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Constantly high perceived bitterness?

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rmeskill

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Hey all-I've been brewing for years now and, historically, have always found my beers to be reasonably accurate with what I was aiming for. Recently, however, I've managed to bump my efficiency from around 65% to 70-73% primarily thanks to better temp control and by adding a higher-temp mash-out step. But far too many of my recent higher-hop beers have been coming out seemingly way more bitter than expected. Some of these are, I think, due to choosing too low a mash temp and thereby ending up with just far less body than the IBUs would comfortably support, but there are some that I just can't make heads or tails out of. For example, I brewed a rye IPA last week: 15g (1/2oz) Warrior for 60' then 30g Chinook/15g Amarillo/15g Centennial for a 15' whirlpool starting at 90C. Mash was at 69C(156F) so should be full-bodied, and it is to a good extent, partly because it's also 6.7%, but bitterness seems WAY high while BeerSmith says it should only be 51.7IBU. Calcium 77, sulfate 95. Yesterday I brewed a Vic Secret SMaSH ale with all late-boil additions and a 45g/1.5oz 15' whirlpool, 65.5C/150F mash and, according to BeerSmith, 37.7IBU but even though it's only 1/3 through fermentation it already seems way too bitter. My water here is 85 Calcium, 131 Sulfate.

I'm not afraid of bitterness, either, I'm just trying to figure out what's happening here. I imagine it might well be my water balance, I've never paid too much attention to those, but I generally choose a rough profile for what I'm looking for-the Rye, for example, was a 'Brown Balanced' and the SMaSH I was aiming for 'light & hoppy', but not 'bitter bomb'. Thanks in advance for any thoughts-I've only ended up with one beer that's been fully *ruined* here, but nearly everything I've brewed that's been over 30IBU has run the risk of being borderline...
 

beersk

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Another thing is, how long is it taking for your wort to come to a boil? My stove takes forever to come to a boil and so it spends a considerable amount of time going from 180F to boiling, probably 20 or so minutes. So that factors into your IBUs if you're adding hops at first wort, which is what I do. But I only boil for 30 minutes, so if Beersmith says I'm at 13 IBUs, it's probably higher than that in reality. Something to consider...
 
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rmeskill

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It does take my stove a good bit of time to get to a full boil, but I never put hops in at first wort, so that's not it. I do, however, wonder if the fact that it takes my wort the better part of 30+ minutes to cool down that could be having an effect. I can get to 90C in about 3 minutes, but it starts to increase expodentially from there-I won't get below 70C for at least 10 minutes and 50C might even be 20-30 depending on the season. In summer, with warmer tap water, I just can't cool my wort anywhere near fast enough...
 
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rmeskill

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if that's a problem, just move your 60 minute additions to 50 minutes etc.
I'm fine with doing this if it really is just an odd overextraction from the hops, but I was hoping someone might tip me off to something else in my setup which might be causing it so I'm actually fixing the problem instead of just adjusting. It just seems like I need about 10IBUs less than whatever I'm actually aiming for...
 

fourfarthing

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Hey all-I've been brewing for years now and, historically, have always found my beers to be reasonably accurate with what I was aiming for. Recently, however, I've managed to bump my efficiency from around 65% to 70-73% primarily thanks to better temp control and by adding a higher-temp mash-out step. But far too many of my recent higher-hop beers have been coming out seemingly way more bitter than expected. Some of these are, I think, due to choosing too low a mash temp and thereby ending up with just far less body than the IBUs would comfortably support, but there are some that I just can't make heads or tails out of. For example, I brewed a rye IPA last week: 15g (1/2oz) Warrior for 60' then 30g Chinook/15g Amarillo/15g Centennial for a 15' whirlpool starting at 90C. Mash was at 69C(156F) so should be full-bodied, and it is to a good extent, partly because it's also 6.7%, but bitterness seems WAY high while BeerSmith says it should only be 51.7IBU. Calcium 77, sulfate 95. Yesterday I brewed a Vic Secret SMaSH ale with all late-boil additions and a 45g/1.5oz 15' whirlpool, 65.5C/150F mash and, according to BeerSmith, 37.7IBU but even though it's only 1/3 through fermentation it already seems way too bitter. My water here is 85 Calcium, 131 Sulfate.

