Dry hopping is a technique that has long been used in the brewing of beer both on a large scale and home brewing.
However, there have been lots of changes and developments which means that there are now new dry hopping techniques to choose from as well as the old ones.
If you are interested in dry hopping then keep reading – we have put together this helpful guide to tell you everything you need to know about dry hopping, how it works, and the best methods to use if you want to try it out yourself.
What Is Dry Hopping?
Dry hopping is a method where hops are added to your brew after fermentation but before packaging. This can be done at any time during the process, but most commonly happens around 10-14 days post-fermentation.
The goal of adding hops to beer is to add aroma and flavor to the beer. Hops contain essential oils which give them their characteristic bitter taste. These oils also help preserve the beer by protecting against oxidation.
The main reason why brewers do dry hop is for preservation purposes. If they don’t dry hop then the beers will oxidize (turn brown) much faster than normal.
It is recommended that you store your beer in bottles or cans rather than kegs because these containers are better able to protect the beer from oxidation.
How Does Dry Hopping Work?
To understand how dry hopping works, firstly you need to know what yeast does when fermenting.
During fermentation yeast produces alcohol and CO2 gas. The CO2 gas pushes up the pressure inside the bottle/keg and helps maintain carbonation levels.
When the fermentation is complete the yeast dies off leaving behind its own residue. This residue is known as ‘yeast cake’ and is usually found at the bottom of the fermenter.
When you add hops to your brew you are effectively adding more yeast to the mix. As mentioned above, the yeast creates CO2 gas which helps to push up the pressure inside the container.
By adding hops to the fermenter, you are essentially creating an additional layer of yeast which increases the amount of CO2 produced.
This increase in CO2 causes the pressure inside the container to rise and therefore prevents oxygen from entering the container. This is called ‘oxygen lock’ and is one of the reasons why dry hopping preserves beer so well.
Another benefit of using dry hopping is that it gives the beer a longer shelf life. In fact, some people even say that dry hopped beer tastes better than regular beer. This is due to the increased protection that the hops provide.
Wet Hop Dry Hopping VS Dry Hopping
There are two types of dry hopping: wet and dry. Wet hopping involves adding hops directly into the fermenter while dry hopping involves adding hops to the finished product.
Both methods work equally well and dry hopping is just another way of doing wet hopping.
Wet hopping is the traditional method of dry hopping’. You simply add hops to the fermenter during primary fermentation.
The problem with this method is that it requires you to open the fermenter every few days to top up the wort with fresh hops. This is not ideal as it means you risk introducing unwanted bacteria into the batch.
Also, if you have too many hops in the fermenter they may cause problems such as stuck fermentation.
Dry hopping is the preferred method of dry hopping. To dry hop, you simply add hops to the finished beer after packaging. This method has several advantages over wet hopping.
Firstly, there is no risk of introducing unwanted bacteria into the beer. Secondly, the amount of hops added can be controlled easily.
Thirdly, the hops are already dissolved in the beer making them easier to use. Finally, you only need to add hops once the beer has been packaged.
The main disadvantage of dry hopping is that you cannot control the timing of the addition.
For example, if you want to dry hop for 3 weeks then you will need to start adding hops 1 week before the end of the lagering period.
If you do not do this then you run the risk of having stale or oxidized hops.
The best time to add hops to the beer would be around 2-3 weeks prior to kegging. This allows enough time for the hops to dissolve into the beer but still leaves plenty of time for the beer to mature.
How Much Should I Dry Hop?
This depends on how long you intend to keep the beer. Generally speaking, beers that are going to be consumed within 6 months should be dry hopped for at least 4 weeks.
Long term storage (more than 12 months) requires a longer dry hop period. It also depends on what style of beer you are brewing. Some styles require more hops than others.
For example, IPAs usually contain lots of citrus flavors and these tend to dominate the flavor profile of the beer. Therefore, you might consider adding fewer hops to IPA’s than other styles.
What Type Of Hops Should I Use?
There are hundreds of different varieties of hop available. However, most home brewers stick to American varieties like Cascade, Amarillo, and Centennial.
These hops impart a lot of fruity and floral aromas which complement the malt flavors in the beer. They also give the beer a strong bitterness.
If you want to try something new then you could experiment with some European varieties such as Styrian Goldings, Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Saaz.
These hops impart a spicy aroma and bittering properties similar to those found in German varieties. They also make excellent additions to pale ales and porters.
