First Wort Hops, what do they do?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

cmac62

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Messages
1,823
Reaction score
607
Location
Menifee, CA
Reading through various threads that discuss FWT seems confusing. Are they for bittering, or do they somehow bond with other stuff in the wort and somehow retain flavor and aroma? This is my latest question. Thanks. :bigmug:
 

Barbarossa

Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 23, 2021
Messages
371
Reaction score
571
Location
Montreal
From How To Brew:

First Wort Hopping First wort hopping (FWH) consists of adding hops to the boil kettle as the wort is received from the lauter tun.
The hops steep in the hot wort as the boil kettle is being filled, which may take a half hour or longer.
The essential (aromatic) oils are normally insoluble and tend to evaporate to a large degree during the boil.
The idea is that, by letting the hops steep in the wort prior to the boil, the oils have more time to oxidize to more soluble compounds, resulting in more flavor and aroma being retained during the boil.
However, it is important to understand that the original German study5 only examined bittering additions, so we are only talking about the difference in hop character between first wort hopping and 60 min. bittering.
Late hop addition character would most likely overwhelm any FWH character.
An experiment conducted for the 2014 National Homebrewers Conference6 indicated that the bitterness contribution from FWH was about 110% of that from a 60 min. boil using the same amount of hops.
There wasn’t a significant increase in overall hop character as perceived by the participants. I often use FWH for my beers, because it doesn’t seem to hurt anything and I get more utilization from my hops.
 

Barbarossa

Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 23, 2021
Messages
371
Reaction score
571
Location
Montreal
How I understand it is if you gonna have only one hop addition, you will have more aroma if you FWH. If you gonna have a complex hop schedule, just get magnum as bittering @ 60 minutes and fancy ones for flavor and aroma @ 15, 10, 5, and/or flameout.
 

DBhomebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
469
Reaction score
630
Location
St Louis, MO
I'm incorporating FWH into my next batch for the first time. I seriously push my preboil volume to the limit, regularly 4.6gal in a 5gal kettle. No boilovers yet, but yet is the key word. As I understand it, FWH can help prevent boilovers. Kind of like a natural Fermcap. I use classic English hops so if I get a little flavor character from the bitter charge, more the better.
 

cactusgarrett

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
2,019
Reaction score
674
Location
Madison, WI
As I understand it, you technically get more bittering from FWH - as it's in the isomerization temp range much longer than a traditional bittering addition - but the perceived bitterness is actually mellower and smoother. The oft used rule-of-thumb is to calculate FWH addition as if it were a 20 min addition, because that's the practical, perceived bitterness it imparts. My experience with FWH tracks with this.
 

DBhomebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
469
Reaction score
630
Location
St Louis, MO
As I understand it, you technically get more bittering from FWH - as it's in the isomerization temp range much longer than a traditional bittering addition - but the perceived bitterness is actually mellower and smoother. The oft used rule-of-thumb is to calculate FWH addition as if it were a 20 min addition, because that's the practical, perceived bitterness it imparts. My experience with FWH tracks with this.
So, when you use FWH you set the addition in software as a 20m?!

My reading led me to target the low end of the style's bittering range then move the usual 60m charge to FW. Haven't tried it yet, getting ready for next week's brew day.

Your experience would have us compute the bittering charge as if it's a 20m. That's a big difference!
 

cactusgarrett

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
2,019
Reaction score
674
Location
Madison, WI
So, when you use FWH you set the addition in software as a 20m?!
You don't set it in your software so much as you need to realize you'll likely need more FWH hops to match the flavor you would normally get with a 60min addition. The software calculated IBU will be lower if you set it at 20 min, but you, yourself are to use this as a "perceived bitterness" level to get an idea of what it'll taste like. For example, I made a DIPA utilizing FWHs to hit (we'll call it) a bittering target of 50 IBU. I didn't realize the "calculated vs perceived" difference at the time, and despite the calculated IBU being around 50 IBU, the beer tasted cloyingly sweet for a DIPA because I perceived the bittering target as a result of the FWH to be ballpark 30-40 IBU.

The main idea is to become familiar on a sensory level so you can reproduce and expect what's to happen when you FWH. One person's perception is obviously different from another's. The problem is when you pop open the recipe in the future and read "70 IBU" (as an example), it probably tastes more like 50 IBU if the majority of the bittering came from FWH. This is one of those "hard to quantify" aspects of brewing, and experience trumps all.
 

