West Coast Brewer Home Brewing Blog

Tag: acid


pH, short for potential hydrogen, measures the acidity or basicity of a brewing fluid such as the starting water (liquor), mash, wort, or beer. A fluid with a pH less than 7 is acidic, and a fluid with a pH greater than 7 is basic or alkaline. If a fluid has a pH of 7, such as pure water, then it is considered neutral.


pH is a very important factor in all grain brewing, and different geographical areas and water sources can have dramatically different pH levels and mineral contents that impact the pH of a mash. Additionally, the style of beer that you brew will have a significant impact on your mash pH level. Typically the darker the color of the malts that comprise your grain bill, the more acidic your mash will be. This is important because the enzymatic conversion of starches to sugars only effectively occurs in a mash that has a pH between 5.0 and 6.0; ideally your mash would be between 5.2 and 5.5 pH, which is considered optimal.


A great starting place for dialing in your mash pH is to get a copy of your municipal water report to learn about the pH and mineral composition of your brewing water. Software such as BeerSmith has great tools built in that will help you determine when brewing salt and mineral additions are required to help you bring your pH in line when comparing your local water to that of a specific style of beer. Lastly, purchasing some inexpensive pH testing strips is an effective way to ensure that your mash pH is at an appropriate level.



A wide selection of home brewing pH testing equipment can be found here:

Home Brewing pH testing equipment


Photo of ColorpHast pH testing strips used during the mashing phase of a home brewed beer.

Brewing pH Strips

Brewing pH Strips


Beer fermentation is the metabolic conversion of malt and adjunct sugars to alcohol, acid, and CO2 using yeast or bacteria. As yeast and bacteria convert the wort sugars, approximately equal amounts of carbon dioxide and alcohol are produced. The alcohol being produced by the yeast is less dense than the sugars and water the yeast is metabolizing, so the gravity of the fermenting beer drops while fermentation continues to occur.

The two predominant types of fermentation are top fermenting which is used for ales, and bottom fermenting which is typical for lagers. The time frame for a fermentation to complete is dependent on a great many factors, just a few of them include the types of sugars that the wort is composed of, the amount of sugar in the wort (original gravity), the type of yeast and or bacteria used, the amount of yeast and or bacteria used, the health of the yeast and or bacteria, and temperature the fermentation occurs at. Most fermentations will take approximately two to six weeks to complete, but some may take upwards of a year before the beer is considered ready.


Below is a photo of beer during primary fermentation.

Primary Fermentation

Primary Fermentation


A buffer or buffer solution, as related to pH, is typically a solution consisting of a weak acid and its conjugate base, or a weak base and its conjugate acid. The purpose of the buffer is to decrease the impact to pH when a differing acid or base is introduced to the solution.


PH plays an important role when it comes to a brewer’s mash. You will find brewing pH stabilizers available on the market, such as pH Stabilizer 5.2, which is a sodium phosphate salt-based buffer; please be aware that there is a great deal of disagreement about how beneficial or detrimental they actually are. Ideally, you would control the mash pH of each individual beer style by comparing your home water profile to that of the desired water profile of the beer you are brewing, and make the appropriate water adjustments that way.


Additionally, some of the popular home brewing software on the market will also help you determine the proper water additives based on the estimated pH level of the grain bill that you are brewing with. Lastly, there are a variety of pH measuring strips and meters available on the market, which can help you determine if adjustments need to be made to your mash.

Alpha Acid

Alpha acid is one of the two soft resin acids that are present in hops. The alpha acids in hops are found in the resin glands of the flowers, and they are the primary source of the hop bitterness. In addition to their bittering properties, alpha acids also act as preservatives in beer. When heated in the brewing process, alpha acids are isomerized and form iso-alpha acids. The amount of time that the alpha acid is subjected to the boil determines the degree of isomerization that occurs and the amount of bitter flavoring that is  produced in the beer.


At a certain point, the boiling begins to have significantly diminished returns on the isomerization of the alpha acid and becomes ineffective for creating additional bitterness in the beer. Typically that occurs after 60 to 90 minutes of the hop being added to the heated wort. The isomerization process occurs when the wort is heated above approximately 175 F. The quantity of alpha acid present in a hop will determine the hops bittering potential. Alpha acid percentages vary dramatically between the different varieties of hops and are impacted by a multitude of outside factors such as storage packaging, age of the hop, storage temperature, oxidization, drying method, and growing conditions.


