Dry Hopping: Enhanced Hops Aroma

by Brad Smith on May 21, 2008 · 83 comments

Bitters

Dry hopping is a great way to enhance the hoppy aroma of your home brewed beer. Real hopheads will tell you that in addition to boil and late hop additions, adding dry hops is a preferred technique for preserving a burst of delicate hop aroma for IPAs and other hoppy beers.

Hops are normally added during the boil to extract alpha acids that provide the bitter flavor needed to offset sweet barley malt in beer. Brewers also use late hop additions in the last 5-10 minutes of the boil to enhance aroma, but even this technique loses some aromatic oils that evaporate rapidly in the boil.

Dry Hopping

Dry hopping involves adding hops to the fermenter or keg after fermentation. Dry hops add no bitterness to the beer, but the technique does add fragile aromatic oils that are normally lost in the boiling process. Dry hops are allowed to soak in the finished beer for anywhere from several days to several weeks. The result is a burst of hoppy aroma.

Commercial craft brewers use dry hopping to enhance their beer including Anchor Liberty, Samuel Adams Pale Ale and Sierra Nevada celebration. Many drinkers prefer the distinctly floral hop aroma that dry hopping adds. On the con side, some drinkers perceive a “grassy” or “oily” flavor from dry hopping. The technique is appropriate for brewing beer styles with high hop rates such as IPAs, Pale Ales, some Stouts and California Common (Steam) beer.

Dry Hop Selection

The first question that arises when dry hopping is which hops to use? Aromatic hops with low alpha rates (6% or less) are considered preferable because these hops have a higher percentage of fragile aromatic hop oils needed for dry hopping. All of the noble hops as well as most of the low alpha aromatic varieties are appropriate.

Examples include: Saaz, Tettnanger, Hallertauer, Goldings, Fuggles, Cascade and Williamette. You should select a hops that matches the origin and beer style – an English Goldings hops might be appropriate for an English Ale or India Pale Ale for instance.

The next question is what form of hops to use: pellets, plugs or whole hops? Plug or pellet hops are generally preferred, especially for those using a glass carboy with a narrow neck. Getting whole hops in and out of the fermenter can be difficult. Pellet hops can cause some foaming when adding because, much like diet coke and mentos, the pellets have a large surface area that promotes nucleation of the CO2 left from fermentation.

Some purists prefer plug hops as they fear that the extra processing and compression of pellet hops may have an effect on the delicate hop oils and aroma. Personally I have noticed no significant difference between plug and pellet hops when dry hopping.

The amount of hops to use is largely a matter of preference. Between 1 and 2 oz (28-55g) per 5 gallons (19 L) is considered a moderate amount. Less can certainly be used if you are shooting for a mild floral aromatic, and true hopheads use as much as 4 oz of hops for 5 gallons for a burst of aroma.

Dry Hopping Methods

When should one add hops to the beer, and for how long? Some brewers add dry hops during primary fermentation, but most agree this can result in loss of precious hop aromas due to the steady stream of CO2 bubbling out of the fermenter.

The appropriate time to add dry hops is after primary fermentation has completed. Adding dry hops to the secondary maximizes the exposure without risking volatile aromas. A third option is to add dry hops directly to the keg, but this can result in some “grassy” flavors from overexposure as the hops may remain in the keg for months.

Some brewers use a mesh bag to make it easier to contain the hops and make them easier to separate from the beer later. Others merely separate the beer from hops carefully when siphoning later. Pellets tend to sink after a while, while whole hops and plugs tend to float. Obviously a bag is required for kegging your hops to keep the hops from plugging the keg.

The duration of dry hopping also varies widely. An exposure of several days is the minimum needed to extract aromatic oils. Most brewers dry hop for around 3 days. Those that add hops to a keg may leave the hops in contact with the beer for months. Some fear overexposure will add a “grassy” flavor, but I’ve never had a significant problem with this. However, current thinking is that you should avoid extended dry hop periods.

