Disappointing hop flavour/aroma

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ComradeAles

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Hi guys

I've brewed 15 all grain batches of beer (each very small - 6 litres) and every one has been APA or IPA. As an unashamed hop head I'm trying to recreate the hop flavour and aroma found in some of my favourite commercial brews (for example: Madness IPA, Cannonball IPA, Gamma Ray, Life & Death IPA etc.)

Overall I'm pretty happy with the beers that I've made - they're perfectly drinkable and I can't detect any "home brew" type flavours. However, they're definitely missing a lot of the hop flavour and aroma from the commercial equivalents. I would have put this down to differences between home brewing and commercial brewing techniques but from what I've read, a lot of home brewers claim to be producing exceptionally hoppy beers - perhaps even more so than commercial breweries due to the freshness.

A little info about my process:

-Full mash, typically Pale Malt or Maris Otter for around 90% of the grain bill. Up to 10% light crystal/oats/wheat/carapils
-Boil for 60 minutes. Low amounts of 60 minute hop additions and then huge amounts of 15 - 0 minute American hop additions. For example, in a 6.5% IPA I'll use up to 50g of late additions of say Amarillo, Simcoe, Columbus etc. (usually a mix of 2 or 3 American hops) and then dry hop with a similar amount. I've even dry hopped with 100g for one batch!
-Ferment in either 11.4l carboy or a 10l bucket using half a packet of US-05 for 5-7 days @ 17C and then 5-7 days @ 21C.
-Dry hopping for 4-6 days @ 21C in the primary. Hop pellets which have been stored in the freezer, 2016 harvest and less than a month since opening the packet.
-Cold crash in primary for 1-2 days then rack to keg. Carb up to around 2.4-2.6 vols and then...disappointment.

I feel like I've researched the topic quite thoroughly so it's hard to see what's missing from my process. I'd welcome any feedback or suggestions!

Thanks
 

terrym

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If you like your American IPA beers very hoppy and you are only using 50-100g of hops for a dry hop in 23 litres then it may simply be not enough.
Brewdog publish many of their recipes on tinterweb and they use a huge quantity of hops in some recipes from what I remember.
I suggest you brew a reduced volume brew as an experiment and up the dry hop to 150g or even 200g equivalent to see if that hits the spot.
And if you are using a bag to dry hop that may restrict the uptake of hoppy goodness, so chuck the pellets in as they are and use a filter at packaging time to keep the hops bits in the FV.
Finally dry hopping is primarily for aroma, but if you want to get more hop flavour try a hop tea (an infusion of hops and hot, not boiling, water). If I do a hop tea I make it up leave it to steep and then chuck the lot in to hopefully get the best of both worlds, aroma and flavour.

EDIT. Didn't read it properly dozy beggar that I am! My comment assumed 23 litres, not 6 litres as stated.
 
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jceg316

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how long do you leave it in the keg before drinking? I've not kegged before but I find in the bottle I need to wait 2 weeks at least before hop flavours come through, and usually 4 weeks is the prime time for hop character. Prior to this I find malt takes over completely.

Something else I can think of is water profile. I know this can affect hop character but my knowledge only goes that far. However I'm leaving this comment here so someone else with more knowledge on the topic than me can fill in.
 

Martybhoy

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You're certainly using enough hops for 6ltr batches. I'd also look at water treatment and also the time between kegging and bottling. Again, one month is optimal for hop flavour (I find aroma lasts longer), and by three months the hop bomb effect will have gone.

2 other things. Drinking beer too cold can inhibit flavour in any style, and (as I learned on here recently) a good head makes a big difference. The head holds a lot of flavour, so if you're head retention is poor, you could maybe try looking at that. In fact, I now pour my beers intentionally attempting to get a head of at least an inch.

Do your hops smell nice and fresh when you open the pack? Where do you buy your hops from? And are they loose or pellet?

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IainM

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Schucks comrade, 50-100g dry hop on a 6L batch and you'd expect it to be bursting with fresh juicy hop aroma. It looks like you are doing everything right in terms of grist, yeast, hop timing and quantities. I've had mixed success with hop bombs, a couple that were right up there with the best commercial examples, a couple of disappointments and a couple in between, and have been trying to work out why that is. The first winner has this hop schedule on a 1.070 beer fermented with US-05 at 18C (87% MO, 3.5% cara, 9.5% Munich), and also dry hopped at 18C:

25 min: Chinook 12.5% 2.0g/L
15 min: Ahtanum 5.2% 1.7g/L
10 min: Ahtanum 5.2% 0.9g/L
5 min: Citra 11.5% 0.6g/L
0 min: Ahtanum 5.2% 0.9g/L
0 min: Citra 11.5% 0.6g/L
2.3g/L (total) dry hop with a mix of Citra, Amarillo, Centennial and Falconer's Flight blend for 12 days total
2.3g/L (total) dry hop, same hop, for 6 days total (cold crashed for the last two).