The most common alpha acids are humulone, adhumulone, cohumulone, posthumulone, and prehumulone.


Below is a list of commonly expected alpha acid levels for different hop varieties. These are not exact and are just intended for estimation purposes:

Ahtanum Hop, Alpha Acid 5.5-9%, Beta Acid 5-6.5%

Amarillo Hop, Alpha Acid 6-11%, Beta Acid 6-7%

Apollo Hop, Alpha Acid 15-21%, Beta Acid 5-8%

Australian Galaxy Hop, Alpha Acid 12-14%, Beta Acid 5.5%-6.5%

Australian Helga Hop, Alpha Acid 5-6.5%, Beta Acid 4-5%

Australian Pride of Ringwood Hop, Alpha Acid 6-8.5%, Beta Acid 4.5-5.5%

Austrailian Stella Hop, Alpha 14-16%, Beta Acid 4.5-5.5%

Australian Super Pride Hop, Alpha Acid 13-15%, Beta Acid 6-7%

Australian Sylva Hop, Alpha Acid 4.5-7%, Beta Acid 3-5%

Australian Topaz Hop, Alpha Acid 15-18%, Beta Acid 4-5%

Bravo Hop, Alpha Acid 14-17%, Beta Acid 3-4%

Calypso Hop, Alpha Acid 12-14%, Beta Acid 5-6%

Cascade Hop, Alpha Acid 4.5%-7%, Beta Acid 4.5-7%

Centennial Hop, Alpha Acid: 9.0-12.0%, Beta Acid 3.5%-4.5%

Chinook Hop, Alpha Acid 11-13%, Beta Acid 3%-4%

Citra Hop, Alpha Acid 11-13%, Beta Acid 3.5-4.5%

Cluster Hop, Alpha Acid 5.5-9%, Beta Acid 4.5%-6%

Columbus Hop, Alpha Acid 14-16%, Beta Acid 4.5%-5.5%

Crystal Hop, Alpha Acid 2-4.5%, Beta Acid 4.5%-6.5%

Czech Saaz Hop, Alpha Acid 3-4.5%, Beta Acid 3-4%

Delta Hop, Alpha Acid 5.5-7%, Beta Acid 5.5-7%

El Dorado Hop, Alpha Acid 13.5-16%, Beta Acid 7-8%

Falconer’s Flight Hop, Alpha Acid: 10-11%, Beta Acid 4.5-5.5%

French Strisselspalt Hop, Alpha Acid 3-5.5%, Beta Acid 3-6%

Galena Hop, Alpha Acid Pellets 12-14%, Beta Acid 7-9%

German Brewer’s Gold Hop, Alpha Acid 5-9%, Beta Acid 2.5-3.5%

German Hallertau Hop, Alpha Acid 3-5%, Beta Acid 4-5.5%

German Herkules Hop, Alpha Acid 12-17%, Beta Acid 4.5-5.5%

German Hersbrucker Hop, Alpha Acid 1.5-3.5%, Beta Acid 4.5-6%

German Magnum Hop, Alpha Acid 13-15%, Beta Acid 5-7%

German Merkur Hop, Alpha Acid 12-15%, Beta Acid 5-7.5%

German Northern Brewer Hop, Alpha Acid 8-10%, Beta Acid 5-6.5%

German Opal Hop, Alpha Acid 5-8%, Beta Acid 3-5.5%

German Perle Hop, Alpha Acid 6.5-9%, Beta Acid 5-6.5%

German Saphir Hop, Alpha Acid 2-4.5%, Beta Acid 2-4.5%

German Select Hop, Alpha Acid 3-6.5%, Beta Acid 3-4.5%

German Smaragd Hop, Alpha Acid 4-6%, Beta Acid 4-5%

German Spalt Hop, Alpha Acid 4-5.5%, Beta Acid 4-5%

German Tettnang Hop, Alpha Acid 3.5-5.5%, Beta Acid 5-6%

German Tradition Hop, Alpha Acid 5-7%, Beta Acid 4-5%

