Finding the best pH meter for brewing and distilling will pay huge dividends to your wine, beer or spirits production. Not only is it an essential tool for analyzing the pH of your grapes, wort, or mash, but it plays an important role in managing microbial activity and free SO2.
In this article, we talk about what to look for when buying a pH meter and recommend some of our favorites in 2023.
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Our Pick: The Best pH Meter for Brewing and Distilling
Recommendation: I have been using this mid-range digital pH meter from Milwaukee for over two years now after going through a number of cheaper no-brand ones that quickly stopped working or refused to stay calibrated. Milwaukee is a great trustworthy brand and I also found the cabled probes much safer and better to use than the ‘pen type’ meters that are more common.
This pH meter is excellent value for money with exceptional performance and reliability. You get precise readings and it’s easy to maintain and comes with a separate probe. The meter comes with a pH 4.01 and pH 7.01 buffer solution in 20 ml sachets. There’s even a 9V battery included in the package.
What Is A pH meter (And Why Do I Need One?)
For brewers, adjusting the mash pH is critical for creating really great beer.
Knowing what the pH is during each stage of the process allows the brewer to control for harsh flavors and the conversion of enzymes in the mash, then on to the wort, fermenting the beer, and the finished beer.
Winemakers on the other hand, measure the acidity or alkalinity of wine and grapes to not only help reduce microorganisms that can spoil the wine, but also reduce the pH so that beneficial microorganisms can improve the wine.
At lower pH levels, there is an increased concentration of SO2, which acts as an effective antimicrobial agent. So, knowing the pH levels helps to evaluate the target SO2 levels.
What different types of pH meters are there?
There are 3 main types of pH meters; pen testers, benchtop meters, and handheld or portable meters. You can also add test strips to the list, although serious brewers or winemakers do not usually use these.
The best pH meters are ones that are robust, easy to keep clean, accurate, and affordable.
Homebrewers and winemakers generally prefer to use pen-type pH meters as they are easy to use and provide an accurate pH reading at a reasonable cost.
How to use a pH Meter: (Step-by-step instructions)
PH meters measure the electrical potential produced by a special pH probe. They are easy to use and if you follow along below you can ensure that you get an accurate reading.
- Calibrate your pH meter by pressing and holding the on/off button until the readout shows “CAL” or “Calibration”. There may be a CAL button that you can press after switching the pH meter on.
- Place the pH meter in the 7.0 buffer solution and wait for the readout to register 7.0. The readout will then change to request the 4.0 buffer solution.
- Remove the pH meter from the 7.0 solution and rinse it off under tap water or by using de-ionized water. Dry the probes with a cloth r paper towel.
- Place the probes into the 4.0 buffer solution and wait for the pH meter to calibrate.
- Once the pH meter has been calibrated, rinse it under tap water or de-ionized water and dry it off.
To measure your beer or wine solution:
Step 1. Draw a sample and place it in a small glass or any other suitable receptacle.
Step 2. Ensure that the sample is at room temperature before proceeding to the next step. This may not be necessary if your pH meter has an automatic temperature compensation function.
Step 3. Dip the probes completely into the solution (Make sure that you have turned the pH meter on and calibrated it first).
What to Look for When Buying a pH Meter
When deciding on which pH meter is right for you, consider the level of accuracy you require for your brewing or winemaking. Do you really need a high-end bench meter or can you get by with a less costly pen meter?
For good results, you need a pH meter that will give you consistent and reliable readings. You want an electrode that is high-quality and fit for purpose as well as an automatic temperature compensation feature.
An accurate reading is achieved with a clean, regularly calibrated device. Storing the pH meter properly with the electrode submerged in a 4.0M KCl or pH 4.0 standard buffer will also ensure that it performs to a high standard.
For brewing beer and making wine, a level of precision of around +/- 0.01 to 0.02 is required.
Choosing a pH meter with a long battery life will make your life easier as will the inclusion of the correct size batteries.
You can choose one of two types of calibration, automatic or manual. Manual calibration requires skill and experience and is not suited for a novice. Rather opt for an automatic calibration pH meter for convenience and accuracy.
Read: Our complete guide on how to calibrate your pH meter
Naturally, you’ll want the best value for money based on your budget. You can expect to pay between $15 and $125.
The 5 Best pH Meters (in 2023)
When it comes to selecting the best pH meter for brewing and distilling, there are a great variety of products to choose from.
Your choice of pH meter depends on how serious you are about producing a quality product and your budget.
Here’s our recommendation for the best pH meters based on your level of experience and skill.
1. Fermentaholics Digital pH Meter (Best for The Beginner)
This pH meter is designed with the homebrew market in mind. It’s competitively priced with a pH range from 0 to 14, which is perfect for beer, wine, or even kombucha.
3 packets of buffer powders are included with a pH of 4, 6.86, and 9.18. It has automatic temperature compensation which will ensure accurate readings at temperatures ranging from 32°F to 176°F.
- Large LCD.
- Simple to operate.
- Calibration at either two or three points.
