Tell me what I'm doing wrong? Highly Inconsistent Hoppy Beers...

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HM-2

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Could do with some guidance as I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with the difficulties I seem to have brewing properly flavourful hoppy beers.

I've done a few hop-heavy beers over the last two years, but I would say that only two of these have actually been "good"- one double NEIPA and one West Coast IPA. The rest have been somewhere between okay and pretty disappointing. This includes my last brew, which was a single-hop, single-malt IPA using 100% Vienna Malt and a mixture of T90 and LupuLN2 Cryo Simcoe.

Let me give a summary of my most recent recipe:

Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 23L
Boil Size: 26.5L
Boil Time: 30 min


Grain:
AmountName% Grist
6.4 KGCrisp Vienna Malt100

Hops
AmountNameIBUUseTime
15gSimcoe T90 (12.9%)12.2Boil20m
15gSimcoe T90 (12.9%)10.5Boil15m
15gSimcoe T90 (12.9%)8.3Boil10m
15gSimcoe T90 (12.9%)5.7Boil5m
40gSimcoe T90 (12.9%)6.8Whirlpool20m
20gSimcoe LupuLN2 Cryo (22.4%)5.9Whirlpool20m
85gSimcoe LupuLN2 Cryo (22.4%) 0Dry Hop@ Day 7 for 3 days
75gSimcoe T90 (12.9%)0Dry Hop@ Day 7 for 3 days

Yeast: Lallemand (LalBrew) Verdant IPA

Original Gravity: 1.066
Final Gravity: 1.013
Alcohol by Vol: 7.0%
Bitterness: 49 IBU
Colour: 14.4 EBC

Process
Brewed on BrewZilla 3.1.1 240v.
  • 3 step mash: 50°C for 15 minutes then 63°C for 45m, with a 15m 70°C mash out.
  • 30 minute boil with hop additions every 5 minutes from 20m (straight into kettle, no hop spider)
  • Cool to 80°C via immersion chiller, add whirlpool additions (straight into kettle, no hop spider
  • Chill to pitching temperature and pump into Fermzilla
  • Pitch dry yeast and seal with airlock
  • Ferment for 7 days @ 20°C with 2°C ramp (hit FG at day 5)
  • Add dry hop at Day 7 @20°C (not bagged, straight into fermenter) and purge x5 with CO2
  • Pressure seal fermenter with 10PSI spunding valve
  • Rouse hops through shaking every 12 hours for 3 days
  • Soft crash to 14°C
  • Closed transfer into keg
  • Condition under 12 PSI for (so far) 1 week in the kegerator
It's looking pretty nice:
PXL-20220717-134905454-PORTRAIT.jpg


The nose isn't bad. Still a little green, but there's some stone fruit, pine and orange there.
Bitterness is about spot on for what I was wanting.
But the flavour...just isn't right. There's just a hit of hop burn as it's still pretty young, but I get almost nothing by way of any of the expected hop flavour- no citrus, no tropical fruit. There's that hint of the stone fruit from the yeast but that's really it.

Is there something obvious I'm doing wrong? I've had a pretty similar production process for some of the previous NEIPAs I've done and put out two really cracking beers but about 2/3 of the time I end up with a decent enough aroma and very little discernible hop flavour.
 

Gilbert Spinning Horse

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Personally, I'd move all the boil hops (except the bittering) to whirlpool and dry hop.
You might want to try some hops with more flavor too.
I'd recommend Citra, Idaho 7 and Bravo as a mix. I typically use them as 25g, 25g and 10g in the whirlpool at 65ºC, and the rest in a dry hop, which goes in before fermentation is complete.
 
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HM-2

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Personally, I'd move all the boil hops (except the bittering) to whirlpool and dry hop.
You might want to try some hops with more flavor too.
I'd recommend Citra, Idaho 7 and Bravo as a mix. I typically use them as 25g, 25g and 10g in the whirlpool at 65ºC, and the rest in a dry hop, which goes in before fermentation is complete.
So "normally", I 100% would have a mix, but this was designed as a SMaSH hence being all Simcoe.

3oz equivalent accounting for Cryo is not "big" in terms of whirlpool, but I would have thought it would be enough to impart some flavour. And the dry hop is equivalent to more than 10g/L!
 

Redhouse Brewing

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Where do you get your hops and how do you store them? I switched to Yakima Valley and bought a vacuum sealer. I store my hops, vacuum sealed, in the freezer and that made a huge difference in my IPAs. I used to have muted hops and no aroma. Now I get the expected flavors and great aroma. Everything else looks good to me in your process. Have you tried using Azacca, El Dorado, strata, Amarillo, Mosaic hops yet? Those are excellent for IPAs. I usually only use a max of 3 varieties per beer. Love the Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo combo
 

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I see the closed transfer to keg but I'm still thinking about O2 getting in. Some ideas are - filling the keg with water and pushing it out to ensure it's full of (only) CO2, or even doing the thing where your fermentation blow off runs through the keg. Look into EVA Barrier keg lines including for the CO2 not just serving line. Maybe some other steps along the way as well.

