How to test a fish tank or aquarium for water quality

Sunday, October 25, 2020

fish tank test kits

Just as you drink and bathe in fresh water, your pet fish need clean water to drink and swim in too.

Given that fish can be extremely sensitive to chemical treatments being added to their water and even to temperature changes (tropical fish are famous for needing water within the right ranges or they die) then as a pet owner, there's a moral duty on you to ensure the quality of the aquarium water is just right.

You just don't want a dead fish in the tank right?

So, when checking the quality aquarium water, what are you actually testing for??

The correct temperature is a pretty easy starting point. 

As a responsible pet owner, you will already know the temperature that is correct for your fish and you will simply use your thermometer or digital meter to take a reading to check. 

Some aquariums simply have a thermometer permanently placed inside the water so readings can be regularly monitored.

Fish also need to be able breathe without a struggle.

Naturally then, you’re going to want to ensure your aquarium has a working oxygen pump

When testing specifically for fish water quality, these are your typical checks using a test kit:
  • Nitrite
  • Nitrate
  • Ammonia
  • pH level

Like all animals, fish excrete and then have to swim around in it. Over time this can build up making their water pretty disgusting so a health check on the water so you know when to change it or to work out how efficiently your filter is working is good practice.

High nitrate levels will stress your fish and also provide a catalyst for algae growth (phosphates too) and everyone hates it when fish tanks get overgrown with green algae (and all over the gravel). You can't enjoy your fish if there's nothing but green on the glass.

Many fish experts stated that if you detect ammonia in your water then you should immediately add 20 percent fresh water to reduce stress on your fish. Then gradually make adjustments to the water over time.

As aquariums ‘bed in’ over time, the pH level can change. Too much alkalinity is not good for fish so keeping an eye on that level at the start of getting a tank up and running is quite crucial for supporting healthy fish. 

Any sudden changes in pH due to a new addition to an aquarium (e.g. plant material, food, new water) will likely stress your fish somewhat so bear that in mind and don't make too many changes at once.

The good news is that there are plenty of test kits out there for both freshwater and saltwater which allow you do a health check on your water very simply, and just like testing most pool water, it is just a matter of taking a test strip and dipping it into the sample and then comparing the results to the color chart to determine the level of pH, nitrate or ammonia.

Did you know you can add salt to your beer to reduce bitterness?

How long should homebrew stay in the fermenter drum?

Monday, September 28, 2020
The short answer is provided you have sterile conditions, you can leave the beer in the fermenter for months and months to age quite nicely. It's almost a 'set and forget' kind of product which is ideal as a finely aged beer will be a fine drink indeed. 

So, there is no set maximum time limit, however, there are a few things consider as to timings.

A lot of 'casual' beer brewers will likely adhere to the beer recipe or instructions on the malt kit and leave their wort to ferment for around a week to ten or days.

This usually allows enough time for fermentation to have completed.

And technically that's OK, and it's time to bottle.

But such timings completely ignore that there is a whole range of chemical processes happening in that wort you're fermenting that benefit from time left in the fermenter.

Yes, your trust yeast will likely have fermented enough alcohol to make a very drinkable beer but there are still a few things that happen - for example the yeast has to get rid of smells and other leftovers from the fermentation process, so giving it more time in the drum is of great benefit here. 

Weeks and months is better than a couple of weeks.

Have you ever heard of acetaldehyde

It is a by-product of brewing that you will find in your wort. This chemical is formed at the start of the fermentation process. It tastes much like a sour green apple does and is not really conducive to a good brew. If you brew too early, you will get this taste in your beer (more so if it's a light beer and one with little hops).

By giving your beer batch time to dissipate the acetaldehyde, you'll have a beer tasting beer.

We're firm in our the view that it is better to leave your beer to address these kinds of smelly issues in the first fermentation rather than the secondary fermentation which occurs when bottle conditioning.

Is it true that a wort left for a long time is harder to carbonate when bottled conditioned?This is a maybe type answer.

If the beer has been left in the fermenter over winter, for example, the yeast could have become quite dormant so the bottled beer will need to be warmed for the yeast to come 'back to life'.

