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Old 11-09-2011, 10:30 PM   #1
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Default Hop bitterness and Water?

So, i've done my first few batches with Reverse Osmosis water, with 0tds on my meter; i'm completely unsatisfied with the hop bittering levels.

Am I on the right path, assuming that I need to use water that has some hardness to it to achieve better bittering?

I wouldn't bother using RO, other than the fact I have my own system and i use RO/DI (different outlet) for my reef aquarium.

My local tapwater is only about 120ppm on the TDS meter, and it's mostly carbonate hardness.. should I consider adding more calcium chloride?

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Old 11-10-2011, 01:06 AM   #2
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I would use the tapwater for beer and save the membrane and resin for the reef critters. You really do want those minerals, ions and hardness in there. The hop flavors are generally affected by the chloride/sulfate ratio. The RO/DI water is pretty much void of any ions and minerals. I think you would have better luck starting with the tap water.

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Old 11-10-2011, 05:16 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walking_Target View Post
So, i've done my first few batches with Reverse Osmosis water, with 0tds on my meter; i'm completely unsatisfied with the hop bittering levels.
The fix is simple: use more hops or charge them earlier or use a higher alpha variety or do a combination of the above.

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Am I on the right path, assuming that I need to use water that has some hardness to it to achieve better bittering?
No, hardness has little to do with it. Sulfate on the other hand does. There's bitter and there's bitter. Bohemian Pilsner is made with water that is almost mineral free and attains a high level of fine hop bitterness. This is because
1. No sulfate to speak of (results in fine bitterness)
2. Cultivar (Saaz) is a low alpha variety whose bitterness is very fine - that's what you pay extra for
3. Large charges are used.

OTOH British beers attain a high level of bitterness with smaller charges of higher alpha hops and the high sulfate levels in the traditional water amplify the perception of this bitterness though it can be quite harsh.

Thus there are really 2 dimensions to bitterness: intensity and quality. If you are OK with or actually want the harsher bitterness then augment sulfate (add gypsum). If you want high levels of fine bittering use more hops and avoid sulfate.

I you sense a bias in what I've written you are perceptive because I really don't like sulfate boosted harsh bitterness so keep that in mind in reading this.
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Old 11-10-2011, 03:13 PM   #4
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At 120 ppm TDS, it doesn't sound like the tap water is that mineralized. You do need to find out what the individual ionic content of that water is, but it sounds like you could use it if it tastes good.

I'm going to have to differ with AJ on this, hardness does matter to the beer but not really to the taste. Maybe that is what he was referring to? He is on target with the sulfate though. In my opinion and numerous brewing texts, a modest calcium content is very necessary for good brewing performance. Yeast flocculation is aided and beerstone production is reduced by adequate Ca content. I suggest that an absolute minimum of 40 ppm Ca be used and a preferred minimum of 50 ppm should be considered. I don't think there is a good reason to boost Ca levels significantly above those levels unless needed to achieve desirable levels of chloride or sulfate in the water.

If the OP was brewing this beer with straight RO with no mineral additions, I have to admit that I just tasted an American Pale Ale that was brewed this way. I have to agree that it was a bland and uninteresting beer. You really need to have calcium and sulfate in this beer to make it interesting. I think the same thing applies for malty beers in having calcium and chloride. Pure water, malt, and hops are not the only ingredients you want for good beer.

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Old 11-10-2011, 05:59 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
I'm going to have to differ with AJ on this, hardness does matter to the beer but not really to the taste. Maybe that is what he was referring to?
Calcium is not usually thought of as a stylistic ion. The primary role usually assigned to it is pH adjustment, the secondary - yeast flocculation, the third wort clarity ... But it does, of course effect taste. A high calcium beer will have a mineral "crispness" that a low calcium beer will not. This isn't calcium acting alone of course in the sense that chloride has an effect almost independent of other ions as does sulfate. And, of course, beer mashed at proper pH tastes a great deal better than beer that isn't so there is an indirect effect as well.

My comment in my previous post was meant to convey that calcium does not have a direct effect on perceived bitterness. Magnesium, conversely, does though it is its own bitterness and not an augmentation of hops bitterness (AFAIK).
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Old 11-11-2011, 10:51 AM   #6
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More Hops doesn't really factor in. I used 2oz worth of Saaz on a 3g batch of ale. Did a 70% partial boil and used 1oz right at the start, 1/2oz or so at the 30m mark and added the remainder plus some extra tettnager at the final couple minutes. There's almost no bitterness to speak of, it's just malty with some fairly nice hop aroma.

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Old 11-11-2011, 12:26 PM   #7
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Yes, it does. If you used twice as much (6 Oz) ceteris paribus you would have about twice the IBU's. I use, proportionally, about the same charge you do and the beers come out 25 - 35 IBU depending on the alpha acid content.

That said, Saaz is not a bittering hop. It is used for the fine bittering, aroma and spiciness demanded for Bohemian Pils, helles and so on. In Boh Pils it can be used at quite high levels (e.g. 35 or more IBU). What does not work with Saaz is trying to increase its punch with sulfate. The result is pretty awful.

If you are using the amount of Saaz you mention then something else is wrong such as low acid crop, long storage leading to loss of alpha acid or insufficient boil length.

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Old 11-11-2011, 08:54 PM   #8
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I mean in this particular case AJ

I've also done a 5g batch with more hops with the same results.

The problem is that the malty body is definitely there, but there's almost no bitterness whatsoever; you get a nice rich hoppy aroma and a slight twinge of the bittering, but not nearly enough to offset the malty sweetness from the residual sugars.

I'm getting the sense that this is due to my water profile, as I did another brew that was done with tapwater and 2oz of the same hops and it has a nice bitter hit to it, not as much as an ESB, but still some bittering.

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Old 11-11-2011, 09:19 PM   #9
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Then I think the answer would have to be 10 g or a higher alpha cultivar. And again I suspect that Saaz may not be the best choice for this application. You might prefer the results with something like EKG whose punch can be boosted with extra sulfate in the water.

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