Author Topic: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?  (Read 9221 times)

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2010, 02:08:24 PM »
Like I said, pour a splash of vodka in some beer and see what alcohol bitterness tastes like.

I'm with Denny, I've never heard of alcohol bitterness before this thread.  If I was grading an exam and someone referred to alcohol bitterness I would ding them for making stuff up.  Is this just another way of describing heat from high alcohol, or solventy flavors from fusels?
Tom Schmidlin

Offline thehorse

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2010, 08:27:23 AM »
So I carbed up the Saison and had a pint last night.  It continues to get better, and I have little doubt that the bitterness I was tasting earlier was simply the yeast.  The bitterness is gone 100% now, and the only thing that I can taste now is a little Alcohol on the back of my tongue at the end.

I also kegged the dubbel last night, and the maltiness in that beer is starting to shine through also.  I also get that little bit of an alcohol harshness at the end of that beer also.

As a fairly new brewer, it's hard to pick these things out and I appreciate all the help.  As so many have said, I think the beers were/are effectively green.  I think this was made worse because they came out bigger than expected.  The yeast has totally dropped and I think they just need a little more age.

Thanks again for all the help

Offline denny

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2010, 08:44:48 AM »
Great to hear you got it sussed!
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Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2010, 08:50:21 AM »
Quote
Like I said, pour a splash of vodka in some beer and see what alcohol bitterness tastes like.


I'm with Denny, I've never heard of alcohol bitterness before this thread.  If I was grading an exam and someone referred to alcohol bitterness I would ding them for making stuff up.  Is this just another way of describing heat from high alcohol, or solventy flavors from fusels?


No.  I'm not talking about warming mouthfeels or solventy fusels, which obviously exist and on which we most certainly agree.  I'm talking one of the five basic tastes.  Test it for yourself.  It's exactly like a spiked beer session.  It's what I tasted during such a session.  Add ethanol to a light lager.  Compare before and after. Try it; you'll see.  Look for the mouthfeel, but also look for the taste.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline denny

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2010, 08:56:22 AM »
Thanks for the suggestion, Gordon.  I'll have to try that to see if I can train myself about alcohol bitterness.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #20 on: August 12, 2010, 02:48:29 PM »
Thanks for the suggestion, Gordon.  I'll have to try that to see if I can train myself about alcohol bitterness.
Yeah, me too - I'll try it tonight with some vodka in a Full Sail Session.

So are you saying Gordon, that it adds bitterness, or that it just gives the impression of higher bitterness in the beer?
Tom Schmidlin

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #21 on: August 12, 2010, 02:55:13 PM »
It has to be the impression of bitterness. Alcohol doesn't contain any isomerized alpha acids, so it can't add any IBUs.

Things can be bitter without having IBUs, however. Burn your coffee and it will turn bitter. I don't know how you'd measure all these differences unless you can isolate the bitter compound and test for that. I'm just talking about using your tongue, since that's all a consumer or a judge will have.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #22 on: August 12, 2010, 02:59:12 PM »
Well yeah, no IBUs in vodka so it is most likely the perception.  But I thought maybe you had special knowledge of something in vodka that tastes bitter but we can't detect due to the high level of alcohol and when you dilute it in beer the taste comes through. 

I know you have all sorts of mystical knowledge about alcohol, so it's not as far fetched as it sounds :)
Tom Schmidlin

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #23 on: August 12, 2010, 03:08:54 PM »
I'm sure there's some way of measuring non-hop bitterness.  I just don't know it.  So I use the "it tastes bitter" measurement.
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #24 on: August 12, 2010, 03:13:01 PM »
I'm sure there's some way of measuring non-hop bitterness.  I just don't know it.  So I use the "it tastes bitter" measurement.

In your opinion how much variance do you believe can occur between judges when perceiving alcohol bitterness, diacetyl, DMS, etc..
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #25 on: August 12, 2010, 03:24:35 PM »
In your opinion how much variance do you believe can occur between judges when perceiving alcohol bitterness, diacetyl, DMS, etc..
I know this is directed at Gordon, but I served on multiple, highly-trained tasting panels when I worked in Starbucks R&D. And I can tell you, a large part of training was to get everyone to agree for example that "the level of bitterness in this coffee is a 5", and after enough training we were really good at the panel agreeing on the intensity of a flavor/aroma.  But at first when everyone rated the coffee on their own the scores were all over the place.  We trained on not just bitterness, but many aspects of coffee flavor and aroma.

