What? You've never heard of dry hopping? I'll try and give you an explanation of the process and step-by-step instructions on how I dry hop. Click any of the images, and you'll get a new window with a larger, more detailed image.
First, dry hopping is the addition of hops to your beer after you've finished with your boil. In fact, I do my dry hopping after most of the fermentation has completed. I add my hops after the primary fermentation has finished, and I've just racked the brew to the secondary.
Dry hopping adds a wonderful aroma [and some flavor] to your beers without adding any bitterness. Because the hops aren't boiled, I believe you get more of the aroma that is similar to when you open a fresh bag of hops. Fresh being the key word here.
Since we're adding something to our beer post-boil, the risk of infection goes up. The good news is, by doing the dry hopping after fermentation is mostly complete, we've got a good deal of alcohol present in the beer, which aids in protecting the beer. Additionally, hops themselves have some preservative properties [If you have any questions about this, read up on the reasons IPAs were developed].
That being said, we don't want to be stupid! I take a bowl filled with water and I put an empty muslin bag in the water. I throw it into the microwave on high for 5 minutes. This is long and hot enough to kill damned near anything that might be living on the bag.
I remove this bowl from the microwave and add a large handful of marbles to help sanitize them, too. Huh? Marbles? We'll need them in a second, so just trust me on this one. Oh, and don't put the marbles in the microwave. If there is a void with water inside the marble, it will explode. Not pretty.
Whole hops are full of oils, thus are very buoyant and will float on top of the beer. The reason we need the marbles is to help keep the hops fully submerged in the beer. After all, if the hops aren't in contact with the beer, we're certainly not getting any of the hop aroma into the beer, right?
Throw the marbles into the muslin bag after they've sat in the near-boiling water for a couple of minutes.
Next, you want to add your hops to the bag. Choose a hop that is complimentary with your beer. I always use the same hop variety that I used during the aroma addition of the boil. Also, make sure dry hopping is appropriate to your style of beer. An IPA or APA are great beers for dry hopping. A CAP or other light-bodied lager probably wouldn't be a good candidate. That being said, it's your beer, so do as you like!
A lot of people ask, "How much hops and for how long?" Both good questions. Well, it depends.....
Mostly, it comes down to personal taste. I'd recommend starting off with 1 ounce of hops for 1 week. See how that tastes, then adjust accordingly. I've got it down to where I generally use 2 ounces for 1 week. This give me the kick and flavor I like.
Some "hop heads" will leave their hops in for a couple of weeks, even leaving the hops in after the beer has been transferred to serving kegs. Do whatever matches your taste buds or flavor threshold.
People also ask if you can use whole hops, pellets or plugs. The answer is "yes". Personally, I only use whole hops. I feel they leave less cloudiness to the beer. Others swear by pellets, as they breakdown and have much greater contact with the brew. Again, do what you want, and experiment a little.
Just before I add the hops to the secondary [and I mean JUST before - as in 1 second], I dunk the whole bag of hops and marbles into the bowl of warm water. This wets the hops, helping them to stay submerged when they are placed in the beer [Be sure you've tied off the draw-string of the bag first!].
As you can see, this scrunches down the hops, and most likely wouldn't be necessary if you were using pellet hops.
Finally, you place the hops in the secondary. I use corny kegs that have had their dip tubes shortened by 1 inch. You can also use this technique if you do your secondaries in buckets, but DON'T try this if you use glass carboys. It's damned near impossible to get the bags back out of the neck of the carboy, and it's a pain getting the hops in. If you must use a carboy, I'd recommend NOT using a hop bag and just dropping the hops directly into the beer. You will want to swirl the carboy each day to get the hops wet so they'll sink. At the end of your fermentation, just rack the beer off of the sunken hops.
I leave about an inch of the draw-string outside of the keg lid. When the lid is attached, this suspends the bag in the middle of the keg. When I transfer the fully fermented and hopped beer to the serving keg, I remove the hop bag [it used to slow the transfer process by covering the dip tube in the fermenter].
Give dry hopping a try. You'll love the effect it has on your beer, and is a great way to show your buddies who drink Megabrews that flavor in beer is a good thing!
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