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Reviewing the Omega PHH-7011 pH Meter for Homebrewing

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/03/2014 at 02:33:55 PM

Disclaimer - this is not a paid review. This post is an honest assessment of the Omega PHH-7011 pH meter, which I received as a gift and have now used multiple times in my own brewing. I have not received one penny for this post, nor do I expect to do so.

One topic I regularly see discussed among more experienced brewers is the question of which pH meter is worth buying. A pH meter is invaluable to brewers who are interested in getting into (or perhaps are already well versed in) water chemistry for their brewing. Sure, pH test strips can get you in the ballpark, but precise control over your mash requires a good pH meter.

There are, of course, quite a few really inexpensive pH meters for sale, but I'm a believer in investing in good tools. As the old saying so succinctly puts it, "the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." Inexpensive pH meters are typically not very precise, not very accurate, and don't feature replaceable electrodes - which means that they have a limited useful life.

Now, understand, I have no desire to spend a vast amount of money on a tool that admittedly is more useful for fine tuning your beer than for making good beer to begin with. If you aren't already controlling your fermentation temperatures, if you aren't already pitching enough healthy yeast (by way of properly sized yeast starters), if you aren't already ensuring proper aeration... water chemistry (and thus, a pH meter) probably isn't the best use of your time and resources. Those three items will have far and away more input on the final quality of your beer than anything else; proper mash pH can help with efficiency and dial in some finer flavor aspects, but proper pH won't help the beer nearly as much as those three items will.

Now, for a quality pH meter, you want to be sure that you have a device that has a resolution (or precision) of .01 - i.e. it can tell the difference between 5.45 and 5.46. If your meter is only precise to .1, the reading will will jump from, say, 5.40 to 5.50.

Additionally, you'd like a meter that is accurate to .01 - if it says that the pH is 5.45, you know that the true reading is no more than +/- .01 off of that - i.e. somewhere between 5.44 and 5.46. Precision isn't particularly valuable if your meter isn't actually accurate.

You want a meter that features a replaceable electrode; over time, electrodes degrade to the point that you can no longer trust the readings. If you can replace the electrode, your meter will be useful for years to come.

ATC (automatic temperature correction) is nice, but honestly, most experienced brewers will advise you to cool your wort samples to room temperature before you take a reading.

Also note that to properly use a pH meter, you'll need at least two calibration solutions - one at pH 7.0, and another at either pH 4.0 or 10.0. If you don't have these solutions, you cannot trust your meter to be accurate. No matter which meter you purchase, you will want to regularly calibrate it.

I did a lot of homework on varous pH meters, and the finalists for me came down to one model by Hanna Instruments and one by Omega. Finally, though, I settled on the PHH-7011 by Omega, with a list price of $99 - noticeably cheaper than some of the other "nice" meters I had considered (and noticeably more expensive than some of the meters that many homebrewers use). Why did I choose this one?

Features included:
  • .01 resolution
  • .01 accuracy
  • replaceable electrode
  • ATC
  • waterproof housing
  • supposed easy calibration
  • calibration solutions included
  • storage solution included
  • carrying case
I was a little leery that this might be too good to be true (after all, the calibration solutions alone are worth $15-$20). Omega is a little annoying to order from - unlike Hanna, you can't get an Omega meter from Amazon... you have to order it directly from the company. However, Omega does seem to have a solid reputation, so I decided to ask for this meter for my birthday. Am I ever glad that I did!

The meter itself is stupidly simple to use. It has a storage cap that stays on the end of the device when not in use; this allows the electrode to be stored in a buffer solution, which supposedly helps with the device life. You take the meter out, rinse the electrode with water, dab it dry with a paper towel, then turn the meter on. Readings take maybe three seconds or so to stabilize.

Calibration is, indeed, a breeze - hold a button for a few seconds, the meter prompts you to place it in the pH 7.0 solution. Do so, hold the button for a couple of seconds. Rinse it, then put it in the pH 4.0 solution, hold the button a couple more seconds. You're done.

I had rolled my eyes a bit at the storage case, but it's extremely useful. The plastic is molded to fit all of the components, so there's a place for everything (including the calibration solution bottles) - and your meter is protected against bumps and drops.

This meter comes with a one year warranty, and I have had to try that out. Seven months in, mine suddenly stopped powering on. I replaced the batteries, but still had no luck. It took a phone call and a couple of follow up emails, but Omega sent me a brand new meter (including new bottles of calibration solutions and such) at no charge - no shipping, no nothing. So while I was annoyed at having the problem, they absolutely made it right, and the new meter seems to work perfectly.

Can you buy a better pH meter for homebrewing? Perhaps. Maybe some lab guy somewhere can answer that question better than I can. Can you buy a better meter at a better price point? I highly doubt it.

If you're looking for a quality pH meter for your brewing, you could do much worse than the Omega PHH-7011 (link is to Omega's site). I heartily recommend it.

Tags for this post: pH, meter, tester, homebrew, homebrewing

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I'm curious now after a little over a year of writing this review what your thoughts are on this meter.

I have a Milwaukee MW102 PH meter that frustrates me to no end.

Thanks in advance.

posted by brianj on 11/23/2015 at 08:34:06 AM