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Why do my IPAs disappoint?

I’ve been brewing all grain for about five years now. I have a very full life so don’t brew more than six to eight 5-gallon batches a year. I am generally happy with everything I brew except my IPAs. I just can’t get the hop bite in the flavor and aroma that is present in my favorite commercial IPAs.

The recipes I’ve used include Denny’s Rye IPA and several from BYO’s clone recipe edition, including Bell’s Two-Hearted, Lagunitas IPA and Sierra Nevada Celebration. The last one I did was a Celebration clone that Denny posted here. I adjust my tap water for mashing using EZ Water to acheive the ratio that EZ water says is appropriate for IPAs. And, I dry hop whenever the recipe calls for it.

Sometimes my IPAs have a decent hop flavor and aroma for a several weeks after bottling but it doesn’t last longer than that. I do keep beer around for a long time, I usually don’t drink more than 5-6 beers in an average week and I always have several styles on hand.

Could it be that the hop flavor and aroma are just dissipating over time, or are there some keys to brewing a good IPA that I am ignorant of? Hoping for some useful advice as American IPA is my favorite style and I would like to brew one that doesn’t dissapoint.

do you keep all your IPA’s in the fridge after their carbed?

Do you have enough sulfate in your water? This will help with hop bite.

Also, I’ve made two batches in the last couple of months and I used 10oz of hops in each 5gal batch. 2oz@60, 2oz@15, 2oz@5, 2oz@FO and 2oz dry hop. Its a lot of hops but it gets the job done. Maybe the hops we’re using are a little less fresh than what was used in the recipes.

Double the weight of your very late additions (including the dryhop) and dryhop for the week just prior to bottling at 68F and you’ll see a marked improvement in hop character.

Shadetree’s advice is excellent. My best IPAs, have also been the result of very fresh smelling hops. If you store bulk hops, you might want to buy some that have been sealed in Nitrogen for your finish/dry hops.

I was just reading an article on water in Zymurgy and there was a statement that sulfate/chloride should be 4:1 to 8:1 for pale ales. That surprised me a little.

One other thing you might consider. Hot and cold break takes some bitterness with it, and probably some of the oils. Doing a decoction mash causes protein to drop in the mash to a greater extent, so you get less in the kettle and therefore a greater utilization of hops.

It’s also been my experience that hope flavor & aroma fade rather quickly with time. I like my IPAs best when they are fresh. They seem to peak at 2-6 weeks from kegging.

+1 to this. I dry hop my pale ales and IPAs with no less than 2oz and sometimes as much as 3-4oz. You don’t get a hop “bite” from dry hopping, but a ton of aroma and flavor. I also bitter almost exclusively with Magnum. Gives that big hop bitterness bite, but it’s very neutral… letting the aroma and flavor additions really shine.

The sulfate/chloride ratio is not the criteria you want to use. I could have 10 ppm chloride and 80 ppm sulfate and meet a desirable ‘ratio’ but it won’t taste anything like 37.5 ppm chloride with 300 ppm sulfate (same ratio). The OP hasn’t mentioned what sulfate content is usually used in their IPA. Maybe its not high enough. I use 300 ppm sulfate and 55 ppm chloride.

Another big factor is kettle pH of the wort. If its too low, the hop expression can be reduced. You want to get the wort pH somewhere close to 5.4. That pH will drop during the course of the boil and ferment.

+1 on using Magnum as the primary bittering hop. Very clean and powerful. The result is a much cleaner beer with the bittering level desired. Definitely use a pile of late hops and dry hopping to build that hop flavor and aroma.

[quote=“mabrungard”]The sulfate/chloride ratio is not the criteria you want to use. I could have 10 ppm chloride and 80 ppm sulfate and meet a desirable ‘ratio’ but it won’t taste anything like 37.5 ppm chloride with 300 ppm sulfate (same ratio). The OP hasn’t mentioned what sulfate content is usually used in their IPA. Maybe its not high enough. I use 300 ppm sulfate and 55 ppm chloride.

Another big factor is kettle pH of the wort. If its too low, the hop expression can be reduced. You want to get the wort pH somewhere close to 5.4. That pH will drop during the course of the boil and ferment.

+1 on using Magnum as the primary bittering hop. Very clean and powerful. The result is a much cleaner beer with the bittering level desired. Definitely use a pile of late hops and dry hopping to build that hop flavor and aroma.[/quote]

Martin do you typically use the “Pale Ale Profile” when you’re brewing IPA?

Thanks for all the suggestions. Just checked Portland’s water report and the sulfate and chloride concentrations are very low. In fact sulfate is below the method reporting limit and chloride is only 2.7 ppm. To tell you the truth I’m not sure what my actual concentrations have been after adjustment. I’ve only paid attention to the ratio, the pH and if everything is within the ranges recommended by Palmer.

I think the first step is to bump up the sulfate and chloride concentrations to those recommended here and if that doesn’t do the trick then add more hops, also as suggested. Given the volume I brew, I don’t buy in bulk, but just before I brew and they come vacuum packed. Again, I appreciate all the advice and if folks have more, keep it coming!

5-6 beers in a week? You just need to step up the consumption:)

First I need to find more time for exercise …

[quote=“metron-brewer”]

Martin do you typically use the “Pale Ale Profile” when you’re brewing IPA?[/quote]

Yes, I find that the 300 ppm sulfate level is not excessive for my tastes. But I have to admit that my next PA will use a much lower sulfate level to check out AJ Delange’s contention that less sulfate is better. The good thing is that I can add sulfate to the finished beer if I find that its not to my liking.

By the way, Colin Kaminski prefers sulfate levels well in excess of 300 ppm. So this ion is definitely one that may have varying taste preference.

That Pale Ale profile was taken from ProMash and from Randy Mosher and adjusted to create a ionically balanced profile. If you haven’t downloaded the 1.13 version of Bru’n Water, the Pale Ale profile was altered a bit to recommend a lower bicarbonate concentration to use as the first guess. The bicarbonate content is more likely to be about right for many PA’s and IPA’s.

[quote=“mabrungard”]The bicarbonate content is more likely to be about right for many PA’s and IPA’s.[/quote]Bicarbonate at 180ppm? Why so high?

Its 110 ppm. With over 400 ppm hardness, the RA is still -20. That is in the ball park for a PA or IPA with 10% crystal.

Interesting thread.

Martin - I’d love to hear what your observation is in the above experiment.

[quote=“mabrungard”]Its 110 ppm. With over 400 ppm hardness, the RA is still -20. That is in the ball park for a PA or IPA with 10% crystal.[/quote]I didn’t update the bru’nwater at work, it’s still at v1.12 (explains the 180 vs 110). So I d/led 1.13 and ran through a quick APA recipe with 10% 40L (SRM 7) using 100% tap water and then 100% DI, adding enough gypsum and chloride to hit 300ppm and 55ppm respectively, with a resulting mash pH of 5.4 with tap and 5.3 with DI and bicarbonate at 60 tap and 16 DI.

Would the difference in bicarbonate be big enough to notice in the final product?

The bicarbonate concentration in the Bru’n Water profiles are first guesses only. The brewer should then use the results of the mash pH estimate to adjust the actual value up or down to meet their mash pH goal. The new Bru’n Water profiles only get those first guesses closer to reality.

PAlmer and Kaminski wrote the water article in Zymurgy. Id agree the absolute levels of sulfate and chloride are important too.

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