Here at Mr. Beer we were having a debate on what hopping techniques produced the most desirable hop flavors in our recipes. So rather than sitting around talking about it, we decided to experiment and let the beers talk for themselves. When in doubt, test it out, I always say. Here's the setup:
6 different hop techniques were tested:
1) 1/2 oz hops boiled in 1 qt of water for 5 minutes, and the hops were then discarded
2) 1/2 oz hops boiled in 1 qt of water for 5 minutes, and the hops were then transferred to the fermentor along with everything else
3) 1/2 oz hops boiled in 1 qt of wort (prepared by adding 1/2 oz Pale Softpack DME in the 1 qt of water, resulting in appx 1.040 gravity), and the hops discarded
4) 1/2 oz hops boiled in 1 qt of wort (prepared by adding 1/2 oz Pale Softpack DME in the 1 qt of water, resulting in appx 1.040 gravity), and the hops were then transferred to the fermentor along with everything else
5) The beer was dry hopped for 1 week w/ 1/2 oz hops
6) The beer was dry hopped for 2 weeks w/ 1/2 oz hops
Our White IPA seasonal was used as the base beer for all of these techniques and 10 g of coopers yeast were added to each in 2.13 gallon batches. Falconer's Flight was used as the hop in all the beers. At the end, the bottles were conditioned for 2 and 4 weeks, and were then put into a blind taste test with 5 tasters.
Here is a little background as to why we chose these techniques. Plenty of sources explain that the solution in which hops are being boiled needs to be acidified in order for proper isomerization (bittering) to occur. Wort usually produces the ideal pH of around 5.2 for that bittering process to occur, whereas your average water has a pH of around neutral 7. On top of that, boiling in a less acidic solution leads to the extraction of more grassy/tannin like flavors from the hops. So with this in mind, we naturally assume that the same amount of hops boiled for the same amount of time in wort would lead to a more bitter and more refined hop flavor when compared to being boiled in water. Also, we just wanted to compare the flavor of the beer if afterwards, the same boiled hops remained throughout the entire fermentation, or were
discarded prior to fermentation. On top of that, we wanted to compare the difference in flavor after dry hopping a beer for different durations of time.
The results were surprising...
Water vs. Wort
There was a more perceived bitterness in batches #3 and #4, the ones boiled in wort, when compared to 1 and 2, in the sense that it was less floral. The bitterness may have been disguised by the slightly higher gravity beer, which increased the perceived sweetness. If I had to redo this test, I would have added the same amount of DME to the water samples to have the same gravity/perceived sweetness at the end in each beer. Multiple taste testers did perceive 3 and 4 to have more of a bitter flavor, though.
Hops Removed vs. Hops Remaining
Of the beers with hops remaining in the fermentor after its boil (#2 and #4), there was a noticeable “less refined bitterness” somewhat “dirtier background” and grassy flavor. Some reported that the flavor of them dries the mouth.
Despite these differences, preferences for each beer were all over the place. In fact, many favored batch #4 (wort + hops remaining).
Dry Hopping 1 Week vs. Dry Hopping 2 Weeks
Batch # 5 (1 week DH) produced very smooth, fruity flavors The flavor and smell was purely peach and apricot, almost to the likeness of peach yogurt. There was little to no increased bitterness and little to no astringency.
Batch # 6 (2 week DH) had a dryer peach smell, flavor and slightly more of a puckery mouthfeel. The fruitiness was less strong than 1 week dry hopping, but the pucker/astringence/earthiness added a finer complexity to the beer.
To be honest, the best flavor in my opinion was when I mixed batch # 5 with # 6. This augmented the fruitiness, while complementing the fruit with a fine dry pucker earthiness.
Boiling hops in water tends to extract some bitterness, though it isn't quite the same refined bitterness of isomerized alpha acids in an acidic wort solution. This bitterness lends itself more to an astringent, grassy tone. This isn't altogether unpleasant, however, and may be desired in a style. Boiling hops in wort creates a much more traditional refined and
pleasant bitterness, with less grassy notes. Leaving the boiled hops in the fermentor for the entire time of fermentation also tends to extract more hop flavor, though leaning on the grassy astringent side. It's important, however, to stress how subtle some of these flavor differences were. Even the perceived bitterness levels between two beers was sometimes contradictory between tasters.
I find the dry hopping results to be the most conclusive and most impressive. It is very surprising to see how much of a difference the duration of dry hopping can make in a beer. Dry hopping for one week tends to extract the most of the fruity aroma and flavor in a hop. It appears that after this point, the fruitiness tends to dissipate off. This is likely because these flavors are from highly volatile aromatic oils in the hop, which simply evaporate off over time. Dry hopping for 2 weeks allows for the reduction of fruity volatile oils and then begins to extract more grassy astringent flavors from the hops. The best flavor in my opinion was when I mixed batch # 5 with # 6. This augmented the fruitiness, while complementing the fruit with a fine dry pucker earthiness.
So what can we take from all this information? For one thing, the same ingredient can produce many different flavors when treated differently. More importantly, knowing how all these different techniques can distinctly impact a beer gives us more tools in our knowledge toolbox to be able to tweak the flavor of a beer to exactly what we want.
Alright, how 'bout a recipe:
Peregerine's Perch IPA
1- Northwest Pale Ale Refill
1- Pale DME Softpack
1- 1/2 oz packet Zythos pellet hops (10 min boil in wort)
1- 1/2 oz packet Falconer's Fruit pellet hops (Dry Hop 2 weeks)
1- 1/2 oz packet Falconer's Fruit pellet hops (Dry Hop 1 week)
1- Packet US-05 Safale Yeast
This recipe captures the refined bitterness from a 10 minute boil in wort, the bursting fruity aroma of a 1 week dry hop, and the earthy pucker finish of a two week dry hop.
Start by boiling up a quart of water. Once that water has reached a boil, dissolve half the packet of Pale DME ( to make a wort gravity of about 1.041. Once the DME is dissolved and there is no threat of a boil over, place the 1/2 oz zythos, tied in a hopsack, in the boil for 10 minutes. Then remove the hopsack, turn off the heat, and stir in the remainder of the DME as well as the HME. Add the concentrated wort to the fermentor with cold water already in it, and pitch your yeast after the appropriate temperature is reached (68°F). After a week of fermentation (at this point, the majority of the fermentation should be just about at its end), dry hop with 1/2 oz Falconer's Fruit. The following week, dry hop again with 1/2 oz falconer's fruit hop pellets. Bottle after 21 days of fermentation. Enjoy your artfully crafted hop-sensation.