A trick some brewers have found is that when it comes time to bottling a long-settled wort, give it a small stir up 2 days before you bottle. It causes the yeast to mix back into the beer (it will have settled at the bottom of the fermenter. If you move the fermenter into a warmer place, then your bottled beer with have a shorter carbonation time.

So the true answer is maybe, because bottling conditions may vary. 

How do I get remove the 'apple taste' by beer wort?

Like we alluded to above, let the yeast take it's sweet time to convert the acetaldehyde into ethanol (alcohol).

Exceptions aside, the longer you condition your beer, the greater reduction in acetaldehyde that will occur and the beer your beer will take.

Stout beers have even more to work through so they can happily take longer in the primary.

We like clear beer

Another benefit of leaving the beer in the primary for longer is that there is a greater chance that your beer will clear more sediment to the bottom into the trub, thus giving you clearer drinking beer.

Many a brewer likes to see their lager look like a lager - that classic light yellow / orange combo.

At the end of the day this comes down to personal preference as the beer taste is not generally affected too much by sediment.

It's also important to consider the role temperature can play in brewing. If you want a short fermentation period but it's cold, then you may have to simply allow more time because the yeast slows down the alcohol production process when chilled.

What about leaving beer in for extra long times like 3 months?

Many brewers have reported leaving batches for months and suffered no issues.

I'd reason though that the beer was stored in a cool place - a beer wort left in a hot environment is sure to fail as the yeast would probably get cooked.

The lid was probably screwed on very tightly as well and the beer must be kept out of the light. Putting a sheet over it will certainly keep dust and spiders out!

The risk of developing 'autolysis'

Autolysis occurs when the yeast cells die, giving off some potentially 'off flavors'.

These could be hydrolytic enzymes, lipids, and metal cations that can contribute to off flavor.

If you've made a healthy batch with a quality yeast, pitched at a good temperature and brewed in a stable environment, then the risks of autolysis are quite low.

If you are quite concerned about this, you could counter by racking your beer to a secondary, thus removing the yeast cake from the equation and dying yeast is thus removed from the equation (yes there will be a residue of it but not so much it causes you an issue).

It's important to note, the same process begins again when the beer is bottle conditioned - more sugar is added to the beer for the yeast to eat - this is because CO2 is the by-product of fermentation and is trapped in the beer.

So how long should a condition my bottled beer then?

It's now quite a reasonable question to ask how long you should condition your beers for. All beers will strongly benefit from being bottle conditioned for at least three weeks before consumption. That's at a minimum.

In my experiences, my brews start to become very drinkable at the 5 week mark.

Time needs to be on your side if you wish to make good beer, so make that time. 

Be patient. 

While you're waiting, give your gear a good clean and plan out that next all grain recipe!

How supermarkets use psychology to trick you into spending more money

Monday, September 21, 2020

How supermarkets manipulate you into buying more food in store

How supermarkets manipulate you into buying more food 

While an old school economist from Chicago may tell you that's upermarket customers are 'rational actors' who make decisions based on price efficiency, supermarkets - with their behavioral analysis knowledge - have their customers so well figured out, they know what they will do before they even enter the store. 

And while you may think you are shopping on price alone, it is not that simple when you are walking into a real time shop experiment and you are the little mouse looking for some cheap cheese. 

The psychological tricks that supermarkets employ on customers are quite simple but they come with a science pedigree - just like Walmart knows your sixteen-year-old daughter is likley to be pregnant, they know what day you like to shop and what specials you like to buy.

The classic trap is to advertise cheese so cheap that you come into the store because you cannot resist the price in the hope you''ll buy some extra items and then check out with your...

Ever heard of a loyalty card?

The data collected about your shopping behaviours can now dissect your buying habits into ones and zeros. 

Is that loyalty card connected to other businesses? The supermarket now knows that you like to fill up the car with petrol on the way home for example. So, hence they sell you receipts that come with fuel discounts.

Once they have you in-store, that's when the sneaky supermarkets launch their playbook of tricks and psychological ploys to get you to spend longer in store to spend more cash.

