I’m currently in the process of making my first IPA styled homebrew. The Kiwi Express IPA kit I got came with 8 ounces of pellet hops which all originated in New Zealand. 4 ounces were used during the boil and the other 4 were reserved for dry hopping. Dry hopping is the process of adding hops late in the fermentation process to get more hop aroma out of your finished beer. My batch has been fermenting for 5 weeks and I have a week to go before I put this one on draft.
My main concern about dry hopping was contamination. As a homebrewer, I know the number one rule is to keep everything sanitized and that even the smallest particle of bacteria can grow into an infected batch of beer, which can really make things taste nasty if not completely ruin your beer. But, how am I supposed to sanitize an ingredient? After a little research and some hard thinking, I decided to rest easy and have some faith in my beer. The beer has an army of its own at this point (alcohol) to fight off mild contaminates if any enter the carboy, either directly from the hops or unintentionally by human error. I also learned that hop pellets have their own anti-bacterial properties and it’s relatively safe to introduce them right into the beer at any point. So, with a big sigh, I dumped 4 ounces of New Zealand hops directly into the 5 gallon glass carboy and hoped for the best.
The picture above shows what everything looked like shortly after I added the hop pellets. I put the carboy air lock on and watched how the hops behaved. About 30 minutes later, I shined a flashlight into the beer and noticed small particles of hops sinking and others rising, similar to the way fermentation looks when it’s really active.
Days 2 and 3:
The next image shows day 3, not much change from day 2. A half inch of hops now blankets the top of the beer/wort. I can’t distinctly identify any pellets, as they’ve all blended together into a single layer. I’m hoping I see some change either on day 4 or 5, otherwise transferring to the keg isn’t going to be easy. I’m a little concerned that there will be particles of hops is suspension and cause a gritty finished product.
Days 4 and 5:
More of the same. I was expecting the hops to settle at this point, but they’re just floating on top. This isn’t good because as soon as the beer is disturbed, I know those small particles of hops are going to start to sink and I don’t want hop bits in suspension as I’m transferring the beer into the keg. So, I’ve decided to try cold crashing. I’ve read that if you refrigerate the beer before you transfer it, anything in suspension will be forced to settle to the bottom, leaving you with clean beer to transfer to your keg. Also, the beer receives the carbonation better at a colder temperature so it’s a win/win situation.
Success! After 24 hours of refrigeration, the hops have settled and I’m feeling much better about the finished product. When I moved the carboy into the keezer, the beer was disturbed and helped out with the settling process, so that might be worth mentioning.
I’m now feeling much better about dry hopping my homebrew and I hope this post will help someone out there feel the same. If I didn’t have the refrigeration space to put the entire carboy in, I would recommend disturbing the beer on day 5 and just letting the hops settle for 24 hours (and by “disturbing” I mean gently – you don’t want any splashing at this point). I think the cold crashing helped out a lot, but I’m sure you could get similar results without doing that step.