Comparing First Wort Hopping to 60 minute Bittering Additions

drew's picture

Some studies have shown that First Wort Hopping (FWH) actually produces about 10 percent more measureable IBUs than a 60-minute addition, but it tastes less bitter. Is this true? Should we all be First Wort Hopping our beers. Wait a tick - what's First Wort Hopping? Simple - it's a process of adding a hop addition into the boil kettle immediately as you begin running off from the mash tun. The hops stay in and you boil them for the full time of the boil. Reports of a single German study hit American homebrewers saying "Oh, old German technique - smooth bitterness." But really - does it result in smoother bitterness? Some folks claim it's all a crock and really you've just added more time to the bittering hops. Others say something magical happens where bitter compounds get entrained into the kettle break. Let's give it a shot! (For what it's worth - this is one of Denny's classic experiments and these results will probably be rolled out into Brew Your Own N.B. - Another variant of FWH'ing is to move the 20 minute addition into the kettle during runoff and then proceed as usual, adding the 60 minutes hops at the start of the boil, etc. We'll be testing that separately.


Proposed By: 


How does the bittering from FWH compare to the bittering from a 60-minute addition?


There will be a qualitative noticeable difference between the FWH beer and the "standard" beer

Brewing Sessions Needed: 



Special Equipment/Process: 

  • Split the wort evenly into 2 equal sized boil kettles of similar shape
  • For one kettle, treat the hop addition as a FWH addition. For the second, use the hop addition at 60 minutes

Experimental Procedure: 

  1. Brew enough Experimental Pale to evenly split your wort into two kettles. Ensure that both kettles have equal volume and equal gravity values.
  2. Add your nominal 60-minute addition in one kettle as FWH before adding the wort.
  3. Steep the hops in the kettle while you sparge. Evenly split the sparge runoff between the 2 kettles.
  4. Bring both kettles to a boil.
  5. Add the same amount of the same hops as a 60-minute bittering charge to the other kettle after it comes to a boil. Boil both kettles for 60 minutes with no other hop additions.
  6. Ferment both batches in the same space and under the same conditions, especially temperature. Match the fermenters and other equpment.
  7. After fermentation subsides, record the length of fermentation and the final gravities.
  8. Package the two beers in exactly the same fashion. (Bottle primed with sugar, kegs and force carbonated, etc) - Record packaging methodology
  9. Perform a triangle test and record the results
  10. Ask the testers for their observations on the samples. DO NOT Reveal the Difference between the samples
  11. Discuss the results and record any further observations

Recipe Link:

Proposal Podcast: 

Results Podcast: 

Further Exploration Paths: 

How does moving the 20 minute addition to FWH in one batch affect the comparison to a beer with no FWH and the normal 60 and 20 minute additions?
CA_Mouse's picture
First Wort Hopping

I've FWH almost all of my IPAs since reading about the technique 2 years ago. In all that time, I've wondered if there was a vast difference between it and a standard 60 minute bittering addition. While I have no problem brewing the same Blonde that we did for the Yeast Experiment, my tasters and I found the malt flavor to be extremely low and bland. Rather than base 2-Row, Maris Otter or another 3L base malt would be better at balancing something that would need a fairly high charge of IBUs. I would suggest a FWH/60 minute and a 5 minute as the additions. This would provide a more interesting beer because the dark color would hide the perception of a Blonde Ale.



Whether or not this affects

Whether or not this affects the perception of bitterness (which I think it probably doesn't, but I'll wait for the data before I really commit to a camp), the one clear benefit to FWH for me is a reduced boilover risk! When I add 60m hops to an already rolling boil, I sometimes get a really foamy response thanks to the sudden appearance of nucleation points...FWH seems to avoid that.

twitter: @allawayr for some beer but primarily science thoughts

CA_Mouse's picture
I used to get excessive

I used to get excessive foaming too. I started using large hop sacks, but they would interfere with my pump (they would get stuck to my dip tube), so I purchased a hop basket with a 300 micro mesh. I can now drop my pellets into that without a fear of a boil over and the wort flows through it very well. I, also, recirculate directly into it to make certain that I get my wort to touch the hops.


Hmm - I might have to try

Hmm - I might have to try that! I just let my hops float freely into the beer. Of course, there's always fermcap as another option.

twitter: @allawayr for some beer but primarily science thoughts

LaCasaDelLupulo's picture

I am a bit late to submit results but, on Saturday March 19, we'll have one of the biggest beerfest in Mexico that is held in Ensenada Baja California. I will have some forms for people tasting the two beers to fill out their take on the two beers and submit the results...hope you can use the additional information.

Miguel Loza La Casa Del Lupulo

drew's picture
Absolutely - science never

Absolutely - science never sleeps!

Gashti_Doucher's picture
Is this experiment still going on?

This sounds like an experiment I'd be interested in doing. Have you collected all your data? Of not, I'd like to give it the old college try.



Alexander Gashti

Gashti_Doucher's picture
Extract with the experiment?

Sorry, just saw Drew's response to the previous posting. Please disregard my earlier question in this thread, but I have formulated a new question.

Why not extract in this experiment? This would involve fully reconstituting the same DME mass in the same volume of water in each pot. Assuming the pots are the same, I would assume no varibility between the two worts. Then add the FWH addition in one kettle as the wort is coming to a boil. In the other kettle, the traditional 60 minute addition would be added. The experiment could then be conducted in the same manner. 

I like the idea of using extract, because of product consistency and ease of use.



Alexander Gashti