Author Topic: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in  (Read 918 times)

Offline andyn2001

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Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« on: March 23, 2020, 02:49:11 AM »
I have had an on off problem with some beers being too bitter. It's my IPAs and Pale Ales and I suspect a combination of switching to pellets and getting more bitterness out of post boil steeping than Beersmith is calculating. I can't find an obvious pattern. As follows, two recent beers:

A pale ale 4.7% BU:GU  0.699  not bitter
An IPA just made 5.5% BU:GU lower at 0.65, too bitter!

It's been going on like this for two years, and the fact one beer will be ok, then another isn't is what is doing my head in.

Some measures I have taken:

1. I noticed the temp inside hop spider was over the 76C I was steeping at. The grainfather temp gauge not used to measure temp inside the hop spider anymore, add a probe. Started doing this a few months ago and that helped stop some really rank beer bittereness.

2. Make sure sparge water is ph <6.

3. Been bringing down my BU:GU ratios, significantly below recommended ranges.


Any advice really appreciated, as getting fed up chucking every other beer.

I really suspect the post boil steeping is generating a lot more bitterness than the calcs. Or am I just missing something else blindingly obvious??  Been brewing for 8 years and the first 6 never had this problem, which is why suspect the switch to pellets. But, they say add another 10% to compensate for a hope spider, I don't do that, and still getting some beers that are too bitter.

I should add, another suspect. As I use a hop spider I don't whirlpool, could that be the culprit?

Can pH affect the bitterness, I get around 5.2 at room temp, which is a bit low. But, that is as per advice from water chemistry lab who analyse my water.

 




Offline Oginme

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2020, 07:41:21 AM »
Bitterness is usually a difficult aspect to nail down, mostly because my perception of what is too bitter is most likely not the same as yours.

Putting myself in your situation, the first thing I would try to discern is whether the bitterness is hop bitterness or astringency.  Does the beer leave your mouth feeling dry and with a slight puckering sensation?  That would be astringency.  There are various causes of astringency but looking at the problem manifestation, it would most likely be tied to hop polyphenols.  Some of this could be caused by too much hop matter in the whirlpool or dry hopped. 

Your impression of the change from whole hops to pellets is right on target.  Pellets are quicker to release the hop oils and aromatic acids into the wort.  Generally, a 10% increase in bitterness is attributed to pellets over dried whole hops.  Personally, I feel that the ability to get astringent properties is much easier as well.  My recent use of cryo hops further lends itself to that impression.  This hop astringency mellows out over time, but it is disappointing when first encountered.

Next, BeerSmith allows the user to project the further isomerization of boil hops into the whirlpool.  You do this in your equipment profile by setting 'total whirlpool time'.  I use this more as a utilization factor rather than as a strict measure of time and extend the time recipe by recipe to account for actual whirlpool duration.  I will explain more below.

Whirlpool bitterness is not a really well defined measure on a home brewing scale.  I think professional brewers, who use the whirlpool much differently than home brewers do have a better sense of how much bitterness they get from whirlpool additions and how to adjust for this perception.  The main reason for this better understanding is due to their greater dependence upon sensory analysis rather than calculations and models. 

So what I did starting several years ago was to play around with small batches and whirlpooling.  I did a few wheat beers with only whirlpool hops and estimated my perception of bitterness against the base beer which had only boil hops.  Note that I was bringing the sensory comparison down to the taste sensation of bitterness and not the flavor perception of the hops.  I find people have a difficult time separating the two.

Previously in BeerSmith 2, Brad had included a utilization factor for the whirlpool hops.  He removed that in BeerSmith 3 late in the test versions.  It is really too bad, since I was able to use that to adjust the sensation I achieved from my process while maintaining the time/temperature factors.  Back then, I was able to accurately predict my wort temperature drop over time after the end of the boil and use the utilization factor to adjust my perceived bitterness from the whirlpool. 