I'm not afraid of bitterness, either, I'm just trying to figure out what's happening here. I imagine it might well be my water balance, I've never paid too much attention to those, but I generally choose a rough profile for what I'm looking for-the Rye, for example, was a 'Brown Balanced' and the SMaSH I was aiming for 'light & hoppy', but not 'bitter bomb'. Thanks in advance for any thoughts-I've only ended up with one beer that's been fully *ruined* here, but nearly everything I've brewed that's been over 30IBU has run the risk of being borderline...
How much Chloride is in your water? You are noting Calcium and Sulfate above, but not Choloride. I would do one beer at Sulfate/Chloride of 0.5 just to see if its a water thing before going to big on moving hops around.
 

Vale71

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Your sulfate levels are quite high and could give the impression of a higher bitternes. You can try substituting with CaCl2 instead.
As for the values that software give those are guesstimates that can be off by as much as a factor of 2 so in the end you stil need to adjust the recipe by trial and error.
 

tripeland

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I'm fine with doing this if it really is just an odd overextraction from the hops, but I was hoping someone might tip me off to something else in my setup which might be causing it so I'm actually fixing the problem instead of just adjusting. It just seems like I need about 10IBUs less than whatever I'm actually aiming for...
Sounds like you are not cooling fast enough, causing excess bitterness from all the late hop additions. If you can’t increase the cool down rate then probably easiest to offset your hop additions by 10 mins or so. You could offset your bittering addition but I think you’d see better results by starting your cool down before adding late additions/flameout/whirlpool hops.
 

Vale71

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It does take my stove a good bit of time to get to a full boil, but I never put hops in at first wort, so that's not it. I do, however, wonder if the fact that it takes my wort the better part of 30+ minutes to cool down that could be having an effect. I can get to 90C in about 3 minutes, but it starts to increase expodentially from there-I won't get below 70C for at least 10 minutes and 50C might even be 20-30 depending on the season. In summer, with warmer tap water, I just can't cool my wort anywhere near fast enough...
Faster cooling times are always better but as far as bitterness is concerned you won't get much isomerization once you get below about 80°C.
 
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rmeskill

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How much Chloride is in your water? You are noting Calcium and Sulfate above, but not Choloride. I would do one beer at Sulfate/Chloride of 0.5 just to see if its a water thing before going to big on moving hops around.
Yeah, that was my bad-just gave the wrong number. In the SMaSH (according to BeerSmith) my sulfates are 131 to chloride 38. In the Rye IPA they were 95 sulfate to 104 chloride. Again, I know there's meant to be a relation between these but they're always displayed as a ratio and I've never gotten my head quite around what's needed, so I've always either just followed a recipe's instructions or gone with a BeerSmith profile. When you say .5 do you mean, for example, 100ppm sulfate to 50ppm chloride or the other way around?
 
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rmeskill

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Sounds like you are not cooling fast enough, causing excess bitterness from all the late hop additions. If you can’t increase the cool down rate then probably easiest to offset your hop additions by 10 mins or so. You could offset your bittering addition but I think you’d see better results by starting your cool down before adding late additions/flameout/whirlpool hops.
I like this idea as a backup if the water additions don't change. The bittering addition should be static for how many IBUs it contributes-I'll be getting full extraction out of a 60' boil. But now that I think about it, it's not just higher-IBU beers that end up overly bitter, it's any with late-additions. Simpler British ales which use low-alpha acid hops and/or early additions and then dry-hopping almost always come out spot-on, so I think there's something here...
 

MrPowers

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Is the bitterness you’re experiencing from the new batches a relatively “clean” bitterness, or is it very mouth-coating/drying/back of the tongue/unpleasant type of bitterness?
 
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rmeskill

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Hmm...that's difficult to say. Depends on the batch? It varies between, in the case of the beer I clearly mashed too low, mouth-strippingly bitter with no body to balance to, in the case of the rye, just a sharper bitter note than expected. Just like I overshot my IBUs, not fully ruined the beer
 

fourfarthing

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Yeah, that was my bad-just gave the wrong number. In the SMaSH (according to BeerSmith) my sulfates are 131 to chloride 38. In the Rye IPA they were 95 sulfate to 104 chloride. Again, I know there's meant to be a relation between these but they're always displayed as a ratio and I've never gotten my head quite around what's needed, so I've always either just followed a recipe's instructions or gone with a BeerSmith profile. When you say .5 do you mean, for example, 100ppm sulfate to 50ppm chloride or the other way around?
I mean 2x the chloride as sulfate. If its still high in perceived bitterness with that water, you can likely eliminate water as the contributing variable.
 

tripeland

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I like this idea as a backup if the water additions don't change. The bittering addition should be static for how many IBUs it contributes-I'll be getting full extraction out of a 60' boil. But now that I think about it, it's not just higher-IBU beers that end up overly bitter, it's any with late-additions. Simpler British ales which use low-alpha acid hops and/or early additions and then dry-hopping almost always come out spot-on, so I think there's something here...
I know that those who “no chill” offset the timing of their late additions to account for increased bitterness. There should be plenty of forum posts on that topic that describe what has worked for them.
 

beersk

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So, based on your initial post, you're using Bru'n water to make your water additions? If not, I guess it could be a malt bitterness you're perceiving and not hop bitterness, ie some tannins from not acidifying the mash enough. But if you're using Bru'n water, then that's probably not it either.
 