We also had ice cream panels and reformulated the coffee for Redhook's Double Black Stout when they changed the base recipe, but that's a different story :)
Tom Schmidlin

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #26 on: August 12, 2010, 03:49:16 PM »
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In your opinion how much variance do you believe can occur between judges when perceiving alcohol bitterness, diacetyl, DMS, etc..

Too much  ;)

Judging is subjective, and perceptions vary by individual. Detecting a substance and assessing how intense it is on a relative scale is difficult, and requires a fair amount of practical experience. Absent any measurement-based scale, as a judge you are trying to calibrate your palate to what is generally the norm. But individuals can be all over the place.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #27 on: August 12, 2010, 09:51:25 PM »
Thanks for the suggestion, Gordon.  I'll have to try that to see if I can train myself about alcohol bitterness.
Yeah, me too - I'll try it tonight with some vodka in a Full Sail Session.
Ok Gordon, here I sit trying two samples of Full Sail Session.  First I tried one straight from the bottle, and one with 1 TBS vodka added to 6 oz.  I'm pretty sure that's too much vodka.  It didn't taste more bitter to me.  It definitely had alcohol warming, but it was very smooth.

So I tried it again with 1 tsp vodka in 6 ozs of Session.  The alcohol warming is much less evident, but it doesn't seem any more bitter to me.

This leads me to three hypotheses:
1.  I'm doing it wrong - wrong amount of vodka, need to use a different beer, etc.
2.  I suck at tasting "alcohol bitterness".  It wouldn't be the first blind spot I have on my palette.
3.  This is all some elaborate practical joke that I don't understand. :)

Any suggestions for next time?
Tom Schmidlin

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #28 on: August 13, 2010, 04:26:52 AM »
Yeah, that's probably too much but I don't know how much that matters. I tasted it when I was an exam proctor; they used a light lager of some sort.  Something that really didn't have recognizable bitterness, or was at threshold at best.  Then they added vodka and it was bitter.  That's what I tasted, at least.  There shouldn't have been bitterness, but there was.  It was unbalanced.

If it were a joke, I'd have you try putting an escalating level of offensive things into beer you'd never buy.  Wait, it doesn't seem that far off.  No, I was being serious.

Perceptions are difficult things; if two people aren't actually tasting the same thing side by side, it's hard to say if it's there or not.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Harshness - How much alkalinity is too much?
« Reply #29 on: August 13, 2010, 06:01:16 AM »
In reviewing the water profiles used in those beers, its appears less likely that alkalinity is the source of harshness percieved in the beers. 

The profile used for the Saison is balanced ionically and the residual alkalinity is near zero.  Conversely, the profile used for the Dubbel is not balanced ionically, suggesting that there is an error in the reported ionic concentrations.  Additionally, the residual alkalinity for the Dubbel profile is an astronomic 256 ppm, which is far too high for good mash performance and taste perception.  That high residual alkalinity could be a contributor to harshness perception and poor mashing performance in any beer.

The indication from the brewer that both of these beers were percieved as harsh suggest that there is some other problem impacting the taste perception. 

I am curious why the brewer used the water profiles he listed.  The Saison profile appears somewhat appropriate for that style, but the sulfate concentration is a bit high for that style and the slighty elevated chloride concentration can contribute to harshness in conjunction with the sulfate.  I would recommend significantly reduced sulfate and chloride for this style.

Understandably, the brewer used a more alkaline water profile for the darker Dubbel style.  I agree with that change, but the level of alkalinity used in that profile was far too high.  Assuming that the hardness remained as he shows, the alkalinity should be reduced to about half the concentration that was used.  Additionally, the sulfate concentration is still too high for a style that is not hop-focused and the chloride concentration in conjunction with the sulfate can also produce a hashness perception.   

I am in agreement with Gordon regarding the overuse of water profile adjustment with some waters.  He and I are currently working on a project for BJCP.  There are some water sources that just are not going to provide a good result, no matter the adjustment with minerals or acids.  Its sometimes best to just start with a distilled or RO source and add only the desired minerals.
   
« Last Edit: September 23, 2010, 11:24:35 AM by mabrungard »
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