Dry Hopping: The Guide for Homebrewers

by Karl | Last Updated: March 30, 2021

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, we know you’ve at least heard of this craft beer brewing trend.

Local and small breweries have come up with some of the best-tasting dry-hopped IPA brews that pack a lot of flavors and that enticing hop aroma, perfect for sipping from an IPA glass [R].

Find out what dry hopping is, why brewers love it, and how you can do it yourself in this guide!

What Is Dry Hopping?

Dry hopping is the SECRET to rich, delicious beers. You wanna know a secret the breweries don’t tell you? You can make your own dry-hopped beer at home, too!

Not only is this cheaper, but it’s also fun to learn! Plus, you can control how many hops you want in your beer because you’re making it.

So what is dry hopping? It’s really just adding hops to your beer after primary fermentation. Usually, this would be after you’re done chilling the wort.

History of “Dry Hopping”

Contrary to what it implies, “dry hopping” involves any kind of hop added after fermentation. So if you added hops before fermentation and add some more after, you’re “dry-hopping” too.

Welcome to the club, dry-hoppers!

No one really knows where the term “dry hop” or “dry hopping” came from. Some say hops used to arrive fresh in the brewery and were immediately used on that same brew day.

And when they finally use some of the remaining hops 7 or more days later, they noticed it had already dried out.

Still, others theorize that someone came up with the term because it refers to the step of the brewing process in which it’s added.

Because brewers add them at a time when the hops no longer touch liquor (aka water) or wort, this process only entails tossing the dry hops into a fermenter

What Is Dry Hopping For?

Dry hopping helps develop the depth of your beers because it adds a complex, mellow body to your brew, without the added harsh bitterness.

The secret? Iso-alpha acids in lower temperatures.

The thing is…

Alpha acids become bitter flavor compounds at high temperatures of 175 degrees Fahrenheit. So if you add your hops during the fermentation process, the boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit will release bitter compounds.

That’s why you’ll want to dry hop your beer. With dry hopping, make your hop additions AFTER you’ve cooled your brew. That means your alpha acids don’t convert to bitterness.

The result? An amazing beer full of flavor and aroma that you can absolutely mistake for a professionally-brewed beer.

The Benefits of Dry Hopping

It’s usually confusing for beginner homebrewers to figure out how dry hopping will benefit their beer. After all, a “hoppy” beer has a bad connotation [R] as a “bitter” beer for most people.

But that’s not true at all!

In fact, brewers dry hop to avoid bitterness in beer and add great floral flavors to their brews instead.

There are plenty of upsides to this time-honored method:

  • For one, you can take advantage of the different hop varieties to yield complex flavor profiles for your beer. When you use the right hop, you can get tropical, fruity, or wine-like flavors from your brew.

And because you’re not boiling your hops, you get more aroma without extracting the bitter and volatile oils.

  • For another, you get to add lots of intensity to your flavors by using hops in the right ways. Dry hop is the only way to get the profile of some intense beers like pale ales and IPAs.

So if you want to get the oh-so-rich beers that result from dry-hopping, read on and we’ll tell you all about the methods for bottling unique homebrew beer.

The Cons

We won’t be completely unbiased if we didn’t tell you about the downsides of dry hopping.

Dry hopping is a great way to add amazing aromas to your beer, and most homebrewers take this extra step to add a unique characteristic to their beer.

So why wouldn’t you want to dry hop your beer?

Well, if you’re paranoid about bacterial contamination, then here’s the bad news: dry hops aren’t sanitized in the same way as the rest of your brew.

That’s because you’re avoiding boiling your hops. No boiling = no sanitizing.

And if you add your dry hops during fermentation, the bacteria on your hops will have to compete with the yeast in your wort.

That isn’t to say that worts will give you a bacteria-laden and poisonous drink. Far from it. We think you shouldn’t even worry about it.

But that’s just one more thing you need to know before you choose to add dry hops to your beer.

Dry Hopping: The Brewing Process

Choosing Your Hop

Hop Variety

The first, but most important, step in dry hopping is to choose which hop you’ll use for your brew.

When talking about hop character, homebrewers usually pick between an “aroma” hop or a “flavor” hop. See the Full Hops Chart Here

The difference lies in the effect of the hop compounds on your final product.

An “aroma” hop would cause a complexity of aromas in your brew. Why? Because an aroma hop releases aroma compounds into your brew.

With the right aroma extraction technique, you can get the same results in home brewing as an IPA commercial brewer would!

So if you’ve ever opened a bottle of beer and you’re greeted by a fruity or maybe even a vegetal flavor, chances are that the bottle uses Amethyst hops or Amarillo hops, or even Canadian Redvine hops.

These kinds of hops are aroma hops.

You could also go for a flavor hop in your homebrew batch. While aroma hops release aroma compounds, flavor hops release flavor compounds suitable for a complex-tasting drink.

Some flavor hops include the Millennium hops, California Cluster hops, or Pacific Sunrise hops. Be careful when using these, though. Too much can cause unpleasant bitterness!

