First wort hopping?


Trial Member
May 29, 2013
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I've been researching first wort hopping and want to try it on my next batch. Most articles state that you will get more IBUs from the hops but it will end up as a smoother more refined hop flavor. But, the brewing software drops my IBUs from 32 to 22 when I select first wort instead of 60min boil. Will this be the perceived IBUs and that's why its 22 or will it actually be 22?

How long should I leave the hops in the wort before starting the boil to get that smoothness out of them?

Put the hops in as soon as there is wort (first runnings), or for extract brewing put the hops and extract in together while bringing the kettle to a boil.

As for the IBUs - yeah there is a lot of debate on this issue. Our calculator treats it as a 20 minute boil addition. There is a lot of information out there that references that figure. There is also a theory it should be treated as a 60 or 90 minute boil addition (whatever the boil time actually is), with a 10%+ IBU boost. These are both estimates and there hasn't been much research to my knowledge.

Eventually we may opt for a user level setting that lets each person decide how FWH bitterness is factored in.
Either way is comes out I think I'll be happy with it. It can be higher or lower I just want to taste/smell that "smoothness" from it. I'll be doing a 90min boil but there doesn't seem to be a big difference between 60 and 90.
I do extract brewing and my experience with FWH is that it comes off closer to 60+ minute boil (however long it takes to get the water up to a boil with the extract + the 60 minute boil time). For that reason, I would dial it down a bit over what shows on the calculator. I'm not well-versed in all-grain, so there might be some differences in there vs. the extract method in terms of flavor and bitterness, but I found the bitterness to be greater than what I had gotten from the calculator.
I FWH in many of my beers and find that the 20 minute numbers for IBU contribution are very close. What I do find is that it seems to give a smooth complexity and deeper flavor profile than just a 20 min addition.
You won't go wrong by trying it.
It's beer after all and it's all good!
I support either giving the option to the user to set their own IBU from FWH, or to calculate it as a full boil addition (maybe even +10%, or something). It appears to me that the consensus is that the IBUs from FWH are greater or equal to a full boil addition (regarding tested IBUs). The lack of consensus is only as to whether the perceived bitterness is lower and whether the hop flavour/aroma is enhanced or modified in some positive way, but even there I'm sceptical (but I would be very happy to be disproved).
This is a good idea and something we should consider as a user controlled option.