Author Topic: Hopping to Taste  (Read 1694 times)

Offline Kirk

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Hopping to Taste
« on: July 20, 2011, 01:49:33 AM »
Are taste buds a reliable tool for adding hops to wort?
I would really like to rely more on taste, as in seasoning soup.  What a blast it would be if it worked!  But of course, I’m not real confident in my ability to make that evaluation.  As everyone here knows, what’s being tasted near the end of the boil is far different from the final result, which it seems to me challenges flavor balance sensing more than just a bit.  However, I want to go for it, and hopefully get to a new level that goes beyond adding a predetermined amount according to a recipe or IBU count.   
By the way, I’ve seen craft brews on which the brewers put a “?” on the IBU’s, meaning they don't know and maybe don't care.  But that really isn’t the point, except when using home-grown hops.  I don’t mind IBU calculus but OTOH, when I start brewing more with my own hops my estimates will only be a WAG.  And moreover, even with commercial hops, I would rather use calculations only for a baseline, and finalize using taste.
So come hell or high water, I’m going there.  If you have some KSAO’s to share (i.e., relying on your taste buds), I would sure like to hear from you.  Just don’t tell me it’s in Palmer’s book, page 187, OK?  Actually, you can.  I can take it.
Kirk Howell

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2011, 06:06:31 AM »
You, your taste buds are a reliable tool, but they need to be trained.  Taste your wort frequently with various batches and eventually you will get a feel for it.  Just like with cooking.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline Malticulous

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2011, 08:39:06 PM »
It's more about balance than numbers. You can't taste the balance until it's properly conditioned. I think getting it to taste requires blending. The technique may be as old as brewing.

Offline denny

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2011, 09:39:56 PM »
Keep in mind that hops react differently at different times throughout the boil.  Suppose you put in some hops and a few minutes later taste the wort.  You think it's not bitter enough so you throw some more in.  Then you have to wait 60 min. to fond out what you really did.  Or after waiting that 60 min. you taste it and decides it needs more.  You have to boil another 60 min, to find out if THAT was enough.  And hopefully you haven't made any flavor or aroma additions which will be screwed up by boiling that extra 60 min.  I can appreciate where you're going with this and I've often had similar thoughts.  It just doesn't seem very practical or doable.
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Offline Kirk

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2011, 09:51:37 PM »
Right, I guess what I'm really getting at is the final additions near the end of the boil, and fine tune it there with taste.  So what if my recipe called for 1 oz at 10 minutes.  I'd like to do the late touches completely by taste.
Kirk Howell

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2011, 11:46:38 PM »
I assumed you meant late additions, and I agree with both above.  And conditioning will change the flavor of the beer, but I still think if you practice you can learn what flavor at x minutes translates into post ferment.  It might mean brewing the same thing over and over more than you'd like to though.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline skyler

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2011, 02:37:28 AM »
YMMV, but I have found tasting unfermented wort to be completely meritless and unpleasant - particularly when the wort is hot. For me (and I know this doesn't apply to everyone), my nose is a much better tool at gauging the impact of hop additions.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2011, 06:24:36 AM »
YMMV, but I have found tasting unfermented wort to be completely meritless and unpleasant
MMVs a lot.  You really find it unpleasant?  Weird.  :-\
Tom Schmidlin

Offline euge

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2011, 06:38:51 AM »
YMMV, but I have found tasting unfermented wort to be completely meritless and unpleasant - particularly when the wort is hot. For me (and I know this doesn't apply to everyone), my nose is a much better tool at gauging the impact of hop additions.

Actually this makes sense to me as I've had similar experiences. However tasting should be done before each addition to subsequently gauge by the next addition?

One way I try to guess the impact of a hop is to brew with a single 30 minute addition to 30-40 BU's.
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Offline denny

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2011, 03:11:37 PM »
YMMV, but I have found tasting unfermented wort to be completely meritless and unpleasant
MMVs a lot.  You really find it unpleasant?  Weird.  :-\

You can also count me as weird, then...no surprise, huh?
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2011, 04:50:19 PM »
I think you need to calibrate your taste/mouthfeel with calculated additions. In other words, start out with a basic APA recipe and bitter it to 20 IBU's of bitterness and taste the finished product after 4-6 weeks of brewing. Then determine how it appeals to your threshold of bitterness and adjust accordingly.

After you dial in your bitterness addition then make the same recipe and start with a 10 min flavor hop addition of known value, and taste the beer after 4-6 weeks. Then repeat the process until you've dialed in your flavor addition to your liking. You can then use that hop bitterness/flavor profile calculated as a BU:GU ratio as a calibration point for future recipes.
Ron Price

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2011, 06:35:16 PM »
YMMV, but I have found tasting unfermented wort to be completely meritless and unpleasant
MMVs a lot.  You really find it unpleasant?  Weird.  :-\

You can also count me as weird, then...no surprise, huh?
No, no surprise.  Am I the only one who doesn't find unfermented wort unpleasant?  Maybe I'm the weird one.  No surprise there either. ;D
Tom Schmidlin

Offline Kirk

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2011, 01:07:46 AM »
I gave it a shot yesterday, and was satisfied that I'm on it, right or wrong, only time will tell.  A good tame style to start with, Schwarzbier.  I did the bittering via calculation, and limited it to 45 minutes.  The finishing I had planned an ounce at 20 minutes, then another ounce at 10. My finishing hops were homegrown Fuggles, not quite to style, but they deserved some use, last year's crop and still fresh and wonderfully aromatic.  So, I did my 20 minute addition, but when it got to 10, after tasting of course, I decided to knock it back to 1/2 ounce, and play it by ear at 5 minutes.  When 5 minutes came, I thought nope, this doesn't need anything more, it's done.   So it worked, I think.  Now, the trick will be 3 months from now, and will I think it should have had a little extra.  Anyway, I like it.  It had an impact.  Thanks for the insight.
Kirk Howell

Offline Kirk

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2011, 01:50:46 AM »
And by the way, I have no idea what YMMV or MMV's mean.  Too much of a newbie I guess. :)
Kirk Howell

Offline bluesman

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Re: Hopping to Taste
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2011, 02:13:42 AM »
And by the way, I have no idea what YMMV or MMV's mean.  Too much of a newbie I guess. :)

YMMV = your mileage may vary

MMV = mileage may vary

 :)
Ron Price