Hopping Methods In All Stages of Brewing

When was the day that 80 IBUs (International bitterness unites) in a beer became too little, not bold enough, or just plain ordinary? The increasing demand for ultra hoppy beers has spiked over the last few years pushing brewer's to be creative with all kinds of hopping methods to achieve maximum hoppyness. Let's look at some hopping methods you can use to further manipulate the hop profile in your beer today.

Boil Additions

Adding hops to different points in the boil has been the staple in the brewer's tool kit for controlling bitterness, hop flavor, and aroma. The earlier the hops are added in the boil, the more bitterness you will get from your hops. The latest additions are used for flavor and aroma. Lately however, some brewers are using less and less early addition hops in favor of doubling or tripling up on late addition hops (within 10 minutes). Removing early addition hops is said to impart a smoother bitterness than an equal amount of IBUs generated from early addition hops. This however means that a lot more hops need to be used to achieve the same IBUs. Having such large amounts of late hops will also boost hop aroma and flavor, so the benefit is two-fold. One thing to remember if you do only late addition hops, is to still boil for a full 60 minutes to remove DMS precursors.

First Wort Hopping

This hopping method is a bit contested in terms of it's effectiveness, but some case studies have shown blind tests where as high as 85% of a testing panel could choose a first wort hopped beer over others claiming no discernible difference. With the jury out on this one, it's up to you to use or pass on this method, but it seems you certainly won't hurt your beer by doing a first wort hop. First wort hopping is when you take a portion of your boil hop addition (usually around 30% of your aroma hops) and add it to the kettle before the boil begins. By the book, it's supposed to create a smoother and more balanced bitterness and hop complex hop aroma.

Mash Hopping

This hopping method is as much, if not more, contested than first wort hopping in terms of its actual contribution, but with some homebrewers swearing by it, it needs to be included. Mash hopping involves adding hops (instead of replacing a portion of your hop bill) to, you guessed it, the mash to boost flavor and aroma. With such controversy existing again around the effectiveness of this method, we again must encourage you to test it out for yourself to see if you can perceive a difference. Let us know your experiences with mash and first wort hopping in the comments.


A hopback is a device that flows hot wort in-line through a vessel containing a hop addition. It then leaves the hopback to be cooled in a counter-flow or plate chiller and is not re-introduced to the boil, but goes instead directly to the fermenter. The major upside of using a hopback is the hot wort will release the delicate oils that provide aroma and keep them locked in the wort as it is cooled without allowing them to dissipate into the air. For a homebrewed batch, all you need is a couple ounces for a noticeable difference.

Dry Hopping

One of the most commonly used hopping methods besides boil additions, dry hopping is when you add hops to the beer after the first (more vigorous) part of fermentation is completed, shortly before packaging. Dry hopping schedules vary from a few days to seven-to-ten days. Unlike the last two methods, dry hopping is tried and tested by homebrewers and commercial brewers alike to be extremely effective at sending your hop aroma through the roof. The amounts vary based on the recipe but a dry hop will typically fall somewhere between 2 and 8 ounces, with the higher amounts reserved for double and "triple" IPA recipes.

Hop Randall

The final of the hopping methods adds a burst of hops at the last possible moment, in the serving line. A Randall is a device that you fill with hops, and as the beer transfers to the faucet, it is forced through the hops and filtered again to remove any hop particulates coming through to your glass. This is common to see at beer festivals for that extra hoppy kick. It's obviously not very practical for just a beer or two a day, but it could make hosting a barbecue or party a hoppy hit. Some hopback devices like the Blichmann Hop Rocket can be converted into a randall with a conversion kit. So the next time you're out trying to make a superb hoppy beer; think about employing some or all (if you're bold enough) of these hopping methods in a batch. You'll certainly need a lot of hops, but it's worth it.. If you're looking for an extra hoppy beer, but aren't into forming your own recipes, check out our offering of all grain and extract IPA kits.

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