In these hop starved times, dry hopping has become a bit of a luxury, but an extra ounce or two added to the secondary can add a great burst of flavor for IPAs and other hoppy styles. Thanks again for visiting the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Have a great brewing week.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Wahoo May 22, 2008 at 5:16 am

There are few things in my experience I have seen that disagree with what is here. I think 1-2 oz is a large amount of dry hops, and for a style like a bitter or even a reasonable gravity pale ale, 1/2 oz will give you a moderate, but obvious dry hop character. If one is dry hopping in primary or in secondary but then conditioning in the keg, then 1 oz is probably preferable.

My prefered way is to dry hop in the serving keg. Interestingly, I also do NOT get grassy flavors when I have left the hops in too long. I do however get a very grassy note for the first few days, which fades leaving an awesome hop character.

Hops in the keg can pose several problems in terms of clogging the dip tube (“out” tube).

Solutions I have seem include:
- Leaf hops in a muslin bag.
- Pellet hops in a stainless steel “tea ball”
- Leaf or Pellet hops in a nylon bag (I have not used this method)
- Loose hops with a Sure Screen on the dip tube.

In my experience the last option is the best as it gives the best dry hop character with the least amount of sediment.

Brad Smith May 22, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Wahoo,
Thanks – I really appreciate your feedback. I did not cover keg hopping as well as I should have. Keg hopping does generally take less hops (perhaps 1/2 as much) due to the longer exposure time. I agree that I’ve not had a problem with grassy flavors either, and I appreciate your tips on keg hopping. — Brad

riverswillbeer June 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Awesome info. I am absolutely going to try this. Thanks

TiBrew March 9, 2009 at 9:32 am

As far as dry hop sanitation goes, is it considered safe to drop in hop pellets with no sanitation steps as hop pellets cannot be assumed to be sanitary? What if you put the hops in the microwave for 10 seconds prior? Or what if you put just a fraction of an ounce of near boiling water on the hops immediately before adding to secondary? I’ve had perfectly good beers go sour in the secondary with dry hops. My sanitation techniques are constant for each carboy, so I narrowed it down to the hop addition. Good article, too, by the way.

Brad Smith March 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm

In general dry hopping is considered safe as hops are naturally antibiotic (in fact, hop oils in beer help to preserve it). I’ve never heard of anyone getting an infection just from dry hopping. However if you want to take additional precautions, I see no problem with that either. However I would not recommend boiling the hops since that will boil off many of the delicate aromatic oils you are trying to capture with this technique.

kickbooty June 15, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for the advice. I have an IPA going right now. I’ll probably go with adding my loose leaf hops in a secondary and use a screen on the dip tube. I love your Beersmith software program Brad – it has made my brewing experience so much better! At least 3 of my brew buddies rely on it also. Cheers – Gil

Old Engineer June 26, 2009 at 7:20 am

O ye purists – whyfor art thee feared?

I, a beginner, bunged a handful of Sauvin Nelson loose leaf into my serving keg and happily enjoyed the odorous result in complete ignorance of bacterial contamination risks (and filtration problems).

If I was going to produced a thousand pints mostly for the consumption of others, I suppose it would be necessary to ‘think safety’. But small batches for domestic consumption, who cares what happens? You can always accelerate your drinking to destroy the evidence.

AO January 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm

This is a late question on a very old post, but…
When dry hopping a beer, does it impact SG? My question is related to my first batch, I have religiously measuring sg, and it appeared to have stopped within range of my expected fg, and apparent attenuation is within range of the yeast, but I’m just wondering if my dry hop additions would have altered the sg that I was measuring, and skewed the ABV calculation.

Brad Smith January 20, 2011 at 7:58 am

Hi,
No – dry hopping should have no effect on your SG or ABV. Adding dry hop oils does not alter the yeast fermentation or the SG of the finished beer. Likely something else happened with your beer.

Brad

Rob February 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I dryhop with high alpha hops like citra, simcoe and amarillo with no problems. I actually prefer them to the low alpha varieties. Almost every A+ craft IPA on the market is dry hopped with either citra or simcoe.

omar August 27, 2011 at 12:29 am

Hello Brad:

I am writting from Mexico, I am a homebrewer and i read all the tips that you post in your site, is very interesting the things that you say about homebrewing. I was reading about dry hopping, is very interesting, I will try in my next experiment!!!
Cheers!!!
Omar

Mark Kazanoff November 21, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I used two ounces of pellet cascade for 14 days in my secondary of a big red ale, I hopped with a 4 hop schedule. Tasted what was left in the bottling bucket AWESOME. Great aroma, tasty, can’t wait for it to condition. Next time will use a hop bag. Had to use cheese cloth and a strainer to remove the hops.

