavor – the beer’s finished quality can be affected by pH. Lower pH beers normally have a sharp, dry, more bitter taste while higher pH beers can have a more metallic or soapy flavor.
  • General check – Measuring the pH throughout the brewing process helps you make sure your beer is on track. If you are regularly brewing the same beer, you’ll know that something is off if the pH is not what it normally is.
  • For well water – If you use well water, understanding pH is more important than municipal water because minerals will affect the pH of water. Particularly calcium and magnesium can result in a lower pH (more acidic).

How Does a pH Meter Work?

A pH meter measures the concentration of Hydrogen in a solution. Meters have hydrogen-sensitive electrodes and give you a reading between 0 – 14 that corresponds to the solution’s pH value.

To get a reading from a pH meter, you turn it on and place it in your water, mash, wort, etc. Your meter will signal that it’s done taking a reading and show the pH value.

You’ll normally want to test the pH of your starting water, the mash as well as the wort. Note that some pH meters won’t work and could even break at high temperatures. If that is the case you’ll need to make sure you cool before taking a reading.

Calibrating your pH meter is a crucial step, luckily most of the best pH meters for beer make it pretty straightforward.

How Do I Calibrate my pH Meter?

To get accurate readings the pH meter needs to be properly calibrated with a pH buffer calibration kit before use, especially when it has been a long time (or first time) since it’s been used it’s vital to ensure your meter is properly calibrated. Although it can take some trial and error at first, once you get the hang of it calibrating a pH meter is relatively straight-forward.

Each meter will have slightly different instructions but they follow the same basic idea. It involves placing the meter in a solution whose pH is known. You’ll need to use a pH buffer calibration solution that has a defined pH level. Some meters will come with the solution while with others you’ll have to purchase them separately. There are also powder mixes that let you make your own solution.

Depending on the meter you might need to take readings of one, two, or three different solutions with a pre-set pH. With the appropriate solution(s) you’ll push the calibrate button and dip the meter into the solution(s). Once the meter takes the readings of the different pH solutions it will be ready to go.

Most beer recipes will see the best results if the mash is at a pH range of 5.2-5.4. In most cases when there is an issue with the pH, it will be too high. When that is the case it will require slowly adding acid to bring the pH down. Options for lowering the pH include Lactic Acid, Acid Malt, Phosphoric Acid, or Buffers.

pH Meter Storage

Storing the probes in an electrode storage solution will help maintain calibration and extend their life. After taking your readings be sure to properly clean and store your meter as directed. It’s recommended you clean the nodes after use, then store the meter in a storage solution to help ensure accuracy as well as extend the lifetime.

How accurate do I need a pH meter to be?

Most brewers will recommend your meter being accurate to +/- 0.01, but depending on your water, +/- 0.1 can be good enough when weighed against costs. To ensure maximum accuracy you should store properly to prevent the nodes from drying out and cracking.

Now that you know how pH meters are used in the beer-brewing process, let’s take a look at some options.

The Best pH Meters for Brewing Beer

Defining ‘the best” pH meter can be tricky, what works for one brewer might not work for another. Additionally, while there are some super-accurate but very expensive meters out there, the cost might not be warranted for a hobbyist.

When deciding which pH meter is right for your situation, there are several factors to keep in mind.

  • Automatic Temperature Compensation (ACT) – Meters with ACT ensure accuracy in a range of temperatures. Otherwise, you could see a different pH reading depending on the temperature of your solution.
  • Calibration system – You’ll also want to have an easy but accurate calibration system that minimizes how long you spend calibrating the meter.
  • Accuracy – For most brewers, you’ll want the accuracy to be +/- 0.01, some less-expensive meters are only accurate to +/- 0.1.
  • Weighing costs vs accuracy – As with most things in life, you’ll often get what you pay for. However more expensive doesn’t always mean better quality. You’ll need to find the balance between accuracy and costs for your brewing needs.
  • Removable probes – While not necessarily a “must-have,” many brewers prefer to use removable proves that make it easier to clean, store, and replace them.

In this guide, we’ve looked at more than a dozen of the best-selling models and whittled it down to the seven best pH meters across different price points.

1. Apera Instruments AI3711 PH60-Z

Apera Instruments AI3711 PH60-Z Bluetooth Smart pH Tester Powered by ZenTest Mobile App with...
155 Reviews
Apera Instruments AI3711 PH60-Z Bluetooth Smart pH Tester Powered by ZenTest Mobile App with...
  • Upgraded double-junction blue pH probe – More durable and easier to use
  • Cloud-based data management system – allows you to record, manage, and share your test data at...
  • Hybrid design – This product can be used as a classic tester even without connecting to a...

Bluetooth Smart pH Tester

±0.01 pH accuracy

You might call this “the Cadillac of pH meters,” Columbus, Ohio-based Apera Instruments has been around since 1991 and is among the most respected names in scientific testing equipment.

