adjusting for hop utilization, etc.

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Aug 7, 2007
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Washington, DC
After finally turning out a very satisfying batch on attempt #3 (thanks in part to advice solicited here), I'm hooked on the hobby.

Next up is a "classic" ESB kit from Midwest, which I'm planning to brew next week.

The stated recipe is:

6 lb Gold LME
8 oz. Caramel 40 L
2 oz Chocolate
2 oz Roasted Barley
2 oz Kent Golding for bittering
1.5 oz Fuggles for aroma
Irish moss

They seem to have sent me 2 oz of German Tradition instead of the Fuggles, though -- I'm guessing because of the hop shortage.

In the spirit of experimentation, however, I'm thinking of

a) increasing the boil size. The high-output burner on my stove doesn't seem to have much trouble boiling 2.5 gallons, so I'm thinking about going to 3.5 or 4.

b) doing some late extract addition -- maybe half of the LME?

I've read, however, that both of these things can increase hop utilization. I'm a hophead who doesn't mind a fairly bitter brew, but I don't want to produce something that's going to be totally out of whack with the malt profile. Any advice?
If you believe the math, yes--anything lowering boil gravity will raise hop utilization. However, I am not exactly sure to what degree the bitterness will go up. I am not familiar with enough of the brewing software packages, but I can link these:

I can do the calculations to cipher out what I think will be the overall utilization (i'll put that engineering degree to good use somehow!), but I haven't yet been able to sample any of the beer we made using this technique. We modified a recipe for california common to change hops using Beertools (the free version does not appear to handle late malt addition), but it certainly smells more than the 30 ibu's we were I may get an education in about a month.
Hmm... Beertools says that moving from a 2 gallon boil to a 3.5 gallon boil would raise the IBUs from 37.8 to 44.4, all within the 30-50 IBU range for the style. Meanwhile, the OG, at 1.046, is actually below the style parameters (1.048 - 1.060).

Does anyone have formulas on the impact of late extract addition?
I've never done late extract addition, so I've never looked into how to handle that on hop utilization. I can tell you, though, when I went from 3.5 gallon boils to full wort boils, I did not change my recipe and I got substantially more bitterness in my beer. It wasn't all out of whack, and it was still quite drinkable, but it wasn't the balance I wanted. I remember that I restored the balance by bumping up my crystal malt a little and was quite happy.

Beersmith will do everything you need, including handling late extract addition. However, if you're going to be doing full wort boils, you really don't need to be doing late extract addition, especially when your wort isn't very high gravity to begin with. If you were trying to get the lightest possible beer, then maybe, but in general, you can get a nice light beer without resorting to late extract additions - after all, in all-grain brewing there's no such thing as late extract addition, yet it can still produce nice, light beers.

Don't forget that the style guidelines on bitterness and gravity are not exactly independent. You also need to pay attention to the IBU/OG ratio (sometimes referred to as the BU:GU ratio) - if you're close to the high end of the style guidelines for bitterness and close to the low end for gravity, you can have an unbalanced beer that's still technically within style guidelines. The BU:GU ratio isn't generally specified, but you should use your own judgement to keep things balanced - looking at other people's recipes and figuring out their ratio would help.
Thanks for all the advice. I decided to skip the late extract addition and just go with the larger boil size. Nailed the OG, and I guess I'll see how hoppy it is in a few weeks.