Homebrewing Chef January 17, 2012 at 11:25 am

When I have dry hopped my Belgium Black IPA in the past I have used 4oz of Citra and man it gives it awesome aromas that are lost in the last 5-10 minutes of the boil. I am transfering a version of my BBIPA today after 5 days in the primary and will be dry hopping this one with Zythos or Flaconer’s Flight (can’t find citra). After 14 days or so I’ll transfer to a tertiary just to clarify the beer for 2-3 days then keg. I’m also brewing the same beer today with a few changes! Happy brewing!

Nicholas Powell February 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm

You can also dry hop in the keg in order to rescue beer that is too “bready”. I recently made an oat-rye frankenbeer that became excellent after I dry-hopped whole leaf Cascade and Willamette (in a nylon bag with the strings tucked to prevent clogging the suck tube) for about a week. I sampled until it was right, then I sanitized my hand and pulled the bag out of the keg. If you open a keg, you should re-bleed out the air when done. This turned a marginal beer into an excellent beer.

Larry Striber March 12, 2012 at 4:57 pm

When dry hopping after primary fermentation is it necessary to maintain the orginal fermentation temperature unitl you are done dty hopping?

Brad Smith March 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm

No – the dry hopping effect is not highly temperature dependent.

Greg Burek June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I am beginning to think that late hop addition to the wort is just a waste of hops as dry hoping adds much more flavor.
Am I right?

Brad Smith June 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Not necessarily – you can get some flavors in a late hop addition that won’t come through as well in a dry hop – it depends on the beer.

Timmy R June 27, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Greg – I used to think the same until read Gordon Strong’s book. Although I have not given up dry-hopping (not by a long shot) I do think the character of the added flavor and aroma are different. I add hops during a flame-out whirlpool and dry-hop my APA and am experimenting now with dry-hopping for 5 days in primary, racking to secondary and then dry-hopping again for 5-days. Previously all my dry-hops have been added in secondary and for better than a week.

Thanks for all your articles Brad and for keeping your forums/discussions alive. I am recent BeerSmith user and love it…eventhough I do not really understand it completely.

gongult August 18, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Four to eight ounces of pellets is what I normally use to achieve significant post-fermentation hop aroma.
At eight ounces, you will lose up to a gallon of beer due to hop absorption. This is a reasonable trade-off as one will notice an immense and lingering blast of aromatics.

Ashley October 15, 2012 at 10:57 pm

What about just adding an ounce of hops near the end of the fermentation in primary carboy? I really like Chinook but its alpha is 11%: is that crazy?

Brad Smith October 16, 2012 at 12:06 am

Not at all – a lot of brewers are experimenting with high alpha hops for finishing as they have their own unique aromas and flavors. There is nothing wrong with using high alpha hops as long as you like the flavor/aroma they add.

Willie Greene October 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Great article! In regards to sanitation, how do you sterilize the hop bag? The one I have is like a cheese cloth kind of thing. I’m using one step for cleaning, should I just soak it in that or should I boil it or just not do anything at all? Nice to see you still support these old articles. Cheers

Brad Smith October 20, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I usually put it in a bit of sterilizing solution before use.

Willie Greene October 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Thanks, I’ll do that

Apollo Creed November 3, 2012 at 11:15 am

Hey, great site. Very informative! Just wanted to follow-up on gongult’s post from August 18th (re: dry-hopping with 8 oz. of pellets can absorb as much as 1 gallon of beer). Can anybody comment on the idea of steeping hops separately in regular water and then adding this to the beer later? What if you made a highly concentrated aqueous solution containing the hop aromatics and, let’s say, added this into the priming solution in the bottling bucket, then racked your beer into that mixed solution, and then bottled? You wouldn’t do this with boiling water, of course, but maybe lukewarm water for a few hours.

I’m pretty new to homebrewing so maybe this is impractical if kegging or brewing on large scale, but on the surface I can see a couple possible advantages with 5 gallon batches. First, you wouldn’t lose a gallon of beer…just water. Second, you could filter away the hops before combining with the beer, so there are no extra clogging or clarity issues. The only downside I can think of now is that you dilute your beer a bit, but if you keep the water volume low this might be negligible.

