What is Dry Hopping

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In recent years dry hopping has become one of the more popular brewing techniques used by brewers to add flavor and aroma to their beers.  Many breweries even use the term dry-hopped directly in the name of their beers to promote them as having an abundance of hop flavor to would-be customers.

But what is dry hopping exactly, when in the brewing process should you do it, and what type of hop varieties should you use?  Read on to get the answer to those questions and more…

What is Dry Hopping?

Hops play a few important roles when it comes to making beer.  They balance out the sweetness of the malt by adding bitterness, they also add flavor and aroma.  What kind of hops and when you add them determines what they contribute to the beer.  

Bittering hops are added towards the start of the boil and provide the bitterness which comes from the alpha acids in the hops.  Flavor and aroma hops are added towards the end of the boil and also during fermentation, these attributes come from the volatile oils in the hops.  

They are called volatile oils because if they are boiled for any longer than 15 minutes the oils evaporate. This is why they are added towards the end of the boil and during fermentation in order to preserve the volatile oils and more importantly their flavor and aroma. The technique of adding the hops during fermentation is referred to as dry hopping.

How to Dry Hop  hops next to a pint of beer with the words what is dry hopping written to the left of the beer

Dry hopping simply involves adding hops directly into the fermenter and letting them infuse with the beer over a period of time allowing them to impart their flavor and aroma into the beer.  

The following are the things to consider when dry hopping…

Which Hop Variety to Use

Step one is to decide which variety of hop you are going to use.  Most brewers recommended using a variety that is known for providing aroma or flavor versus bitterness.  However, the choice is yours and many brewers do use hops that are traditionally considered bittering hops.

Flavor and aroma hops typically have lower alpha acid ratings, anything under 6%, and bittering hops would be any variety higher than 6%.

Popular hop varieties used for dry hopping are:

  • Citra
  • Cascade
  • Simcoe
  • Mosaic
  • Centennial
  • Chinook
  • Hallertau
  • Tettnanger
  • Fuggle
  • Saaz
  • East Kent Goldings
  • Willamette
  • Cyrstal

As you can see that is a good mixture of bittering, flavor, and aroma hops.  The choice is yours and it will depend on your personal preference.  Here at Make Beer Easy, we tend to use whatever hops we added towards the end of the boil as our choice for dry hopping.

When to Dry Hop

The second step is to make the decision of when you are going to add the dry hops.  

There are different trains of thought when it comes to when to dry hop.  Some people do it early on in the fermentation process and others do it when there is only 3-5 days left.

People who do it early on and allow the hops to infuse for 10 – 14 days do so because they believe this provides the hops plenty of time to infuse and blend with the beer.

People who wait and dry hop with only 3-5 days left in the fermentation believe that doing so earlier during active fermentation results in the aroma fading or being pushed out of the fermenter from the vigorous bubbling of the CO2 during this stage of fermentation.  Very similar to what happens during the boil.  

Other people will also dry-hop directly in the keg, while others caution against this method as they believe extended contact between the beer and the hops can result in a grassy flavor developing.  We have never experienced this and find that doing so can greatly enhance the hop flavor and aroma.  With this method, it is recommended that you use a muslin bag to hold your hops so you do not end up clogging your liquid line with hop debris.  

Like choosing which variety to use, deciding when to add them is a personal choice and we recommend experimenting to determine which you prefer.

How Many Hops to Use?

Once again the choice is yours.  Having said that typically 1-2 oz (28 – 56 grams) is used for a 5-gallon (19 liter) batch.  However, some brewers who only want a very slight hop aroma will use as little as ½ oz while others who are looking for a strong aroma will use as much as 4 oz and more.

Our recommendations are for you to start small and work your way up.  Start with 1 oz and adjust accordingly in your next batch.  This allows you to understand what 1 oz brings to your beer.  We also caution against going over 4 oz in a 5-gallon batch, anything more can very quickly become too much even for the biggest of hop heads out there.

Loose, Plugs, or Pellets?

Alright you have made the decision on what variety of hop to use, how much and what type you are going to use, it is now time to decide what form you want to use.  

Hops come in 3 basic forms, loose (whole cone), plugs or pellets…

Loose hops are unprocessed and appear just as they did when they were harvested straight off the vine.  One of the cons of using them is they can absorb or soak up some of the beer and some people say they do not impart as much aroma to the beer as a result.  If you are fermenting in a carboy they do fit easily through the opening as compared to plugs.  Loose hops have to be weighed and tend to float when added to the beer.

