Author Topic: Meaning of I.B.U.?  (Read 255 times)

Offline Scott Tankersley

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Meaning of I.B.U.?
« on: December 01, 2019, 10:54:19 PM »
In extract brewing does the Ibu rating mean how bitter the beer would taste when it's ready to drink? If so....does a lower number mean it's less bitter? And are there beers with virtually no bitterness? Thank you for any advice.
Scott Tankersley

Offline Bob357

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Re: Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2019, 12:41:23 AM »
It really makes no difference whether you use extracts or grains. In theory, the answer to both of your questions is yes. In reality, it's much more complicated than that. This link is to an article that will give you some insight on the subject:


https://beerconnoisseur.com/articles/whats-meaning-ibu

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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2019, 01:57:57 AM »
IBU is an International Bittering Unit, and is a scientific measurement that can be determined chemically in a laboratory.  In the most practical terms, IBUs provide a scale from 0 to 100 of beer bitterness based on the additions of hops, and when and how the hops were added.  IBUs can be measured in unfermented wort, but realize that beer will lose IBUs during fermentation, and over time, so while you can start with wort with IBUs much higher than 100 (yes this is possible), in the finished beer it might fall to say 80 IBUs, for example, by the time the beer is ready to drink, such that the upper limit truly is around 90 to 100 IBUs in any beer that is ready to drink, and for most beer styles will be much less.

Most homebrewers use a formula to estimate the IBUs, as we don't have easy access to a chemistry laboratory to actually measure IBUs.  The most popular and accurate formula is known as the Tinseth calculation.  People now understand that even Tinseth's formula isn't perfect.  For instance it allows IBUs of 0 for beers that have much more than 0 IBUs, and >100 IBUs for beers that actually have only 60-80 IBUs or whatever.  However, it is still just about the best we've been able to come up with, and truly is "good enough" for most intents and purposes.

Many beer styles will have as few as 10-20 IBUs, such as American light lagers and hefeweizens.  Other styles can have IBUs approaching 100, such as IPAs.  Most other styles fall someplace in between.  A common average amount for an average beer is around 25-35 IBUs or thereabouts.

That's the short story.  You can learn as much as you want all over the place in books and online.  Many brewers devote a ton of time into understanding what hops do to beer, and how, including how the IBU is determined, and whether it matters, etc.  It's an intriguing topic for many.
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Offline denny

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Re: Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2019, 03:36:07 PM »
The thing to understand about the Tinseth equation is that Glenn Tinseth has Said that unless you use the same type of equipment that he does, brew like he does, and take the sme amount of time to chill as he does, there's no reason it will necessarily be accurate for you.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2019, 03:57:23 PM »
Look at IBUs as a way to formulate and reproduce your beers.

There are so many things that will influence the standard measurement, or your perception of bitterness, it is just a number for your brewing.
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Online BrewBama

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Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2019, 03:59:53 PM »
... it is just a number for your brewing.


+1. After a while that number starts to mean something to you given your equipment, processes, and personal perception.



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Offline tommymorris

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Re: Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2019, 05:06:17 PM »
The thing to understand about the Tinseth equation is that Glenn Tinseth has Said that unless you use the same type of equipment that he does, brew like he does, and take the sme amount of time to chill as he does, there's no reason it will necessarily be accurate for you.
... but, Tinseth still has value. Over time with a consistent set of equipment and process you learn to correlate Tinseth’s IBU predictions with your taste experience.

Example: maybe an online recipe calls for 20 IBU and you built your recipe using Tinseth. If the beer doesn’t taste bitter enough then on the next batch you can increase to 25 IBU and see how you like that. 

Over time you will learn you always need to adjust higher or lower for your preferences.

Offline denny

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Re: Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2019, 06:40:07 PM »
The thing to understand about the Tinseth equation is that Glenn Tinseth has Said that unless you use the same type of equipment that he does, brew like he does, and take the sme amount of time to chill as he does, there's no reason it will necessarily be accurate for you.
... but, Tinseth still has value. Over time with a consistent set of equipment and process you learn to correlate Tinseth’s IBU predictions with your taste experience.

Example: maybe an online recipe calls for 20 IBU and you built your recipe using Tinseth. If the beer doesn’t taste bitter enough then on the next batch you can increase to 25 IBU and see how you like that. 

Over time you will learn you always need to adjust higher or lower for your preferences.

Exactly. I thinoo thats what several of us have been saying.  Fo4 me, my calibration beer is SNPA.  I know it's always gonna be the 35 IBU they say it is, so I've learned thats what 35 IBU tastes like.  I compare that to what Tinseth says and whatever the IBU is supposed calculate to be I know how to adjust my tastebuds.  What I was saying is that you can't trust a formula to give you an absolute, correct number.
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Offline Robert

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Re: Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2019, 07:45:45 PM »
Here's one area where I'm actually less anal than Denny!    I don't even calibrate my palate against a standard beer, because I really don't care about supposed actual IBU at all.  (And maybe I don't trust as much as Denny that every bottle of a given beer will really reach me in such condition that it would still measure at the purported level.)  I just care what a recipe of my own tastes like to me, so it's really just "calibrating" off all the beers I've brewed before, having cumulatively gotten an idea of how much hops I need in a given style to suit my taste.  Which is really how they did it before they started to attempt to correlate laboratory measurements of different substances with perceived bitterness -- another pitfall, because perception rarely correlates neatly with any such objective measurement.
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Offline denny

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Re: Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2019, 08:37:34 PM »
Here's one area where I'm actually less anal than Denny!    I don't even calibrate my palate against a standard beer, because I really don't care about supposed actual IBU at all.  (And maybe I don't trust as much as Denny that every bottle of a given beer will really reach me in such condition that it would still measure at the purported level.)  I just care what a recipe of my own tastes like to me, so it's really just "calibrating" off all the beers I've brewed before, having cumulatively gotten an idea of how much hops I need in a given style to suit my taste.  Which is really how they did it before they started to attempt to correlate laboratory measurements of different substances with perceived bitterness -- another pitfall, because perception rarely correlates neatly with any such objective measurement.

Truthfully, I'm very much like you in that regard.  About the onkky time I consider what the IBU might be is when someone asks me...which fortunately is almost never!
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Offline Scott Tankersley

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Re: Meaning of I.B.U.?
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2019, 02:07:59 AM »
Thanks for all the replies to my ibu question. I know have a much better understanding of them.
Scott Tankersley