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Balancing a recipe

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I've been brewing other folks recipes up until now.  Naturally, I want to start making my own recipes.  I've been reading up on malts and hops getting a feel for what sorts of flavors/aromas I want.  My question is about balancing a recipe.  How do I formulate how much bittering hops I need to either have a bitter/balanced/sweet finish?  I know for certain that 40 IBUs in a beer made entirely of base malt would not have the same taste as 40 IBUs in a beer with added specialty grains.  So how do you know how much bitterness to add?

I like to use something known as the BU:GU ratio.  That is, bittering units (IBUs) to gravity units (the last three digits of original gravity).  So, for examples:

1.060 beer with 60 IBUs, BU:GU = 60/60 = 1.00
1.060 beer with 30 IBUs, BU:GU = 30/60 = 0.50
1.060 beer with 15 IBUs, BU:GU = 15/60 = 0.25

As a general guideline, IPAs are around a BU:GU ratio of 1.00, a balanced beer is around 0.50, and a beer that is very malty and not so hoppy can be anywhere around 0.10 to 0.40.  So, pick what kind of balance you want, then use your original gravity to determine how much hop bitterness to add.  It's not an exact science, but it can get you very close to where you want the balance to be.

As pointed out, pay attention to the BU/GU ratio.

This page says a little more than 0.5, but most of us just have a guess as to the BU's.

Thanks, this has helped cement together some of my conceptions. Seems like a general ROT but very helpful:

--- Quote ---How Bitter Should It Be?
The AHA and probably other organizations publish (large) charts which define the range of IBUs expected in a given style. It is outside the scope of this FAQ to go into that much detail on beer styles, but hopping rates from 10 IBU to 60 IBU or more have been noted in commercial beers. The following table from an article titled "Matching Hops with Beer Styles" by Quentin B. Smith in the 1990 "Zymurgy" Hops and Beer Special Issue may help. Other factors are just as important as OG, such as FG, sulfate content of the water, and the style of beer, but this will get you started:

--- End quote ---

--- Code: ---
Balanced Beer Hop Chart

        Wort OG             IBU
        -------             ---
        1.010                4
        1.020                8
        1.030               12
        1.040               16
        1.050               24
        1.060               32
        1.070               40
        1.080               48
        1.090               56
        1.100               64

--- End code ---

This couldn't apply to all styles, and IMO it's not always necessary for a beer to be "balanced". For example my latest Texas Brown has an OG of 1.043 and IBU of 43. They're a bit more hopped than a regular Brown ale which would be maybe 20 BU at the same gravity. What's making it cooperate is the pH was right for my water, dark malts and high finishing gravity to tone down the bitterness. According to JP's water spreadsheet for my water profile I must add salts in order to achieve a "balanced" beer. It does work, but with similar recipes the one with treated Sulfate/chloride ratio was balanced in the extreme. Maybe I'm not used to it LOL however I'm preferring the untreated version.

Thanks for the replies guys.  Now that you mention it, I do vaguely remember reading an article dealing with BU:GU ratio.  I had a feeling there was something to get you in the ballpark, but I couldn't remember what it was.  Thanks a bunch!


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