Glacier Hop, Alpha Acid 5.5%-6%, Beta Acid 6-8%

Horizon Hop, Alpha Acid 11-13%, Beta Acid 6.5-8.5%

Liberty Hop, Alpha Acid 3-5%, Beta Acid 3-4%

Millennium Hop, Alpha Acid 13.5-16%, Beta Acid 4.5-5.5%

Mosaic Hop, Alpha Acid: 11.5-13.5%, Beta Acid 3-4%

Mt. Hood Hop. Alpha Acid 4-7%, Beta Acid 5-7.5%

Mt. Rainier Hop, Alpha Acid 6-8%, Beta Acid 5-7.5%

Newport Hop, Alpha Acid 12-14%; Beta Acid 7-9.5%

New Zealand Green Bullet Hop, Alpha Acid 11-14%, Beta Acid 3-6%

New Zealand Hallertau Hop, Alpha Acid 6.5-8.5%, Beta Acid 3-4%

New Zealand Motueka Hop, Alpha Acid 6.5-7.5%, Beta Acid 5-6%

New Zealand Pacific Gem Hop, Alpha Acid 13-15%, Beta Acid 7-9%

New Zealand Pacific Hallertau Hop, Alpha Acid 5-6%, Beta Acid 3-4%

Nugget Hop, Alpha Acid 9-11%, Beta Acid 4-6%

Palisade Hop, Alpha Acid 5.5-9%, Beta Acid 6-8%

Perle Hop, Alpha Acid 7-9.5%, Beta Acid 4-5%

Santiam Hop, Alpha Acid 5.5-7%, Beta Acid 6-8.5%

Simcoe Hop, Alpha Acid 12-14%, Beta Acid 4-5%

Sterling Hop, Alpha Acid 6-9%, Beta Acid 4-6%

Styrian Aurora Hop, Alpha Acid 7-9%, Beta Acid 3-4.5%

Styrian Bobek Hop, Alpha Acid 3.5-7%, Beta Acid 4-6%

Styrian Celeja Hop, Alpha Acid 3-6%, Beta Acid 2-3.5%

Styrian Goldings Hop, Alpha Acid 4.5-6%, Beta Acid 2-3%

Summit Hop, Alpha Acid 17-19%, Beta Acid 4-5%

UK Admiral Hop, Alpha Acid 13-16%, Beta Acid 4.5-6.5%

UK Bramling Cross Hop, Alpha Acid 5-7%, Beta Acid 2-3.5%

UK First Gold Hop, Alpha Acid 6-9%, Beta Acid 3-4.5%

UK Fuggle Hop, Alpha Acid 3-5%, Beta Acid 5-6.5%

UK Kent Goldings Hop, Alpha Acid 4-5.5%, Beta Acid 2-4%

UK Minton Hop, Alpha Acid 5-7.5%, Beta Acid 3.5-4.5%

UK Northdown Hop, Alpha Acid 7.5-9.5%, Beta Acid 5-6%

UK Phoenix Hop, Alpha Acid 8-12%, Beta Acid 4-6%

UK Pilgrim Hop, Alpha Acid 9-13%, Beta Acid 4.5-6%

UK Progress Hop, Alpha Acid 5-7%, Beta Acid 2-3%

UK Target Hop, Alpha Acid 8-13%, Beta Acid 4.5-6%

UK Whitbread Goldings Hop, Alpha Acid 5-8%, Beta Acid 2-4%

US Brewer’s Gold Hop, Alpha Acid 8.5-9.5%, Beta Acid 3-5%

US Fuggle Hop, Alpha Acid 4.5-5%, Beta Acid 1-2%

US Goldings Hop, Alpha Acid 4-6%, Beta Acid 2-3%

US Northern Brewer Hop, Alpha Acid 8-10%, Beta Acid 3-5%

US Saaz Hop, Alpha Acid 3-4.5%, Beta Acid 3-6%

US Tettnang Hop, Alpha Acid 3.5-6%, Beta Acid 3-4%

Vanguard Hop, Alpha Acid 5-7%, Beta Acid 5-7%

Warrior Hop, Alpha Acid 14-16%, Beta Acid 4-5.5%

Willamette Hop, Alpha Acid 4-6%, Beta Acid 3-4%

Zythos Hop, Alpha Acid 10-11%, Beta Acid 5-6%