Which can be really tough when you are trying to save money on the food bill!

Supermarkets are living laboratories that study human buying behavior.

Have you ever noticed all those cameras in the modern shopping complex and asked yourself, why so many security cameras?

They are not just for catching cheeky shoplifters (a money-saving measure we do not recommend you try!) - the majority of them placed down the aisle are there to monitor and observe consumer traffic patterns. No doubt they will also be monitoring your physical appearance too. 

What body shapes are customers?

What sex? 

Do different sexes and body shapes behave differently?

When and why? 

Where do they look first?

You can bet they are using this data to figure out how to sell more to you.

This is because supermarkets that understand how their customers think and make purchasing decisions are able to plan the shopfloor layout more efficiently.

The classic example of this is supermarkets know that people will often tend to enter the store with a set mental list of what they want and it's usually the basics like bread and milk.

And that's exactly why eggs, dairy & milk, and bread are often positioned farthest from the store's entrance as possible so you walk all the way past other attractive food items. 

Indeed, eggs are often situated in random or seemingly 'unnatural' places to encourage first-timers to the store to walk around looking for them!

Lean mean green vegetables

why fruit is at the front of supermarket entrances

Vegetables and fruit are placed at the entrance deliberately  - this because it's well proven that consumers are vastly more inclined to pick more items at the start of their shopping experience. 

Your brain's wiring also comes into play here. You are buying 'healthy food' so you feel good about yourself. Maybe you will add an extra 5 carrots to your bag, 

At the same time, your brain is being brutally bombarded with a range of vibrant colors and wonderful smells.

The bakery is usually right next to the vegetable section because the bread smells nice. 

Fruit displays are often backed against well-cleaned mirrors to add volume and light vibrancy to the fruit. 

The supermarket is appealing to your brain with these signals saying, yo dude, this is a great place to shop!

Note when we say bakery, this does not include standard loaves of bread for making sandwiches with, other than speciality items. 

No, your standard sliced loaf of bread will be far away from the vegetables. You want toast bread? Sure but you gotta walk to the other side of the store. 

Maybe along the way, you'll discover and pick up a few well-placed items at the end of the aisle... Maybe a copy of Dune?

The supermarkets are hoping that you will feel a little bit smug about all the healthy food that you put in your shopping trolley that'll you'll consider that enough of a reason to buy some biscuits or other junk type food.

So how does this affect you, the keen dollar saver? 

The eyes have it

Forget the shop layout, you're already a modest mouse caught in that well-planned wheel, look at the shelf layout (whilst staying true to your shopping list of course).

Your eyes will naturally gravitate to the product that's been placed in your eye line / at face level.

This is where the most expensive goods and groceries are positioned. Because your eagle eyes will often become psychologically attached to the first item that you find when you are looking for a particular item.

Would it also surprise you to discover that many brands hand over cash to the supermarket for the right to having their goods placed directly in the customer's line of vision.

This practice is known in the business as paying a 'slotting fee'.

Supermarkets will also put kid-friendly things at the kid's eye level.

That's some real street-level cunning right there.

The implication of this of course if you are looking for cheaper items, look on on the bottom shelf for them. 

Impulse power, Mr Sulu

Another classic trick played on shoppers is to put goods that could be bought as 'impulse purchases' by the checkout lanes.

Lollies, magazines, those small hand-sized deodorant sprays, magazines, chocolate, and the classic packet of 'chewing gum' - these impulse items are placed there so you will add a couple of extra dollars to your shopping total. 

Now if even one in ten or twenty customers does this, those sales will add up for the Supermarket Owners over time.

To be fair some product placements will benefit the customer, such as peanut butter next to the jelly. and beer next to crisps and chips, baking yeast next to flour ...

Keep a beady eye out for 'pricing specials' scams

Ever seen a supermarket market pricing sticker with the words 'best buy' or 'great deal'? 

Is it really a good deal?

How do you know it's a great deal? 

Is there actually a price saving on offer or has the item simply had some puffery on the sticker placed next to it?

