Author Topic: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA  (Read 6558 times)

Offline dvannest

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Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« on: August 16, 2012, 03:30:02 PM »
My first attempt at an IPA was based on Pliny the Elder; it turned out all right but the bitterness was huge - allmost to the poit of obscuring the flavor and aroma. I mean, it was very sharp. Blew out your palate immediately. Perhaps a bit ambitious on my part.

So this time I thought I'd try something less complicated and go with a single-hop IPA. I brewed a two gallon batch consisting of 2 lbs pils DME and 1 lb amber DME. I added .5 oz of Chinook 13.3% AA at 60, 15, and 5. I racked it after a week; at that point I gave it a quick taste and I'll I got was bitter - that same sharp, unbalanced bitterness. I dry hopped with another .5 oz Chinook, and will bottle in a week.

I'm again concerned about the bitterness being too dominant - the calculator I used put it at 63 IBU, which seems quite reasonable to me, but it tastes much higher right now. Generally, I find commercial beers at 65 IBU to be pretty mellow. Do I just need to get this batch bottled and let it condition for a while? Is it supposed to be this sharp right now? Should I back off the high AA hops and go for a lower AA hop? I like bitterness, but balanced with flavor and aroma. Any thoughts on process and how to get a balanced IPA?

Offline mihalybaci

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2012, 07:08:11 PM »
Several things can influence the bitterness of beer. If your final gravity is low and the beer is quite dry, the bitterness will certainly stand out more. If you brew with hard water and the pH is high, their will also be a "rougher" bitterness that results. Those are two possibilities. I've heard/read that hops with a lower cohumulone (<~30%) content (not necessarily lower AA%) have a more pleasant bitterness to them, so you could use a different bittering hop (Magnum, Amarillo, Simcoe). Another possibility (that I have not personally tried) is to use first wort hopping where the hops are "steeped" in the wort for 20 min or so before the boil. This supposedly results in a smoother bitterness and more pleasing hop flavor, like a 60 min boiling addition plus a 20 min flavor addition rolled into one. All that being said, the simplest thing do to would be to just reduce the bittering hops and IBUs. If your beer can have 40 IBUs and taste like it has 60, at least you'll be saving money on hops.

Offline tubercle

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2012, 07:22:46 PM »
Brew larger batches unless you have the ability to measure very accuratey. A few % off in small batches has a bigger impact where in the larger batches the +/- errors diminishes. 5 gallon is good, 10 is better.
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Offline hooter

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2012, 08:09:15 PM »
Just try to get most of your IBU's from late hop additions, which will contribute flavor and aroma as well.  Also, as previously mentioned, low cohumulone hops have a lower perceived bitterness, even though they may have high AA%.  Remember also that bitterness will be at it's peak in a fresh beer and will fade over time while the malt will become more prominent, so aging a very bitter beer for a little while may balance it out.  The problem with this is the hop flavor and aroma will fade at a faster rate so aging an IPA can have a negative impact.  Lastly, Pliny the Elder is a bitter beer so you pretty much got what you asked for with that one, and Chinook hops can be harsh even in relatively low IBU beers so that may be part of why your single hop IPA seemed overly bitter.  With your next IPA load it up at the end of the boil with low cohumulone hops, which should give you the IBU levels you're looking for without harsh bitterness and plenty of flavor and aroma. 

Offline jamminbrew

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2012, 09:21:03 PM »
In my DIPA, I only put 1 oz of hops into the 60 min addition.  The next 9 oz get spread out equally in 15, 10, 5, and 0 min additions,  with another 1.5 oz for dry hop.  So, very little in the 60 min, and everything in late additions. I have been very happy with this.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2012, 09:24:02 PM by theantipunk »
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2012, 09:21:40 PM »
Brew larger batches unless you have the ability to measure very accuratey. A few % off in small batches has a bigger impact where in the larger batches the +/- errors diminishes. 5 gallon is good, 10 is better.
What tubercle means is that if you are off a little it is a higher % off in a smaller batch than in a larger batch.  An extra 1/4 ounce in 4 ounces isn't a big deal, but if you're measuring 1/4 ounce but getting 1/2 ounce that is a problem.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2012, 05:08:17 AM »
First of all, it's not so much about your IBU's. IBU:GU ratio is a much better determinant of perceived bitterness. For a balanced IPA, I'd shoot for your IBU's to be roughly equal to your OG. I.e., for a 1.060 beer you'd want to target roughly 60 IBU's. Also, the amount of sulfate in your water will affect perceived bitterness. If you have a lot of sulfate in your water you may want to try to dilute with RO water.

