Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How I Dry Hop: Maximizing aromas on a homebrew scale.

I've tried virtually every dry hopping method imaginable in my hoppy beers over the years, in the early days I learned quickly that throwing loose pellets in carboy wasn't ideal. But over the last year or two I've cobbled some ideas from other folks to create a process that keeps o2 exposure limited resulting in a super aromatic hoppy beer. My process is pretty similar to what Derek at Bearflavored.com posted excep you don't have to modify a keg and there are really only a few pieces of equipment you need. It's so similar in fact that I considered not posting it and just directing people to his site, but I like the no modification part enough that I wanted to share. As you'll see, the prerequisite for my method is that you are kegging your beers, it's really the only way to get commercial quality hop aroma on a homebrew scale. Here is the equipment you will need, if you're kegging you likely have most of this around...
The key here is reducing o2 exposure, which is something that's very difficult to control when you're not kegging. It’s not only about the beer being fresh, cold storage and keeping the beer away from o2 are keys to preserving and maximizing your hop aroma. We've all picked up an old poorly store IPA at the store that tastes like carboard, its miserable. This is why I cringe when I see people racking to secondary in a glass carboy and dumping in some loose pellets. You might get a decent short term result but the beer is going to drop off a cliff quickly after being exposing to that much o2. 
Pushing sanitizer from one keg (dry hopping keg) to the next (serving keg), sanitizing my racking equipment
in the process. The outsides of the tubing don't touch the beer, fret not.

Get started by cleaning and sanitizing your kegs using whatever methods you employ, the second (serving) keg won’t be used until the dry hop is done but you should have it ready ahead of time. Tie some unflavored dental floss to the drawstring of your nylon hop bag and boil the bag and a few pieces of stainless (they are used as weights so the bag doesn’t float in the keg) for a few minutes to clean and sterilize, then soak it all in Star-San to sanitize.
Plenty of space in this bag to fit 6oz with room to spare.
Fill the nylon hop bag with all of your dry hops and the stainless weights then suspend it in your dry hop keg with the dental floss tied to one of the keg posts. The floss is thin enough that the keg O-ring can still make an airtight seal and yet strong enough to handle the weight of the bag and its contents. With the bag suspended in the dry hop keg, seal it up and purge with co2 sufficiently leaving a bit of head pressure to ensure a tight seal. I rack the beer to the keg using a similar process as the Brulosphy method but the beer is pushed via co2 into the keg through a ball lock disconnect connected to the beer out post for a fully closed system transfer. I push co2 into the headspace of the Better Bottle (I would never do this with glass, but do pressurize my Speidel and BB's) then pull the pressure relief pin on the dry hop keg and watch the beer flow. Once the keg is full you can purge it again to be sure and pressurize, then store at room temp (68-72F) for 5 days. 

You can kind of see the dental floss tied to the post, hanging in there is the tied off bag.
This setup works decently well, sometimes the orange cap doesn't make a great seal so I have to wire
 tie it tight. This was a 100% Brett IPA by the way. This is the part you need to crew in the co2 line, 
I also have a tailpiece connected.
Transferring in a closed system, minimizing o2 exposure prior to dry hop.
Some professional breweries, Tired Hands being one, will rouse the hops during dry hopping by bubbling co2 through the bottom of the conical tanks to get more uniform contact with all of the hops. This also helps in scrubbing any o2 that came along with the addition of dry hops. At home that’s tough to emulate without a conical, but I have gotten great results from giving the keg a light shake once or twice a day during the dry hop. With the keg being fully purged there is no risk of introducing o2, the shaking will rouse those hops that are hanging in the bag loosening them up enough to get the most aroma extraction possible. It might sound like a small step but in my experience it makes a huge difference.
Sanitizing the jumper while emptying the serving keg of the sanitizer.
Once the 5 day dry hop is through I set up to transfer the beer to the (cleaned\sanitized\co2 purged) serving keg, leaving the spent dry hops, bag, and some settled yeast behind in the dry hop keg. This is where you will need the keg jumper, which is just two beer out ball lock disconnects joined via beer line linked above. Connect the keg jumper to both the dry hop keg and the serving keg via the beer out, we will drain via the dip tube and fill the serving keg via the same, nice and gentle on the transfer. With the jumper in place, connect co2 line to the dry hop keg and set the regulator pressure to 2-3psi and pull the relief valve on the serving (receiving) keg and watch it fill. We want to keep this transfer nice and gentle and o2 free so be patient and do it slow so as not to blow off all those aromatics we've worked so hard for. Once transfer is complete you can force carbonate and serve the beer as usual, and clean out the dry hop keg of course. 