Whole Leaf VS Pellet
Whole leaf hops are generally considered to be better than pellet hops. Whole leaf hops are freshly picked from the vine and therefore retain their essential oils.
On the other hand, pellets are made by drying whole leaf hops and grinding them down. Although pellets have a higher oil content than whole leaf hops they lack the essential oils.
As a result, pellets are often used to impart a piney character to beer.
It is important to note that both types of hops impart the same bitterness level. The difference lies in the intensity of the aroma and the mouthfeel.
When using whole leaf hops it is recommended that you crush them first. This helps to release the oils from the hops and makes them easier to work with.
Loose Hops VS Bagged Hops
If possible, let your hops roam free when brewing. It results in a better aroma as well as superior beer contact.
It is also easier, as getting the hop bag in and out of the fermentation container is quite a hassle.
The beer is able to move around through the hops more freely, increasing the surface area of hops that comes into contact with the beer and therefore intensifying the flavor.
If you must use a bag, make sure it is large enough so that the hops are not packed tightly together.
Double Dry Hopping
Double dry hopping refers to adding two batches of hops to the beer. One batch is added during fermentation and one batch is added after fermentation. Double dry hopping can produce interesting results.
The first batch of hops adds a fresh burst of aroma and bitterness while the second batch adds a deeper layer of complexity.
When double dry hopping you must ensure that the total amount of hops added is equal to the original gravity of the wort.
This means that if your original gravity was 1065 then you need to add 1065 grams of hops.
If you don’t do this then you will end up with too much bitterness. You may also find that the extra hops cause problems when bottling or keg conditioning.
When adding the second batch of hops you should always wait until all fermentation has finished before adding the hops. This ensures that there is no risk of contamination.
What Is Keg Hopping?
Keg hopping is the process of adding hops directly to the fermenter. This is done at the end of primary fermentation.
Once the yeast has been killed off, the remaining sugars in the beer are converted into alcohol. At this point, the hops are added to the fermenter.
This method of dry hopping allows the hops to come into direct contact with the beer.
This increases the amount of time the hops spend in contact with the beer and thus improves the aroma and flavor.
The main drawback to using this technique is that some of the hops will end up stuck on the side of the vessel. This can lead to an unpleasant taste in the beer.
To avoid this problem, it is best to use a secondary fermenter.
How Long Should I Let My Beer Age?
The length of time that you leave your beer aging depends on what style of beer you are making.
Most styles require anywhere between 3-6 months for optimal flavor development. However, many people like to drink their beers sooner than this.
For example, IPAs tend to be ready to drink within 2 weeks of being brewed.
There are several factors which affect how long you want to age your beer. These include:
- Alcohol Content – A higher ABV (alcohol by volume) usually requires longer aging times.
- Original Gravity – Higher OG’s often result in beers with less body and flavor. Therefore they require longer aging times.
- Style – Some styles such as stouts require very little aging time. Others such as pale ales have a lot of character and need to be aged for longer periods.
- Temperature – Lower temperatures slow down the rate of oxidation and allow the flavors to develop over a longer period of time.
Using Pressure In Dry Hopping
Pressure is used in conjunction with dry hopping to increase the amount of hop oils released into the beer. When pressure is applied to the hops, more oil is released from the cones. This makes them easier to dissolve in the beer.
To apply pressure to the hops, place them in a mesh bag and hang them in the refrigerator overnight. This speeds up the release of the oils.
If you are planning on using a filter bag then make sure that you only use a nylon filter bag. The polypropylene bags can clog easily.
If you are not planning on filtering your beer through a bag then you can simply put the hops in a muslin cloth and tie it around the neck of a bottle. This works well if you do not plan on kegging or bottling your beer.
When applying pressure to the hops, try to keep the level of CO2 low. This helps prevent the hops from floating away and escaping into the atmosphere.
The French Press Technique
The French press technique involves placing whole hops in a French press and pressing them against the bottom of the glass. This releases all the essential oils into the beer. It also reduces the chance of the hops floating away.
The downside to this technique is that it does not work well for large amounts of hops. If you plan on doing a lot of dry hopping then you may find yourself having to buy a second French press.
Another great use for the French press technique is to quickly test the aromas of the hops and mix a small amount with a single pint of beer, let the flavors mingle, and see how it works.
If you like the combination you can add the hops in on a larger scale.
You might think that dry hopping is a simple method used when brewing beer. In fact, dry hopping has developed and grown into an exciting and varied branch of brewing.
There are different types of dry hopping, different equipment you can use, and lots of results that you can achieve.