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rmeskill

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So, based on your initial post, you're using Bru'n water to make your water additions? If not, I guess it could be a malt bitterness you're perceiving and not hop bitterness, ie some tannins from not acidifying the mash enough. But if you're using Bru'n water, then that's probably not it either.
BeerSmith, but I acidify to get down to ~5.3 always, so don't think that's it?
 

beersk

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It's probably not that then. Sparging hot? I don't know, might just be you need to back off on hops. Don't aim for IBUs, but flavor.
 
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rmeskill

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I'm going to try brewing with a .5 ratio on my next reasonably-hoppy PA/IPA and see where that gets me, if not I'm going to guess the issue is with an extended cooling time and shift my late-addition hops back 10' and see where that gets me. Thanks everyone for the thoughts!
 

TheMadKing

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I'll chime in with something nobody else has mentioned yet.

You said you've tasted your beer while still fermenting and its too bitter. Well the IBU in a finished beer is much lower than the IBU of a beer with yeast still in suspension. Isomerized alpha acids cling to yeast cell walls, and when they flocculate, they remove a significant amount of the isomerized AA from the beer, so your bitterness will drop the less yeast is in suspension.

Isomerization is also not the only contributor to perceived bitterness. Recent testing has shown that significant perceived bitterness can be produced by dryhopping and whirlpooling.

An obvious solution to your problem is that if your beer tastes too bitter and Beersmith calculated 51 IBU, just reduce your calculated bitterness to 40 by adding less hops. A change to your system means that you may need to make adjustments to your recipes.

I highly doubt that your sulfate levels are the issue considering that Ballast Point has reportedly made some of the best IPA's with 300+ ppm sulfate. I also recently listened to an episode of the master brewer's podcast where they found that sensory panelists could not distinguish between beers with different sulfate/chloride rations unless the difference was 3:1 or greater.

Edit
Another thing to look at. Are you entering the actual Alpha Acid % listed on your hop bag or using generic values in Beersmith? They can vary significantly between crops and a difference of only 1% alpha acid will make a significant change in your actual IBU.

Edit Edit
Another thought. Are you transferring more trub/hop debris in to the fermenter than you were previously? This can have an impact on bitterness as well.
 
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rmeskill

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It's a fair point about the current SMaSH ale still in the fermenter and I didn't realize this impacted things. I'm waiting for the rye to finish bottle conditioning to see what the final outcome is, but my rough ratio there was about even, so I would expect that to be as (accidentally) even a test as I could hope for.

Edit
Another thing to look at. Are you entering the actual Alpha Acid % listed on your hop bag or using generic values in Beersmith? They can vary significantly between crops and a difference of only 1% alpha acid will make a significant change in your actual IBU.

Edit Edit
Another thought. Are you transferring more trub/hop debris in to the fermenter than you were previously? This can have an impact on bitterness as well.
I adjust the Alphas from my hops every time I buy a new bag. More often than not I round up or don't account for hop deterioration if I've stored the hops for a while, too, so I'm going to err on the low side of IBUs anyway.

I use a FastFerment cone and my system is pretty consistent: never add hops directly to the wort, always use a steel mesh on the boil and nylon bags for dry-hopping, drop generally one ball of yeast/trub, dump into a quick secondary of a sort just for cold-crashing, rack off into my bottling bucket.

Just listened to the podcast with the guys from Ballast Point which was particularly instructive on this. My current SMaSH is about 3:1 sulfate-heavy, so I guess I'd expect to see a higher hop portfolio there, but it still seems quite high for what BeerSmith calculates to be 37.7IBUs. Maybe the 65.5C/150F mash was a bit low for such a high sulfate ratio, though, for what I was aiming for. Definitely have learned a lot from this thread-thanks everyone!
 
