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I was going to get picky with my water profile on my next batch, and was going to pick an acid to lower my sparge water pH that didn't impart flavors. So I'm avoiding the powered acids that are used to flavor wines (which is all that's available at my LHBS), and I'd like to go with liquid. I'm seeing mention of phosphoric acid available at the hardware store, but I didn't know if that was just for cleaning and rinsing equipment, or if putting a few drops in the sparge water would be ok for human consumption. Or if that's not good, other alternatives available at the hardware or health food, or some other store.

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Not sure enough to answer. But I would warn against using something that isn't food grade. With laboratory 100% ethanol there is benzene which is either a deterrence from consumption or a byproduct of manufacturing. It would suck to ruin a beer or poison yourself with a byproduct from manufacturing. –  Chris Plaisier Jan 31 '12 at 17:38
    
Yeah, they have a purpose to denature it with ethanol, hehe. But that added 'poison' is called out on the label. A company I used to work for sold gallons of stuff for the same price as two ounces, the same MSDS. Just called it something else. But you're right, unless there's a definitive food grade, I'm not doing it. –  Dale Feb 2 '12 at 12:24

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Phosphoric acid itself is consumable, but to make it food safe, processing and packaging have to be done in a food safe manner.

I use lactic acid 88% to acidify my mash and sparge water. Your LHBS probably carries this. Only a few milliliters are required, so a small plastic syringe or pipette is great for getting an appropriate dose.

As well as using acid directly, you can lower the pH of your mash with Calcium Sulphate (Gypsum) and Calcium Chloride. These also affect the flavor profile of the beer, allowing the brewer to bring either the malt or the hops forward.

links:

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Went with lactic acid from LHBS. –  Dale Feb 2 '12 at 12:24

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