Since BS3 came out, I enter in the timing for the embedded brew timer and float the temperature to account for the utilization factor.  I would record the actual temperature on my brew day notes.  It is a work-around for the utilization factor, but it does work.

Next, look at the temperatures and times you are steeping your hops in the whirlpool.  Some of the most recent findings from Tom Shellhammer indicates that the hops oils are all extracted within 5 minutes during the whirlpool.  I have since been working by whirlpool times back and achieving much better hop flavors, less bitterness, and a smoother bitterness perception.   

I have recently started using a hop spider, since I have changed from stove top BIAB to using an Anvil Foundry.  To prevent plugging the pump, I needed either to bag or use a hop spider.  I have tried both, but prefer the hop spider since I can stir the hops periodically.  This move has demonstrated that I get approximately a 5% drop in perceived bitterness on most of my malt forward recipes.  I have just started brewing pale ales and IPA for the summer, so we will see what happens there.

Not sure if my ramblings above help in any way, but it may lead you on some avenues to persue.



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Offline andyn2001

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2020, 08:20:37 AM »
This is helps more than you think!

Basically, the whirlpool is a bit of a suck it and see and the science behind it not exact. I assume whirpool you mean post boil steeping?

I normally steep my post boil hops for 20 mins, so I will half that to 10 and see if that helps. But, yes I think astringency is what I am getting, not too much bitterness. It's not a nice bitterness.

Also, would I be right in assuming as my beers have got lighter and lighter, and less malty to go with the trends, that this shows up more?

Another point. I seem overall to be able to have a higher IBU with US-05 than with S-33 that I have started using fruity IPAs. I saw Fermentis recommend it on their website and it is more certainly better and a lot cheaper than Llallemand's New England.

But, saying all this, I don't understand why looking back through my records I have one beer with a BU:GU ration of 0.729, that is not butter and one that 0.608 that is!

But, I will try the 10min steep, an also drop the steep temp from 76C to 70C.

I'm going commercial soon and really want to get to the bottom of this. It has been the single most challenging issues I have had with brewing in 8 years!!

Offline jomebrew

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2020, 08:39:55 AM »
Been bringing down my BU:GU ratios, significantly below recommended ranges.

A lot of brewers thing the recommended range is the range they should target. It is not. It is a guideline. This needs to be adjusted to your taste.

Whirlpool hopping is pretty well known. The extract amounts are pretty well understood. Keep in mind that software is just modeling ad does not predict the outcome. The software helps fine tune the outcome.

Whirlpool hopping will enhance the bitterness already in the wort. The choice of bittering hop does matter. Lower cohumulone hops have less harsh or astringent bitterness in general and definitely in MY beers. 

Process wise, I remove boil hops and add whirlpool hops once the wort is below 180F to reduce the bitterness added. If you add hops at flameout, then reduce the charge if it is adding too much bitterness.

Dry hopping also adds bitterness. So, be sure you take that in account.

Good practice is to change one thing at a time though. Maybe 2.  I suggest starting with the the boil bitter addition.

  • Switch to a mellower bittering hop like Magnum if you haven't already
    Reduce the boiling hop charge


I would switch to a mellower bittering hop like Magnum if you are not already using it.

Offline Oginme

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2020, 08:56:21 AM »
This is helps more than you think!

Basically, the whirlpool is a bit of a suck it and see and the science behind it not exact. I assume whirpool you mean post boil steeping?

I normally steep my post boil hops for 20 mins, so I will half that to 10 and see if that helps. But, yes I think astringency is what I am getting, not too much bitterness. It's not a nice bitterness.

Also, would I be right in assuming as my beers have got lighter and lighter, and less malty to go with the trends, that this shows up more?

Another point. I seem overall to be able to have a higher IBU with US-05 than with S-33 that I have started using fruity IPAs. I saw Fermentis recommend it on their website and it is more certainly better and a lot cheaper than Llallemand's New England.

