Dry Hopping with Hop Pellets

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.

Day 1:

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.

Dry hopping with hop pellets - Day 4

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.

Day 6:

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.

Cold crashing after dry hopping with hop pellets

Conclusion:

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.

New Zealand IPA - finished product

13 thoughts on “Dry Hopping with Hop Pellets

  1. I have never dry hopped with pellets before, only whole hops. Looks pretty crazy in that picture, like you have some pea soup floating on top. How much beer did you lose to trub in the end? That is the biggest thing when I dryhop with whole hops is I end up losing a lot of beer to the hops.

    1. I had the recipe just over the five gallon mark and probably only lost a pint or two. I was really surprised how clean it came out when I started serving from the keg. I wouldn’t hesitate doing hop pellets again – they gave off great aroma and flavor!

  2. Glad I found this post. I just dry hopped for the first time and I used pellets. I did it a day and a half ago and it looks a lot like yours did. Just a nasty looking layer at the top. If mine doesn’t settle I’m going to stick it in the garage (cold crash, it’s winter).

    1. Thanks for your comment Ryan! I have a few dry hop sessions under my belt now and use this method all the time. Don’t expect your hops to magically settle to the bottom. For me, they remained floating until I disturbed it while putting it in my cooler to cold crash it. I think cold crashing helps tremendously, and if your garage is cold, go for it. I’d only recommend cold crashing if you’re planning to keg your homebrew. If you’re naturally carbonating it and bottling your brew, don’t cold-crash it. Instead, just disturb the carboy gently (no splashing or sloshing around) to get those hops to sink. Then, transfer to your bottling bucket, add your priming sugar, and bottle. Let me know how it works for you or if you have any other questions.

  3. Oh ok cool. I do bottle mine, so I better not cold crash it. I’ll do what you say here. Appreciate the feedback. I’ll be checking out your site a bit more now too.

    1. Whew – I’m glad I said something then. I force-carbonate my homebrew directly with the CO2 that pumps it from the kegs, so it doesn’t matter if it’s cold. In your case, you would want to keep that beer at ale-fermenting temperatures until the bottles are carbonated (7-10 days). Doing so allows the yeast to ferment that small amount of priming sugar and create CO2 in the bottle, and ultimately carbonate the beer. Cheers Ryan!

  4. You would be fine cold crashing to help settle the hops out. I’ve cold crashed/lagered for months with no problem and I only bottle. There will be more than enough yeast in suspension to carobonate. Just bottle condition at room temperature for 2-3 weeks, and you will be fine! :)

    Nice pictures by the way!

  5. Just wanted to chime in and say that most breweries use pellet hops…easier to store, take up less inventory space, cheaper than whole cone and provide good results.

    1. I’m a big fan of them Dirk. I also learned that the pelleting process yields better oils from the hop cones versus using whole cones. The only big brewery I can name that is insistent about using whole cone hops is Sierra Nevada – I think it’s just them preserving their company’s history, which is kind of cool.

  6. Just watched an episode of Chop & Brew (made by Chip Walton formerly of Northern Brewer/Brewing TV) and he had a really good video of John Kimmich (Brewer at The Alchemist). He made a pretty clear point of never dry hopping for longer than 4 days. I think the cold crashing idea is good, but you may want to tighten the schedule up a bit so you crash on day 3 and rack by end of day 4. Longer than that and more harsh/grassy notes can be pulled from the hops. He also mentioned the importance of water ph and hardness control, but that’s a world unto itself.

    1. Thanks for the comment Chris! If a brewer that makes a world-class IPA says to stick to a 3-4 day schedule, then it looks like I’ll be doing so on the next batch. Good timing too – I’m about to make an IPA over the next week or two.

  7. I’ll be dry hopping the Northern Brewer Pliny clone today. They actually require two rounds of dry hopping. I’ll use the cold crash method you posted (as well as stick to the 4 day max for each round). It’ll be my first use of those new big mouth carboys as well. I like to dry hop using a muslin bag to keep the hop sludge to a minimum, but they are nearly impossible to get out of a normal carboy.

    1. Hope it turns out good Chris. I was listening to BeerSmith’s podcast #49 with Mitch Steele from Stone and he also recommended to put a limit on the length of the dry hop. His was slightly longer than John Kimmich’s and recommended no longer than 7 days. I guess it really comes down to the hop variety and the other variables, like temperature. That would be an interesting study. Good idea with the muslin bag and the wide-mouth carboy. I’d probably do the same thing if I had a wide-mouth. My only advise there is to keep it on the loose side so the hops can break apart and expand and get exposed properly. Let me know how the cold crashing works out for you Chris.

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