Dry hopping is the process of adding hops, usually in secondary, to a beer to add more of a hop aroma to your beer. Traditionally the technique is used for beer styles like pale ales and IPA’s, but people are doing this process in many other styles as well. You aren’t increasing the bitterness of the beer (bitterness primarily comes from the alpha acids being isomerized in the boil) but you are adding aroma. 75% of human taste comes from smell, which is why people take this extra step with their beers. If you are a fan of IPA’s with a big hop aroma, dry hopping is a must.
Dry hopping methods vary, so find which way gives you the best results.
We prefer to add the dry hops with 3-5 days left before you plan on bottling, or kegging, the beer. The reason for this is because the idea is to have the hop aroma infuse with the beer without having the aroma fade. By adding the hops only a few days before bottling, you get the freshest hop aroma throughout your beer without much loss of taste.
Another method is to add the hops to the secondary two weeks prior to bottling. This allows the hops enough time to blend with the beer well. You lose some of the hop aroma with this much time, but you do get a better blend. There is the chance of extracting grassy vegetal flavors using this method.
For those that are extreme about your hops, then a hop back might be the item for you. In most cases this is a house filter that has been modified to allow the addition of hops in the unit. A standard filter takes up too much space to add hops, so some modification is necessary. We are in the process of developing a hop back for the homebrewer, so check out our site to see when it is completed.
Hop backs only work with kegging systems. They attach to the liquid lines on your keg set up, and the beer flows through the filter unit with the fresh hops, and then continues on to your tap. This is the ultimate way to get the freshest infusion of hops into your beer. Be warned; sometimes the effects of a hop back can be pretty strong, so watch out.
What type of hops are the best for dry hopping?
Most of us prefer the use of leaf hops, as they are easier to deal with when you transfer, but pellet hops will work as well. As far as the type of hops itself, that is up to you. Most brewers will use the same type of hops that they used in making the beer. You might want to buy an extra ounce, or two, of either the aroma or bittering hops that you used to make the beer. Be careful of the quantity of hops that you use because you can easily overpower a beer by using too much. Usually, an ounce or two is all you need for a five gallon batch. Start with one ounce, and then see if you need to add more the next time.
How do I add the hops to a carboy?
Most of us use a funnel and pour them right into our secondary. You cannot use a hop bag as the hops are going to absorb liquid while in the carboy and expand. It is very difficult to get the bag back out of your carboy when the hops are all swollen from liquid.
Give dry hopping a try! It isn’t hard, it doesn’t take that much time, and you get that little something extra in you beer that might have been missing before. Be aware that dry hopping will add some haze to your beer from the aromatic oils that are being added.