I've always disagreed with the idea that dry hopping or late hopping added 0 IBUs to your end product. If I ever brewed a kit or recipe and followed the hop schedule exactly, it would pretty much always end up too bitter. I found out that my local water pH was high (8.0) when running into some astringency issues and wondered if that had anything to do with it. At first I thought it was the high sulfate content in my water so I did the following tests. What I ended up finding is that lower pH (more acidic water) lessened the perceived bitterness in various hop tea tests.
Two-water hop tea test
8 oz local tap water heated to 160F with 1 hop pellet CTZ (in PPM Ca=45,Mg=15,Na=65,SO4=125,Cl=50,HCO3=225)
8 oz distilled water heated to 160F with 1 hop pellet
Stirred and after 15 minutes examined. I noticed that with the tap water the hops didn't precipitate as much and clumped at the top. The local tap water produced a much more back-of-the tongue bitterness. I had two others test in a blind taste test and they all grimaced when they tasted the tap water hop tea. The aroma was similar if not more pronounced with the distilled water.
This led me to my next test, trying a cold hop test to mimic dry hopping.
8oz local tap water (see above) with 5 hop pellets CTZ, crushed and stirred. Sat 40F for 12 hours. 8oz distilled water with 5 hop pellets, crushed and stirred. 40F for 12 hours.
My results were similar to the hot hop tea experiment. The distilled water dry hop tea yielded a much less bitter result while the local tap water dry hop tea was very bitter and harsh.
I thought I had figured it all out, there was some correlation with either high sulfate or HCO3 content but I wanted to see if PH was the determining factor instead of mineral content. I had read that high mineral content accentuated hop bitterness (famously so in Burton water) but in my quest to trying brew a really nice IPA with great aroma and low perceived bitterness.
8oz local tap water (see above) with 5 hop pellets CTZ, crushed and stirred. Sat 40F for 12 hours. 8oz local tap water with 10 drops lemon juice, 5 hop pellets, crushed and stirred. 40F for 12 hours. No PH readings taken (broken pH meter)
To my surprise there was a big difference, it was very obvious that there was less bitterness with the acidic sample. Also on the high pH sample, the hops clumped at the top and left a clearer liquid. I couldn't notice a difference in aroma.
Can someone replicate this? Maybe someone with a good pH meter?