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rmeskill

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Is everyone perceiving the higher bitterness or is it just you? Maybe your sensitivity had changed.
No, multiple people have confirmed it-it's a sharp, unexpected bitterness. The most logical conclusion I've reached, besides my earlier ignorance to sulfate/chloride levels, is because it's summer my tap water is warmer so my cool-downs are going far slower so I should shift my late addition hops back by about 10'.
 

specharka

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It does take my stove a good bit of time to get to a full boil, but I never put hops in at first wort, so that's not it. I do, however, wonder if the fact that it takes my wort the better part of 30+ minutes to cool down that could be having an effect. I can get to 90C in about 3 minutes, but it starts to increase expodentially from there-I won't get below 70C for at least 10 minutes and 50C might even be 20-30 depending on the season. In summer, with warmer tap water, I just can't cool my wort anywhere near fast enough...
It really does sound like you're getting more isomerization from your whirlpool hops than you're intending to -- 90C is pretty high for whirlpooling (~50% utilization at those temperatures), even if it comes down after that. I usually wait until my wort is under 80C to start my whirlpool, and keep it about 70-75C for the duration of the whirlpool.
 

fourfarthing

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It really does sound like you're getting more isomerization from your whirlpool hops than you're intending to -- 90C is pretty high for whirlpooling (~50% utilization at those temperatures), even if it comes down after that. I usually wait until my wort is under 80C to start my whirlpool, and keep it about 70-75C for the duration of the whirlpool.
I trashed a hoppy beer once by not factoring in IBUs from flameout hops, so I concur this is impactful. Beersmith can actually calc this for you.
 

TheMadKing

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I trashed a hoppy beer once by not factoring in IBUs from flameout hops, so I concur this is impactful. Beersmith can actually calc this for you.
One word of caution in BeerSmith is that if you use a 0 minute boil addition, it calculated 0 IBU added, which is wrong.

You have to set a flameout addition as a whirlpool at 210F and the time for however long it takes you to get below 170F or so. Even then IBU calculations are little more than a guess, and you're far better off judging your hopping rates by how the beers are tasting.
 
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rmeskill

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One word of caution in BeerSmith is that if you use a 0 minute boil addition, it calculated 0 IBU added, which is wrong.

You have to set a flameout addition as a whirlpool at 210F and the time for however long it takes you to get below 170F or so. Even then IBU calculations are little more than a guess, and you're far better off judging your hopping rates by how the beers are tasting.
Yeah, this I figured out ages ago, before they had proper IBU calculations for whirlpool additions, but even so it seems it's not calculating any of my late-addition hops with the whirlpool in mind, so I'm just going to try moving those back for the duration of any whirlpool plus probably 10' to compensate for the slower cooling. I'll update after my next batch.
 

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Yeah, this I figured out ages ago, before they had proper IBU calculations for whirlpool additions, but even so it seems it's not calculating any of my late-addition hops with the whirlpool in mind, so I'm just going to try moving those back for the duration of any whirlpool plus probably 10' to compensate for the slower cooling. I'll update after my next batch.
Maybe you have done this, so sorry if you have, but if you are using beer smith 3, under your equipment profile there is a checkbox to include boil hop utilization in whirlpool. make sure you have done this, but as others have stated, the IBUs can be a little of a crap shoot. I have gotten accustomed though with using the IBU/OG ratio so help me with controlling bitterness. I think its at least helpful within a style of beers such as IPAs/NEIPAs. My IBU/OG ration for NEIPAs are in the ~0.5 range.
 
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rmeskill

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Yes I have that checked, but I don't know how accurate it is. Think it's just time-shifting and erring on the lighter IBU side for a given style for now until I can narrow things down a bit more
 

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Yes I have that checked, but I don't know how accurate it is. Think it's just time-shifting and erring on the lighter IBU side for a given style for now until I can narrow things down a bit more
Yeah just checking on that. What are your IBU/OG ratios in beersmith? Just curious.

edit: if you are not using RO water, do you know if your town water supply has changed anything?
 
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rmeskill

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Roughly .8 for the Rye and .7 for the SMaSH, so pretty much what I was aiming for... Don't *think* my town water supply has changed-I've been brewing for about 2 years since I got the water tested, so been through a couple summer/winter swings with no ill-effect, so I doubt it? But it's a valid question that might be worth researching...
 

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You have done something to influence PERCEIVED bitterness. Are your finished gravities lower? You don't mention these at all in your original post, but that might be key. If you go to your recipe in Beersmith and change the yeast to a more highly attenuative yeast, what happens to IBUs? In my version, nothing. But I can assure you that a beer that finishes at 1.020 and one that does at 1.008 are not at all similar in terms of bitterness, yet will have equal IBUs in BS. The 1.008 will seem to be MUCH more bitter. The bitterness of an existing beer is what it is, but you can make a beer that has a high perceived bitterness more palatable if you drink it at a somewhat higher temperature.
 
