Using Citric Acid instead of Lactic or Phosphoric

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Brew_Betty, Apr 3, 2015.

  1. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    Anyone try this? I have and will share the results.

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    Typically, I use lactic acid for mash water and sparge water acidification. Recently, I thought I'd try using citric acid to acidify the sparge water and lactic acid to acidify the mash water. Why did I do this? The hope was to provide some mild tartness/tangyness to a citrus hopped IPA, but still have proper water pH. Prior to doing this I had noticed citric acid was more pleasant and generally more tasty than lactic acid when added to a finished beer and other beverages.

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    The result was pretty much what I had hoped for. It's quite possible it exceeded my expectations. The citric acid test beer was kettle hopped with cascade, citra and centennial which is a familiar blend for me. The citric acid added enough citrus tangyness to be easily noticeable, but not overpowering. I have used citric acid in cooking and it's really easy to over do it.

    How much did I use? Only 1/2 a teaspoon in approximately 5 gallons of sparge water which was the amount needed to reduce the pH to 5.4. Total water for the batch was about 10 gallons. 75 minute boil.

    Next time, I might try citric acid for the mash and sparge water just to see what happens, but I'm really pleased with the results of this "experiment". The next beer in the queue has already been brewed with the same citric acid sparge.
     
  2. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (1,254) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon
    Premium

    10 gallons of water I assume is for a 5 gallon batch, correct? Just checking as I roll on 10 gallons and would need to adjust for this.

    I might add a touch to a glass of IPA to see what it does.
     
  3. Naugled

    Naugled Defender (613) Sep 25, 2007 New York

    I've used it as an antioxidant in finished beers before. I think I used something around a 1/4 tsp maybe a little more, but it did add a flavor to the beer. It was something like a vitamin flavor or baby aspirin. I haven't used it in a while, but I was using it in beers that I knew I'd be aging for extended periods.
     
  4. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    I usually get around 5.5 gallons in the fermenter with this volume.

    ~ 8.5 gal pre boil
    ~ 6.75 gal post boil calculated but never measured
    ~ 1.1 gal of trub
    4% cooling shrinkage
     
  5. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    It is similar to a chewable vitamin C tablet, but not nearly as intense in my beer.
     
  6. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Zealot (589) May 29, 2011 Florida

    I've nibbled on some at the brewery, we had on hand for barrel storage. Tastes like the sour coating on Sour Patch Kids.. it's kinda delicious actually. I've been wanting to add this to a Farmhouse ale for a slight acidity and perceived citrus quality.
     
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  7. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    It is one of the ingredients in sour candy. Tartaric acid is also used. Morebeer and sells an acid blend of tartaric, citric and malic acids which I have used to sour up a not so sour sour to my liking. Potent stuff. Use sparingly.
     
  8. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    It's definitely prudent to try it on a single glass of beer before committing to a full batch. It's granular and looks like salt. A pinch is all you would need for one glass and you have to wait for it to dissolve and mix. To bypass this waiting, you can dissolve it in water and add drops of it to the beer.
     
  9. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (1,254) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon
    Premium

    The dissolve and drop sounds like a good idea. I have a container of it from my barrel and making Candi Syrup.
     
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  10. JohnSnowNW

    JohnSnowNW Zealot (556) Feb 6, 2013 Minnesota

    Yup, I use "Acid Blend" in nearly all of my...*whispers* ciders.
     
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  11. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Zealot (589) May 29, 2011 Florida

    For sure! We did this with a few different styles of our beer by the pint with differing amounts of citric acid and found the acidity wasn't linear.

    It may be common knowledge but I didn't know at the time, by doubling the amount of citric acid we did not get a corresponding drop in pH (ie. 1/4 tsp 4.4 -> 3.8 does not mean 1/2 tsp 3.8 -> 3.2). Speaking of which...

    Anyone know how can calculate the acidity or pH affected by citric acid amounts? Or if any brewing software has this calculated?
     
  12. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    The water calculator at Brewers Friend has citric acid as an option. That's what I used.

    http://www.brewersfriend.com/mash-chemistry-and-brewing-water-calculator/

    They have 8 types of acid in the sparge water calulator.
     
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  13. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Zealot (589) May 29, 2011 Florida

  14. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (292) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    Bru'n Water includes citric acid along with the kool kids.

    I've used it mainly in wheat-based recipes.
    It's inexpensive and easy to procure as it's oft times used when canning.
     
    ChrisMyhre likes this.
  15. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    I checked my notes and it turns out I only added 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid to the sparge water for the batch I've been drinking and talking about. 1/4 teaspoon is noticeable and tangy.

    The batch I have dry hopping right now used 1/2 a teaspoon of citric acid. Haven't tasted it yet.
     
  16. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (734) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    You are adding that to RO water, right? Does the strike/sparge water have any CaCl in it to begin with?
     
  17. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    I use filtered tap water. I generally add minerals and acid to the mash water and only acid to the sparge water.
     
