Dry Hopping: Specific Uses and Techniques

Definition:

  • Dry Hopping is adding hops to the fermenter or keg after fermentation for the sole purpose of enhancing the beer’s aromas. It DOES NOT add bitterness.  The initial hops used during the boil is for extracting the alpha acids to provide bitterness. Late hop additions during the last minutes of the boil are done to accentuate the aromas but is not as efficient as dry hopping because the aromatic oils evaporate too quickly.

Using the Right Hops

  • For dry hopping you want to select hops that have low alpha acid content (x<6%) because those hops are high in aromatic oils. Match your hop to the style and origin of beer. 
  • Examples of hops with low alpha acid content: Cascade, Fuggles, Saaz, Crystal, Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Wiliamette, and Goldings.
  • However there are some “dual-used” hops (hops that are high in alpha acid content and high in aromatic oils). These are Chinook and Columbus.
  • Make sure you are using the freshest hops. Check for signs of oxidation like cheese-like aromas from the hops.
  • If you are fermenting your beer in a glass carboy with a narrow neck then you want to use plug or pellet hops for ease of accessibility. Pellets will sink after a while while whole and plug hops will float.
  • Keep in mind that when you add pellet hops there will be some foaming due to their large surface area that supports nucleation of CO2.
  • Pellets will also impart a very overpowering hop flavor and aroma because the lupulin glands have burst and all the aromatic oils went to the beer at once but don’t worry it will mellow out over time.
  • You can also use whole leaf hops as they tend to leave no residual matter behind.

How Much Do You Use

  • Typically you use 1-2 oz per 5 gallons. If you want a mild floral aroma then use less. If you seek a strong burst of hop aroma you can use 4 oz/5 gallons.

When to Dry Hop

  • You want to Dry Hop at the end of your primary fermentation because if you do it during, then a lot of the aromatic oils can be lost with the CO2 release. Also the hops can clog your blow-off tube.
  • Dry Hopping during your secondary fermentation ensures maximum exposure of the aromatic oils to your beer without the leftover yeast found in the primary. But because you are dry hopping past the aerobic phase of fermentation place a layer of CO2 over the surface of your beer to prevent oxidizing your hops compounds.

Dry Hopping Techniques

  • A mesh bag is optional if you are dry hopping in a carboy. It’s at the brewer’s preference if you want to remove the bag at the end or if you prefer just to separate the hops from beer when re-racking. But if you are using a keg then you MUST use a mesh bag so it doesn’t plug your keg.
  • You want your hops to remain suspended in your beer, not float on the top or sink to the bottom. A technique is to add an additional mass (like glass beads) to the mesh bag and and tie a string around it so you can control how deep the hops go. (But remember to sanitize your mesh bag and glass beads). Here is an example.
  • You can dry hop for 3 days in a carboy or for several weeks in a keg. Some say overexposure of the hops contribute a grassy, oily taste but it all depends on your preference.
  • Contamination is not a likely occurrence in dry hopping because A) it’s at the end of fermentation so the alcohol minimizes the risk of contamination, B) there’s not that many sugars left in the beer for bacteria to consume, and C) hops are antimicrobial so they are a poor environment for contaminants.
  • While dry-hopping make sure to keep temperatures in the low-mid 60s F.

References:

Brew Strong: Dry Hopping

Dry Hopping Beer

Dry Hopping: Enhanced Hops Aromas

Dry Hopping For Great Aroma

Dry Hopping Techniques

Get More Aroma with Dry Hopping

What Is Dry Hopping?

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