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rmeskill

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You have done something to influence PERCEIVED bitterness. Are your finished gravities lower? You don't mention these at all in your original post, but that might be key. If you go to your recipe in Beersmith and change the yeast to a more highly attenuative yeast, what happens to IBUs? In my version, nothing. But I can assure you that a beer that finishes at 1.020 and one that does at 1.008 are not at all similar in terms of bitterness, yet will have equal IBUs in BS. The 1.008 will seem to be MUCH more bitter. The bitterness of an existing beer is what it is, but you can make a beer that has a high perceived bitterness more palatable if you drink it at a somewhat higher temperature.
Actually this is a very valid point. I have basically no temp control in summer so I switch to mostly clean ales and voss kveik yeast, which does attenuate quite well (I've been averaging between 1.006 and 1.010 depending on my mash temp). I am punching this into BeerSmith, but I have been (slightly) overshooting my FG and probably need to adjust the attenuation of the yeast accordingly. In the meantime, though, will the bitterness ratio adjust based on predicted FG? Because that at least gives me something more concrete to aim for, in addition to moving back my late additions.
 

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So you think you are getting the same bitterness because IBUs are the same in BS, but the actual percieved bitterness is much higher because BS does not account for effects of the higher attenuation. I had a similar issue when I decided to switch to pilsner malts in lieu of 2 row for a number of IPA recipes I had been happy with. I shot for the same IBUs (in this case about 125, so no slouch in the bitterness department), but my beers came out much more bitter and "one dimensional." I have since concluded that pilsner malts are just not suited to IPAs. Best to stick to old school North American 2-row malts for IPAs, same for the yeast, there is good reason why WLP001 has been the "go-to" yeast for American APAs and IPAs for years, it does the job. You won't end up with an overly dry beer with WLP001. It knows when to stop.
 
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rmeskill

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As I said above, this is almost certainly a part of it, but as I have no real temperature control in summer I have to use voss kveik. Should I adjust for this by mashing at a higher temp to hopefully end up with a higher FG?
 
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rmeskill

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So I adjusted the attenuation of my strain of voss kveik to 78-90% and the new expected FG values match up with what I've been getting. The bitterness ratios don't really adjust accordingly, but I think, given I don't really have temp control in summer, I need to either a) pick beers that I want to get super-dry, b) adjust my mash temps to end up with the FG I'm looking for, or c) find another strain of VK that's less aggressive...
 

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So I adjusted the attenuation of my strain of voss kveik to 78-90% and the new expected FG values match up with what I've been getting. The bitterness ratios don't really adjust accordingly, but I think, given I don't really have temp control in summer, I need to either a) pick beers that I want to get super-dry, b) adjust my mash temps to end up with the FG I'm looking for, or c) find another strain of VK that's less aggressive...
I don't have BeerSmith in front of me, but I believe that the bitterness ratio is only OG/IBU not FG

Did your calculated IBU increase when your predicted FG dropped?
 

bleme

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My guess is that the extra bitterness is coming from your whirlpool. There are so many variables in a whirlpool that Beersmith has trouble predicting IBU contributions accurately, especially at 90C when you are still extracting considerable bitterness.

Also, the kveik yeasts drop the pH more than regular yeasts, which also increases perceived bitterness.
 
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rmeskill

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I don't have BeerSmith in front of me, but I believe that the bitterness ratio is only OG/IBU not FG

Did your calculated IBU increase when your predicted FG dropped?
I didn't have BeerSmith in front of me either at that point. Confirmed it does not change bitterness ratio based on FG. I've adjusted my yeast settings to reflect the recent bottom-outs I've gotten on FG so I hope to fix this by pulling my late-additions back about 10' to compensate for my slow cooling, mashing according to my desired FG and being more careful with my whirlpool (starting at 85 or 80) to compensate. Wish there was an easy way to measure IBUs in a finished beer to confirm my time-shifting/whirlpool adjustments were working, but I'll just have to trust my taste buds...
 

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I didn't have BeerSmith in front of me either at that point. Confirmed it does not change bitterness ratio based on FG. I've adjusted my yeast settings to reflect the recent bottom-outs I've gotten on FG so I hope to fix this by pulling my late-additions back about 10' to compensate for my slow cooling, mashing according to my desired FG and being more careful with my whirlpool (starting at 85 or 80) to compensate. Wish there was an easy way to measure IBUs in a finished beer to confirm my time-shifting/whirlpool adjustments were working, but I'll just have to trust my taste buds...
You just need a UV-Vis photo spectrometer.. Easy peas!
 
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