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Old 08-06-2009, 04:22 AM   #1
BigdogMark
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Default Hop Sock impact?

Yeah, I'm ready for the flames!!!

Here's the question: we brewed an extract AHS Blonde that turned out very good. Everyone really liked it, especially the wives and other women. That doesnt' happen often. Anyway, I used a fine hop sock from AHS for both the bittering and flavor hops. The resulting brew was very smooth and creamy, that just went down easy.

The next week we brewed another batch of the AHS Blonde but this time we didn't use the hop sock. The resulting beer is quite good, but it is nowhere near the same as the first one. We would like to be able to recreate the first one without the hop sock to have some brew for the ladies, while continuing to brew the later version for our own tastes.

How should we adjust the hop schedule to replicate the effect of the hop sock? I'm hoping someone has some guidelines, otherwise we are going to go blind and do some test brews to see what changes we can effect.

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Old 08-06-2009, 04:30 AM   #2
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Welcome to HBT! It takes a lot to get flames around here and I don't see anything in your post that would cause them.

I don't know for sure how to answer your question. I've never had a hop sock make any difference in hop utilization. Did you have the hops tightly packed into the sock on the first batch?

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Old 08-06-2009, 04:32 PM   #3
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A tightly packed hop bag will reduce both utilization for bittering and give you less flavor/aroma. But if the socks were loosely packed, I can't think of why there would be any difference.

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Old 08-07-2009, 03:35 PM   #4
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We used pellet hops in a hop sock that is roughly 6x16 inches in size. The hop sock is a fine weave nylon type. The hop material did have a tendency to plug it up and retain some water when I lifted it from the boil, but it dispersed quickly with a bit of agitation. We kept the sock moving in the boil.

My main interest is getting a guess on how we should modify the hop schedule to replicate the effect. It probably doesn't help that I'm not very good at identifying and describing the flavors. Currently, we are kicking around the idea of brewing a 5 gal batch and halving the hop schedule for bittering and see what we get. The recipe we have been using is listed below.

7 lbs. Extra Pale Extract
1 oz. Cascade bittering hops for 60 minutes
1 oz. Williamette aroma hops for 5 minutes

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Old 08-07-2009, 04:44 PM   #5
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This was an interesting observation to have made in the first place. Without really thinking about it I would have only thought that a hop sack would result in less hop sludge in the wort and probably a clearer beer. But less utilization does make sense... so there are a few things you can do to adjust.

Was this your own recipe or one borrowed from a book? Perhaps the author had intended for hop sacks to be used... which would explain why the same quantities without the sacks were a bit too harsh.

Did you double check the alpha acid % on the hops both times? That tends to change a bit from batch to batch at the stores.

There is also the possibility that you did something differently extract wise during the second boil that effected the hop utilization. For example, if you added half of the extract at the beginning of the boil (t=0) and half near the end (t=40)... and the timing was a bit different your second time around... say again half at t=0, but then you added the second half ten or fifteen minutes later than you did before, then that would make the batch more bitter because the hops would be boiling for a longer time at a lower gravity.

I would recommend crunching numbers to calculate what the IBUs are for the original recipe and then dial that number down a bit... say if it as 30 IBUs... try reducing it to 20 and see how the end product tastes.

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Old 08-07-2009, 04:53 PM   #6
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Unless the sock was stuffed absolutely full, utilization should be about the same...

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Old 08-07-2009, 05:43 PM   #7
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I've used a hop sock and found i tended to pack it too tightly, reducing hop utilization. It may keep the beer clearer but other than that shouldnt have too much influence on the flavor.

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Old 08-09-2009, 04:12 AM   #8
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I greatly appreciate the responses. In reviewing our brew logs I have found two other differences worth noting. The original batch was a 5 gallon brew that we made using bottled RO water with "flavor minerals" added back in. The two subsequent batches have been ten gallon brews with unchlorinated well water. Oh, and the recipe is an AHS Blonde extract we purchased as kits.

I have read another post in this same forum discussing the effect of water on extract brewing and the suspicion it may cause bitter off flavors. That is how I would describe the two ten gallon batches, just a bit too bitter. We have modified our brewing plans and will try another batch with bottled water and see what happens.

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Old 08-09-2009, 01:47 PM   #9
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I've never stuffed a sack full of hops. I've only ever put about 1 or 2 ounces per 5 gallon strainer bag. I always noticed reduced utilization. You're just not going to get the same level of agitation with the fine mesh being a buffer. My total shot in the dark estimate is a 10% reduction in utilization. Unless you need to pump though a plate chiller, I'd always let them float free.

To the OP's question, you could reduce your 60 minute addition down to about 45 minutes and that should replicate the socked hop scenario.

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Old 08-10-2009, 12:10 AM   #10
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FWIW, I've been trying out Beer Alchemy brewing software, and their default settings account for 10% less hop utilization with a sock than without (as Bobby estimates above). If true, 10% doesn't seem like enough to make a dramatic difference in bitterness.

One question about your process...Did you add extract differently or have different concentrations of extract to water in the 2 batches? If you have a higher specific gravity in your boiling wort, that will limit hop utilization. So if your second batch was a less concentrated boil, that could account for the added hop bittering. Just a thought...

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