Dland

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 28, 2018
Messages
1,960
Reaction score
1,027
I'll add that w FWH one tends to end up with less of the hops stuck around top of wort in BK, and more in the wort, less need to keep stirring hops in.

I've been doing it for the last 100 batches or so, and like the way it turns out, the bitterness is there, but seems to allow more flavor through.
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
1,342
Reaction score
923
Location
VA, USA
I know that Gordon Strong recommends FWH and the guy seems to make good beer based on his awards. I tried it years ago and I cannot say I really noticed a difference. These days I do BIAB and have less time to FWH. I tend to add my hops just before boil. Mostly because I figure that a more consistent time will lead to more consistent bitterness. I add them before boil because I find it leads to less chance of a boil over...I think because the hops break up the surface tension of the wort.

There is this article by Stan Hieronymus (who knows a thing or two about hops and was one of the proponents of FWH) about a study under Thomas Shellhammer (who also knows a few things about beer): We might have been wrong about first wort hopping

I am curious if there have been any other studies into the impact of FWH. Lots of people seem to do it.

It looks like Brulosophy has 3 experiments on this topic but I have not refreshed myself on what they found (search "first wort" at exBEERiments)

I feel like if I wanted a less harsh bitterness I would use a hop with a reputation for less harshness...less bitterness = use less bittering hops...more hop flavor = add late hops.
 
OP
cmac62

cmac62

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Messages
1,823
Reaction score
607
Location
Menifee, CA
^^^^It sounds like they also used the triangle tests with a panel of "beer drinkers" and if you read the comments they missed significance by 1 person. I believe Marshall of brulosophy does FWH regularly. Who knows, but CB, thanks for posting the article.
 

day_trippr

Moderna Or Bust! :D
Joined
May 31, 2011
Messages
36,395
Reaction score
18,883
Location
Stow, MA
I've always believed that - aside from the definite attenuation of "first boil foam", which is a blessing - the math doesn't support FWH-positive conclusions wrt character difference vs waiting for the boil before adding first hops. Seems like a harmless affectation...

Cheers!
 

DBhomebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
469
Reaction score
630
Location
St Louis, MO
The oft used rule-of-thumb is to calculate FWH addition as if it were a 20 min addition, because that's the practical, perceived bitterness it imparts. My experience with FWH tracks with this.
If I'm understanding you correctly, this is how I would approach figuring a FWH charge for a first-go attempt:

If my usual recipe calls for...

35IBU @60m (x oz)
5IBU @5m (y oz)

I would then use my software to find amounts to reach...

35IBU @20m (z oz)
5IBU @5m (y oz)

And on brew day I would do...

z oz @FWH
y oz @5m

I totally understand that there are no hard and fast rules to this. I'm just trying to hit the side of the barn in a first attempt.
 

cactusgarrett

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
2,019
Reaction score
674
Location
Madison, WI
Right. This is also one of those processes that homebrewers like to attempt to mimic commercial/pro brewers. However, it's an apples/oranges comparison, because - as the Hieronymus article CascadesBrewer included above alludes to - commercial brewers often take twice as long to lauter. Therefore, they're FWHing for much longer than a homebrewer. Similarly with flameout or whirlpool: that process on a commercial/pro level usually takes longer than for homebrewers.

The reality is that a homebrewer will probably need to execute a recipe a few times with FWHing to dial it in to where they truly want it, since FWH is still a pretty nebulous subject.
 

cactusgarrett

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
2,019
Reaction score
674
Location
Madison, WI
Right. This is also one of those processes that homebrewers like to attempt to mimic commercial/pro brewers. However, it's an apples/oranges comparison, because - as the Hieronymus article CascadesBrewer included above alludes to - commercial brewers often take twice as long to lauter. Therefore, they're FWHing for much longer than a homebrewer. Similarly with flameout or whirlpool: that process on a commercial/pro level usually takes longer than for homebrewers.

And again from that article, to illustrate how much you can play with the process and how variable it is:

[Fritz Tauscher at Krone-Brauerei in Tettnang, Germany] initially added all his first wort hops (what he calls “ground hopping”) in one dose. “I thought the bitterness was not so good,” he said... He adds 60 to 70 percent of his hops as he lauters wort into the brewing kettle. Tauscher, a seventh-generation brewer, conducts a decoction mash to make each of his beers, and lautering takes 120 to 150 minutes. He makes his first hop addition 20 to 30 minutes after runoff begins, and another five minutes before the onset of boiling. He adds hops shortly before the end of the boil, then again in the whirlpool.
The reality is that a homebrewer will probably need to execute a recipe a few times with FWHing to dial it in to where they truly want it, since FWH is still a pretty nebulous subject, and everyone seems to get something different from it.
 

