There are numerous ways to add bitterness to beers. The four main ways that I have used in my career are:
- Mash Hops
- A First Wort or pre-boil addition
- A 90 kettle addition
- A 60 minute addition
If I am brewing a sour or some other beer that requires very low IBU, I may do a 30-40 minute addition for bittering, but those are fairly rare cases. This may come a shock to some, but after having brewed the same recipe dozens of times, changing the bittering charge time, I have found that it makes ZERO difference in the flavor of the beer. The oils that give hops their wonderful aroma are extremely volatile and blow off very quickly. I have heard that a mash addition or a first wort addition can help “lock” in the flavor due to the low temperature and pH, but I have not found that to be true at all. That said, these concepts are fun play with. I would definitely recommend trying mash hopping and first wort hopping to see what you think.
This may come a shock to some, but after having brewed the same recipe dozens of times, changing the bittering charge time, I have found that it makes ZERO difference in the flavor of the beer.
Different hops and bitterness types
The one thing that I have noticed however, is that different hops can create a different “type” of bitterness, and with that, the addition times can be very important. For example, in my experience using Azacca for bittering, an extremely unpleasant, harsh bitterness is created. The same goes for Chinook. However, I have not found that using Cascades. This is very likely due to the Co-Humulone content of different hop varieties. Co-humulone, as has been explained to me by the owner of Crosby Hop Farm in Oregon, is generally a good indicator as to the bittering quality of a hop. If the co-humulone is high, the hop will have a much more harsh taste. Cascade’s co-humulone content is generally in the low 20% range whereas Azacca can clock in at a whopping 45%. Additionally, the typical hop added before the 60 minute addition will create a more harsh bitterness. That’s not to say that all hops will do that, but if you are unsure and don’t want too much bite, consider adding your bittering addition at 60 minutes just to be safe.
Roanoke Tasting Room Brewer