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International Bitterness Units

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The International Bitterness Units scale, or simply IBU scale, provides a measure of the bitterness of beer, which is provided by the hops used during brewing. An IBU is measured through the use of a spectrophotometer and solvent extraction. It is not equivalent to one part per million of isohumulone or isomerized alpha acid as is sometimes reported. Instead it is the result of an empirical formula whose development was based on tasting beer samples and correlating the perceived bitterness to a measured value which represented the total concentration of bitter compounds in the beer.

The bittering effect is less noticeable in beers with a high quantity of malt, so a higher IBU is needed in heavier beers to balance the flavor. For example, an Imperial Stout may have an IBU of 50, but will taste less bitter than an English Bitter with an IBU of 30, because the latter beer uses much less malt than the former. The technical limit for IBU's is around 100; some have tried to surpass this number, but there is no real gauge after 100 IBUs when it comes to taste threshold.

A light American lager might be as low as 5 on the scale, while a barley wine can range up to 100. Measures for other beverages include:

A formula craft brewers use to calculate IBU is:

Wh × AA% × Uaa ⁄ ( Vw × 1.34 ), where
  • Wh refers to the weight of the hops used, in ounces
  • AA% refers to the alpha acid percentage, which is influenced by many factors, including cultivation method, species, and time of year — hops are often sold labeled with this percentage
  • Uaa is the percentage of alpha acid that is actually used during the boiling process
  • Vw means the volume of the wort, in gallons
  • 1.34 is a constant factor that adjusts the measurement to account for the use of U.S. customary units

There are several different methods for finding Uaa, which can yield very different results. Generally, Uaa increases with longer boiling times and decreases with higher boil density.

References Edit

WikipediaLogoSmall This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at International Bitterness Units scale. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Beer Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0.

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