No/Low bitterness from boiling Mugwort and Yarrow?

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jonleven

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I've been looking into brewing some unhopped ales lately, and settled on trying Mugwort and Yarrow as bittering herbs. I read a bunch of warnings from helpful people on here that it is very easy to overdo it in terms of bitterness, so I wanted to go ahead and test out some of my herbs by boiling them alone. I've tried boiling each separately, tasting at 10 mins, 30 mins, and 60 mins, and... there hasn't been much bitterness to speak of.

I did each in ~1 pint of water. I did 1 gram of Yarrow and about .5 grams of Mugwort based on amounts suggested in a few recipes I saw, adjusted for the volume I was using.
To make matters a bit more confusing, I did notice that in some tea I made with the Yarrow, it became pretty bitter after leaving it in water in a French press to steep overnight (by accident, but I figured what the hell, I'll taste it). And now I'm drinking some Mugwort tea and maybe it's just my imagination, but it seems more bitter than when I boiled it.

So...I'm confused. Is boiling these herbs killing some bittering compounds somehow? Any thoughts on what's going on?
 

dmtaylor

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What an excellent first post!! Welcome to the forum!

I don't find mugwort to be very bitter. Most of all it just adds a strong herbal flavor.

Yarrow I think actually adds more tartness (acidity?) than bitterness, but is a little bitter. If you used more it might become more obvious what it does, as an experiment only -- I do not like a lot of yarrow in my gruit ales. But it is really the tartness that makes yarrow a good addition, to help balance the character, more the tartness than the bitterness.

Gruit ales (unhopped herbed beers) can use herbs in different ways besides bitterness.

If you really wanted bitterness, you could toy around with wormwood... but I don't recommend it. If you do ever try wormwood, measure it in grams instead of ounces. A fraction of a gram might be all you really need, it is extremely overpoweringly bitter otherwise.
 
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jonleven

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Thanks! And thank you for the input. I'm figuring maybe I need to use higher amounts of mugwort. I suppose any herb would be like hops, with some varieties being more bitter than others.

I just tried some wormwood tea as well. HOO! That stuff is bitter and medicinal. Not to my taste.
I think I'll stick with the mugwort and yarrow.

I'll likely try a 1 gallon extract batch as a test for the bittering properties today, but would welcome any further counsel for sure!
 
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