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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > Sharp Bitterness in my IPAs.
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Old 08-08-2012, 07:05 AM   #1
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Default Sharp Bitterness in my IPAs.

I've been trying to figure out how to make my beers, specifically IPAs, taste more like commercial IPAs for months now and can't seem to figure out why the bitterness in mine is so much different than commercial or even local micro brewed IPAs. My IPAs are nice and bitter and have very nice hop flavor, and everyone who drinks my beers think they taste great and always ask why my beers don't leave a bad vomit like aftertaste in their mouth. The thing is, I want that vomit aftertaste. I want that deep, smooth, rich, lingering bitterness that I taste in almost all commercial IPAs. My IPAs have a very strong and sharp bitterness in the front and finish very smooth and even sweet sometimes. This happens no matter what recipe I make and no matter what hops I use. My IPAs also finish very clean with almost no residual taste. While this is nice and most people like it, I'm still frustrated when I taste commercial or local micro brewed IPAs that have a deep rich warm bitterness that lingers. I've made 20 IPAs in the last year or two with some being clone recipes and some being originals, and all have that same sharp early bitterness. It's almost a tart or sour taste as soon as the beer hits your tongue and then it usually turns fruity and pleasant. My IPAs usually end up tasting more like fruit juice than beer. I've had my water tested and it is slightly soft, but not too bad. It has low sulfate so I have experimented with making the beers with anywhere from 25 to 300 ppm of sulfate without getting my desired results. I batch sparge in a cooler and almost always do a 60 minute boil. I've tried first wort hopping, mash hopping, lots of early additions, lots of late additions, and everything in between with the hops. I don't have a pH meter, but I use the spreadsheets and usually add 1 to 2% of acidulated malt to all my IPAs to try and get the mash pH right. I dont do a proper mash out, but I usually batch sparge with about 190 degree water to get the grain bet up to 168 ish. I've batch sparged with 165 to 205 degree water with no noticeable difference in taste though. I do check mash pH with strips, but who knows how accurate they are. I'm never over 6 though, so I figure it's close enough. Also I have a temperature controlled fermentation chamber that I can keep within 1 degree of setpoint, so fermentation temps aren't an issue. I usually use S04 or US05 dry yeast or 1056 in all my IPAs too. I don't get any detectable off flavors in my beers either.

Anyway, sorry for the run on, just trying to include as much info about my process as possible. I'm not in a brew club and I really don't get to taste any other home brewed beers, so maybe this is normal for homebrewed IPAs, but as far as I'm concerned I should be able to make my beers taste just like the commercial IPAs I try to clone and that just isn't happening. In fact, since I get such a sharp bitterness at the beginning of my beers all my IPAs seem to taste kind of the same no matter what hops I use. I get different aromas and subtle hop flavors, but the central bitterness is sharp in all of them. Also, one more thing that separates my IPAs from commercial beers is that commercial IPAs typically taste like beer to me, like they all have some pilsen malt in them or something. Whereas my IPAs mostly taste like fruit juice with alcohol. Again, a lot of people prefer mine to commercial versions, but I am just frustrated because I'm not able to exactly reproduce the flavors I taste in commercial IPAs.

Again, sorry for the length of this, but has anyone had similar issues or possibly know what the problem might be? I was leaning toward water additions, but I recently asked a brewer at a local micro about their water and he said they use straight tap water with no additions at all.

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Old 08-08-2012, 09:02 AM   #2
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What was the last recipe you brewed that gave you results you didn't find comparable to a commercial brewery? Preferably a clone recipe for easier comparison on our part.

I'm wondering if you're tasting astringency or bitterness. Of course, the answer to all problems is more hops! FWH and whirlpool!

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Old 08-08-2012, 09:05 AM   #3
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http://www.winning-homebrew.com/astringency.html

Astringency is perceived as a dry grainy, mouth-puckering, tannic sensation (think of sucking on a wet tea-bag). Although astringent flavors may be caused by bacterial contamination, it is usually the result of processing.

There are many causes of process-related astringency.....

I'm actually drinking on an IPA now that is astringent. I think I sparged too hot. It gives you that feeling like you're drinking a really dry wine. I'm reading that sparging anything over 168 is a problem. I thought it was the grain temp, but what I read now is that the water shouldn't be more than 168. It seems like you have covered all of the bases with astringency, but I think that is your core issue here. What is causing it, I don't know. I'm going to stay tuned here to find out if anyone knows.
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Old 08-08-2012, 03:12 PM   #4
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I'm also leaning towards astringency at this point too except that I'm not getting that tried out tea bag sucking taste at all, just sharp bitterness instead of deep bitterness if that makes any sense at all.

I also have done a lot of reading on the sparge water temp and thought I was supposed to get my grain bed up to 168 so that's why I normally sparge with near 200 degree water. I do 10 gallon batches so 200 is about what it takes to get the 25 or so lbs of grain up to 168.

My tap water runs about at about a pH of 8, so maybe I'm leaching some tannins or getting astringency out of the untreated sparge water? I always just add my brewing salts to the mash ton, so maybe I need to start treating the sparge water.

Like I said, I've not tasted any good examples of other peoples homebrew, so maybe the sharpness I'm tasting is normal for homebrew and I'm just overthinking this. I just feel like I should be able to make IPAs that taste just like commercial IPAs.

Thanks for the replies so far, anybody else have anything?

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Old 08-08-2012, 03:16 PM   #5
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my biggest and best change for my ipa/iipa's have been first wort hoping my bittering hops..

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Old 08-08-2012, 03:59 PM   #6
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I actually first wort hop almost all of my IPAs. The recipe I have on tap right now is a clone of a local IPA where the recipe came right from the brewer including the hops schedule. It uses 1st wort hops and 60 minute hops and their beer which is always young and cloudy when I get it on tap does not have the same sharp bitterness in the beginning like mine does. Flavors are the same, the only difference between mine and theirs is the sharpness of the bitterness.

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Old 08-08-2012, 04:35 PM   #7
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This may be a bit simplistic sounding. But maybe your process is giving you more bittering than flavor/aroma? Imo,bittering shouldn't overshadow flavor & aroma. just a compliment to them.
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Old 08-08-2012, 05:03 PM   #8
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Maybe. The fact that most of my IPAs taste like fruit juice leads me to think that the flavoring/aroma may be out shining the bittering though. I made an IPA a couple days ago where I'm getting most of my IBUs from the 1st wort addition and then only doing a small 15 minute and flame out addition. My thinking on this is that due to cost savings and trying to hit a price point, this is probably what most commercial breweries do in order to save on hops. It still has a few days to ferment so we'll see if it makes any difference, but I really doubt it. Anyway it seems that most of the IPAs I've made and most recipes I see posted on HBT have a lot of IBUs generated from later additions which creates a more fruity/flavorful beer IMO.

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Old 08-08-2012, 05:37 PM   #9
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It sounds like you're a bit confused. The citrus or "fruity" flavors are what's sought after in IPA's. Some bittering will carry through the flavor/aroma additions if done right. I did flavor additions for my IPA starting at 25 minutes,& every 8min,30 sec thereafter in 3 additions of three different hops. Then dry hopped 1.5oz.
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Old 08-08-2012, 05:41 PM   #10
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Maybe I missed it, but what temperature are you mashing at? And are you sure your thermometer is accurate?
You might also try using a different yeast to mix things up - I use S05/1056 a lot, but it's very clean and doesn't tend to linger on the palate much in my experience. I currently have a double IPA made with WY1450 (Denny's favorite) that I'm really liking.

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