Beer666

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Messages
422
Reaction score
426
I have been using it for a few years. Its convenient if you have to boil longer as it does not affect the bitterness much. I find it easier to remember and i get a little more out of my hops.
 

CascadesBrewer

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2013
Messages
1,342
Reaction score
923
Location
VA, USA
If there is some validity behind FWH, I have to suspect different hops would yield different results. There is some science behind hops like Chinook having a reputation for a harsh bitterness and hops like Magnum having a smooth bitterness. I have to expect that FWH with Chinook vs Citra vs Northern Brewer would have different impacts.

A few years ago I moved to using primarily Columbus and Warrior as my generic bittering hops for many styles. Note, I brew a lot of IPAs, Pale Ales, Porters, Stouts...not stuff like crisp lagers...and I use more style appropriate bittering hops for Belgians. I found I had much better luck getting consistent bitterness adding 0.5 oz of Columbus or Warrior, vs trying to adjust my recipe based around some 6% Cascade, or some 5% East Kent Goldings.
 

DBhomebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
469
Reaction score
630
Location
St Louis, MO
I'm about twenty minutes into my first FWH boil.

I'm not sure about flavor/bitter effects, but I'm loving the anti-boilover. I regularly push my preboil volume to about 1/2" from the rim and I could definitely tell the difference in foam characteristics.

Also, the foam that is on top is just that, it has no hop material in it. All hop material is in the boiling wort.

20210401_124216.jpg
 
OP
cmac62

cmac62

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Messages
1,823
Reaction score
607
Location
Menifee, CA
^^ yeah, I tried it over the weekend with a American Wheat I brewed and I noticed I did not need to use the foam control because of the hop oils floating on top.
 

DBhomebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
469
Reaction score
630
Location
St Louis, MO
Post-boil, now. There is a distinct lack of a usual bite. I'm used to tasting it and saying to myself, "Self, that'll mellow." Very much looking forward to seeing how this one tastes in the glass.

FWIW, this is a 1.060/37IBU strong bitter.

85% MO, 5% C65, 5% torrified wheat, 5% invert.

Northern Brewer FWH 32IBU (calc'd as a 60m)
Fuggles 20m 5IBU/0m/dry hop
 

hottpeper13

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2013
Messages
1,079
Reaction score
322
Location
Mequon
I have to agree with cactus, I figure the IBU's for 20 min and skip the 30 min addition. When first doing only FWH for the bittering addition on a Marzen It finished at 1.012 but was almost undrinkable , it was so sweet.
 

DBhomebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
469
Reaction score
630
Location
St Louis, MO
Post-boil, now. There is a distinct lack of a usual bite. I'm used to tasting it and saying to myself, "Self, that'll mellow." Very much looking forward to seeing how this one tastes in the glass.

FWIW, this is a 1.060/37IBU strong bitter.

85% MO, 5% C65, 5% torrified wheat, 5% invert.

Northern Brewer FWH 32IBU (calc'd as a 60m)
Fuggles 20m 5IBU/0m/dry hop
3 weeks at room temp, another in the fridge.

This first FWH attempt also had a dry hop, something I seldom bother with, so the FWH isn't an isolated variable. That said, it could use a small bump in bitterness. That'll probably become more so as I drink through the batch, but this first bottle is damn tasty.

I've got a best bitter conditioning now that I brewed to the same hopping specs as a previous best that's still in the fridge other than moving the usual 60m to FWH. That'll give me a better idea of what the FWH does.

Next up, a British strong ale that'll get put aside a few months. Given that it'll age a bit, I'll go ahead and figure the FWH for a 20m.
 
OP
cmac62

cmac62

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Messages
1,823
Reaction score
607
Location
Menifee, CA
So the Am Wheat turned out really good. Still on tap. It has a nice hop flavor and is bitter enough to deal with the residual sweetness. I'm not sure I'll be doing it regularly, but it worked for this beer. :mug:
 

DBhomebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
469
Reaction score
630
Location
St Louis, MO
I like to push my preboil volume, but not THAT much. Thankfully the FWH did the trick and kept it all in the pot. Like an oil slick over tossing seas.
 
Top