A Brief Introduction to Dry Hopping

Hops. They are the almighty ingredient in our beer. They preserve, bitter, and flavor our beer. In the past thirty years there has been renewed vigor and emphasis on the use and quantity of hops in beer (that’s about all I will say about the history because there are so many wonderful books already on the topic). Let’s instead direct our focus to a single application: dry hopping.

What is Dry Hopping?

Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to your beer during or after fermentation to impart flavors and aromas that would not be possible if the hops were added during the boil. Dry hopping can be performed on any beer, however it is most often seen in American-style ales and IPAs.

Dry Hopping Variables

To be honest, there are many ways to skin the proverbial “dry hop cat.”

  • Dry hop in the primary or secondary?
  • Pellet or whole hops?
  • Use a hop bag or allow them to float free?

You can pick and choose any of the sides above and still obtain amazing hop flavor and aroma. There are a few things that matter to successful dry hopping which are described below.

Oxygen Exposure

Oxygen has, is, and always will be our dry-hopped beers greatest “nemesis.” Nothing manipulates the flavor and aroma compounds imparted by the dry hopping process faster than oxygen. Some homebrewers go to great lengths to minimize exposure to oxygen by fermenting in kegs or racking directly into a keg by using CO2 to push and start a siphon. These are great practices, but not replicable by all brewers. If you don’t have the means to minimize oxygen, I would recommend dry hopping in your primary fermenter and consider adding the hops as fermentation is still active.

brewing hops


Time and Temperature

Remember the days when there was a number you could call for the time and weather? Fortunately, those days are gone as we can now quickly look on our smartphones, but unfortunately, there isn’t a hop hotline...hold on let me write that down my list of stupid business ideas…

Dry hopping a pale ale Pale ale dry hopped with whole hops

There are some pioneers out there trying a bunch of radical time and temperature combinations for dry hopping but unfortunately no one has found one magic formula (Probably because there isn’t one). Keep the temperature in an applicable range for your yeast and dry hop for 2 to14 days. Take good notes and see what works best for you.

Dry Hopping Rates

The amount of dry hops per gallon is probably the one variable that does make a large difference in your hop-forward beers. The big brewers often dry hop their IPAs anywhere from one to two (or more) pounds per barrel. That ends up being 3-6 ounces per five gallon batch of homebrew. My first few IPAs used a measly two ounces of dry hops and they turned out okay. I doubled that amount and was blown away by the aroma and flavor my IPA then delivered. When in doubt, add more hops.


Multiple Dry Hops

I am not sure if this one makes a difference, but the theory behind it makes sense. Some brewers are dry hopping in multiple stages. For example, a batch will get 2oz of hops and then three days later another 2oz are added. After the first hops have been in the beer a week (second dose has been in four days) the beer will be packaged. The theory is that over time, as the hops are added to the beer they will sink to the bottom of the fermenter. If you add all of your hops at once they sink and there is less hop-to-wort contact time. Dry hopping in multiple stages theoretically creates more contact time. Now add this to your list of dry hopping tricks!

2_wlWhich hops to use?

Every year, it seems that there are new hops that come out. The new additions are often bred with flavor and aroma in mind to support the West Coast IPA craze that is “all the rage.” You can almost never go wrong with the American grown “C” hops (hops whose name starts with the letter C), but I encourage you to read the descriptions provided by the hop manufacturer to help deliver the flavor and aroma profile you are looking for in your beer.

written by Brett Shegogue

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