I did this after reading Stone Brewing's guide to making a DIPA (link here), which has lots of good tips. I was super impressed with the results - it remains the best thing I've brewed.

The second winner was a rye IPA (76% pale, 3.5% crystal, 3.5% cara, 17% rye, 1.052, pitched at 20C with US-05 but dropped to 18C by the time I was dry hopping) with:
0.13g/L warrior and 5g/L zeus 60 mins
0.44g/L each amarillo, mosaic and centennial at 15 min. 0.87g/L each at 5 min then 0.87g/L each at flame out (80C for 30 mins).
0.65g/L simcoe, 2.2g/L amarillo and 2.2g/L galaxy, 8 days dry hop
0.65g/L simcoe, 2.2g/L amarillo and 2.2g/L galaxy, 3 days dry hop, including 2 days cold crash

Once I had made these two beers I thought I had cracked it and the key was double hopping with large amounts. However, I recently did a Black IPA using the same method and was disappointed. The difference was that the BIPA was when the weather was warmer, so the dry hop was at 21C instead. I think this might be the key. A lot has been written about dry hop timing and temperature, but not so much about the interaction between the two. I'm starting to think that if you are going to dry hop at 21C, then 3 days should be enough (in keeping with Firestone Walkers's Matt Brynildson's advice never to go over 3 days hop contact time), but if you are going to do it at 18C then a longer contact time is better. I also find that at the higher temperature the hops float more and don't disperse in the beer, thus having more potential to release their aroma into the air as opposed to the beer, and also having more exposure to oxygen. On that note, the BYO Advanced Dry Hopping guide suggests putting the hops as the krausen has almost subsided, so that the hops aren't in too early to bubble away the aroma, but early enough for active yeast to mix the hops with the beer and eat up any oxygen that enters the beer with them. Interestingly, the same day I did the BIPA I did a couple of other beers in demis with far less hops, but they came out much juicier. They were dry hopped in completely bunged up demijohns that were pretty full, so perhaps something that contributed to them was the fact that the aroma compounds had little headspace and couldn't escape. Anyway, these are just my half-baked ideas after a bit of reading and a few batches of variable outcome, but I think you might make a breakthrough by reducing your dry hop temperature, and I would be very interested to hear if that makes any difference for you.

I'll add though that in Stan Hieronymous's book on Hops, he says that Stone hop at 17C, New Belgium at 12C and Sierra Nevada start at 20C but then drop the temp and leave them in for two weeks, while Laguanitas dry hop at 20C. I dunno about you, but I much prefer the juicy hoppiness of Stone beer to Laguanitas.
 

foxy

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A good book to read is Gordon Strong Brewing better beer, he has given up on the dry hopping process, but interestingly his hop sequence is close to Stones mentioned above.What a lot of commercial brewers do we would find hard to replicate.But reading more about water treatment and the effects of oxygen on the hops you will understand what is happening.
 

Dutto

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I've taken to introducing a light "Hop Tea" to the brew at the same time as I add the priming sugar.

To give a brew that bit of "lift" I have used a cafeteria to steep 10g of hop pellets (or leaf) in 250ml of boiling water for 15 minutes.

A similar method may give you an improved hop flavour. :thumb:
 

ComradeAles

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Wow, thanks for the great feedback everyone! To answer a few questions, first: I throw the pellets in with no bag; the hops themselves smell incredible and the brew fridges I use smell unbelievably fruity. Perhaps that added to my disappointment with the finished product. The hops are from Malt Miller and I'm really happy with the nitrogen flushed packaging so I suspect that they're decent.

Perhaps the keg to glass timing is too short - I only wait for around 5 days or until the batch is carbonated. My thinking was that the hop flavour/aroma would diminish if I waited too long but it sounds as though it may still be developing. I'll try to be more patient with the next batch :D

Re the water profile, the water here is incredibly hard with silly amounts of bicarbonate. However, I add gypsum and calcium chloride to bring down the buffering power whilst maintaining a sulphate to chloride ratio of around 1.7. I also add a little lactic acid to the infusion water, aiming for a mash ph of 5.2-5.4. My adjusted water composition (in ppm) is Calcium 170, Magnesium 42, Sulphate 201, Chloride 118, Sodium 21.

Interesting comment about the head - I hadn't thought about it retaining the flavour but it makes sense. Fortunately the head has been pretty good when poured. I calculated the beer line length to give a pint pour of around 10s and that gives a decent but not excessive head.

Appreciate the recipes IainM - first one is going to be my next batch :) I'm going to try your suggestion of dry hopping cooler, especially as I do notice the hops sitting on the top of the carboy. One other option that I've considered is racking to demijohns with no head space - I'm pleased to hear that you've had positive results using this method. Have you tried agitating the hops whilst dry hopping? I read one of the Brulosophy experiments where this seemed to result in a rapid release of hop aroma.

Lots of suggestions here, much appreciated. Time to get brewing again!
 

