Hops: Start to Fin­ish

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents - By Josh Weik­ert

Sci­en­tific study of the con­tri­bu­tions of hops is in a prim­i­tive (but quickly evolv­ing) stage, but there are still valu­able lessons that we can glean from both the ex­ist­ing sci­ence and our own ex­pe­ri­ences.

Sci­en­tific study of the con­tri­bu­tions of hops is in a prim­i­tive (but quickly evolv­ing) stage, but there are still valu­able lessons that we can glean from both the ex­ist­ing sci­ence and our own ex­pe­ri­ences. From these, we can set rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions for what we get out of hops, when, and why; cre­ate bet­ter recipes and cor­rect/ad­just more mean­ing­fully; and ul­ti­mately pro­duce bet­ter beer.

TIM­ING MAT­TERS. IN HOP­PING,

it mat­ters be­cause we’re do­ing a del­i­cate dance that ex­tracts dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent things from the hops, and get­ting more of one usu­ally re­sults in get­ting less of the other. I’m speak­ing here about the pro­duc­tive ten­sion that ex­ists be­tween hops oils and hops resins/acids. You have a hop cone. In­side of it are oils, which we gen­er­ally think of as be­ing the fla­vor-pro­duc­ing agent. You also have al­pha and beta acids which, when iso­mer­ized or ox­i­dized, add bit­ter­ness. The trou­ble is that iso­mer­iz­ing al­pha acids is ac­com­plished by boil­ing them, and boil­ing drives off the chem­i­cals that make our hops oils so fla­vor­ful. This means that we have a con­struc­tion

fla­vor—or chal­lenge when it comes to pro­duc­ing beers with both bit­ter­ness and they’re added to the beer is es­sen­tial to pro­duc­ing the beer you want.

In short, the longer your hops are ex­posed to heat—and the higher the tem­per­a­ture—the more likely it is that you’re get­ting bit­ter­ness and not fla­vor, and it may be hap­pen­ing faster than you think. Of the po­ten­tial bit­ter­ing you could get out of the hops you add, a ma­jor­ity is pro­duced in just about 20 min­utes. At the same time, most hops oils de­plete by half or more with just 15 min­utes of boil­ing. Li­nalool, a laven­der aroma–pro­duc­ing hops oil, reaches 50 per­cent de­ple­tion in just 6 min­utes. The up­shot here is that even short-added hops still yield most of their bit­ter­ing po­ten­tial and lose most of their fla­vor­ing po­ten­tial. If you want to have a bet­ter chance of get­ting big­ger imt­phree­nssyioonus­noe­fet­d­ho­to­selo­hookpb­seoyi­ol­snid­nthy­oeubro­bile.er,

When?

Let’s take a walk through the brew­ing and fer­men­ta­tion process and ex­am­ine the role hops tend to play when—and the roles they likely won’t or can’t.

Mash Hops.

Noth­ing stops us from ad­ding hops in the mash, but your ex­pec­ta­tions for ei­ther bit­ter­ing or fla­vor should be mod­est. You’ll likely yield a few IBUS from iso­mer­iza­tion (the mash is, af­ter all, warm if not hot), and es­pe­cially if you use pel­let hops, you may get some pul­ver­ized plant mat­ter car­ry­ing over into the boil where it can then im­part some iso­mer­ized al­pha acids—it just won’t be much. Like­wise, only the most ro­bust of hops oils will have a chance of sur­viv­ing the boil, so ex­tract­ing them here prob­a­bly won’t pro­duce no­tice­able fla­vors.

First Wort Hops (FWH).

Once upon a time, we were told a story of how “first wort” hops—those added to the ket­tle while the lauter and/or sparge were run­ning off—added to the beer unique fla­vors or bit­ter­ness of a dif­fer­ent, softer char­ac­ter. Having looked for em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence of this, I have to say that it's pretty

thin. I sup­pose it’s pos­si­ble that, in some recipes and on some sys­tems and in some con­texts, FWH can have de­sir­able fla­vor im­pacts, but I’ve seen noth­ing to sug­gest that it’s broadly gen­er­al­iz­able. How­ever, there is data to sug­gest that FWH con­sis­tently adds more IBUS to the beer. The longer ex­po­sure to higher tem­per­a­tures squeezes out a small in­crease in uti­liza­tion of al­pha acids and, there­fore, juices the mea­sured IBU count. If you’re mak­ing a beer that should have firm bit­ter­ness, it’s prob­a­bly not a bad idea to add your early-boil hops as first wort hops, if only to err on the side of “more bit­ter.”

Boil Hops.