Your choice really boils down to preference. But just remember that when you’re using your hops, aim for balance and variety, especially when you’re a beginner home brewer.

Hop Form

Besides variety, you can also choose between the kind or form of hop you’ll be adding to your dry-hopping process.

You can usually buy hops as whole cone, pellet, or cryo hops.

They each offer their individual benefits, and your choice will depend on the method you’ll use. But there is a difference in when you’ll add it to your brew.

Whole Cone Hops

Whole cone hops are challenging to work with when you’re homebrewing because:

  1. These hops absorb a LOT of beer from your carboy during the dry-hopping process.
  2. It also adds a lot of vegetal flavor while sapping the fruit aromas from your beer. But still…

Whole cone is an excellent choice if you’re into traditional methods of making your brew.

This is more in line with the kinds of techniques and processes used by medieval brewers especially in Germany and other ale-producing regions.

We do have to warn you that this isn’t beginner-friendly to use, though!

Pellet Hops

If you’re starting out, we recommend pellet hops. Not only are pellet hops cheap; they’re also easy to work with!

That’s because pelletized hops are made with whole dried hops, but they’re crushed and the heavier parts of the plant are removed.

As a result, you get to save on more beer liquid.

Also, your wort can circulate freely inside the fermentation vessel and extract more essential oils from the hop.

Cryo

As the name implies, this kind is frozen whole. Yes- whole.

The important parts of the plant that the freezing leaves behind are more significant than what pelletized leaves behind.

Because the important lupulin glands aren’t crushed while producing cryo, the resulting brew is brighter – leaning towards a pale ale – than what pelletized would make.

This kind is potent, though, so you would only need half the amount you’d use pelletized for, especially if you want a cleaner, brighter punch.

But if you want a complex, “hoppy” taste, then you can add as much cryo as you would normally add pelletized with.

Knowing Which Hops to Choose

There are pros and cons to your choice of hops, though. Pellet hops save beer, but you get a better hop aroma and fresher hop flavor from whole hops.

What’s more, you can usually add whole cone hops to your beer directly.

We don’t recommend this method for pelletized hops, though, because you might end up accidentally bottling excess hop matter into your final product.

Materials You’ll Need

Besides your usual homebrewing equipment, there’s not much else you’ll need other than your hops.

One thing we can suggest, though, is to get yourself a hop bag to contain your hops in while adding them to your batch.

A hop bag [R] makes straining your beer a breeze after you’re finished with the dry-hopping process.

A hop bag is a mesh material, a lot like a teabag, where you can remove more hops after dry hopping.

When You Should Add Hop

There are several times you can add hop into your batch: after primary, after secondary post-fermentation, and in the keg.

The dry-hopping stage is different, depending on the beer styles you’re trying to homebrew. The hop oils you extract from each stage would be different, so the technique would also change.

This is the most important decision to make, just as important as choosing your varieties. Your TIMING will dictate the taste and smell of your final product, so choose wisely!

Beginner Dry Hops Schedule

We suggest not starting out with the dry hopping after the first fermentation, because the CO2 accumulation and wort agitation during primary fermentation can take hop aroma out of your beer.

So get yourself familiar with the rules for when you should add dry hop to your fermenter, so you can get creative and break conventions along the way.

For starters, you can scroll down and look at adding hops after the second ferment.

During Fermentation

As you’ve read above, it’s only called “dry-hopping” when you add hops after fermentation.

But some daring brewers thought of experimenting with technique by making their hop additions during fermentation.

You can see this in New England IPAs, where you add dry hops before fermentation ends.

This method is successful enough for a unique style of beer, so you can try to give this a shot after you’ve mastered dry hopping on your own.

We say this because adding during fermentation can be quite difficult. You’ll extract unwanted bitter oils and compounds to your beer if you’re not careful.

That’s because you boil your wort during fermentation. Remember the iso-alpha acids we talked about earlier?

The boil releases more bitter oils into your brew batch, which you really wouldn’t want, especially when you’re just starting out. So opt for this method only when you’ve had enough experience with dry hopping.

After First Fermentation

If you’ve had a bit more practice with dry hopping post-second fermentation, then you can give this dry-hopping schedule a shot.

After you ferment, you can add dry hops to your fermenter and leave the hops to extract flavors to your brew. Leave the hops for as long as we recommend below.

After Second Fermentation

This is the easiest dry-hopping schedule to try out, especially when you’re starting out. The reason for this is that the temperatures after second fermentation are ideal and avoid bitter extraction.

Some brewers do this using glass carboys, which you can also opt for. Simply add dry hop to your carboy and let it sit for as much time as we recommend below.

Otherwise, you can use the same fermenter for your primary process and just add your hops inside as long as necessary.

In the Keg

Some homebrew enthusiasts don’t even dry hop in the fermenter. They opt for adding their bag to the keg so the hops can spend some time extracting its compounds into the beer.

The only problem is you can taste vegetal notes in your beer if you haven’t bottled or consumed your beer fast enough.

So if you don’t think you’ll be drinking your beer for the next 2 weeks, then we suggest another method for you.

How Long Should You Dry Hop?

