In chemistry, pH(potential of hydrogen) is a numeric scale used specify the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. The scale runs from 0-14 and is logarithmic meaning that each whole pH value is 10x more acidic or basic then the last. With 7 being neutral, best represented by distilled water. Anything less then 7 is classified as acidic, and anything higher is classified as basic.
The quality of brewing water is extremely important because beer is made up of anywhere between 90-95% water. The level of pH in your strike water, mash, wort, and beer affects processes from enzyme function to hop extraction to yeast vitality. Understanding and being able to measure your pH helps you manipulate pH levels for great-tasting beer. That’s why I’m going to introduce three different pH meters, at three vastly different price points, and decide which one is most worth it at its price.
1. Oakton EcoTestr pH 2 – $86 – $$$
I went with the EcoTestr for my economic choice for a couple different reasons. The first was based on price compared with the quality of product received. The second reason being that I’ve used this model quite extensively as they are the go to choice for my fellow peers. My overall comments regarding the EcoTestr pH 2 is that its a non-flashy, ergonomic, easy-to-use pH meter available for an affordable price.
- Economical and easy to use
- Simply dip and read—the orientation of the display means there is no need to turn your head or tilt the tester.
- The single-junction electrode is recessed to protect against breakage
- The unit offers up to three-point calibration with auto-buffer recognition for quick calibrations
- Automatic temperature compensation ensures accurate reading under changing conditions
- Waterproof and dustproof housing designed for use in dirty or wet field conditions
- All plastic housing, may contribute to a flimsy, easily breakable feeling.
- Non-replaceable sensor
- Doesn’t come with calibration solution.
2. Omega PHH-7011 – $152 – $$$
For my mid-range pick, I went with a pH meter that I have plenty of first hand experience with and one that I currently own. Overall, this pH meter has a solid, rigid construction, very reliable, and easy to use interface.
- Reads pH to the hundredth decimal
- Microprocessor-Based for Fast and Accurate Measurement
- Replaceable electrode
- IP67 Rated,Waterproof Housing
- Large LCD—Displays pH, Conductivity and Temperature Simultaneously
- 1-Keyboard Calibration
- Automatic Temperature Compensation
- Multifunctional Including Data-Hold and Min/Max
- Low-Battery Indicator
- Auto Power-Off After 10 Minutes of Non-Use
- Comes with hard carrying case, storage and buffer solution.
- Battery meter can often times be unreliable.
3. Orion Star A211 pH Benchtop Meter – $1124 – $$$
The A211 is the final, and most expensive pH meter of the three. Suited for more of a brewing lab setup, this pH meter is for the homebrewer who wants all the fancy toys and has the money to spend.
- Able to read pH to the tenth, hundredth, or thousandth
- Measure pH, mV, relative mV or ORP with temperature
- Perform up to a five point pH calibration using automatic buffer recognition of NIST or DIN buffer groups with choice to manually enter custom buffer values
- Calibration editing option allows individual points to be fixed without a full recalibration
- Informative, easy-to-read backlit graphic display with clear onscreen instructions simplifies operation
- Capture your critical readings with measurement stability indicator and selectable read modes – Auto-Read holds a stable reading, Continuous shows changing readings with hold option and Timed logs data at specific intervals
- Eliminate the need for magnetic stir bars using the meter-controlled stirrer probe to uniformly mix solutions
- Data log collects and date/time stamps up to 2000 measurement sets with optional sample ID and user ID
- Calibration log stores ten most recent calibrations
- Non-volatile meter memory ensures your data and settings are protected, even with loss of power
- Orion Star Com software facilitates data transfer to a computer via USB or RS232 connections
- Flexible power options with universal power adapter or optional AA batteries
- IP54-rated housing resists dust and splashes and can be wall-mounted if table space is limited
- Meters include CE, TUV 3-in-1 and FCC Class A certifications and 3-year replacement warranty
- Not portable
- Big and bulky
- Doesn’t come provided with buffer solutions
- Costs a small fortune
The Worth It Winner
I went with the Omega PHH-7011 for a multitude of different reasons. The first being quality. You receive a reliable, solid, accurate pH meter at a fairly reasonable price. When compared to the economy option: EcoTester pH 2, the price difference between them is only $66. Not a significant price jump if you ask me. Especially when you look at the additional benefits received with the 7011. A hard carrying case, buffer solutions, reads pH to the hundredth(this is important, I swear!). When compared to the Orion Star, this machine is simply too technical for a simple homebrewers means. Having not used the Orion myself, I cannot say for certain, however I feel as though it would prove to be more of a headache setting up, then it would be worth. Coupled with the exorbitant price tag, justifying the purchase is near impossible. You heard it from me folks, if you’re looking to get into the pH game with your homebrew setup, go with the Omega PHH-7011. ..I swear I’m not being sponsored..