Author Topic: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA  (Read 616 times)

Offline rbowers

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Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« on: March 18, 2018, 02:33:11 PM »
Curious to hear if anyone has ideas on creating a smoother bitterness in an IPA.  My attempts in the past, which I like (my wife not so much), come out on the harsher end.  Beers from New Belgium and Lagunitas for example seem to carry an inherent recognizable smoothness to them which I'd like to know how what factors to consider to drive towards that may generate that result.  I have tried using hops described as "smooth" (Magnum) but it doesn't quite get the desired result.

Is it a function of:
- Cl-:SO4 ratios in mash?- will higher Cl levels smooth out the bitterness or just mute it entirely?
- Residual Sweetness from higher FG or crystal malts that balance the bitterness differently.  I have made a cloyingly sweet IPA with too much crystal and I know that is not what I am after.
- Hop type? - other suggestions for smooth bittering hops?
- Specific yeast type?

Would just be interested to know what levers to toy with to inch towards a very smooth and drinkable IPA.

Offline denny

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2018, 04:15:58 PM »
I'd say it's all of those.  I'd start by reducing the sulfate level of your water and trying a "neutral" hop like Magnum for bittering.  Don't get too hung up on CL:SO4 ratio.  Absolute numbers are more important.
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Offline jeffy

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2018, 05:56:52 PM »
Timing of the hop additions can make a difference as well.  A lot of the newer IPAs are adding all the hops very late in the boil.  You have to calculate more hops to get the IBUs, but I think it makes a smoother bitterness.  You may also try first wort hopping instead of a normal 60 minute boil addition.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2018, 06:50:32 PM »
Without knowing what sulfate level was used previously, it may be premature to say that backing down that level is an answer. If the sulfate wasn’t at 200 ppm or more, backing it down probably isn’t the answer.

Is it possible the bittering level is too high for the residual malt level? If the recipe was originally formulated with Rager and then produced with Tinseth, I find that the bitterness is overstated.
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2018, 10:05:07 PM »
Smooth bitterness... So, are you saying that you are happy with the amount of bitterness, it's just too rough? If so that sounds like a function of fine tuning all the control levers. Type of Hop, amount of Hop, when added, water profile, and probably more importantly, amount and type of flavor/aroma hops you are using, and when. All of these things play together or fight against each other. You can't change one lever without it interacting with another.

If I liked everything about my IPA except the bitterness seemed a bit rough, I would start by reducing my bittering charge. Then let's say the roughness went away but now it's not bitter enough. Then I would suspect the type of Hop I am bittering with is to blame. Or I'd suspect that what I'm thinking is "rough" is actually just too much. In my opinion it's no surprise that there is a trend away from sheer bitterness (high IBUs) to less bitterness more flavor. Merely hitting a calculated high IBU is not necessarily success.

If you could give us an example recipe of a beer that had too rough bitterness, including water profile, it might be easier to help dial you in.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2018, 10:18:48 PM by klickitat jim »

Offline Robert

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2018, 10:19:17 PM »
When it comes to hops, there is a myth that low CoH hops are smoother.  They're actually just less bitter, because cohumulone isomerizes 50% more efficiently than humulone.  The quality of bitterness the two acids give is identical.

 So you might try a higher CoH, higher total alpha bittering hop at a lower rate.  Then you could get a given level of BU with less vegetative matter in the boil.  Some harshness might just be from the other bittering substances in all that material.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2018, 10:25:36 PM »
I've found that whirlpool hops leave a smoother bitterness, regardless of the total ibu level. Try skipping all your boil additions and just have a large whirlpool addition held hot for ~60 minutes.

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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2018, 01:03:34 AM »
I've found that whirlpool hops leave a smoother bitterness, regardless of the total ibu level. Try skipping all your boil additions and just have a large whirlpool addition held hot for ~60 minutes.

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My next brew day is IPAs. I just might try that. Normally I do 30g if chinook at 60, then all the fun in whirlpool, but I might just throw it all in at 160 for 30. What the heck!?! Right?

Nothing you've suggested has not worked out. Still marveling at the 160F/148F double mash trick.

Offline Wilbur

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2018, 01:07:47 AM »
When it comes to hops, there is a myth that low CoH hops are smoother.  They're actually just less bitter, because cohumulone isomerizes 50% more efficiently than humulone.  The quality of bitterness the two acids give is identical.