Perhaps a sign that simply says 'Three for a dollar' when the single item is also a dollar?

You would of course never fall for such a simple pricing scam, would you?

Of course not.

Well, people do and that's why supermarkets will keep advertising this way in-store.

Other tricks supermarkets do:
  • A few select products are sold at a loss to the store. This is so you recognize the price as being really good and it gets you into the store. Meat is a classic 'loss leader' as is orange juice.
  • Larger shopping trolleys will tend to be filled up more by the user
  • Supermarkets and strip malls will play music with a slow tempo so your walking around speed matches the music and you spend more time in the building which increases the odds of you adding that one extra thing to your basket.
  • The most profitable products are often placed at the end of the aisle. People often notice them....
Now you've learned about this, you know it's a shopping trap. The best advice is always to stick to buying what you need and not what you want!
One final, teach you to suck eggs thing   - write a shopping list out on your cell phone!

Can you die of methanol poisoning from homemade beer?

Friday, September 18, 2020

Can you accidentally make methanol when home brewing beer and go blind or die?

The short answer is no. 

Read on for why it's impossible to produce lethal levels of methanol when brewing beer. 

From time to time newbie brewers ask if they might accidentally distil methanol when getting into beer production.

This is because methanol is quite a dangerous alcohol and has a reputation of making those exposed to too much of it go blind. It is indeed quite toxic to the human body and it will cause some very nasty side effects - ranging from total blindness to the worst of which is death by poisoning.

Everyone has heard the stories of some hard Russian sailors on a fishing boat going blind from drinking homemade spirits right but is it really a common thing?

The answer to the question is that the ordinary beer home brewing process makes the alcohol called ethanol - not methanol. So you can't get methanol poisoning, no matter how much extra sugar you add when trying to make a high AVB batch.

Some methanol can be produced but this is at such minor levels that have no effect on the beer or effect on the body when consumed.

Fruit beers that contain pectin could have slightly higher levels of the spirit but the effect is still negligible.

The reality then is there no risk of making a beer batch of methanol and going blind. It's more likely that you will just get 'blind drunk' and have a wicked hangover on Sunday morning. 

There are however some genuine risks if one is distilling alcohol i.e. making spirits - backyard operations can indeed produce batches where the methanol content can be lethal (or more sinisterly methanol is added deliberately and sold on the bootleg market). 

It's for this reason, most countries in the world have made the distillation of spirits illegal - plenty of stills can be bought on Amazon though!

It is allowed in New Zealand but only for personal consumption, you can't sell it or share it with mates. 

The science of distillation is quite complicated and there appears to be a myth around methanol production. The key point to understand that if you are homebrew brewing beer, there's no risk of making a killer brew.

Distillation on the other hand... stay away from that unless you've been properly trained or are making a batch under the watchful eye of an experienced distiller. 

What is the treatment method for methanol poisoning?

Methanol toxicity is the result of consuming methanol...

The horrific symptoms may include a decreased level of consciousness, poor coordination, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a specific smell on the breath. The famous effect of decreased vision or blindness may start as early as twelve hours after exposure to the liquid.

The blindness is caused by the methanol being broken down by the body into formic acid when then has a debilitating and damaging effect on the eye's optic nerve.

There is a cure that is time-sensitive. The sooner the antidote, fomepizole, is taken, the increased likelihood of a good outcome for the victim.

Other treatment options include dialysis and consumption of sodium bicarbonate, folate, and thiamine.

This is of course, not medical advice. If you have a consumption incident, seek medical services assistance immediately. 

And stay away from dodgey Russian sailors...

How to re-start a gas flooded chainsaw

how to re-start a flooded chainsaw

Tips to re-Start chainsaw flooded with gas

I first learned to use a chainsaw year ago at a Scout Jamboree. It was loose as, they basically said here you go, kid, chop up that log. I think I had ear muffs but definitely no safety gear. It was awesome but I did manage to stop the engine somehow and I would not restart it despite trying a lot.

Turns out my efforts to restart had meant I had flooded the engine with petrol and one of the 'experts' had to show me how to restart the saw. Turns out, flooded engines are a pretty common thing!