  18. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (1,254) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon
    Premium

    Wondering why CaCl in with the citric acid would matter?
     
  19. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,483) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    My guess is he's thinking about Ca plus phosphates from the mash generating H+, further lowering the pH.
     
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  20. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    The pH of the finished beer is 4.3. I didn't check the mash or sparge pH on brew day. I have found the calculator to be accurate enough. So I don't always use the pH meter on brew day.
     
  21. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (1,254) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon
    Premium

    Added a touch of dissolved Citric Acid to a glass of uncarbonated IPA today, tastes really good, adds a nice juiciness to it. Might have to crack the lid on the keg...
     
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  22. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    It adds something I always hoped the hops could produce, but they haven't so far. I consider it the missing link in regards to what I wanted to get from hoppy citrus beers. I'm somewhat surprised such a small amount got me to where I wanted to be. (1/4 tsp)

    I tasted a flat batch today where I added 1/2 tsp on brew day and wasn't discouraged with the sample. When you overdose citric acid, it isn't pretty. The 1/2 tsp batch is probably going to be good, but I never make absolute judgments before it's carbed.
     
  23. fuzzbalz

    fuzzbalz Disciple (313) Apr 13, 2002 Georgia

    Interesting, so you can add Citric Acid before/after carbonation? hmmmm, isn't Kool Aid mostly citric Acid?:grimacing:
     
  24. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (1,254) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon
    Premium

    I don't see why you couldn't. It might actually be best to add it after carbonation to a glass and find the right ratio, then add to the keg if you decide to go that route. I say that since the flat sample is missing the carbonic acid which could increase the perceived acidity of the entire batch.
     
  25. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (734) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Mmmmmmmmmm...IPA shandy : )
     
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  26. OldSock

    OldSock Zealot (571) Apr 3, 2005 District of Columbia

    That's how acidity/pH works in general, the scale is logarithmic. It'll take 10 times more acid to lower the pH from 3.5 to 3.4 than it will from 4.5 to 4.4. The buffering capacity of the wort/beer will also play a role.
     
  27. Twocentpiece

    Twocentpiece Initiate (0) Apr 5, 2015 Massachusetts

    Just found this thread, planning on trying this out soon. Am very intrigued as to how the higher concentration turned out carbed?
     
  28. Brew_Betty

    Brew_Betty Disciple (388) Jan 5, 2015 Wisconsin

    I've used 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 tsp. 1/2 tsp is what I use most often. It provides a nice tang that compliments the citrus and fruity hops without tasting like kool aid. 3/4 tsp also tastes good to me. I've used that amount a couple times and haven't felt the need to try 1tsp.

    In terms of concentration, keep in mind this is for 6.75 gallons of wort post boil before cooling and draining.
     
  29. Twocentpiece

    Twocentpiece Initiate (0) Apr 5, 2015 Massachusetts

    sounds good, definitely didn't want 5 gallons of kool aid in the keezer anytime soon, thanks for the tips!
     
  30. twanger1994

    twanger1994 Initiate (0) Feb 26, 2018

    Hello, great thread lots of information. Im curious why add to the sparge water. why not in the boil or in the secondary?
     
  31. CarolusP

    CarolusP Initiate (107) Oct 22, 2015 Minnesota

    Darn, just a zombie thread. For a second there I thought Brew_Betty had returned.
     
  32. minderbender

    minderbender Initiate (199) Jan 18, 2009 New York

    Sparge water often benefits from acidification anyway, because if its pH goes too high it can extract tannins from the grain husks. So if you're planning to add acid, a reasonable place to do it is the sparge water.
     
    HerbMeowing likes this.
  33. RedBearBrews

    RedBearBrews Initiate (30) Jan 14, 2019 Australia

    Hey Brew_Betty, do you weigh your citric additions? I'm gonna brew a Brut IPA with citrus-forward hops like Mandarina, Motueka, etc. and I think some citric might add extra crispness. I brew standard 5gal/19L batches. If you don't weigh the additions, how strict are/were you with volume measurements? I'll stick to your recommendation of a 1/2 teaspoon and factor that into my standard calcs on Brewer's Friend.

    Do you think it sits with Lactic? I'm worried that if I use a max amount of 1/2 a teaspoon of citric only, the minerals required to make up the difference for buffering my mash could make the water too heavy. I'd rather stick to to total hardness under 200, add the citric for the flavour impact and make up the difference with either lactic or phosphoric.

    Cheers!
     
  34. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (734) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Yes it would...however I think that is the last thing I'd want in a BRUT IPA (that tend to be pretty crisp already)...imho.
     
  35. Mabrungard

    Mabrungard Initiate (37) Jan 9, 2015 Indiana

    If you're starting with a low alkalinity water, using citric acid can be a useful resource for acidification. If your alkalinity is higher, you could run into the possibility of adding that distinctive citric acid flavor to your beer. In some beer styles, that could be OK.