This was also absolutely my best investment for when I started brewing smaller batches. This is a fantastic gram scale for under 10 bucks:

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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2012, 05:38:16 AM »
...Also, the amount of sulfate in your water will affect perceived bitterness. If you have a lot of sulfate in your water you may want to try to dilute with RO water...

I think this is your issue. If you switch from your house water supply to bottled water you'll be fine.

I still use gallon jugs of water from the grocery store. I use half "drinking water" and half distilled water for most beers, including IPA.
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Offline Kaiser

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2012, 05:48:33 AM »
Don't trust the IBU predictions from software. Use them as a starting point. If the beer tastes too bitter use less bittering hoops even if this means the predicted IBUs are less than what you expected. After a while you'll get a feel of which predicted IBUs to shoot for to get the desired taste.

One of my earliest beers was a SNPA clone with 39 predicted IBUs and the beer wad way too bitter. I them learned that I had to shoot for 30 IBUs top get what I wanted.

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Offline dvannest

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2012, 09:30:29 AM »
Thank you all very much for the hints and tips. It sounds like I need to get schooled in some chemistry here - so far I have been treating my brewing as more art than science. Seems like a lil' more science is in order. Practically, I have been trying to brew smaller batches because I hate to spend on and then dump a 5 gal batch that doesn't turn out. My immediate take-away is to change my water from tap to bottled, look for a less harsh hop (As a Seattlite I do love me the NW IPA's, so maybe I'll go to Amarillo), and back off the volume of bittering hops at the boil, instead making more generous additions at 15, 5, and 0. I did revisit my Pliny-inspired IPA after posting yesterday and the harshness has mellowed with time (althgouh point well taken about drinking IPA fresh- I'd rather get the recipie right up front). I'll take all IBU caclulators with a grain of salt from here on out.

Thanks again to everyone for being so generous to a first-time poster!

Offline Kaiser

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2012, 09:45:58 AM »
If you are in Seattle, you likely don't have to change your water. Your water is known to be very low in minerals and that's what erockrph and kylekohlmorgen getting at when they suggested different water.

Kai

Offline denny

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2012, 09:58:12 AM »
I have heard chlorophenols described as a "harsh bitterness".  Does your water have chlorine or chloramine in it, and if so, do you do anything to remove it?  Might be worth a try.
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Offline dvannest

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2012, 10:07:19 AM »
I thought our water was pretty good out here, but I know we do have some chlorine in it. I will check the City's water quality site. Does anyone know at what level (ppm) chlorine will have a negative/harsh effect?

It seems that otherwise I need to switch to a lower AA and cumuholone (this discussion was the first I have heard of this!) hop and make bigger additons later in the boil. My goal is to derive a nice, basic, single-hop IPA that can be the basis for experimentation in the future. With all this good advice I should be much closer the next go-'round.


Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2012, 10:08:30 AM »
Get a good carbon filter and/or treat your brewing water a day ahead of time with camden tablets then you won't have to worry about what concentration is a problem and how much happens to be in your water today.
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Offline repo

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Re: Balancing bitterness, flavor, and aroma in IPA
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2012, 10:31:32 AM »
I have heard chlorophenols described as a "harsh bitterness".  Does your water have chlorine or chloramine in it, and if so, do you do anything to remove it?  Might be worth a try.

+1 I think there is some other issue here for sure. Don't know what your Pliny recipe was but your other recipe should be barely bitter. Chinook IMO is an awesome bittering hop and in that recipe you did not come close to going overboard. From what you say about your tastes you do not have a problem with the hop additions.