Tips on starting a flooded chainsaw

Before you begin your activity, it's always best to ensure you have fresh petrol in your engine. If you've got a mixture of oil and gas that's older than a month or two, it will be harder for your engine to re-start.

If you have tried several times unsuccessfully to start your unit, it is most likely flooded with petrol. A key tell is that you can smell gas. 

'Flooded' means excessive fuel has been pumped into the engine (when you pulled the starter chord), the volume of which has prevented and displaced oxygen which is crucial for igniting the fuel. 

The best advice is that you should not prime the engine again as you will add to the problem! 

You may have pulled the start chord a few times and let the choke out with no luck. You may think priming the engine would be a good idea - but it's not, you are simply adding more fuel where it is not needed

Two methods you can try to clear the chainsaw of the excess fuel 

The first is the easiest and most common method.

You need to be patient and let your chainsaw sit idle for at least 15-20 minutes to allow the excess fuel to evaporate from the engine.

Maybe go make a cup of hop tea while you wait or check out some Darth Vader quotes.

Once you've done that, you can not attempt to restart your engine in the normal manner.

This method will work best with a mildly flooded engine and the same principle applies to re-starting a lawn mower as well.

The harder hands-on method to re-start a flooded chainsaw:

  • Make sure the chain break is 'on'. Safety people!
  • Turn the choke to 'off' position.
  • Activate the 'fast idle' (do this by engaging the throttle lock/trigger assembly or pulling the choke out and pushing it back in)
  • Turn the on/off switch to 'on'.
  • Hold the saw firmly on the ground as you do during normal starting, and pull the starter chord sharply until the saw starts. Do not pull the starter rope out to its full length. Employ short, brisk pulls in a continuous fashion.
If the engine does not start within 15 pulls then the spark plug may have become 'wet fouled'. If you suspect this has occurred, remove the spark plug and look for moist wet deposits on the electrode. 

Remove with a dry cloth. 

While the plug is out, here's your chance to remove any fuel in the engine via the spark plug hole. 

Here's an excellent video tutorial lesson on starting your saw:


Sunday, August 30, 2020


best work fan for job site - dewalt

The Dewalt job site cordless fan is one of the most popular fans on the market, you could also say it's the coolest...

DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Fan for Jobsite, 11-Inch, Tool Only (DCE511B)
Rated 4.8 out of 5 by 2802 reviewers on
A hard-working unit, this fan will run off the Dewalt battery system for hours, almost effortlessly - meaning it is a nice and quiet unit which is great when all you want to do is watch the paint dry in peace. 

Obviously, its rugged design means it works just as well outdoors and indoors and it can take the 'bolts and jolts' that are the usual hazard on worksites and garages. 

It's not so big that it can't be easily stored away when not in use and chuck it on the back of your ute or pick up with no worries. 

You can plug in the standard 120-volt cord or connect a Dewalt battery (20-volt maximum) to it. As the reviews below show, you will get plenty of 'air time' with this Dewalt fan

Here's the specifications from Dewalt:

  • Corded or cordless use (the extension cord will need to be bought separately) 
  • Multiple hanging arrangement options - freestanding, hang hooks, and standard wall mount 
  • Variable speed control - wide-range so you control the speed you want; Airflow - 500 
  • Testing to IP54 standards - meaning it has 'ingress protection' from dust, dirt, splashes of water etc.

The unit has three blades which are 7 inches long and they will turn and turn all day to keep the air moving to keep you cool and to also help expunge unwanted smells such as smoke from soldering or other discharges like Dad farts.

You can even use it to help dry painted walls, drywall (plasterboard), and plaster mud.

worksite fan battery powered dewalt

But if you want to know if the Dewalt fan truly is worth your time and money, check out these reviews from actual users who have ponied up their cash on Amazon:

"Love this fan so far. The fan pivots back more than 90° as you may see from my picture. I was concerned th
e bigger flexvolt battery wouldn’t fit in it but it does with ease. I’m currently conducting a run till dead test to see how long it will run at high-speed with Dewalt’s strongest battery the flex volt 9.0 AH battery. Seems pretty well-made, however, I’m going to hang on to the box to carry it in just to protect it.