A second sort of related question is: does anyone have information on the boiling points for the aromatic compounds we’re all trying to preserve?

Alyssa December 25, 2012 at 12:56 am

That was exactly what I was looking for. THANKS! I have another specific question. I have a tea tube infuser (like a whole leaf tea steeper found here: http://www.cnet.com/8301-13553_1-10449621-32.html). My thought is to fill this with whole (or semi whole) hops while drinking beer out of a glass. I read that three days would be the shortest exposure time would be around 3 days. If I were to fill this with hops and add it to my freshly poured beer, would it make a difference? Would you suggest pellets or plugs instead of whole hops? VERY interested! Even a little info would be great. If you know some of the chemical processes/reasons why this method would or would not work, I would appreciate reading about it. Thanks for your time and knowledge. Happy Holidays.

BluzNBrews January 1, 2013 at 8:22 am

I’m a beginning homebrewer and have tried dry-hopping for first time on my current batch, a Lagunitas IPA Clone. I used an ounce of Cascade pellets and an ounce of Centennial leaf (homegrown). I put both in a stelilized mesh bag and forced it through the top of the carboy I use for secondary fermentation. I pushed the bag down into the beer with the end of a spoon, but the bag and contents are floating on the top, and much of hte leaf hops are appear to be floating above the surface. Is gently rocking the carboy periodically advisable, or likely to cause problems with the beer. Thanks.

Rick Morris February 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Brad, what hop style would you recommend if I want a very high piney aroma and piney/citrus notes in my American-style IPA. I’m trying to clone a local brew and just can’t seem to match there flavor. All Extract. Thanks.

Brad Smith February 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Hi,
That flavor usually comes from piny flavored hops such as: Chinook, Centennial, Cascade. Overall I think Chinook has the strongest pine flavor.

If you really want over the top pine flavor you can use spruce extract – but use it sparingly as it can be very strong in beer.

Cheers!

Brad Smith

Brad February 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm

How can I save this article as a PDF?

Steve Moore May 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Hello Brad, I have dry hopped around 10 batches with cascade pellets and all have come out very good. Usually the airlock quits bubbling a couple day’s after dry hopping, but the current batch has bubbled for 8 days now. Just checked gravity and it is unchanged. The only difference between this batch and others is higher alcohol % & 1 more oz. of hops. My question is what is the normal amount of time before you should stop seeing airlock bubble?
Thanks
Steve

Brad Smith May 22, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Not sure why it would still be bubbling. Sometimes you will see bubbling immediately after dry hopping as the hops release some of the CO2 from the beer. However I don’t think the dry hopping would cause it to bubble for 8 days.

Julian May 30, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Hi Brad,
I have a coffee stout (OG 1.078) in secondary and I would like to augment the flavor profile a bit by dry hopping. Can you recommend a hop variety that may be a good fit?
Thanks,
Julian

Josh July 27, 2013 at 11:50 pm

hi i just brewed my first homebrew, an american Pale Ale, had it in Primary for 7 days and just transfered it to secondary, dry hopping with citra, the recipe i am using calls for 21 days in secondary. The original recipe does not call for dry hopping. Is 21 days too long to dry hop for? Thank you so Much!

Churchie October 2, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Hi Brad, I was thinking of experimenting with a stove top coffee perc to extract hop charcter to make a hop coffee then adding that to the secondary fermenter, any comment on whether this would work to extract flavour/aroma. Would you expect this approach to have much of an impact on bitterness . Appreciate your thoughts

Spencer smith October 29, 2013 at 10:12 am

New to home brewing. So excuse me if I sound like a dummie. Is my beer in trouble if I dry hopped right after I chilled the wort? Is there anything we should do now? It’s been fermenting for 3 days now.

Bill January 30, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Spencer…you should carbonate and drink your beer next :-)… in all seriousness and as you probably already know because you wrote this comment quite some time ago, your beer is not in trouble. You may lose some of your aroma and flavor due to the volatility of the compounds in the hop oils combined with off gasing during fermentation. Not a serious issue to get worked up over :-)

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