When I started focusing on that stuff and swapped my lines, I got far better results. I didn't typically get oxidized "cardboard" dark beer but I did certainly taste how the yummy flavors of the hops would go away after just a few days and get down to just the bitterness left behind. Drinkable beer but disappointing given how it started. After making some changes I still have it happen but it's like a month, one and a half months, if the beer is around that long, before I can tell it's not as good as it started.

I guess I'm saying that a closed transfer is a good start but I'd keep looking at other ways to prevent slow O2 ingress.
 
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HM-2

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What are the values for that ratio? 25 CL : 63 SO4? 250 CL : 630 SO4?
50 CL/125 SO4

Try 100:100:100 sulfate:chloride:calcium next time.

Cheers!
Thanks!

Where do you get your hops and how do you store them? I switched to Yakima Valley and bought a vacuum sealer. I store my hops, vacuum sealed, in the freezer and that made a huge difference in my IPAs. I used to have muted hops and no aroma.
I buy from some of the bigger UK sellers here. Most is 2020/2021 harvest. I also vacuum seal but tend to refrigerate rather than freeze due to lack of space.
This might be a factor here as this stuff (both Cryo and T90) is all 2019 harvest so maybe getting a bit long in the tooth? It was bought relatively recently and refrigerated but I don't know how it was stored in the 2 years before that.
 
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HM-2

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Sorry, missed one:

Some ideas are - filling the keg with water and pushing it out to ensure it's full of (only) CO2
Already do this!

Look into EVA Barrier keg lines including for the CO2 not just serving line.
Already use EVA Barrier for both CO2 and beer.

The only place I could see any real oxygen ingress in my process is during dry hopping, and I purge my Fermzilla by bubbling CO2 up from the ports in the trub jar when I dry hop so I view the risk as minimal.
 
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Now a week after kegging and burst carbonating and the greenness is gone but hop flavour is still muted. I'm starting to lean towards the age of the hops being the factor here.

I'm going to try using only 2021 harvest stuff on my next hoppy brew along with some of the Spectrum liquid to see if it's ingredient or process related.
 

Holden Caulfield

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"Bitterness is about spot on for what I was wanting.
But the flavour...just isn't right. There's just a hit of hop burn"

Perhaps the issue is too much bitterness is overwhelming the flavor.

The problem may be the formula used to predict the IBUs in your recipe. Based on analysis from the Alchemy Overlord site, alchemyoverlord, the deviation between formula predictions and actual IBUs becomes very significant when using a lot of late addition and whirlpool hops. Your usage of high late addition hops probably exacerbated the issue. It's not your process.

Many of the formulas used today underestimate the impact from late addition hops including whirlpool. For most brews, the underestimate is insignificant because late addition hops tend to be low alpha and the quantities used tend to be small.

Per your hop schedule below you added approximately 3 oz of very, very, high alpha hops that IBU prediction formulas will underestimate significantly. Here is the link to the Alchemy Overlord site that did the analysis on this issue and came up with a modified IBU model to better account for the impact of late addition and whirlpool hops (mIBU)...https://alchemyoverlord.wordpress.com/

1658690439791.png


The graph below, which can be found on the AO website, compares the calculated IBUs based on the Tinseth model vs actual. As can be seen, the Tinseth model significantly underestimates late additions and slightly over estimates early additions. After running IBU model scenarios (Tinseth vs mIBU) against the kind of beers I like and make (Czech and German Pils, English Bitters, etc), which have very little late addition and no whirlpool hops as well as being low AA hops, I determined that the deviation between predicted and actual was insignificant for my beers. That said, when using large quantities of13% AA hops for very late addition and whirlpooling the deviation can become very large resulting in a bitter bomb.

Going forward, you may want to utilize the mIBU model when utilizing significant late addition and whirlpool hops. This becomes especially important if the hops are high AA. At minimum, avoid high alpha late addition and whirlpool hops unless you run them through an updated hop schedule that may account for the late addition shortcomings of many of the IBU prediction models - for example check the IBUs for the recipe using 1/2 the whirlpool minutes as boil time for the hops and adding a few minutes to the the 5 min hops and evaluate the impact if it is significant.

1658691053516.png
 
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HM-2

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Absolutely fascinating stuff
Holden, thanks for this. I'd heard the occasional bit of chatter around the potential impact of late addition hops to perceived IBUs but never really investigated it fully. I really do appreciate the description and thoughts above, and thinking about things in a more considered manner, some definitely does chime with my experiences- when I say that the "bitterness is spot on", I mean in the BU/GU perspective which is probably some way away from the ~49IBU predicted in the recipe (in fact this chimed with me so much as I've just finished drinking a supposed "75 IBU" IPA which has a similar perceived level of bitterness).

I wonder if reducing the temperature of my whirlpool will take at least some of the edge off this; when I think back to my IPAs I've been happiest with, I've typically whirlpooled at more like 70-75°C rather than 80°C.

I also think that perhaps my general impatience and the age of the beer are playing a factor here too. Over the last 3 or so days I've seen a marked difference in hop flavour, with the greener and more astringent/harsh notes subsiding for a slightly unexpected character that I can only describe as a bit like Terry's Chocolate Orange (which I appreciate might be a British thing...basically think milk chocolate with lots of orange oil); sweet orange, more stone fruit and something similar to cacao and vanilla now starting to come through. It's actually starting to become very enjoyable indeed!
 
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