Whirlpool Hopping Techniques

Recently John experimented with some hop bursting for an IPA he did. This week we ask the question ‘What is the fundamental difference between hop bursting and whirlpool hopping?’.

Both techniques are all about maximizing hop flavor and aroma from hops, but each takes a slightly different approach to get there. Hop bursting relies on very large quantities of hops added late in the boil to generate some bitterness while capturing a bigger return on the flavor and aroma end. While traditional wisdom dictates that short boils do not contribute much bitterness, the effects of a short boil time on the hops is compensated for in volume of hops added.

While hop bursting can be effective, it is an expensive way to enhance aroma and flavor while at due to the large amount of hops needed to generate enough bitterness to balance the beer out. This is where whirlpool hopping can come to the rescue.

In whirlpool hopping, a normal bittering charge is often added at the start of the boil. The real magic comes by adding hops after flameout and before the wort is run off into the chiller. With the heat source of the wort is no longer rolling with a boil, hence less volatiles are escaping the wort. This preserves more of the delicate oils in the hops and keeps them in the wort. Pro-brewers experimenting with this technique have also experimented with the temperature of the wort and the time the hops sit in the boil.

The technique of whirlpool hopping is named as such due to its origins in the professional brewing space. At the end of a boil the wort in the boil kettle is pumped back on itself to induce a circular flow within the brew kettle. The resulting whirlpool creates a center cone of hot break in the kettle so that as the wort is drawn out of the kettle usually through a kettle edge placed port; that break material is easily left in the kettle and out of the chiller.

In some case, brewers report chances in hop aroma profiles by perching their wort some to get further below the volatilization stage. You might here of brewers pre-chilling into the range of 170-180F first then adding whirlpool hops. Obviously you could experiment to with the length of time the hops stay in that whirl-pooling wort.

So regardless of how you approach it there are many ways to get more and more hop aroma and flavor into you beer. Hop backs, hop bursting, whirl pooling and don’t forget dry hopping. there is some interesting stuff happening in the area of dry hopping these days too.

What’t your favorite approach to getting more aroma and flavor into your beers? Aside from IPAs and pale ales are there other styles where you’ve use one of these techniques?
Let us know. Drop a comment either here in the blog or over on the YouTube channel.


Cellared Cranberry Cider

We recently tasted a couple fresh ciders that we had made towards the end of 2014. Fermenting freshly pressed apple juice is how many generations before us preserved that valuable food item. Fortifying the beverage certain must have made for some good times in back in colonial times. Packed with vitamins cellared ciders probably help stave of different types of vitamin deficiencies during the long winter times. This week John digs into his cellar of beverage and brings us a cranberry cider from early 2013!

This thing poured with an very interesting pink hue. (Watch the video for a good close up that captures the hue pretty well.)
The aroma of this cider however was pretty strong for me with some odd notes. Right off the top of it I got a distinct meally, vegetable oil smell. Like what your shirt smells like after frying up chicken fingers or something. John really was focused in on what he describes as acetic acid. I think its a cleaner smell than that and not vinegar like.

On the first sip I was really taken back by the acidity. It was pretty strong at first. My palate adjusted a bit as you’d expect it to when drinking sour beverages. The next sips gave way to a subtle lingering cranberry and apple combo. Though the cranberry was pretty soft at this point.

After drinking more if the flavor sort of grower on me, but that vegetable oil thing was just a bit too much. I suspect that flavor may be a long term effect of yeast autolysis. Autolysis is classically described as being meaty. So maybe on my palate that’s coming across as vegetable oil. Fortunately for me I guess, I don’t have much experience with yeast autolysis.

So it is interesting tasting something that had been cellared for so long. When we first tasted this one a couple years back it was strictly dry and tart with a very pink hue. I think the hue has only diminished because the cider is far more clear now than it was back then. Tasting something with so much age on it showed me two things. First its amazing how well something can hold up. The higher acidity and alcohol content certainly helps out a I suspect. Second, the presence of what I assume to be a yeast autolysis flavor was something new to me. Now I’ll be more keen on its flavor presence in other beers or wines that have been aged extensively.


Vienna Lager Brew Session

It has snowed here in Massachusetts. And it has snowed. And it has snowed. In fact yes, it is even snowing now. It’s tough to brew with so much snow. Are you snowed in? Do you brew in the cold? Well, if not and you are looking for a fix we have recorded a brew session for you. Grab a pint sit back and pretend you are getting your own brew on!