But, saying all this, I don't understand why looking back through my records I have one beer with a BU:GU ration of 0.729, that is not butter and one that 0.608 that is!

But, I will try the 10min steep, an also drop the steep temp from 76C to 70C.

I'm going commercial soon and really want to get to the bottom of this. It has been the single most challenging issues I have had with brewing in 8 years!!

As Jomebrew pointed out, hop choice makes a big difference as well.  Some hops drive a strong pine or resinous bite to them, which comes across as very harsh to me.  BU:GU ratio is a tool, but not an end all to what to expect, which is why a reliance on bitterness perception and flavor design is a big piece of pro brewers tool box.
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Offline andyn2001

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2020, 09:05:59 AM »
Ok, good start point, let me pull together a table of cohumulone rates, but I do use magnum in many of my beers for bittering but not all. I look to see if those beers have been coming out less astringent.

Offline andyn2001

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2020, 05:11:15 AM »
One other thing. Since I started using a hop spider I stopped whirlpooling as didn't think needed to, but when transferring into FV you can see first runnings are green and there is hop matter in bottom of kettle at the end. So, could this hop matter also be adding to astringency?

Offline Oginme

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2020, 05:33:50 AM »
I used to get that all the time when I was just throwing the hops into the kettle and had never had an astringency issue.  Since I switched to a hop basket, I only see it when I am using Cryohops.  My experience with astringency is limited and in each case was related to too much hop/green matter in the dry hop, especially when I started using the Cryohops for dry hop additions.  While this is more anecdotal, I have heard several people also comment about an astringent or sharp bitter bite from the use of Cryohops.  I have since been brewing with a combination of standard pellets and cryohops and have not experienced the astringent/bitter bite so far.  At the same time, I have also been cutting back on the amount of hops used for dry hopping and whirlpool additions and reduced the exposure time as well.  So there are too many changes (which is rare for me) at once to determine root cause.
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Offline andyn2001

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2020, 06:08:03 AM »
Out of interest, what levels of whirlpool and dry hopping are you doing?

For dry hopping I'm using about 8g per litre. Also, I do add some during fermentation.

for post boil steeping about about 6g per litre, and now cutting back to about 12 IBUs for a 15L batch.

Offline Oginme

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2020, 06:36:46 AM »
When I had the issues, I was a bit over 8 gpl dry hopping.  I have since cut it back to between 4 and 6 gpl and achieved pretty much the same aroma/flavor which I had noted in the previous batch, but without the sharpness or astringency.  I went a little crazy with the whirlpool hops when I was scoping out my perception of flavor and bitterness and went up to 12 gpl.  I now only add about 3 to 5 gpl on the more hop forward recipes.  As I alluded to in the last post, I also switched to all Cryohops in the whirlpool and in the dry hop on a 1:1 replacement and found I needed to temper the bittering presence there quite a bit.  Adding them, in a reduced amount, with the addition of standard pellets made a big difference to me.  I really like the aromas and intensity of the Cryohops, but it took a bit to learn how to add and adjust them in my process to get them to shine through without introducing other less appealing flavor attributes.
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Offline andyn2001

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2020, 04:29:29 PM »
Let me try a recipe adding in some of your suggestions. All seems logical.

However!  If some of the reason is high co-humulone in some of the hops. (I have used Ekuanot that is medium to high), how come Azacca and Ekuanot are used a lot in NEIPAs, Azzaca especially has very high co-humulone levels. What are the commercial breweries doing to be able to use these and not get astringency? Using leaf, hops oils? I've seen Azacca only IPAs, they should be rank!

Offline Oginme

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2020, 05:46:41 PM »
Ah, this is what makes this so much fun!

First is the sensory component.  I am particularly sensitive to highly bittered beers.  They just taste so out of balance and all I get is the bitterness.  I still make IPAs and DIPAs, but I am very careful about the hop choices and additions.  The majority of my bitterness happens at the end of the boil and in whirlpool with only about 20% of the calculated IBU coming from early boil additions.  This is one of the few times I actually put some emphasis on calculated IBU and only because it has been correlated to my perception of harsh bitterness.  Harsh bitterness is also, at least to my perception, vastly different from polyphenol, tannin (being polyphenols from grains rather than from hops), or chlorophyll astringency. 