- Automatic Temperature Compensation
- FERMENTING MADE EASY: Perfect for brewing kombucha, beer, wine, and mead. Our digital ph meter will not only help you make sure the quality of your water is perfect, it will also make sure the pH of your mash is correct and that your kombucha is on the correct fermentation path. If your kombucha or mash's pH is off, you will be able to fix it quickly so you don't ruin your batch.
2. Bluelab METCOM Combo Meter (Best for The Advanced Home Brewer)
Although this pH meter is designed for horticultural use, it’s perfect for winemaking and brewing.
Besides measuring pH levels it can measure conductivity and temperature as well. The large display requires separate batteries but it is worth it for ease of use. The kit comes with AAA batteries and a calibration solution.
- 3-in-1 combo-tool perfect for testing wine.
- Easy to read display.
- Compact and easy to store
- Well-priced for its capabilities
- Monitor 3 parameters in water: Conductivity (TDS) level to ensure plants get a balanced feed, pH up and down, and temperature with lab quality glass probe; Gereral uses include growing tent, swimming pool, drinking water, and aquarium
3. Milwaukee Instruments MW102 pH and Temp. Meter (Best Professional Grade pH meter)
This pH meter is excellent value for money with exceptional performance and reliability. You get precise readings and it’s easy to maintain and comes with a separate probe.
The meter comes with a pH 4.01 and pH 7.01 buffer solution in 20 ml sachets. The pH electrode is an ma911b/1 and there’s even a 9V battery included in the package.
Our recommendation: I have been using this mid-range digital pH meter from Milwaukee for over two years now after going through a number of cheaper no-brand ones that quickly stopped working or refused to stay calibrated. Milwaukee is a great trustworthy brand and I also found the cabled probes much safer and better to use than the ‘pen type’ meters that are more common.
- Separate testing probes
- Automatic Temperature Compensation (ATC)
- ±0.02 pH accuracy
- Easy 2-point calibration
- 9v battery included
The AperaSX620 is one of the smaller pH pens available. It provides reliable test measurements with an accuracy of 0. 01 pH. The automatic 3-point calibration saves time while the 32°F (0°C) – 140°F (60°C) automatic temperature compensation feature cuts down on the time it takes to measure each sample.
The kit comes in a convenient portable case that includes 3 premixed buffer solutions (4, 7, 10) as well as a storage solution (3M KCL).
- The slim probes fit small receptacles and test tubes.
- The intelligent temperature functions are convenient and save time.
- It comes with an easy-to-read digital display.
- The replaceable probes provide accurate readings.
- The smallest pH pen with reliable testing performance for regular liquid e. g. pools, hydroponics, aquaculture, cooling towers, beverage making, body fluid, etc.
The Hanna Instruments HI 98128 comes packed with features and is suitable for the home brewer and laboratory user. It comes with automatic temperature compensation and an automatic calibration mode. The dual-line LCD screen is clear and easy to read.
The automatic calibration is facilitated by two sets of buffers; pH 4.01, 7.01, 0.01, and pH 4.01, 6.86, 9.18. The unit is powered by four 1.5V AA batteries providing 300 hours of use.
It also comes with an HI 73127 pH electrode and electrode removal tool.
- The meter has a water-resistant housing, a tactile grip casing, and floats.
- Replaceable electrode cartridge
- PPM readings
- Housing that floats in case you drop it.
- The dual-line LCD screen simultaneously shows the current measurement and the current temperature, and a hold function freezes readings for recording.
- Compact pH and temperature tester used in laboratory and industrial applications
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About pH Meters
Q. What is the best pH for brewing beer?
The best pH for homebrewers is between 5.2 and 5.4. This produces a clearer beer with a better flavor. In this pH range, the beer tends to last longer with less degradation in its flavor.
Q. What is the best pH for distilling?
The best pH for distilling is 5.5 according to most distilleries. Distillers consider a pH of 5.5 to be the ideal acidic environment for the process of fermentation to take place.
Turn on the pH meter and clean the electrodes with de-ionized water. Prepare the buffer solution and place the pH meter in calibration mode. Place the buffer solutions in a separate container and let them reach room temperature. Place the pH meter in each buffer, making sure to clean the probes after each reading is accepted. After the final reading is taken the pH meter will be calibrated and ready for use.
Q. What is the most accurate type of pH meter?
Digital pH meters are much more accurate than analog meters or litmus strips. When choosing a digital pH meter, make sure there is suitable precision for your needs (i.e. 0.01 dp) and the tolerance is less than 0.05 points.
Q. How do I clean and store my pH meter?
The probes should be cleaned with distilled or de-ionized water and then dried and stored in a 4.0M KCl or pH 4.0 standard buffer solution.
Q. Do you need a pH meter for brewing?
Yes, you do need a pH meter for brewing. It has become an essential piece of equipment for producing grain beers as well as for cider, mead, and winemaking. Being able to track the pH of your mash or wine provides critical information needed to control the fermentation process and avoid unpleasant flavors from ruining your product.
Q. When should I test the pH of my brew?
The pH test is difficult as it can only be accurately measured once the mash has been active for 10-15 minutes. However, this could be too late to adjust the acidity, so it’s important to use brewing software that will help you predict what the pH will be ahead of time.