Martybhoy

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I use the malt miller too so I don't think you have a quality issue. They're good hops.

I recently made a tropical IPA. The wort smelled like fresh pineapple. I was so excited. The final beer, although really good, didn't live up to the promising smell during fermentation and bottling. I find the same with coffee: it never tastes as good as it smells.

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IainM

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Wow, thanks for the great feedback everyone! To answer a few questions, first: I throw the pellets in with no bag; the hops themselves smell incredible and the brew fridges I use smell unbelievably fruity. Perhaps that added to my disappointment with the finished product. The hops are from Malt Miller and I'm really happy with the nitrogen flushed packaging so I suspect that they're decent.

Perhaps the keg to glass timing is too short - I only wait for around 5 days or until the batch is carbonated. My thinking was that the hop flavour/aroma would diminish if I waited too long but it sounds as though it may still be developing. I'll try to be more patient with the next batch :D

Re the water profile, the water here is incredibly hard with silly amounts of bicarbonate. However, I add gypsum and calcium chloride to bring down the buffering power whilst maintaining a sulphate to chloride ratio of around 1.7. I also add a little lactic acid to the infusion water, aiming for a mash ph of 5.2-5.4. My adjusted water composition (in ppm) is Calcium 170, Magnesium 42, Sulphate 201, Chloride 118, Sodium 21.

Interesting comment about the head - I hadn't thought about it retaining the flavour but it makes sense. Fortunately the head has been pretty good when poured. I calculated the beer line length to give a pint pour of around 10s and that gives a decent but not excessive head.

Appreciate the recipes IainM - first one is going to be my next batch :) I'm going to try your suggestion of dry hopping cooler, especially as I do notice the hops sitting on the top of the carboy. One other option that I've considered is racking to demijohns with no head space - I'm pleased to hear that you've had positive results using this method. Have you tried agitating the hops whilst dry hopping? I read one of the Brulosophy experiments where this seemed to result in a rapid release of hop aroma.

Lots of suggestions here, much appreciated. Time to get brewing again!
No worries. Yes, I have tried agitating the hops. In fact, the first recipe I gave there I kicked up all the hop debris at the same time as adding the second load of hops, trub and everything. I did this while trying to disturb the top as little as possible to avoid getting O2 in there; turning the spoon so that where it crosses the surface there is very little disturbance, but still agitating the bottom, a bit like this, stirring around a fixed node point at the surface:


I also did a BIPA experiment where I racked to four different 5L plastic bottles and gave each a different combination of dry hops (piney, dank, and two citrussy). After adding the dry hops I could squeeze out the excess air before putting the caps on, so there was no head space at all. I gave them a good shake, turned them upside down, etc.., every 12 hours or so. Hop aroma was good for all of them, and the amarillo/centennial one has a superb fresh hop aroma which didn't disappoint.
 

pms67

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In his book Brew by James Morton he reckons most home brew recipes have a hop deficit of three or more,maybe it's time we all loosened the purse strings a bit and added a shed load more hops?

DSC_1213.jpg
 

MmmBeer

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If you hover your cursor over the member's username or avatar, it should show you when they last logged into the forum. For ComradeAles, it says Dec 2017, so my guess is that he didn't.
 

baldockm

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If you hover your cursor over the member's username or avatar, it should show you when they last logged into the forum. For ComradeAles, it says Dec 2017, so my guess is that he didn't.
Aha, good tip.
 

crescent city Mike

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My efforts at consistent aroma are hit and miss. However, in the flavor department, I started using first wort hopping and it is exceptional. As has been pointed out, FRESH hops that haven't been sitting in the sun on a loading dock somewhere, make all the difference.
 

Brew_DD2

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Fresh hops and minimising oxygen exposure were the biggest thing for me. And when I say biggest things, I mean that my hoppy beers went from being incredibly muted and prone to changing colour to a purpley brown within 2 weeks, to remaining bright and very aromatic for weeks/months.
 

smcc

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I stick by the ratio in the new IPA book which has served me well about 8g per litre dry hop. I will usually only do bittering additions and whirlpool. O2 contact post fermentation can have a big influence on how long your flavour and aroma last especially in beers like NEIPAs so really ensuring purged keg, closed transfer if possible. I also keep my hops in the freezer rather than fridge to try to slow down any degradation. And I will also usually order what I need for a brew or max 2 so that I am not keeping them stored for any great length of time.
 

baldockm

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I appreciate the replies. Most things mentioned are broadly what I do in my process. One thing I never have considered for flavouring is first wort hops. Has anyone else increased their hop impact by doing this?

I have recently been using kviek at relatively high temperature. Perhaps that temp is just killing aroma/flavour from dry hops. I was under the impression that it was good practice to dry hop just before attenuation is complete, for oxygen reasons ... hence dry hopping while still at high temperature.

Next batch I will cold crash before adding dry hops. I’m determined to get there eventually
 
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