Co-humulone levels certainly are related to harsh bitterness in beers, but I am not sure that is the full story.  I use a lot of what are considered high Co-humulone level hops late in the boil, in the whirlpool and dry hop without running into the harsh bitterness normally associated with high Co-humulone.  Does this mean that where we add them in the boil makes that much of a difference.  Or, could it be in the way I choose my hops to stock up on which is explained a bit more below.


Then there is natural variation.  Hops are an agricultural crop and as such has variations in oil content and flavor compounds which are related to locality of raising, weather during growth, time of harvesting, etc.  I had a wonderful Eukanot (back when it was called Equinox) single hopped IPA.  When I talked to the commercial brewer and tried the recipe myself, I ended up with an, to me at least, undrinkable bitter beverage.  is the difference process?  Hop lot?  Source? Who knows.  I generally order hops in 2 oz or 4 oz packages, but when I get a package with what I deem are exceptional hops, I will immediately order a half pound or a pound, depending upon my projected use of that variety from the same source if it comes from the same lot.  Even then, it does not always work in my favor. 

Which then brings us to process.  When I switched to using the Anvil Foundry at 240v I found that my bitterness increased by at least 20% (perception, because the recipes were the same as when I brewed them via BIAB on the stove).  The main difference is post likely the boil vigor.   I was boiling off 2.6 lph using my stove top BIAB and now I am achieving 4 lph with the Anvil.  I am using the same hops, several months to a year later and my sensory perception based upon a particular commercial brew still appears to be the same. 

Further, just when we think we have things figured out we get thrown a curveball (or maybe it is a slow lob) and take a hop which is harsh on its own but when combined with other hops shines nicely.  There are certain hop combinations which seem to blend to create something none of them supply separately.  A classic one for me is Chinook, Cluster, and Willamette.  They just seem to click together for me to create a nicely bittered combination giving lots of pleasant citrus (mostly mild grapefruit), floral, and herbal notes without a strong resinous, piney flavor dominating, nor an overpowering spiciness.  I get some of the flavor and aroma aspects of each, but not some of the lesser desirable (again, to me) flavors.  Likewise, Azacca when used with El Dorado and Jarrylo comes out nicely fruity and loses that pine characteristic I have found with single hop use of Azacca.

Does that help muddy the waters a bit more?  I am still working to figure out a lot of this myself, so don't feel alone.  If there were a simple way to just name some hops and get an excellent idea of what any particular combination will produce it would take away much of the fun of recipe building and brewing for me.

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Offline andyn2001

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2020, 01:41:13 AM »
Yes, that has muddied the waters!  :) :)

I have had an interesting email from my brewing kit supplier and installer. He said kit not designed to handle pellets can cause astringency, and run off rates. I have just asked him to explain further and will post a reply.

It's seems the whole area of using using pellets needs the brewer to be aware of not just they add about 10% more bitterness but need the brewer to understand several other elements. Switching from leaf to pellet is not just a matter of adjusting how much you use by 10%!

And for you, switching from pellet to cryo needs another level of understanding. I've not tried them yet. But, come the day I will be researching before  do!

Offline andyn2001

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Re: Beers Too Bitter - Doing my head in
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2020, 05:51:09 PM »
Found the problem. SCHOOLBOY ERROR ALERT!!


I was tipping my FV to get too much out of the FV when racking to a keg to bottle (with blichman beer gun)

In discussions with someone else getting the prob and telling me his first 2 or 3 pints out of a keg were the same the penny dropped. Plus we had both cut back on the cold crash.

So back to 3 days cold crash, no tipping of FV and cutting off when getting to just above FV tap.........crisp beer again!!!