Hopping Techniques

With the popularity of IPAs and hoppy beers in general, there have been many techniques developed to add hop flavors, aromas and other sensations in these beers.

Of course everyone uses kettle hopping, that is adding hops to the kettle during the wort boiling. Early additions effect the overall finish of the beer, where the later hoppings add more aroma and flavor.

Dry hopping is the second most popular form of hopping, that is adding hops after fermentation for a lot more of the late hopping effects. This does have disadvantages due to a risk of contamination, and over-hopping adds grass and hay flavors and can expose beer to oxygenation.

What you may not know about are these:

Mash hopping: This technique adds whole or pellet hops into the mash tun during the mashing process. This technique was used in the early 20th century with the theory that the added oxygen and higher Ph value in the pre-boiled water would allow more volatile compounds into the beer. The down side is this procedure is that it only adds depth of hop flavors in the finish that won't be much more detectible in the final product.

First wort hopping: This is similar in theory to mash hopping. Hops are added as the first wave of wort off the mash tun is put in the brew kettle. It basically allows hops to be in contact with the wort longer, but once again the result is the same, it adds depth to the hop finish without a big rise in detectability in the aroma or up front flavor. If you want depth in the finish, this is a perfect procedure.

Hopback hopping: I had never heard of a hopback until I had a friend build one. A hopback is essentially a filter using leaf hops to filter off sediment from the wort before it goes through the wort chiller. Brewers add hops to the hopback since it not only is an excellent way to filter out spent hops and trub, but like all late hopping does, it adds significant hop aroma and flavor to the wort. Another advantage is that if you are doing another batch right away, the hops from the hopback still have significant alpha acids to use them as a bittering hop in your next batch.

Whirlpool hopping: A lot of commercial brewers take advantage of this process. Whirlpools are used to separate trub from the wort, and since the beer is still hot, it can add up around 25% bitterness to the aroma and flavor of the beer. Remember that most essential oils are put extracted into the wort above 185º F (85º C.). Hop pellets are the medium of choice with this procedure since they are the most efficient type of hops and they will eventually separate out of the final wort.

Overhopping! Contrary to popular belief, you CAN over hop! There is a limit to how much iso-alpha acid that can be extracted into the wort. The higher the original gravity, the more alpha-acid can be absorbed. Too many hops can cause a vegetative flavor or fresh cut grass flavors that will dominate the beer. More is not always better!

As always, one thing about being a homebrewer, we can play with these procedures and find the combination that adds something special to your version of an IPA.

Until next edition, happy homebrewing!.

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