Con­ven­tional wis­dom among brew­ers was (and prob­a­bly still is) that hops added at the start of the boil are your “bit­ter­ing” hops, those added at about 30 min­utes re­main­ing are your “fla­vor” hops, and those in the fi­nal 10 min­utes or less are your “aroma” hops. That’s prob­a­bly not a pro­duc­tive or ac­cu­rate way to think about it. Given the quick-start na­ture of both al­pha-acid iso­mer­iza­tion and hops-oils volatiliza­tion, I find it bet­ter to as­sume that in the boil, they’re all bit­ter­ing hops. Ad­ding them later in the boil (es­pe­cially in the fi­nal 10 min­utes) will cer­tainly make it more likely that some hops oils sur­vive and that some po­ten­tial bit­ter­ing won’t ma­te­ri­al­ize, but if I’m look­ing for medium-high or prom­i­nent hops fla­vors, I’m ad­ding hops post-boil. The im­pres­sions will be there, but they’re not nearly as likely to be as bright, crisp, or no­table.

Post-boil Hops.

If you’re con­cerned about boil­ing away your hops oils, you can al­ways just wait un­til you’re done boil­ing to add those hops. We have es­sen­tially three ways to add post-boil (but pre-chill) hops: flame-out, whirlpool, and hop­back.

Flame-out hops are just that: when you kill the heat, you toss in your hops. You’re still over the 170°F (77°C) thresh­old that will act to volatilize your var­i­ous hops oils, but they won’t be at full-boil temps, nor for very long, which should mean greater odds of sur­vival for the ex­tracted oils.

Whirlpool­ing is the prac­tice of stir­ring your wort to form a whirlpool that will gather solids in the cen­ter of the ket­tle to aid in get­ting a “clean” runoff, and it’s pos­si­ble to use this time (es­pe­cially if you wait for the tem­per­a­ture to drop) to add fla­vor and aroma hops that will pre­serve al­most all of their char­ac­ter. Ex­per­i­men­tal stud­ies find that the longer you al­low the hops to rest in 140–170°F (60–77°C) wort, the greater the fla­vor im­pacts.

Fi­nally, you can also em­ploy a hop­back, which is a de­vice that you pack with whole-flower hops that are then “washed” with the post-boil wort en route to the chiller.

Any (or, even, all) of these meth­ods are prefer­able if your goal is big hops aroma and fla­vor: you’ll add a nom­i­nal num­ber of IBUS but ex­tract and pre­serve more hops oils.

Dry Hop­ping.

Post-chill hops are typ­i­cally re­ferred to as dry hops. Dry hop­ping is a com­mon prac­tice among home­brew­ers and pro­fes­sional brew­ers, but not all dry hops are the same. Ad­ding dry hops at the start of pri­mary fer­men­ta­tion has been shown, in some ba­sic ex­per­i­ments, to yield less fla­vor than ad­ding them post-fer­men­ta­tion.

Us­ing more than one hops va­ri­ety can also add more fla­vor. In ad­di­tion, mul­ti­ple dry-hop ad­di­tions seem to im­part more over­all fla­vor than sim­ply ad­ding mul­ti­ple va­ri­eties of dry hops all at the same time. On a per­sonal note, my own ex­per­i­ments in this area have shown no no­tice­able dif­fer­ence be­tween a “re­place­ment” method (ad­ding and then re­mov­ing each bagged dry-hop ad­di­tion in se­quence, so there’s only one dry-hop va­ri­ety in there at a time) and an “ad­di­tive” method (ad­ding dry hops in stages but sim­ply leav­ing the ini­tial dry hops be­hind), so feel free to free-add your first dry hops, then sub­se­quent ad­di­tions in suc­ceed­ing days, with­out re­mov­ing the ini­tial ad­di­tions.

Dry hop­ping adds hops oils, ob­vi­ously, but no mea­sur­able IBUS, since there’s no heat in­volved. This does not mean, though, that no bit­ter­ness is added: ex­tracted beta acids im­part bit­ter­ness if/ when they ul­ti­mately ox­i­dize, and if you use a large enough charge of hops, this bit­ter­ing may be no­tice­able, es­pe­cially in beers that seek to avoid it. Dry hop­ping also of­ten adds a resiny fla­vor to the fin­ished beer, which you should take into ac­count in your recipe de­sign.

Post-pack­ag­ing Hops.

Since I have been asked this, sin­cerely, on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, I’ll an­swer it. You can add hops to the bot­tle at pack­ag­ing. But why would you want to?

How, What, and Where?

