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Old 06-12-2009, 11:50 PM   #1
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Default Gravity / IBU Ratio and conditioning question

Pardon the noob question, but I'm working on my first brew and trying to learn a little of the science behind what I'm doing. So, here's what I have going on.

I'm a week into my cream ale. It's the extract kit from midwest. The original recipe calls for 1 oz cascade at 60 min and 1 oz cascade at 2 min. Target OG and FG is 1.044ish and 1.011ish respectively. IBUs should be around 33. It also calls for a 2 gallon boil. Both cascades were 7.1%.

I did a few things differently. I did a 4.5 gallon boil for one. Since I knew from my reading I'd get better hop utilization with more water I only added 0.9 oz at 60 min. Then for the last 3 minute hops I put in about 1.1 oz. This was all just a guesstimate off the top of my head since I wasn't aware of the various calculators.

Anyway, since it's been a week I decided to begin taking gravity readings yesterday. It's sitting right about 1.010. Checked again today and it said the same. I'm going to check again tomorrow and if still unchanged I'm going to rack to secondary so I can start on another batch. I'd normally just leave it in the bucket but I'm anxious to start getting my pipeline going and don't want to bother using a carboy as a primary at the moment.

Regardless, I decided to taste the beer so far today. First, I have to say it was absolutely fantastic tasting even at such a young age. Slightly malty, amazing hop aroma, but a very balanced bitterness. Not exactly what I expected for something with 33 IBUs and a starting gravity of only 1.042.

Now my question stemmed from reading this chart:



According to this, my beer should be extra hoppy. I didn't get that at all. So, now that I have beer smith installed I plugged in my numbers to see how close I was to the target IBU. It wasn't bad and calculated like 28.4. That should still be in the extra hoppy category. A bit confused, I ran the numbers for the original recipe including hop schedule and smaller boil volume. That came up with a IBU of 17.5! Of course that falls in the well-balanced category which is exactly how it tasted to me. But the recipe sheet for those directions state 33 IBUs.

So now I'm completely confused. Given my recipe I should be just shy of 30 IBUs and it should be quite hoppy. But looking at the given recipe, either it's a misprint showing a target of 33 IBUs when beer smith says it should only be 17.5.

And that leads me to my final part of the question about conditioning. Will the bitterness become stronger over the next 5 or 6 weeks before drinking? Since it's so young now I know the overall flavor is nowhere near the final product but I assumed the level of bitterness given the OG/IBU scale would still show through. Then again, after running all of the numbers in beer smith between the two recipes I don't even know what to believe.

Sorry for the long question. I'm just trying to get a handle on the math and to better understand what I'm tasting so I can know what to expect with recipes going forward. Thanks for all the help so far. Either way it seems like it's going to be a fantastic brew either way, but I just want to know what's going on behind the scenes.

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Old 06-13-2009, 12:29 AM   #2
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Actually I just made that same one not too long ago. From what I get in beersmith the IBU using the full hops provided for the full 60 minutes gave out around 23 IBU if I recall. Of course with you having a bigger boil than mine (about 2.5 gallons here) it's going to come out different. Even with 23 mine was pretty sharp so my guess is that somehow you didn't get all you expected out of the hops. Did you have a good strong boil the whole time? If not the alpha acids wouldn't properly bind into the wort and basically steam away. Boiled loose/bagged (though I'm not sure it makes a difference)?

Then again in the end if it tastes good to you then it was done right. To be honest I've often wondered how that chart was supposed to work. If the gravity where made up of more/less fermentable sugars I'd think it'd throw the malt/hop flavor estimates all out of wack.

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Old 06-13-2009, 01:08 AM   #3
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How old were the hops? How were they stored, and for how long? If they were sitting out in the sun on a truck for a week that can have a big impact on the utilization as well, as the alpha acids break down fairly quickly at higher temps.

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Old 06-13-2009, 01:41 AM   #4
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First, that graph isn't gospel. It lists a 1.070, 40 IBU beer as being on the hoppy side of balanced. That's silly. 1042, 33 IBUs isn't quite extra hoppy, IMO. Of course, we all have our own tolerances.

I wonder if Midwest assumes a late extract addition. If you boil 2g with only half the extract, that pretty much balances out.

Also: reducing the initial hop addition by 10% to offset doing a boil of twice the size is off. You would reduce the amount of hops by more than that. But it turns out that Midwest's error and your under-correction may have balanced themselves out. I think your beer really is ~28 IBUs. That isn't "extra hoppy."

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Old 06-13-2009, 01:54 AM   #5
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Relax Dont Worry Have A Home Brew and throw out the graph and calculations, its your very first home brew, get it bottled, wait a few weeks, give it a taste and go on from there... You are gonna drive yourself nuts if you over analyze every time you brew like you just did with the graph and beer smith..... and please dont ever worry about .9 oz and 1.1 oz of hops... plus, was this an extract kit? just wait til you get to all grain...

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Old 06-13-2009, 01:59 AM   #6
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Thanks for the tips. Yeah, it could be technique error. I never thought of that. I thought the boil was pretty strong throughout, but being my first brew I could be off there. I used pellets in a nylon bag if that matters.

The hops were fairly fresh in one of those little vacuum like packs or whatever. I don't remember the date on them but they were not very old. And the weather wasn't too hot and they were shipped in 2 days and stored in the fridge for another 2 days before using them.

But yeah, just trying to make sure I have the right line of thinking. I know the 10% reduction wasn't accurate, but at the time I didn't have beersmith so I was just winging it knowing I had to do something less. So like McGarnigle said, it could be an issue of an error on the IBUs listed on the instructions and my undercorrection ending up with my results.

Besides, I always thought cream ales had relatively low IBUs anyway in the 15-20 range which is why I got it to start with so that I could hopefully get my wife to drink it.

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Old 06-13-2009, 02:16 AM   #7
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Cream ales *are* usually a bit low in hops, and a non-beer drinker might find 30 IBUs pretty bitter after all. I don't know whether Midwest is trying to give their cream ale extra bite, or they weren't and just overstated the IBUs.

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Old 06-13-2009, 02:44 AM   #8
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Midwest has no listed IBU in their instructions, if the OP is talking about the one I'm thinking of the instruction sheet can be found at http://www.brew-winemaking.com/ProductPDF/3321.pdf

In my opinion hops (both in bitterness and flavor) is something of an aquired taste after a number of years of drinking BMC. At least I know it was for me, and it's a taste I'm glad I acquired.

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Old 06-13-2009, 02:51 AM   #9
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jackson_d: I am relaxing and having a brew. I'm not stressing out about this one bit and I'm just trying to use this as a learning experience. I'm not freaking out about no bubbles in the airlock, complaining about my starter, or wondering if I can bottle right away and then complain when they aren't carbed. I'm a details oriented person by nature so I'm just using this as an opportunity to try and learn more and find ways to improve my process going forward.

BrewStooge: Those are the directions, and right at the very top right corner in the box it lists the IBUs.

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Old 06-13-2009, 09:26 PM   #10
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Blast! Foiled again, shows how close I read the directions.

Well in either case, the only reasons I can figure for a low hops taste is either an extremely high gravity wort (though not in your case with the large boil) an incomplete (low temp/short time) boil, or bad hops (seemingly unlikely given the fairly high turnover though I suppose it's possible something got mislabeled and the wrong type got put in).

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