The dry-hopping length depends on how much aroma you’ll want in your final product.

If you’re impatient and just want to know if your method works, 24 hours is enough to get some aroma in.

But the ideal period for dry hopping is anywhere within 48 to 72 hours. Any longer, and not only will you no longer extract important essential oils and aromas, but you’ll also risk hop creep. Yikes!

What To Expect

This amazing technique will help bring out amazing beers for you and your friends. Beer styles, like IPA, New England IPA, and Pale Ale are indispensable without this addition.

A regular brew can’t have the unique floral taste and heavy mouthfeel without this. So we really do recommend you give it a shot.

In case you’re scared that you will not get the right taste, just keep trying to change out the variety, form, and brewing stage you dry-hop to.

Also, remember that “floral” isn’t the only profile you’ll get from this technique. Other unique additions to your tastebuds include citrus, herbal, and even spicy notes.

Dry Hop Like the Pros

Primary Fermentation Dry Hopping Experiment

I choose to do a refreshing 5.5% IPA using only cascade and centennial, 2-row and a pinch of Cara-60. Simple, but delicious. The recipe is as follows:

IPA Recipe

  • Efficiency: 79%
  • Batch size: 5 gallons
  • OG: 1.056
  • FG: 1.014
  • IBU: 49.9
  • Abv: 5.5%

Grain

  • 9.5 lbs 2-row
  • 4oz Cara-60

Hops

  • .5 oz nugget 60
  • .5 oz centennial 10
  • .5 oz cascade 10
  • 1 oz centennial 5
  • 1 oz cascade 5
  • 2 oz dry hop cascade
Hops
Hops

Yeast: Wlp 001

For beer A, I gave it the traditional dry hop technique:

  • Primary fermention
  • Dry hop in secondary for 5 days
  • Kegged to 2.3 volumes of CO2
image

Beer B was given the primary fermentation dry hop. No secondary.

You might be asking how I could know what the last .004 of a fermenting beer could be?

To figure it out, I did a simple technique called a forced ferment test which would tell me my FG before my actual beer had finished.

In order to conduct a force ferment test, simply pitch the yeast into your wort, and shake your fermentation vessel. After the foam settles, sanitarily collect 1000ml of wort. Place the sample into a flask and place on your stir plate in a warm area.

After approximately two days, check your gravity with your hydrometer, and voila! There’s your finishing gravity.

The finishing gravity (for both beers) came out to be 1.014 That told me to dry hop at 1.018.

image

When the beers finished fermenting, they were both kegged and carbonated to a CO2 volume of 2.3. I then used my beer gun to take a few samples. I took them to a few local breweries in town where the professional brewers agreed to a blind “smell” test.

Dry Hop Experiment Results

Each brewer was given two glasses. One with beer A (secondary dry hop), and beer B (primary fermentation dry hop), and were told to choose which beer had the better hop aroma.

Their remarks are as follows:

Brewer 1

Out of both beers, he chose B, which was dry hopped during the primary fermentation. He responded by saying beer A had a very grassy aroma, whereas beer B had a well rounded character that complimented the malt character, while also having a “blast of hops” upon the first pour.

image

Brewer 2

He had a similar response to Brewer 1, stating that beer B had a cleaner, more balanced aroma that blended nicely with the malt character, and that it had a distinctly piney aroma.

Brewer 3

He favored beer A, stating that he enjoyed the grassy “in your face” aromatics the beer contained. As for beer B, he found that it was very aromatic but missing the grassy character.

Brewer 4

He too favored beer A, stating that he perceived a higher intensity compared to B. He mentioned it reminded him of a West Coast style IPA: raw, and grassy. He said there was a fruity character to the beer as well; however, no one else perceived this attribute.

image

Dry Hop Experiment Results
Well ladies and gentleman, we have a tie! (Unless you ask me, then it would be beer B).

Overall, the brewers who liked beer A did admit liking the aromas of beer B and vise versa, but each were still confident with their choices, even after learning which beer were which.

My take on this method of dry hopping

I’ve decided through personal experience prior to this experiment — and even more so after this — that dry hopping during your primary fermentation is the better of the two techniques, especially with NEIPA.

I will admit that it is more of a hassle since you need to more closely monitor the fermentation, but I feel the extra work is worth it!

In conclusion, it seems this showed more of personal preference in the aromatics presented to each brewer. As each one said the hop aromatics were high and intense for both beers, there must have been a small characteristic each person favored over the other beer.

Does anyone reading this article dry hop during their active primary fermentation? How about pressurized fermentation? Or do you prefer to wait after all fermentation has ceased to then add dry hops?

If not, give this a shot and let me know what you think!

Once last thing… I’d like to mention that I have produced even stronger aromatics when using yeasts other than my Cali, house strain. These particular yeasts included London 3,  English ale, “ Brett- like” Trois-  or WLP- 644, and Brett Anamolus.

Final Words

Here’s the short version: dry hopping is a great way to add flavor and aroma to your brew. It can take your brew from so-so to amazing so fast!

In case you’re interested in getting professional-quality results, we recommend trying it out and taking your beer game to the next level.

Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.