What are Balling Degrees, Hop Back, and IBU: Brewing Terminology Tuesday
Balling Degrees Balling degrees is a term referring to the sugar density in your wort. You can also describe the sugar density in your wort as Brix or Plato degrees. All three of these terms are interchangeable, and are used when determining the specific gravity and final gravity of your homebrew. Balling degrees was established in 1843 by Karl Balling, and is the oldest of the three measuring systems. Balling degrees measures your specific gravity to 3 decimal places. The best way to determine the conversion of your specific gravity to Balling degrees is to divide the number behind the decimal point by 4. For example, a gravity of 1.032 has 32 gravity points. Divide that by 4, and you determine that your beer has 8 degrees Balling. Hop Back A hop back is a device used to add a hoppy flavor and aroma to your beer using the oils that would have otherwise been lost had your hops been in the boil. Macro and micro-breweries can use intricate, large hop backs, while homebrewers can create a hop back with some simple equipment. The most common way to use a hop back is to run just-boiled wort through a chamber holding your hops into your wort chiller or fermenter. You would typically use 1-2 oz of hops in your hop back for a 5 gallon batch of homebrew. We have seen a lot of inventive hop backs in the homebrew community. Just remember the main goal is to get your hops as much surface contact with the wort as possible before you begin fermentation. What hop back device you use will also depend on your brewing set-up: if you siphon your beer from the kettle to your fermenter, you can use a strainer device at the end of the siphon with the hops inside. This way the hot wort would flow through your hops before reaching the fermenter. If you are using a Mr. Beer kit, you can use a strainer on top of the opening with the hops laying in the strainer. Pour your wort slowly through the strainer, over the top of your hops, straight into the fermenter. If you are looking for more ideas, here is HomeBrew Academy's "7 Ways to Filter Your Hops." IBU IBU stands for "International Bitterness Units," and is the universal system used to describe the hop bitterness in a finished beer. This isn't to say how bitter YOU perceive the beer, but what levels of class of bitter compounds are found in your beer. The IBU scale has been created by the American Society of Brewing Chemists. At large breweries, the quality control team will perform chemical tests on their beers to determine the IBU. This elaborate process involves all sorts of chemistry equipment and big, chemical words that hurt your head to read, but as more and more people begin to familiarize themselves with craft beer, knowing the IBU of the beer they are drinking can be very important to them. Therefore, this convoluted chemistry process is necessary. Now, if you are a simple homebrewer, how do you find the IBU without going back to school for your B.S. in Chemistry? Check out some of the many IBU calculators on the internet. They allow you to plug in your recipe and then does all the work for you! One of our favorites is Brewer's Friend IBU calculator: http://www.brewersfriend.com/ibu-calculator/ If even that is too much work, you can make educated assumptions on IBU based on the type of beer you are drinking. An average American lager will have an IBU somewhere around 10, meaning it isn't very bitter. On the other hand, a typical IPA will have an IBU hovering between 40 and 60 IBUs. This is because all the hop additions that are used in IPAs, therefore raising their bitterness levels. Below, you will find a chart of all the beer styles you could possibly imagine, and their general IBUs. Enjoy, beer nerds!
Beer Style IBU
Altbier Hybrid* 24-30
American Dark Lager 14-20
American Lager 5-15
American Light Lager 8-17
American Premium Lager 13-23
American Wheat 10-17
Barley Wine 50-100
Belgian Brown Ale 15-25
Belgian Dubbel 10-25
Belgian Tripels 14-25
Berliner Weisse 3-6
Bitter, Extra Special 30-35
Bitter, Ordinary 20-25
Bock Lager 25-28
Bock, German Lager 20-30
Bock, Helles (Pale) Lager 20-35
Brown Ale 15-20
Brown Ale, American 25-60
Brown Ale, English 15-25
California Common 33-45
Cream Ale Hybrid 10-18
Dopplebock Lager 17-27
Dortmunder/Export Lager 23-29
Dunkel Lager 16-25
English Mild 14-20
English Old/Strong Ale 30-40
Fruit Beer Hybrid Varies
German Hefeweizen 10-16
Herb and Spice Beer Varies
Imperial Stout 50-80
India Pale Ale (IPA) 40-60
Kolsch Hybrid 20-30
Lambics 11-23
Light Ale 10-15
Marzen/Octoberfest Lager 22-28
Munich Dunkel Lager 14-24
Munich Helles Lager 18-25
Pale Ale, American 20-40
Pale Ale. Classic 20-40
Pale Ale, English 20-40
Pilsner, Classic Lager 35-45
Pilsner, Czech Lager 35-43
Pilsner, German Lager 30-40
Porter 20-60
Porter, Robust 25-40
Rauchbier 20-25
Saison 20-30
Scotch Strong Ale 25-35
Scottish Brown 5-20
Scottish Export 15-20
Scottish Heavy 12.17
Scottish Light Ale 10-15
Smoked Beer 20-30
Stout, Dry 30-35
Stout, Sweet (Cream) 15-25
Vienna Lager 18-25
Weizenbock 10-20
Weizen 13-17