The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 30 – How do I test for pH?


What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

pH scale diagram with corresponding acidic or alcaline values for common substances, food, household chemicals . Litmus paper color chart. Colorful vector illustration in flat style isolated on white background.

How do I test for pH?

Testing for pH is a reasonably simple process for your wine. Based on your budget, you can obtain a variety of pH measuring implements. There are pH test strips that will give you an approximate level of pH in your wine. They give a color reaction that when compared to a chart, indicates the pH of the wine. The next level up in sophistication as well as price is a basic pH meter. Musto wine grape offers a simple handheld pH meter that can be calibrated in a matter of minutes and gives precise and accurate pH readings. The probe must be stored properly in a storage solution to ensure that it does not dry out. The probe lasts from 12-18 months, depending on its care and must be purged after this time frame. With the most basic model, you throw out the entire unit and buy a new one. With the more sophisticated models of pH meters, the probe is replaced separately from the unit (which should last indefinitely).

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

One Response to The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 30 – How do I test for pH?

  • Gene Fiorot says:

    I think it is important to say when you know your PH then what do you do. Not so. Since there is no formula that will raise or lower ph by a mathematical amount. You are flying blind. At this point it is good to know your TA. With that information on hand you can make a better decision of what amount of Acid or Base you want to add to the Must.

    Many make the mistake of reading articles on the internet stating a Red should have a 3.6 PH and you should adjust accordingly to achieve that. This can lead to disaster. Some wines need to exist at 3.8 and if you get that wine down to 3.6 you might have just made Sour Balls. When making California Fruit the challenge many times is to lower PH. Which means adding Tartaric Acid. Making Northern Grapes may lead you to raise PH. To further complicate and confound the East Coast Winemaker, in a good way for the fruit, using fruit delivered by the Musto Grape Company, the excellent way the grapes are packed and shipped with proper cooling creates an issue when first crushing CA grapes and immediately testing for Ph and TA .

    It is very easy to overshoot your acid addition if you add immediately after crushing. It is better to Cold Soak a few days ( not for the trendy aspect) to let the grapes warm up from the Musto Grape Cold Chain to allow that acid to once again be homogenized in the Must. a few days later. However if fermentation should start taking PH and TA tests are very hard to do. Which leads the Winemaker to adjust after fermentation is complete. Now if you have an initial PH over 3.9 you need to add acid right off from the beginning. You need to protect the Must from bacteria infection. What is prudent since the TA reading is not accurate at that time is to assume you are going to lower the TA by 1 Point. That would be adding Tartaric Acid at the rate of 3.75 TEASPOONS per estimated 5 gallons of finished wine. (NOT Gallons of Must) With some good mixing of the must you can check where your PH landed up the next day. Hopefully you are at 3.8 and can proceed with the fermentation and adjust later BY TASTE and be able then to get true readings after Malolactic Fermentation. \

    Bottom Line you can adjust the Acid at any time before bottling or barreling as long as your Ph is in a safe range. 3.8 and lower should not be a problem and the wine may end up tasting better that way. Of course if you plan to have a 10 year old Cab 3.8 won’t cut it. You would need to be at 3.5 but that may not be in the cards for the Fruit you obtain. In this case you can’t make a Cadillac with Chevy Parts. At this point TASTE is your guide.

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