How to Change the Bitterness or Hoppiness of your Homebrew

Hops play a big role in how your beer turns out. For those new to brewing, hops are what add the bitterness to the beer. When a brewer is new to the hobby, hops can be one of the most difficult items to master because there is not a great way to test out what the hops taste like before using them. We’ve heard of some ways to do it, but we find that simply experimenting with different kinds of hops can be the best solution.

One way to experiment with hops is to make multiple batches of the same wort, but vary the variety, amount, and timing of hop additions. A good beer style to practice on is pale ale. This is a type of beer known for its hoppiness, and provides a good base beer for your experimentation.

If you are finding that your beers are turning out too hoppy for your taste buds, start by looking at what the alpha acids are for that variety of hop. Our hops come labeled with the variety, and then a percentage AA. For example, Cascade Hops, 5.3% AA. The 5.3% AA is what is going to tell you the "hoppiness" of that variety. The higher the percentage, the more bitterness you can expect from the hops. Mild hops are usually around the 3.5% AA range, where a very bitter hop is around 12% AA. If the style of beer you are using has hops of 12% AA, it might be too bitter of a hop for you. Try one that is around 7% AA on your next batch.

Each variety of hop will have a different flavor profile, so sometimes the answer isn’t trying a different hops, but adjusting how much you use, or how long it boils for. For example, you’ve got this great pale ale, but you just feel it is a little too much for your American Light Lager drinking friends. No problem, you can still make the same beer, but we can tame it down a little bit with a simple adjustment.

You can do one of two things to fix this problem:

  1. Don’t use as many hops in the boil. If the recipe calls for 1 ounce of bittering hops, cut it down to &frac; ounce. The fewer hops that are used, the less bitterness you will get in your beer.
  2. Cut down the amount of time that the hops boil for. If the recipe calls for boiling your bittering hops for 30 minutes, cut it down to 15 - 20 minutes. The less time the hops are boiled for, the less the oils from that hops will be infused in the beer, therefore the less bitter it will be.

Do not do both things as you will really reduce the flavor of your beer. Try one or the other first, and then adjust from there if you need to. If your beers are turning out less hoppy than you like, do the opposite. Either add more hops, or increase the amount of time the hops boil. A word of warning on boiling the hops longer, sometimes the extra time can start to pull out a lot of tannin in the hops. This is a very earthy tone, sometimes very bitter as well. This can upset the flavor of the beer. So, our recommendation would be to add more hops for best results.

Hint: You can also dry hop if you want to add some more hop flavor to your beer. Check out our piece on, "What is dry hopping?" for more information.

My beer turns out too hoppy, or not hoppy enough, what can I do to change this? PDF