I hope the DeWALT comes out with a carrying case for this. The hooks pull out from the base allowing you to hang the fan on the job site, which is a nice touch. As many have already posted you can plug it in but not while you have a battery in the battery socket. To use AC will need an extension cord with a female plug on one end just as the DeWALT power pack inverter uses."

"I am very Happy with this unit after day one. I placed a DCB203 20V Max 2.0AH Compact XR Li-Ion Battery Pack (Smallest they make) into the Fan, turned it on low at 10:45am. At 10:28 PM the unit is still running. On Low speed, you can not even hear the unit running. Will be running the unit on Medium speed this weekend, same battery."

So it will run all day. 

"This thing is made STRONG. This last week at the market I was pulling it down and it slipped. It fell from about 6ft and hit concrete. Didn't even scratch it. I'm not saying drop it on purpose but I thought for sure it would have been damaged if work at all. And it turned in and worked perfectly! I love this fan!

It's tough and durable. 

This is the 2nd fan I've bought. I love it! I use it for a weekly Farmers market tent. I hang it from the frame and it keeps my customers cool while they shop. My original purchase was for the fan, battery set and charger. A full charge battery will run this fan on high from 8:30am-2:00pm and still have over half charge. It creates a nice breeze. Made 100* market days much more bearable. Highly recommend this little workhorse."

It does the business required. 

"I purchased this fan for the specific purpose of having some kind of cooling device available during a power outage. As such, I wanted to know exactly how much cooling time I would get from one battery. I'm using a 60-volt, 6.0 Ah "flex-volt" battery; however, my 20 volt, 4.0 Ah battery also (obviously) works.

I turned on the variable speed fan to half speed; it's VERY quiet. The design of these batteries is such that they don't slowly wear down--instead, they just quit when the voltage drops too much--so, I suppose it could quit at any moment. But, after twelve hours, the fan is still going strong, and the battery still has 2 of its 3 charge level lights on (3 lights would be a full charge). I have to tell you, I am damned impressed! Well done, Dewalt!"

If that doesn't convince you, check out the unit on Amazon.
DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Fan for Jobsite, 11-Inch, Tool Only (DCE511B)
Rated 4.8 out of 5 by 2802 reviewers on
Dewalt not only make fans, drills and other tools - they make quality safety glasses!

pH meter ideas for testing homebrew beer mash

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
best ph tester for making beer

Never mind the bollocks, you just want to choose the best pH meter?

These are three quality meters that are really popular on Amazon's bestseller list:

Before I learned to know how to brew beer, all I knew about pH was that it meant lemons were sour, acid could eat through Knightrider's K.I.T.T. car, and that you used litmus paper to test if your solution was an acid or a base.

Beer brewers (and makers of health drink kombucha would you believe) are keen to know the pH of their beer and beverages because different levels of pH will cause the beer to have different characteristics of flavor.

And flavor is everything when it comes to beer!

The collective increased understanding of the important role that the pH level of the mash plays in brewing really good beer has driven both commercial and backyard brewers to closely focus on monitoring and then adjusting their mash pH levels as required.

So if you are making a particular style of beer for say a brewing competition, you really do want to ensure not only have you followed the brewing recipe, your brewing process is going correctly too!

And to do all this, you need to use the best pH tester you can.

A pH meter is a calibrated scientific instrument that measures the hydrogen-ion activity in water-based solutions, indicating its acidity or alkalinity.

The pH meter measures the difference in 'electrical potential' between a pH electrode and a reference electrode.

There are many several more reasons to use pH testers. Those in the food and beverage industry know too well the need to ensure food is not too tart (imagine selling customers drinks that are too sour) and there is plenty of agricultural uses too - such as checking for soil acidity testing and the classic 'hydroponic uses' are pretty common too.

If you didn't get that, we meant weed growers need to know the pH of the soil as well...

But enough's enough Commander Keen, back to beer testing.

