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If your reading this, you’re probably curious about how to get that next batch of homebrew beer a little better then the last.
Every homebrewer has their own opinion on what makes great tasting beer, but dry hopping is one step in the brewing process which can make a HUGE difference in overall taste of your beer.
Professional breweries use dry hopping to bring out extra hop aromas in their beer, but it’s a method that isn’t just for the commercial brewer. It is also a simple process that the DIY homebrewer can do, that will add another dimension to their homebrewed beer too.
What is the purpose of dry hopping homebrew?
Dry hopping, or to add hops after fermentation has completed, is an age old method of adding fresh, floral, and/or a fruity aroma and flavor to your beer, without adding any additional bitterness.
Some highly hopped beers such as IPAs and Pale Ales rely entirely on dry hopping for their hoppy character. However, it is important to use the right hops at the right time when dry hopping your beer in order to get the greatest possible hop aroma.
When Is The Best Time To Dry Hop Your Beer?
We already know that dry hopping is the best way to add fresh hop aromas to your beer, but when is the best time to add the hops for the biggest flavor?
Although you can dry hop during primary fermentation, it is usually not the first choice for homebrewers for a couple of reasons.
If you dry hop during the active primary fermentation period, not only will the CO2 escape through the airlock, much of the hop aromas will be pushed out too, which defeats the purpose.
Also, adding hops to the beer while fermentation is still active, can also cause an increased haziness to the beer, and might cause a different taste and aroma than you were expecting because of the chemical reactions during fermentation.
One big risk with adding the hops to a beer that hasn’t finished fermenting is the possibility of the airlock or blow-off tube becoming clogged and making a huge mess. So if you are set on dry hopping in during primary, just make sure that fermentation has completed.
You already know the oxidation risks that come along when you transfer the beer from one vessel to another. But the most common way to dry hop is in a secondary fermenter.
After racking the beer from the primary fermenter to another fermenter, you just add the hops on top of the beer, and let it do its job.
Using a muslin cloth steeping bag is easy to add and remove from a 5 gallon plastic bucket, but not so much when using a carboy. Using a dry hopping tube that is made for a carboy will keep most, if not all of the hop material contained inside of the fine stainless steel mesh filter, and out of the beer.
In The Keg
You can also add dry hop in your keg, but the key is to eliminate the risk of oxygenation when doing so.
Hop pellets will float around, infusing the beer, but will eventually settle at the bottom of the keg. Just loosely throwing the hop pellets can cause a problem, and clog the dip tube and beer lines.
The best way is to put the pellets in a hop bag with something like marbles for extra weight, which will keep the hops safely on the bottom of the keg. Put the bag in the keg first, then rack the beer on top.
Whole leaf hops will not sink to the bottom like pellets will, but instead will stay on the surface of the beer. You will not get the full effects of the hops, unless you also use a muslin bag or a dry hopper filter that is made specifically for a Cornelius keg.
After 2 to 5 days, the hops have done all they can, and should be removed. If left in too long, they can impart unusual and unwanted off-flavors in the beer. As with all methods, you need to remove the hops without adding oxygen to the beer.
Hop Variety and Forms
The choice is up to you and the style of beer you are brewing. Do you want more of a fruity/tropical aroma, or more of a floral aroma?
Both Citra and Cascade hops are good from dry hopping and have very pronounced citrus and spicy aromas, but you can experiment and choose whatever hop you want.
You can make your hop decision a bit easier, especially if it’s your first time, by just using the same aroma hops that your beer recipe called for.
As far as the hop form goes, whole leaf varieties from your local home brew shop, or hops you grew yourself are perfectly fine to use, but hop pellets are often the preferred choice for homebrewers, because they do not absorb as much beer as whole leaf hops, and they are also more affordable.
But whatever one you choose, just make sure you are using the freshest hops you can possibly find.
How Much Should You Use?
The amount of hops you use comes down to your personal preference. For a 5 gallon batch of beer, you could use anywhere from .5 ounces, up to 6 ounces or more.
Depending on your beer recipe, you will have more hop aromas if you added additional hops during the last 1 to 5 minutes of the boil, so it might be a good idea to start with less and be more on the conservative side.
Can You Dry Hop Too Long?
The answer to the age-old question “Can you dry hop too long?” is “yes.”
Not all varieties of hops are the same, and they release their flavors at different times and in different ways.
If you leave hops in too long, they will begin to break down, and your beer can take on a grassy, dank, or otherwise undesirable taste. It can also result in a hazy, yeasty-looking brew that won’t look so good.
Dry hopping doesn’t have to be difficult, and is a great tool for improving the taste of your beer. Adding hops to already fermented beer is by far the most popular technique for home brewers that will give their beers a clean and robust hoppy aroma.
One of my favorite additions to any beer is dry hopping. It’s just one of those things that can either make a beer good or great (and sometimes both!)
Like stated above, dry hopping in the primary, secondary, or a keg are 3 ways it can be done. As far as containing the hops or not, some brewers just say toss it in, and let it do it’s job, while others prefer use a muslin bag or hop filter.
There will always be debates about the best way to brew beer, and that includes dry hopping too. Being able to experiment with different techniques is what makes homebrewing so cool.
But no matter which method you use, the quality of the hops you use is probably the most important factor of all.
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