Building on my previous hopping experiment where I set out to find The Effect of pH on Hop Character, I decided to try something that I’ve been wanting to explore for some time now, the difference in character between whole cone hops and pellet hops. Honestly, I’ve only ever used pellet hops. Probably because of their ease and availability. They’ve produced excellent results in some cases and less than excellent results in others.
Two of my favourite breweries, Sierra Nevada and Victory Brewing, both swear by using only whole cone hops. I’m going to heed their experience and agree that there must be something to it. But what exactly? I’ve heard the extra processing that goes into pelletizing does have an effect on the resulting character, but again, to what extent? Generally I’m of the mind that the less processing in anything food related, the better. Let’s see if this holds true for hops.
I brewed 2 batches over the weekend of my standard Sierra Nevada Pale Ale recipe, exactly the same, except I used whole cone Cascades for the 10 minute and flameout additions in one, and pellets in the other. (pellets were used for the magnum & perle additions in both) Some of you may say that I should have used all whole cone and all pellets to really know the difference, but this is the stock I had on hand. If it doesn’t demonstrate the differences well enough, I will try it again with all whole cone hops. Knowing that the utilization is different for pellets vs. cones, I relied upon Beersmith to calculate the variation and adjusted my additions accordingly to have matching IBU contributions in each batch.
First thing I can say right off the bat, if you’re using whole cone hops for the first time, use a bigger pot, or adjust your batch size to match the pot you have. Whole cone hops are very bulky and will absorb a lot of wort. If in your software (such as BeerSmith) you have the ability to adjust the amount of wort lost to trub, then at least double it as a starting point. (I’d suggest 1 gallon) This will account for the extra wort lost to the whole cone hops.
The second thing I can say is save yourself the frustration of getting your chiller plugged up and use some kind of filter in your brew kettle. A few ways to do this would be to use a bazooka screen, a stainless steel braid, or a blichmann hop blocker. I didn’t think of this beforehand and had to remove my hoses, clear the lines, sanitize everything (to be safe) and try again, 3 times!. Stupid me, what a pain! haha. As a result, I had a longer stand time than I would normally have before I chilled my wort down. I’ll have to keep this in mind when tasting the final beers as it may have contributed more IBU’s to the finished beer.
I’ll let you know what differences I detect in a couple weeks when they’re ready to compare.
Posted in Brewing, Equipment, Experiments
Tagged all grain, American Pale Ale, brewing equipment, homebrew, hops, Pale ale, Pale Ale Recipe, recipes, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, single infusion
There’s been a lot of interest in the results of my experiment to find out the effect that pH has on hop character. I guess it’s something that’s been on some of your minds. Hopefully I can shed some light on what I’ve discovered.
I have to say, after kegging these two batches and carbonating them for a few days, I didn’t really notice much of a difference. But after letting them sit for another 10 days or so, the differences became obvious.
Here are the pH measurements I recorded during the process for reference:
High pH beer – Mash pH – 5.6 / Post Boil pH – 5.5 / Post Ferment pH – 3.98
Low pH beer – Mash pH – 5.3 / Post Boil pH – 5.25 / Post Ferment pH – 3.83
* All measurements were taken at room temperature.
- Low pH -
- clearly defined Cascade character with some spicy notes from the 30 minute perle addition
- light, balanced maltiness, very clean
- light crystal malt aroma
- High pH -
- muddled hop character, no definition
- slightly bready
- low fusel alcohol character
This is what surprised me the most. After leaving them for about 10 days, I pulled a pint from the low pH batch and BAM! An extremely clear pale ale. I’m not really sure of why that would happen, or the chemistry behind it, but there it was.
- High pH -
- as you can see from the picture, a haze remains
- Low pH -
- crisp tasting with a defined bitterness
- clear definition between hop flavour, malt and bitterness
- High pH -
- confused hop character
- no definition between bitterness and aroma
- malt character is flat
The beer with the lower pH was clearly a much more enjoyable beer. The flavours are more focused and there is a certain crispness to it. This would be an example to me of the difference between a “good” beer, and a “great” beer.
But hey, don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself!
The hop character of my beers is something I’ve tried to perfect since I started brewing. Sometimes it’s incredible, other times it’s very muted and dull. My IPA’s tend to have amazing aroma and character, but that’s easy to get when you dry hop. There are a lot of great beers out there with excellent hop character that don’t get dry hopped (think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Tankhouse Ale), but I can’t seem to get that definition to my hop character. Why is that? I take it as a personal challenge to figure out, as it’s important to me. After all, this is ‘Hoptomology’ isn’t it?
I’ve recently tried ‘hop standing’, or allowing my flame out additions to steep in the pot (covered) for up to 20 minutes before whirlpooling. This technique has definitely imbibed some beautiful hop flavour, but the aroma isn’t where I’d like it to be. I’ve tried shortening that time by whirlpooling immediately after flameout, but that doesn’t seem to do it either. Don’t get me wrong, these steps do give you a certain quality, just not the one that I’m searching for here. I’ve recently built a hopback that I plan on experimenting with, using whole cone hops, but that will be a topic for another time.
There are some great podcasts on Brew Strong with Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer about water chemistry and mineral additions. Most of the info is explaining how the different ions work in relation to brewing chemistry. The focus is usually on getting the pH in the mash in the appropriate range, which is important, I get that. What I don’t hear much about is how it affects the taste of the beer. Continue reading