While being the most accurate pH meter for beer, what sets this meter apart is the ability to sync with an app. It includes the free ZenTest Mobile App which sends readings right to the cloud / your phone app.

The Cloud-Based Datalogger keeps a log of all your tests (connecting to a phone is not required to operate). It has an average of 4.5 stars from more than 150 reviews.

The Good

  • ZenTest Mobile App
  • Calibration warning when not properly calibrated
  • Can alert you of any unexpected changes
  • Uses 4 AAA batteries (pre-installed)

The Bad

  • Expensive
  • Might be more complicated than some hobby-brewer needs

2. Apera Instruments AI311 Premium Series PH60

Apera Instruments AI311 Premium Series PH60 Waterproof pH Pocket Tester Kit, Replaceable Probe,...
1,132 Reviews
Apera Instruments AI311 Premium Series PH60 Waterproof pH Pocket Tester Kit, Replaceable Probe,...
  • NOTE: A few drops of water are added to the electrode cap before the product leaves the factory....
  • Accuracy: 0.01 pH; range: -2.00 to 16.00 pH, 32 to 122˚F (0 to 50˚C); Auto. Power-Off: 8 minutes...
  • Easy 1-3 points auto. calibration, recognizes 5 types of solutions (1.68, 4.00, 7.00, 10.01, 12.46);...

±0.01 pH Accuracy

Automatic Temperature Compensation (ACT)

Also from Apera, this model AI311 is less expensive than the PH60 but still on the higher-end side. It has a 4.5 rating from more than a thousand reviews.

The Good

  • Easy to use
  • Probes are easily replaceable
  • Waterproof
  • Rugged design means it will not break easily
  • Operates using four AAA batteries (included) that will last up to 2,000 hours
  • Comes with KCL storage solution

The Bad

  • While overall most of the reviews were strong, one review said it can be a little slow to get an accurate temperature reading.

3. Apera Instruments AI209 Value Series PH20

Apera Instruments AI209 Value Series PH20 Waterproof pH Tester Kit, ±0.1 pH Accuracy
2,300 Reviews
Apera Instruments AI209 Value Series PH20 Waterproof pH Tester Kit, ±0.1 pH Accuracy
  • Easy auto. calibration with buffer recognition; auto. temp. compensation (ATC) ensures accuracy in...
  • Backed by Apera quality pH sensor with low impedance, ensuring high response rate
  • Comes in a rugged carrying case with pH 4&7 buffers and a lanyard

Accuracy: ±0.1 pH, ±0.5˚C.

Automatic Temperature Compensation (ACT)

The least-expensive Apera model, this is a solid meter at a more affordable price. It has 4.5 stars out of more than 2,000 ratings.

The Good

  • Easy auto-calibration
  • Self-diagnosis will help troubleshoot calibration issues
  • Waterproof
  • Smiley face lets you know when it has a reading : )

The Bad

  • Batteries and node storage solution not included
  • Some reviewers complain about unclear directions and a bit of a learning curve for calibration

4. ORAPXI Digital PH Meter

Sale
ORAPXI Digital PH Meter with ATC: 4 in 1 PH TDS EC Temp - High Accuracy Pocket Size Water Quality...
177 Reviews
ORAPXI Digital PH Meter with ATC: 4 in 1 PH TDS EC Temp - High Accuracy Pocket Size Water Quality...
  • 4-in-1 water quality test: ORAPXI PH meter has a four-in-one function, which can measure PH,TDS,EC...
  • ±0.1 pH Accuracy and 3-Point Calibration: With high sensitivity glass probe, ORAPXI PH meter’s...
  • Easy to Calibrate and Fast Reading: You just need to dip the electrode in the target solution then...

±0.1 pH Accuracy

4 in 1 tester – measures PH, TDS (Total dissolved solids), EC (electrical conductivity), and temperature.

Automatic Temperature Compensation (ACT)

Uses 3 LR44 batteries required (included)

This model from ORAPXI has 4.1 stars from more than 150 ratings. Its accuracy is less than other models. The batteries are a little strange and non-standard, so finding replacements won’t be as easy compared to AAA or AA batteries.

The Good

  • Easy to use and read
  • Pocket Size
  • More affordable
  • Extra batteries included

The Bad

  • ±0.1 pH Accuracy might not be accurate enough for serious brewers
  • While most reviewers didn’t have issues, more than one had issues with accuracy and reliability.

5. Dr. Meter PH100-V

Sale
Dr.meter PH100-V 0.01 Resolution High Accuracy Pocket Size pH Meter with ATC, 0-14pH Measurement...
1,375 Reviews
Dr.meter PH100-V 0.01 Resolution High Accuracy Pocket Size pH Meter with ATC, 0-14pH Measurement...
  • ▶ 【Automatic Calibration】: Often troubled by calibration problem? Just one touch button can...
  • ▶ 【Convenient pH Value Reading】: Get the job done with ease. Ready to read the pH value? Just...
  • ▶ 【utomatic Temperature Compensation】: With automatic temperature compensation function (ATC),...