 So you might try a higher CoH, higher total alpha bittering hop at a lower rate.  Then you could get a given level of BU with less vegetative matter in the boil.  Some harshness might just be from the other bittering substances in all that material.

That's really interesting, I've never heard that before.

I've had good results with a combination of low bittering charge (~20 IBU @ 30), 130/80 (Cl/SO4), and more whirlpool hops.

Offline Robert

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2018, 01:27:37 AM »
When it comes to hops, there is a myth that low CoH hops are smoother.  They're actually just less bitter, because cohumulone isomerizes 50% more efficiently than humulone.  The quality of bitterness the two acids give is identical.

 So you might try a higher CoH, higher total alpha bittering hop at a lower rate.  Then you could get a given level of BU with less vegetative matter in the boil.  Some harshness might just be from the other bittering substances in all that material.

That's really interesting, I've never heard that before.

I've had good results with a combination of low bittering charge (~20 IBU @ 30), 130/80 (Cl/SO4), and more whirlpool hops.
It would be interesting to know if the whirlpool temp is also extracting less of the assorted bitter substances from the vegetable matter. That's something I don't know offhand.  A lot of people are going to whirlpool additions for their bittering, though.   

BTW ( you could figure this out yourself I'm sure) you can compare relative bittering power of hops with different CoH with this formula:

Bittering Power = Total Alpha * (1 + (%CoH/2))

So if you have 1 oz  Magnum 12% alpha 21% CoH it's 12 * (1 + (0.21/2)) = 13.26.  Galena 14% and 39%, e.g., put through that formula shows you would sub 0.79 oz. 

Then substitute a different variety in an amount to give same BP and see if it's smoother.  (I think so.) It's worth experimenting if you use traditional hop schedules.

Rob
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Offline yso191

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2018, 01:57:44 AM »
It would be interesting to know if the whirlpool temp is also extracting less of the assorted bitter substances from the vegetable matter.

I frequently come across this polyphenol bitterness from hop vegetal matter when a brewer uses a massive hop charge.  I'm brewing an IPA on Saturday and my plan is to dry-hop for only one day.

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I just referenced an old (2012) study (the Wolfe Thesis) and confirmed that 6 hours is almost indistinguishable from 4 days in terms of extracting oils!
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2018, 01:18:18 PM »
I forgot to mention THE most important thing that can affect hop flavor and coarseness: pH. For some reason, I assumed that the OP was managing mashing pH, but I don't see that.

If you start with alkaline tap water and only add a modest amount of salts, the mashing pH is likely high. That can definitely make components like hop flavor and bitterness seem coarse and rough. If you haven't been paying attention to pH, now is the time.
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Offline denny

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2018, 02:02:05 PM »
If you want to avoid the "vegetation" from hops, try cryo hops.  All lupulin, no vegetation.
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Offline rbowers

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2018, 02:56:30 PM »
Lots of good suggestions.  I have been trying the last several batches to dial in pH a bit more and also tinker with the water profile.  Since starting to do that I do not have a lot of IPA batches under my belt so probably start there.  I do not think I have ever brewed a beer with really high sulfate.  My tap water profile is really benign stuff, when I have had it tested there is almost no sulfate in it and I have never added large amounts (usually under 100ppm in the end). 

Interesting comments about pH though.  Most batches I remember being a little harsher were done without measuring pH.  So a pale beer with arbitrary amounts of gypsum added certainly could have been running high on pH.

I figure I will start with making sure pH is dialed in and also may keeping an even Cl and SO4 levels around 100-150ppm. 

The timing of hops may also be something to explore.  I brewed a pale ale last fall with no 60 min addition, a small FWP, and lots of late hops aiming for 30 IBUs.  That ended up on the other end of the spectrum really wishing it had a little more bitterness.  Maybe go with a small bittering charge and lots of late hops/Whirlpool.

Anyhow, more experiments warranted obviously.  Thanks for all the tips.

Offline erockrph

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Re: Smooth Bitterness in an IPA
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2018, 03:40:15 PM »
If you want to avoid the "vegetation" from hops, try cryo hops.  All lupulin, no vegetation.
I need to try dry-hopping with Cryo hops. I still got quite a bit of harsh tannin when I used them in the whirlpool (granted, it was in very large amounts - nearly 2 oz/gallon of Cryo hops).
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