This unit is a for the seasoned brewer who is dead set on ensuring they make a quality product so they can proudly share with friends at a BBQ.

Bluelab Combo pH Meter for beer brewing

bluelab combo ph meter
If you looking for an upmarket solution to measure your pH solutions then the tried and true Bluelabs brand has the measuring device you are looking for.

The Bluelab Combo Meter is a portable pH, conductivity, and temperature meter all in one combination.

The meter has two probes, a Bluelab pH Probe and a Bluelab Conductivity/Temperature Probe.

When taking a reading, simply place them into the solution and the selected reading is displayed on the screen.

Calibration of the pH probe is simple as instructions are supplied on the back of the meter and the easy push-button method makes this one of the most basic meters to use.

The pH probe is replaceable so you can use this meter for years to come and you should be able to do as Bluelab offers a five-year warranty on their meter is a demonstration of the quality of the product and the belief the manufacturer has in their product!

The Bluelab has the following features:
  • Measures pH, conductivity/nutrient (EC, CF, ppm 500 and ppm 700) and temperature (°C, °F)
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Large easy to read display
  • Simple push button pH calibration
  • Successful pH calibration indicator
  • No calibration required for conductivity and temperature
  • Replaceable double junction pH probe 
  • 2 x AAA alkaline batteries included with a low battery indicator
  • Auto-off function
This is a pricey unit and that's because it screams quality. If you are looking for a mid range device, Blue Lab's portable pens are in the hundred dollar range.

Check out the price on Amazon.

Seeing as we talked about probes, this is a good time to talk about their care as they can be fiddly little bastards and if not properly looked after, their expected lifetime will quickly shorten.

So here's the message about probes:

Don't forget to clean your electrode probes!

Electrodes can and will wear out after sustained use.

To prolong their operational life (so you continue to obtain correct readings), it is quite important that you get into the routine of properly cleaning them after every use.

A careful wipe with a clean cloth and 'ionized' water is a good technique. Or simply use fresh tissues.

A probe that has become 'dry' needs to be hydrated for at least three or four hours by placing in storage solution before calibration.

We will get to calibration solution soon but first up: The Milwaukee

This is truly one of the most popular testers that beer makers use, If you dare to check out any rabid brewing forum, you'll find plenty backyard brewers only too happy to chat about how well it works:

Milwaukee MW102 pH Meter for beer

The MW102 Standard Portable pH / Temperature Meter Standard is a standard portable meter that does the business.

milwaukee ph meter for testing beer

The Milwaukee brand is recognized as having a reputation for producing low cost yet durable meters which give quick readings and ones on which you can depend.

Milwaukee’s manufacturer boasts that their devices are "manufactured to be easy to use, practical and accurate. Ideal for the classroom, laboratory, or for general field use".

This means it works a treat for beer and kombucha.

The full package comes with the following:
  • The MW102 Unit
  • A 9 Volt Battery
  • Temperature Probe (MA830r)
  • PH Probe (MA911B/1)
  • PH Probe cover (a small bottle that fits on the PH Probe when not in use that holds storage solution)
  • Instruction Manual
  • Calibration Solution sachets
  • Storage Solution Packet
The battery life claims to be a massive 300 hours so that's a lot of brewing time! Especially as the Milwaukee features an auto-off that kicks in after 8 minutes of inactivity.

A keen brewer on Amazon reviewed the Milwaukee 102 as a "fantastic tool to have in my brewing arsenal. I originally bought it for taking readings while kettle souring, but it's been invaluable as I dove deeper into water profile and mash pH adjustment. It's a bit more expensive than some of the cheaper meters out there, but you get what you pay for. Worth every penny in my book, and I regularly recommend it to those in the market for a high-quality meter."

That's some fair praise indeed. Check out the price on Amazon.

Why is the mash pH level so important for brewing?

Beers that are brewed within a general range of pH tend to brew better than beers that are too acidic or too low in pH.

Brewers thus measure the pH of their mash to determine if that is is in the correct range for the beer they are endeavouring to produce.