+/- 0.01 accuracy

Automatic Temperature Compensation (ACT)

4 LR44 batteries required. (included)

The Dr.meter PH100-V has 4.1 stars from more than 1,300 ratings. Its auto-calibration feature will identify the calibration liquid and will calibrate quickly. Again, this uses non-standard batteries that will be tougher to find replacements for.

The Good

  • Ready to go out of the box (no callibration required)
  • Measures temperature and TDS
  • Pocket Size
  • Easy calibration (when needed)
  • Comes with extra batteries and calibration solution

The Bad

  • Some users complain about slow readings if it hasn’t been used recently as well as calibration and accuracy issues.

6. VIVOSUN pH and TDS Meter Combo

VIVOSUN pH and TDS Meter Combo, 0.05ph High Accuracy Pen Type pH Meter ± 2% Readout Accuracy 3-in-1...
6,864 Reviews
VIVOSUN pH and TDS Meter Combo, 0.05ph High Accuracy Pen Type pH Meter ± 2% Readout Accuracy 3-in-1...
  • Great for all home and laboratory TDS & pH testing applications including aquariums, swimming pools
  • pH meter: Full measurement range of pH 0 - 14, reliable and quick readings
  • 3-in-1 TDS meter: Measurement Range 0-9990ppm, 0-9990µs/cm; Accuracy ± 2%, 0.1- 80.0°C,...

+/- 0.01 pH Accuracy

3-in-1 – TDS, EC, and Temperature Meter

Pen Type pH Meter

One of “Amazon’s Choice” for pH meters, the VIVOSUN is an inexpensive but relatively accurate meter that has an average 4.2 rating from more than 6,00 reviews.

The Good

  • Comes pre-calibrated which should last up to a year
  • Inexpensive and easy to use
  • When it needs to be calibrated you’ll need to buy the calibration kit

The Bad

  • As a less-expensive model, critical reviews focused on accuracy as well as the device lifetime.

7. TekSky Digital pH Meters

TekSky Digital pH Meters - 0.01pH Accuracy, 0-60 Celsius, 0-14 PH Measurement Range - Food Brewing...
103 Reviews
TekSky Digital pH Meters - 0.01pH Accuracy, 0-60 Celsius, 0-14 PH Measurement Range - Food Brewing...
  • ✔ MINIMALISM - This digital pH meter is pocket-size and only 1.7 Oz. Ideal tester for basic...
  • ✔ QUICK ALSO ACCURATE - Remove the protective cap and turn the meter by pressing the "ON/OFF" key,...
  • ✔ AUTOMATIC TEMPERATURE COMPENSATION - Its core functional part is a sensitive glass probe, which...

+/-0.01pH Accuracy

Automatic Temperature Compensation (ACT)

Comes with calibration powder

An inexpensive and pocket-sized meter, the TekSky model can be a good choice for quick pH readings. It has 4.1 stars from just over 100 ratings.

The Good

  • Works quickly
  • Comes pre-calibrated
  • Sensitive Probe Design
  • Pocket-sized
  • One year free replacement warranty
  • Good customer service

The Bad

  • Many of the negative reviewers said the meter didn’t work out of the box, which might have been an issue with the packaging and shipping. But many reviewers who reached out to TekSky said their defective model was replaced at no cost.
  • Some users have said it stops being accurate after a few weeks and months

Is pH More Important to Some Beer than Others?

Ensuring proper pH does affect some types of beers more than others. The pH of your beer will be much more important and have a greater effect on all-grain brewing than if you use an extract.

  • Light beers that have been more gently kilned will often be less acidic and are more prone to issues if the pH is too high. This could require slowly adding a small amount of acid until the pH is at the right level.
  • Darkly roasted or heavily kilned malts tend to be more acidic (lower pH) and are less prone to requiring additional acid.

For the average barley-based beer, the pH should be in the 4.1 to 4.5 range. Wheat-based beers will be slightly lower than that. Lambics and sours will be the most acidic.

Using pH Paper vs pH Meter

An alternative to using a digital pH meter is to use disposable indicator strips. These are usually made of litmus or phenolphthalein paper. You might recall them from your high-school science class or pool-testing kits.

pH paper involves dipping the paper strip in the solution. The paper will change color and you’ll match the color of the paper with a guide provided with the testing kit.

Some brewers prefer to use the “old school” strips and believe there is less room for error. While it might not be as accurate as a digital meter, many brewers will find them more than accurate enough for brewing needs.

Some people do have a hard time matching the correct color. If you have poor eye-sight or are color blind, you might be better off with a digital meter.

The strips will be less expensive than a higher-end meter long-term. Some find it easier to use the strips than the digital meter, especially because you don’t need to worry about calibration, storage, etc.

It comes down to personal preference, as there are brewers who swear by each type to measure pH.

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