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Old 02-01-2009, 07:32 AM   #1
Shawn Hargreaves
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Default "First steep" hopping?

The other day I was discussing first wort hopping with a friend who is a new brewer, currently doing extract with steeping grains, and is a big time hophead.

I repeated what I've read elsewhere, that first wort hopping is obviously only possible for partial mash or AG brews, since you need a wort runoff to add the hops during, right?

But then I got to thinking, is that really the case?

My understanding is that first wort hopping works like it does because the hop acids react with the wort sugars at sparge temp, producing a more stable form that will not boil off so easily.

In which case, wouldn't steeping grains be able to achieve the same effect? You have wort with some grain sugars at a similar temperature, so it seems to me that the same kind of reaction would occur if you added hops during the steep.

Anyone ever tried this, or got any reasons why it wouldn't work?

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Old 02-01-2009, 05:15 PM   #2
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I have no idea- except that with steeping grains, you don't get any fermentable sugars, or at least very little, so you'd be steeping the hops in plain water basically. If this is a small boil (usually, extract batches are but not always), you'd have the hops in plain water, then add the extract and have a very high SG when you add the extract. I have no clue what this would mean to first wort hopping, though. I don't think you'd get very good results, but I can't prove it either way.

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Old 02-01-2009, 05:24 PM   #3
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I have done this before with a minimash; I FWHed the minimash wort, added the topoff water, brought it to a boil, did the rest of my hopping as usual, and then did a late extract addition with 15 minutes left. It is NOT good... I think the wort was too weak... most likely the pH was off. It extracted some very astringent tannin flavors, and even some metallic flavors from the hops. Based on my experience I would not recommend trying it, after 2.5 months I can still barely choke down the beer. I have FWHed many AG batches and the effect was totally different, I love FWHing my AG batches, though even then I don't recommend using more than 1/2 of your bittering addition...

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Old 02-01-2009, 05:53 PM   #4
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...I don't recommend using more than 1/2 of your bittering addition...

I heard that FWH's should take the place of your flavor hops. From someone who's used the technique with good results, how would your reformulate your hop additions (I'm looking at 60, 10, 0 min) to take advantage of FWH-ing?
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Old 02-01-2009, 08:11 PM   #5
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I've used FWH three times now with partial mash brews. My impression is that you can't just simplify this to "it's a replacement for flavor hops" - it's a different technique and has different results than any other form of hopping!

FWH contributes considerable bitterness as well as flavor, so if you took an existing recipe, replaced all the flavor additions with FWH, and kept the bittering addition, you'd end up with way too high an IBU.

But you can't just use FWH as a replacement for bittering, either: it will provide as much if not more IBU than an equivalent 60 minute boil addition, but this will be a little smoother so the drinker may perceive less bitterness.

The FWH brew I was happiest with used a couple of oz FHW, plus an aroma addition at flame out, but no conventional boil or flavor hops. That produced a great mix of smooth bitterness, flavor, and aroma.

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