From the HBD Archive
From: Pete Soper <>
Subject: mead and bitterness
Date: 1990-04-06 02:51:22 GMT

>From: (John Mellby)
>Amazingly the Best of Show was not the "Best Extract" or "Best All-Malt"
>it was a sack-mead!

The same thing happened to us at our "big" contest in this area (NC) last
year. One theory was that the judges were so tired of tasting beer that the
novelty of the mead caught their fancy. Just kidding. Still, it was
disappointing to many of us to have a mead win best of show. The mead makers
just smiled. (I put "big" in quotes to distinguish this from the use of the
word in Texas.) Thanks, John, for a fascinating report about your conference.
Take good care of that hand.

>From: abvax!!bwc@cwjcc.INS.CWRU.Edu (Barry Cunningham)
>Depending of course on the alpha acid contents of the hops you used, I would
>expect this beer to be quite bitter when it is young. The 1 1/2 hour boil
>will get more bitterness out of the hops. Cutting back the boil to one hour
>or just using a little bit less hops will reduce the bitterness.

Remember that isomerization (the process whereby the hop bitterness can go
into permanent solution in the wort) is very nonlinear. The difference between
a 60 minute boil and a 90 minute boil is minimal - on the order of 10%.

>Your brewing technique, which you did not specify, may also significantly
>affect bitterness. In particular, forced cooling to get a good cold break
>and racking the wort off the trub (particularly if you have a lot of goop
>from pelletized hops) before fermentation gets going should reduce the
>bitterness from the trub considerably. However, you should pay careful

Is the real difference caused by reducing the time that the hops steep in hot
wort or by prevention of prolonged contact with the cooled wort? Are there
references to indicate any significant bitterness is contributed by hops in
cool wort?
Another factor to consider is the density of the wort in the boil. According
to Terry Foster 5% more bittering hops are needed for each 10 specific gravity
points over 1.050 to compensate for the fact that isomerization rates are lower
with thicker worts. So, for example with a recipe that will have an eventual
original gravity of 1.050 with 5 gallons, if only 2 gallons were boiled, you
would have a boil gravity of 1.125 and expect to get ((1.125-1.050)/.010)*5=
37.5% less bitterness than if you boiled all 5 gallons.
But you know what the real head banger is? Oxidation of hops in storage. Hops
are harvested pretty much once a year around Fall. No matter what, depending
upon the time of year, storage conditions and *a varying factor based on the
type of hop*, a fraction of the potential bitterness of any given packet of
hops that we use is lost. As homebrewers we don't know what the fraction is
for any given situation, only that it is sometimes very significant. For
instance, one study showed that a sample of Cascade pellets stored under
refrigeration went from 7.6% to 4.6% alpha acid content in 12 months[1]. In the
same study a sample of Hersbrucker pellets dropped from 7.4% to 4.7%. I'm
not writing this to make everybody lose their level of relaxation, just to
point out that there are major fudge factors that are not even under our
control, so we shouldn't get too excited if a batch of beer comes out a bit
too bitter or too sweet.

[1] Peacock, V.E., Deinzer, M.L., "Chemistry of Hop Aroma in Beer", ASBC,
Vol 39, No. 4, 1981. (attribution appeared in Fix, G., "Principles of Brewing
Science", Brewers Publications, 1989.)

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