Dear Mr Wizard:
I was wondering if you could give us your expert opinion on whether or not you should 1) remove hops and 2) remove trub.
The only reason I can think of for removing hops is if one has a chiller that might get clogged. During racking into my keg, I also get some floating "junk" in my beer if I don’t first rack my beer from the primary fermenter into a secondary fermenter. Most of the time I just rack into my keg. Please help. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wonders about this, although my beer tastes good.
Mr. Wizard replies:
If you don’t mind the "junk" floating in your beer and you don’t reuse your yeast, then hop and trub removal are probably not necessary. For that matter, you probably don’t have to separate the wort from your malt. Seriously, a good beer could be made by mashing the malt, boiling the whole mash with hops, and then letting it cool before adding yeast. At the end of fermentation you could then separate the beer from the rest of the mess, perhaps with a straw equipped with a coarse filter. Many traditional "beers" are made in this manner and more closely resemble a porridge than a beverage. This is also how whiskey is made, but the liquid is separated through distillation.
Given the option, I would advise hop and trub removal because that is how beer as we know it is made. Leaving the hops in the fermenter will have a different flavor effect, and leaving the trub in the wort will also affect flavor. Furthermore, if you plan to reuse the yeast, a practice I recommend for several reasons, trub separation is advisable because trub leaves a film on the surface of the yeast cell, leading to longer lag times in subsequent fermentations. Also, you have better chances of brewing a clear beer if you remove sediment when you can.
I view brewing as a continual process of extraction and purification. Wort production extracts sugars, colors, and flavors from grain and releases bittering compounds and a wide variety of aromas from the hops. Yeast processes fermentables into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and flavor compounds. Some flavor compounds, such as sulfur aromas, are vented from the beer, and others are retained for their pleasant aromatic properties. Clear beer is then separated from yeast solids, often by using a filter or some sort of yeast fining. Finally, our body extracts the alcohol out of the beer and the whole process is brought full circle.
My philosophy is simple: When brewing beer, extract and purify when given the chance, especially if the action affects flavor positively. If removing something from the beer, for example yeast removal via filtration, is found to be detrimental to flavor, don’t remove it.
Mr. Wizard, BYO's resident expert, is a leading authority in homebrewing whose identity, like the identity of all superheroes, must be kept confidential.