The actual optimal pH range is generally considered to be pH 5.2 to 5.4. A high reading means the beer is too alkaline.

If a brewer's meter determines the pH is too high, they will then need to adjust the level downward by adding acid or calcium sulfate.

If your pH reading is starting to push the range of 5.3-5.6, you might get less of a tart character though you do run the risk of extracting tannins which can horribly impact your beer's taste.

Hach Pocket Pro + Plus 9532000 with replacement electrode for brewing

Manufacturer Hach reckons that their digital Pocket Pro + will "take the guesswork out of your measurements" which is entirely the point of a pH meter so a good start that we are on the same page.

Hach Pocket Pro+ is engineered to deliver accurate results. Hach boasts the Pro is backed up with built-in performance diagnostics, you never have to guess when to clean or calibrate the sensor.

Featuring a large, easy-to-read LCD screen, the pH range covers 0 to 14 pH meaning it can be used for more than beer brewing, like hydroponics.

The unit takes 4 Triple AAA batteries which are easy to replace. Hach recommends that the electrodes are replaced every 6 months. This unit comes with a replacement unit.

How to use a pH tester to measure beer mash?

Using a pH meter is a fairly simple process. It's kind like that science work you did in school. Start by drawing a small sample of the fresh wort and put it in a clean holding vessel such as a shot glass. Turn your calibrated meter on and dip both the probes fully into the liquid. The machine will kick into gear and you will get a pH reading. Write the reading down on paper, we both know you are going to forget it.

And remember, the mash can be quite hot, so be careful not to burn your skin

Hanna Instruments // Temperature Tester

The Hanna Instruments HI 98128 is a popular compact pH tester used for laboratory and industrial applications.

hanna ph meter kombucha
The device features:
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation
  • Automatic calibration
  • Dual-line LCD reader screen
  • Replaceable electrode cartridge
  • The dual-line LCD screen simultaneously shows the current measurement and the current temperature, and a hold function freezes readings for recording.

The meter has automatic calibration at one or two points with two sets of standard buffers (pH 4.01/7.01/10.01 or pH 4.01/6.86/9.18).

The meter has a water-resistant housing, a tactile grip casing, and it floats, which is quite handy for those who drink and brew at the same time...

The unit requires four 1.5V AA batteries which provide approximately 300 hours of continuous use. The Hanna meter switches off after eight minutes of inactivity to preserve battery life.

The meter also comes with an' HI 73127 pH electrode', an electrode removal tool, and instructions on how to properly use and care for the unit.

This is a cheap and affordable unit so its long-term resilience may be questionable.

Check out the price on Amazon.

How to calibrate a digital pH tester accurately?

You need an accurate reading so you can make the best decision for your beer and the best way to do this is to ensure you have properly calibrated your meter.

PH meters can 'drift' from their calibrated settings. It is important to regularly calibrate your pH meter often so that the accuracy of results is maintained.

Check out this video lesson which demonstrates how to do the calibration:

What is Automatic Temperature Compensation?

You may have seen this mentioned in some of the functionality descriptions of our recommended meters.

Many higher quality meters use ATC functionality. This is when the unit compensates for the response of the pH meter's electrode with varying temperature.

The mash's pH measurement is ideally conducted at room-temperature. This helps avoid measurement errors that can be caused by temperature effects on the probe and chemically in the mash. The reality though is you need to measure the pH of your wort NOW and can't wait for it to cool.

So ATC accounts for differing temperatures of the mash.

Things to think about when choosing the best pH meter

  • Keeping the meter's probe clean after each use will prolong their useful life - it's a good idea to clean the outside with a soft toothbrush and deionized water, being very gentle with the bulb part of the probe if this is the kind you have.
  • It's extremely important to never let the probe dry out and this is a common mistake when storing ph meters. To this end, it is imperative that you store the electrode as per the manufacturers' instructions.
  • Be wary of buying cheap ph meters, they will lose calibration quickly, their probes will likely deteriorate faster than quality items. 
  • Check this guide to the common mistakes made when using a meter.
  • The more serious brewers tend to go for benchtop units rather than the portable kind.
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