All of the pre­ced­ing is de­pen­dent, to some greater or lesser de­gree, on the spe­cific hops you’re us­ing.

The form of the hops can be whole flower/cone, pel­let, pow­der, ex­tract, and even “hash.” Whole-flower/cone hops use the en­tire hops cone, and some be­lieve that the un­pro­cessed plant ma­te­rial im­parts sub­tle au­then­tic fla­vors. Pel­let hops have been ground and “stan­dard­ized” into ho­moge­nous pel­lets by grind­ing the hops flow­ers and then form­ing them into pel­lets that break apart in the boil. This process re­sults in ad­di­tional ex­posed hops

Hops are a key com­po­nent of beer—maybe the key com­po­nent of beer—and we owe it to the beer to use our hops pur­pose­fully, thought­fully, and de­lib­er­ately. A good ground­ing in what hops add to our beer based on when we add them to the beer is a valu­able and use­ful thing. It al­lows us to set re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions of the likely fla­vor pro­file we’re go­ing to get. It makes it pos­si­ble to make mean­ing­ful changes to recipes and pro­cesses when we seek to in­cor­po­rate our im­pres­sions and feed­back. It also in­creases the odds that we can make that “per­fect” beer a sec­ond, third, or tenth time when we want to be­cause we’re aware of how the com­po­si­tion and use of our hops made it the way it is.

sur­face area, in­creas­ing ac­cess to the oils and resins/acids in the hops. Hop pow­der is a con­cen­trated form of only the hops resins and acids, and early im­pres­sions are that it can (at least early in a beer’s life) add much more pro­nounced fla­vors than are pos­si­ble with tra­di­tional flow­ers/ pel­lets. Other ex­tracts are avail­able as well, in the form of gelati­nous hops liq­uids con­tain­ing both resins and acids, and even pure iso­mer­ized al­pha-acid ex­tract. Know what form you’re us­ing and choose based on your de­sired out­comes.

Whichever form you choose, com­po­si­tion mat­ters as well. Not all hops va­ri­eties are iden­ti­cal, of course, but even within strains and within har­vests, you’ll find vary­ing (but mea­sur­able and mea­sured) con­cen­tra­tions of al­pha acids, beta acids, and a wide range of hops oils. Savvy brew­ers can se­lect hops with greater pro­por­tions of the el­e­ments they want, whether it’s su­per-high-al­pha-acid hops to min­i­mize the amount needed to bit­ter a Dou­ble IPA or a caryophyl­lene-heavy hop for that woodsy, rus­tic Cal Com­mon recipe.

And let’s not ne­glect the hops’ point of ori­gin. Ter­roir is a con­cept more com­mon to wine­mak­ing than brew­ing, but there is ab­so­lutely no ques­tion that cli­mate, soil com­po­si­tion, and grow­ing con­di­tion vari­a­tions that are part of the hops-grow­ing process have a sub­stan­tial im­pact on their fla­vor. Amer­i­can Haller­tau is sim­ply a dif­fer­ent hop from Ger­man Haller­tau, and we should con­sider hops ge­og­ra­phy when we plan out our recipes.

Sim­ply put, the “how, what, and where” of hops mat­ter.

Pur­pose­ful Hop­ping

Hops are a key com­po­nent of beer— maybe the key com­po­nent of beer—and we owe it to the beer to use our hops pur­pose­fully, thought­fully, and de­lib­er­ately. A good ground­ing in what hops add to our beer based on when we add them to the beer is a valu­able and use­ful thing. It al­lows us to set re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions of the likely fla­vor pro­file we’re go­ing to get. It makes it pos­si­ble to make mean­ing­ful changes to recipes and pro­cesses when we seek to in­cor­po­rate our im­pres­sions and feed­back. It also in­creases the odds that we can make that “per­fect” beer a sec­ond, third, or tenth time when we want to be­cause we’re aware of how the com­po­si­tion and use of our hops made it the way it is.

All of this should carry an im­por­tant dis­claimer, how­ever: try, then trust. We know too lit­tle about hops, and though that base of knowl­edge is in­creas­ing quickly, a wide range of recipe- and sys­tem-spe­cific fac­tors can make your mileage vary. Wa­ter chem­istry, burner and ket­tle ge­om­e­try, in­gre­di­ent in­ter­ac­tions, and more can all blunt or am­plify dif­fer­ent el­e­ments of hops fla­vor and con­tri­bu­tions. Brew­ing is, af­ter all, still as much art as sci­ence. A thought­ful and pur­pose­ful ap­proach to hops and hop­ping will min­i­mize your learn­ing curve rapidly. Best of luck, and good hop­ping to you.

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