Improving the Brewing Process with Water & pH Analysis

One night over a beer, John Rubbo and Nick Califano discussed how they could turn their childhood memories making homemade wine with their grandfathers into something bigger.

History of Yonkers Brewing Co.

The two friends decided to start brewing craft beer in their hometown of Yonkers, New York. John says, "When Nick and I decided we wanted to open Yonkers Brewing Company and have a presence in Yonkers, we decided that the waterfront was really the only place we wanted to open. We have 4 ½ miles of the Hudson River right down here on the west side of Yonkers, gorgeous buildings, great restaurants...and we wanted to be a part of the all the history down here on the waterfront."

And so Yonkers Brewing Co, a craft brewery and gastropub, was born. They established themselves locally by offering a wide range of activities and events in an attempt to share the sense of belonging they so warmly recalled from their childhood.

OHAUS’ Water Analysis and pH Meters

Nick and John were confident that they could be a success story but the obvious first step was to perfect the beer. Head Brewer Sharif Taleb helped Yonkers Brewing to formulate, replicate, and improve all of their brews, and add even more to their roster. "The cool thing about the brewery," says Nick, "is we always have 12 beers on tap. We have 5 flagship brews, and the others are always rotating. It's really up to Sharif, what he wants to experiment with. Since January, we've actually brewed over 25 different styles."

In order to improve their day-to-day workflow and ensure taste consistency across the board, Yonkers Brewing employed OHAUS’ Starter Series line of water analysis and pH meters. Yonkers Brewing has been able to expand and improve through testing pH. From the couple of brews they had in the beginning they now have a comprehensive palette of over 20 varieties. Sharif attests to this, saying "One of the things that's been really nice about these meters is all the features, such as the probe calibration, letting us know that our readings are consistent from day to day. That has definitely been one of the best aspects of the tools."

pH is measured in most stages of production within the Yonkers Brewing laboratory. It all begins with "mash". This is made by almost boiling water and steeping malted barley. This also produces a sweet liquid called “wort”, which is transferred to a large tank and boiled. Hops are then added.

pH Monitoring and Testing

While the hopped wort is cooling, the pH is closely monitored to make sure that the starch conversion is going to plan. Once cooled, the wort is moved to the fermenting tank where yeast is added to eat the sugars and releases carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Daily pH testing is carried out over this 7-14 day process to ensure that the fermenting process is moving along correctly. The pH levels drop as fermenting progresses. The process is complete once they begin to rebound, then the beer is transferred into conditioning tanks to be clarified for about a week. The temperature in this tank will plummet to almost freezing, meaning any remaining particles will be pulled out. The beer is then ready to be carbonated, kegged and, finally, enjoyed!

The finished product is heavily impacted by pH in the brewing process. "Accuracy is the name of the game in the brewery," according to Sharif. "We're measuring down to hundredths, and our pH drops during the brewing process are very incremental. Having a high measure of resolution really helps us make sure that we're getting accurate readings, and we know exactly where we are with the beer."

Importance of pH Testing

Mash, fermentation and clarification are the three key stages where pH is most crucial. Starch converting enzymes are present during the mash process, all of which have slightly different optimal pH levels. The “sweet spot” or target level for each enzyme is 5.3. The mash process will become inefficient and expensive if it is not possible to accurately gauge how the starch conversion is progressing. Increased ingredient use and thus increased ingredient costs are the result of inefficiencies during this stage.

It is impossible to tell whether fermenting is complete without pH testing. The addition of unwanted flavors or a loss in taste consistency are caused by premature fermentation.

Sharif said, "One of the biggest problems we can have is off flavors. Like diacetyl, which is a kind of butter popcorn smell, almost- it smells like a can of corn, and that's a flavor that you really don't want to have in a beer.”

Sharif continued, “Thanks to OHAUS, Yonkers Brewing has been able to simplify and streamline their day-to-day tasks. Of the 3 types of meters (benchtop, portable, and pen), "We use the benchtop meters the most. It's a nice, stable setup that allows us to do our testing…and the handheld meters have been extremely practical for spot checks throughout the brewery."

Conclusion

Yonkers Brewing also now keep tabs on their cleansing solutions between brews through their OHAUS meters. It is quick and easy to accurately check whether their cleaning solutions are still functioning at maximum effectiveness using the handheld pH meters. As Sharif says, "The use of the OHAUS meters has been great in the brewery. The ease of use and how quickly we can get our processes taken care of really helps us move. We've got a lot of tasks going on, on a day-to-day basis, and making sure that we've got reliable equipment has really helped our consistency."

Learn More about the Starter Series                 

About OHAUS Corporation

OHAUS Corporation manufactures an extensive line of weighing products, laboratory equipment and analytical instruments that meet the weighing and measurement needs of virtually every industry.

They are a global leader in the laboratory, industrial and education channels, as well as a host of specialty markets, including the food preparation, pharmacy and jewelry industries. An ISO 9001:2008 manufacturer, OHAUS products are precise, reliable and affordable, and backed by industry-leading customer support.


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Last updated: Nov 5, 2019 at 7:41 AM

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