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Alcohol Bitterness

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The Rabid Brewer:
From an unrelated thread:

--- Quote from: gordonstrong on August 10, 2010, 09:22:08 PM ---Alcohol has a hotness and a bitterness when young.  ...  If you want to know what alcohol bitterness tastes like, take a light lager and add some vodka to it.

--- End quote ---

--- Quote from: gordonstrong on August 12, 2010, 08:50:21 AM --- 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.

--- End quote ---

I'm not doubting your opinion on this, just interested in what other people have to say.

Also, a question: could it have been the vodka imparting the bitterness and not the ethanol? Some vodkas are more bitter than others (e.g., Stolichnaya and Jewel of Russia.) A Russian friend claims this is a more authentic characteristic of vodkas that he's familiar with in Russia. Have you done this with pure ethanol or just vodka?

dmtaylor:
I think this is a good point.  I'm sure not all vodkas are the same.  Yet pure ethanol...... I don't think it's got any bitterness.  It is flavorless.  And while ethanol does make you feel funny and does strange things in your mouth, throat, and gut, I don't pick up any bitterness from it.  I don't believe it.  But perhaps Mr. Strong has more taste buds for bitterness than I, which is entirely possible.

I'll tell you what I do get, though -- After drinking a stronger beer of, say, 6.5% alcohol or higher, post-gulp, I often times pick up an aftertaste aroma of none other than Elmer's glue, and this is how I sometimes figure out that hey, there's a bit of extra alcohol kick in this beer, when otherwise you might not really be able to taste it.  But I digress.

gordonstrong:
I'm sure the beer was spiked with vodka not pure ethanol.  Don't know of the brand.  But it isn't tied to vodka exclusively, because it's a flavor I've gotten in commercial beers as well.  Whatever makes the alcohol burn (not fusels, the heat that ages out as a beer matures), is likely what is contributing the bitterness.  If I can taste the alcohol, it triggers the bitterness receptors for me.  Whether it is actual bitterness, or accentuates bitterness that is there through other sources, I can't say.  By the time it reaches my brain, it registers as higher bitterness.

euge:

--- Quote from: gordonstrong on October 06, 2010, 08:24:43 AM ---I'm sure the beer was spiked with vodka not pure ethanol.  Don't know of the brand.  But it isn't tied to vodka exclusively, because it's a flavor I've gotten in commercial beers as well.  Whatever makes the alcohol burn (not fusels, the heat that ages out as a beer matures), is likely what is contributing the bitterness.  If I can taste the alcohol, it triggers the bitterness receptors for me.  Whether it is actual bitterness, or accentuates bitterness that is there through other sources, I can't say.  By the time it reaches my brain, it registers as higher bitterness.

--- End quote ---

Thought long and hard on this one and knew that etoh has it's own bitterness. Struggling to articulate as to how it is bitter- came up with that the harshness of "ethanol" on the tastebuds registers as bitterness. The brain can't process it any other way. It can't register as any of the other four basic tastes.

I think a good example is overshooting the final gravity on a beer by 6 or more points and throwing the whole brew out of balance. Then harshness/bitterness of both the alcohol and hops is accentuated.

tschmidlin:

--- Quote from: euge on October 06, 2010, 11:22:35 AM ---Thought long and hard on this one and knew that etoh has it's own bitterness. Struggling to articulate as to how it is bitter- came up with that the harshness of "ethanol" on the tastebuds registers as bitterness. The brain can't process it any other way. It can't register as any of the other four basic tastes.

--- End quote ---
I don't agree.  The harshness of ethanol can be felt other ways than through the bitter taste buds, or even any of the taste buds.  Your tongue has nerves too, and the skin in your mouth is pretty delicate compared to your hands.  When you drink straight alcohol and it burns (although maybe it doesn't burn you euge  ;D ) all of the way down your throat, that burning is not from your taste buds, it is from your nerves.  The sensation is more complex than the taste buds would allow.

If you want to argue that some vodkas have things in them that taste bitter that's fine, it's probably true.  But I don't believe ethanol itself triggers a reaction in the bitter taste buds, because I've never experienced it despite ample opportunity :)  I'll need some real proof of that.  I'll start with some everclear if I can get my hands on any, they don't sell the high-test stuff around here.

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