Plugs also float and were actually designed for the purpose of dry hopping.  Each plug weighs ½ oz which makes it simple to measure the quantity to add.  They can easily be added to any fermenter as they fit into small openings very easily, you can also cut them in half if needed.

Pellet hops are the most used form for dry hopping as they are the easiest to transport and store, and are also easily added to carboys.  They can be added to the fermenter directly or placed in a bag.  Like loose hops, you do have to weigh them.  They tend to sink to the bottom of the fermenter.

Should I Dry Hop With a Bag?

Lastly, it is time to decide whether you will put your hops into the fermenter lose or in a muslin bag.

Some people like to bag their hops as they believe it allows less of the hop material or debris to get into the beer, resulting in a cleaner, clearer beer.  It is also easier to remove them from the fermenter when done and makes less of a mess to clean up.  

When it comes to the clarity of your beer, the fact is that any debris that is leftover in your beer when you are done fermenting will easily drop out of suspension when you cold crash or add fining agents.

There are also some concerns you should consider when using a bag:

1) Hops expand when they get wet, which means although you may have been able to squeeze the bag into the carboy when they were dry, you are going to have a very difficult time removing the bag when the hops have expanded in size due to being fully saturated.

2) Bagging also prevents the hops from fully saturating the beer due to them being clumped together.  To compensate for this it is recommended to increase the number of hops you use by 10 – 15%.

3) You do not have to worry about hops exposing your beer to bacteria but the same can not be said for the bag.  It is important that if you bag your hops you boil the bag first before introducing it to your beer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does dry hopping do?

It infuses the beer with hop oils that increase the aroma and flavor of the hops in the beer.

What is double dry hopping?

Double dry hopping is when you either add double the amount of hops you usually would at the same time, meaning one dry hop addition; or have more than one dry hop addition.  The first addition would be the same amount as you usually add, followed by a second addition at a later stage of fermentation.

What is dry hopping vs wet hopping?

Dry hops are dried and packaged immediately after harvesting; plugs and pellets are examples of dried hops.  Wet hops are hops that are still fresh from being harvested and are still full of moisture.  You can only wet hop beer after the hops have just been harvested.

How many days should you dry hop?

This choice is yours.  Some people will dry hop as soon as fermentation begins and let the hops sit in the wort for 10 – 14 days and others will wait until 3-5 days before they cold crash their beer.  Others will do a combination of both.  Experiment for yourself and see which produces the taste and aroma you prefer.

Can you dry hop a lager?

Yes, you can dry hop any beer.  There are many lagers that are heavily dry hopped to resemble IPA’s

When can I bottle after dry hopping?

It is recommended to dry hop for at least 3-5 days in order to give them time to infuse with the beer. Then either cold crash your beer or go straight to bottling it.

Can you dry hop during fermentation?

Yes, that is when it is recommended to dry hop, although some people do dry hop directly in the keg also.

Can you cold crash while dry hopping?

It is not recommended that you do.  Let the hops sit in the beer at fermentation temperatures for at least 3-5 days before cold crashing.  Other brewers have reported good results of dry hopping after cold crashing.  They do this by letting the beer come back up to room temperature and then adding the hops for 3-5 days before packaging.

How do you dry hop without contamination?

Hops act as a preservative and you do not have to worry about them contaminating your beer.  If you are using a bag to hold the hops you do need to boil the bag first as it can contaminate your beer.

Can you dry hop too much?

That depends on what your definition of too much is.  If you are a hop head then probably the more hops the better for you.  However, we would recommend starting slow and working your way up.  Anything over 4 oz in a 5-gallon batch is a significant amount of hops that most people would find overpowering.

Final Word

When it comes to dry hopping we recommend that you do so with pretty much all beers you make with the exception of perhaps stouts and porters.  Use anywhere from ½ oz – 2 oz of the same hop you used for aroma and flavor.  For those of you who like a hoppier beer, you can go up to 4 oz.  Anything over that amount and you are heading into fanatic hop headland.

Cheers, Big Robb is Out!

Big Robb with a pint of home brewed beerP.S. Be sure to take advantage of my offer to get the recipes to my top 5 beers from my brewpub.  Details are on the side of the blog or at the bottom if you are on your smart device.  Enjoy!

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