If you want to simplify this even more you can actually forgo the transfer to the serving keg and leave the dry hops in the keg for the duration of that beer's life. So long as you suspend the bag high enough that once you have drank a gallon or more the bag is suspended above the beer and no longer in contact with it, it shouldn't be an issue. I have a few friends who use this method and their beers are great, based on older posts I think Mike Tonsmeire leaves the bag inside as well. For me though I like to remove the hops to be safe in case I need to move the keg and something ends up getting clogged or caught in the dip tube. Not to mention I'll need to own 3-4 dry hop bags as I will always have them tied up in kegs since my beers stay on tap for 2-3 months. 
Close up of the jumper while the beer is being transferred. Serving keg in the foreground, dry hop keg in the back.
Hoppy beers like HopWards and Riverwards IPA are so heavily reliant on the late hop and dry hop aroma that care needs to be taken to maximize it. Whether you perform that final transfer or not I assure you this process will take your hoppy beers to the next level, especially with the shaking. However you go about it, be gentle with the transfers and keep the o2 exposure at a minimum.

15 comments:

  1. Good stuff thanks. What part is used to connect the orange carboy cap to your gas line? Do you have a specific part, with diameter?

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    1. Its actually the same piece that is screws into the bottom of the Beer Gun. Its called a 1/4" NPT X 1/4" flare adapter, mine is brass. You can buy it here. http://amzn.to/1P9a9o8

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  2. Wow - this is an amazing, and detailed write up! I'm just about to make the jump to kegging, and I am so glad for this resource. Thank you!

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  3. Cheers for this, does the corny keg jumper you have linked screw directly to the beer out disconnects? I ordered the one from your link and it has hex nuts attached which are bigger than the beer out disconnects.

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    1. Crap, I liked the wrong jumper. So sorry about that. Thats a sanke keg jumper that I use from time to time to move beers fermenting in sanke kegs. Not a waste though, the beer line is still good. Just cut the nuts off and use a worm clamp to attach it to a barbed ball lock connector. Sorry Russ!

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  4. Ha, no problems Ed. I have the barbed ball lock connectors to screw on so I can do that! Cheers.

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  5. Just discovered your blog, and I'm trying to do all the same things, so its very helpful. I've keg hopped before, but never done the closed carboy transfer, I'll have to give it a shot. I'm intrigued by the CO2 bubbling method. Maybe hook the CO2 line up the the liquid out? I also wanted to share that in my most recent batch the lid leaked and I wound up with an empty CO2 tank. I believe it happened when the level of the beer dropped below the bag. In the future I will be transferring to a serving keg.

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    1. Thats another reason to transfer off the hops I suppose. Some people think transferring to a serving keg isnt worth the added effort, I say at that point why cut corners.

      You could certainly blow co2 through the beer out but if the hops are in the bag shaking does the job just fine. If you had loose hops in a conical fermenter then blowing the co2 from the bottom is ideal since all the dry hops had settled there. In our case with the kegs we just need some agitation.

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  6. First time kegging. After I dry hop, can I remove the bag and re purge with more co2? I only have one keg available so I can't transfer. Also using glass Carboy so can't co2 transfer :(

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    1. Setting notifications on, forgot to check box, let me know your thoughts, thanks!

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    2. Oh yea that will work fine. I'm just being overly cautious with the closed transfer to another keg. I actually do what you're doing sometimes as well, depends on keg availability.

      Some folks contest that just pulling the bag out and purging again will keep from blowing off aromas bc when you push to a serving keg there could be some loss. Im not totally sure how different the 2 methods as far as blowing off aromatics but you'll be happy with either pulling the bag and purging or transferring to a serving keg.

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  7. I am going to try this tomorrow but it is also my first time kegging (gulp)

    1. How do you know how much co2 to put in while dry hopping? Do you keep in in a temp controlled fridge while dry hopping? What temp? At what point do you force carb?
    2. Do you cold crash in carboy and then transfer to keg? Or cold crash in keg then dry hop? If cold crash in keg, how do you figure out the c02 levels as it might cause a vacuum effect?

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    1. and also what volume do you go for, 2.4? Thanks!

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  8. So I've tried as best I could to replicate this with my system and kept the fermenter and keg as far from O2 as I could. My question is when/how do you take gravity readings? I was thinking of drawing some off after it's time in the keg with a bit of CO2 pressure, but it seems like it's almost counter-productive before that due to risk of O2 exposure.

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