So I've been doing all grain for quite some time now, but I've always "winged it" in regards to my water chemistry. I've been using a mix of Reverse Osmosis and Spring water, which gives good results for pale beers (hefe, lagers, blondes), but my darker beers and IPAs have sometimes come out a little astringent. I suspect my mash pH isn't being controlled properly and so I want to figure out how to monitor and control my mash pH.
So what kinds of tools do you guys use to (a) measure your mash pH, and (b) correct pH when needed?
How reliable are those little pH strips vs a "real" pH meter? If I need a real meter, can I get one of the $20-30 ones, or are those a waste? The meters get pretty expensive pretty quick and I have no idea which one I need.
Are pretty much all mashes supposed to be around 5.2 pH? I'd love it if someone could chime in with the appropriate pH range, and what they do to correct their pH if its over or under their target?