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Dry Hopping 101
As most of you know, late hopping are those hops dropped in the beer for 5 minutes or so at the end of the wort boil. Late hopping aroma is more intense and since little boiling is involved, there is less oxidation and the aroma of the beer more closely resembles that of the raw whole hops. The aroma from dry hopping is even more stable and intense than when late hop additions are used.
Hops have two components: resins and essential oils. The resins are alpha acids and are changed when boiled to yield iso-alpha-acids. It is iso-alpha-acids that provide the bitterness in beer. The essential oils in hops are responsible for the hoppy “bouquet” or aroma in the beer. Essential oils are very volatile and boil off if they are added early in the boil. Adding hops late in the boil attains aroma. It allows the oils to be retained in the wort. Late hop additions usually occur from 5 to 10 minutes left in the boil.
Dry hopping allows even more of the essential oils to remain in the fermented beer.
Ways to Dry Hop
There are basically three forms of dry hopping:
· Adding hops to the primary.
· Adding hops to the secondary.
· And adding hops in the keg.
Hopping in the Primary Fermenter
This practice is not a good one (in my opinion) because there is aroma “gassed off” with the escaping CO2 formed during fermentation. There is also the possibility of wort contamination and the possibility of hops clogging the blow-off tube when hops are added too early. As an alternative, wait until the beer is almost through fermenting (.004 or .005 gravity points left) and then add the dry hops. This may be a method homebrewers might like to try, especially on their beers which will be stored for long periods of time (Barley Wines or Old Ales) plus the alcohol present in the beer will help with the possibility of bacterial infection from the hop addition.
Dry Hopping in the Secondary
This is done for three reasons:
· Blowoff issues (hops plugging the blowoff tube)
· To retain the most aromatics as possible.
Add the dry hops into the secondary after it is transferred from the primary fermenter. I recommend using a hop bag, especially if pellets are used.
Dry Hopping in the Keg
Depending on the amount of storage time, some think the length of time the hops are exposed to the beer in the keg gives it too much of a “grassy” or “oily” flavor. There are also some brewers who have never had any problems keeping hops in their kegs for up to four of five weeks. One trick is to use a stainless tea ball and a length of dental floss. The tea ball sinks to the bottom and the dental floss allows you to tie it all off on the outside of the keg but still maintain a good seal on the lid. A week is good when dry hopped warm, or up to three or four weeks when dry hopped at lager temps. Let your taste buds decide when it is time to pull out the hops.
Contamination is unlikely when the dry hops are added near the end of fermentation. The alcohol helps keep any possible contamination to a minimum. There also is not much residual sugars left in the beer, there is not sugar for the bacteria to eat. There is an anti-microbial effect hops bring to the beer that helps with this issue.
What Hops to use for Dry Hopping
Aroma hops are those with low alpha acid content (less than 6% AA) and high essential oil content that impart “bouquet.” “Noble” hops are perfect examples as are most of the low alpha acid varieties. Hops such as Saaz, Tettnanger, Hallertauer, Goldings, Fuggles, Cascade and Williamette fall in this catagory. There are exceptions. Some hops fall into the “dual use” category and have very good aromatic and flavor characteristics as well as good bittering properties. Some high alpha acid hops often used with good results for dry hopping. Examples of these are Chinook (12-14% AA) and Columbus (14-16% AA). It is a good idea to use the regionally traditional hop varieties for dry or late hopping your beer. For instance, English beers are dry hopped with East Kent Goldings and American beers are dry hopped with Cascade.
Dry Hopping Duration
A good rule for an average amount of aroma is one ounce of hops in 5 gallons of beer for 10 days to two weeks at between 60 and 70°F (16 to 21°C). For homebrewers who like a lot of hop aroma, try using 2 oz per 5 gallons for a moderate hop nose. For bigger beers, try as much as 4 oz per 5 gallons for that “over the top” aroma found in American IPA’s or big pale ales. The real answer to the question of how much hops to use is, “use what it takes to attain what you want.” More than 4 oz per 5 gallons may be pushing the upper limit but that is what Americans are famous for, pushing the limits of accepted practice.Lagers are generally not dry hopped but get their aromas from late hop additions, but when making a hop forward beer style (primarily ales), try dry hopping next time and see if you like the results.
Tips for Dry Hopping Success
· Rack off the trube in the primary to remove as much yeast as possible.
· Keep your beer as cool as possible while dry hopping, in the low to mid 60’s °F (16-20°C) is best.
· Cool the vessel you are using to dry hop in down to between 32-36° F (0°-2°C) to attain as much clarity in the beer as possible before bottling or kegging.
· Stir the beer (trying not to add oxygen) to keep the hops in contact with more of the beer in your vessel.
· Use a hop bag, especially if you are dry hopping with pellet hops.