Now before the comments start rolling in – This session was recorded after only our first storm. It has dumped on a twice more with several little storms in between. So don’t dismiss our backyard with only 12-18 inches in it. Presently my brew area (not pictured) is 5 feet deep in the snow.

John has been jamming with Vienna lager for quite some time and it is good!!! He’s back at it in this video with his basic steps. It’s also nice to get a glimpse of someone else equipment setup and see if they do something different from you.

The primary challenge with brewing in these conditions is estimating the boil off rate. When it’s cold and the air is dry, the rate tends to be a bit higher. If you don’t account for it you, can overshoot your gravity by losing too much water and that can throw off you hops to malt ratio/balance.

John also experienced a new winter challenge and that involved being shipped yeast that froze in transit! Not sure how to avoid that one, but he recovered well by building starters for the yeasts he had and looking to be sure they took off. When he knew he still had good yeast, the session was on.

Are you brewing in waist deep snow? Do you brew like mad in the fall so as to not need to brew in the winter or maybe you live someplace warm and dry year round. Tell us about it in the comments below!


Here’s some photos of the lager lagering away:

Beer Fridge

Lager Lagering Away

2015 Cider Tasting

John and I both made a couple batches of cider in the fall of 2014.

He has his method. I have mine.

We tasted them side by side and discussed our choices of pressed juice, fortifications, yeast and bottle conditioning.

Nothing better than crisp refreshing cider to mix it up once and a while.

I have found that some people like cider and some people hate cider. Cider isn’t my favorite beverage, but I’ve discovered some interesting facts about cider.

I don’t know of a commercial cider that I really enjoy. There are some new cideries opening up around here from time to time; and I occasionally seek out their products to see what’s new and different and yet none of them thrill me.

I have discovered that making cider at home, similar to home brewing, you can craft the beverage to be what you like. Just like tweaking a favorite beer style to fit your taste buds, cider making has some leeway as well.

For my ciders, I have gotten the most success out of adding a little dry malt extract to them. Using a little DME tends to help retain a little gravity at the end of the ferment. Not all the DME is fermentable which leads to a cider that has more of a 1.005 finish rather than something lower than that or even below 1.000.

That touch of residual sweetness helps carry the apple flavor when most of the aromatics and such have been driven off by fermentation.

John prefers to use some honey to fortify his cider. Honey is nearly completely fermentable, just like the pressed apple juice is. When John doesn’t have in residual sweetness he makes up for with floral character from that honey. A nice honey fragrance tends to trick my palate into thinking the cider is sweeter than it is. Depending on the source of your honey you can get some very interesting notes in the cider. Being a mead maker as well, John has developed a keen sense on how to use honey and what its contribution may be.

Fortifying your pressed juice to make cider with an ancillary sugar source is somewhat necessary as well. You can very quickly ferment your juice straight up. It will create a decent cider but the alcohol level will be fairly low. You get a session cider if I can borrow the term. I think that we expect cider to be a little stronger than 4% though. There is something about their being 8% ABV in the beverage that helps carry the flavor a bit and enhances the experience.

Ultimately, it’s about what you like. I am a die hard beer guy so I think that touch of malt in my cider satisfies me when I a craving something other than beer (either to brew or drink). The nice thing about cider making is that its pretty much as simple as putting yeast into cider and stirring. A little yeast nutrient doesn’t hurt either.

Let us know about your cider making tips and tricks.


What is Hop Bursting?

Can you put too many hops in a beer? How do you know when enough is enough? These questions brought us to some thoughts on hop bursting… so we shot a video.

Hop bursting is not a new technique per se, but for a couple dudes that tend to brew malt forward beers it was an interesting discussion for us. Over the last couple years we’ve certainly been exploring hoppy styles and hop usage a little more. John with his homegrown hop beers and me with some no chill IPA experiments (Falconer’s Flight hop blend). We’ve also been thinking about hops a little more during our discussion on water chemistry.

Hop bursting is the practice of adding a much larger than normal amount of hops at the end of the boil. I guess, in the strictest sense, it involves only adding hops at the end of the boil. The idea being that even though you only get a few IBUs at the end of the boil, by adding more hops you are getting enough IBUs to balance the beer. That big burst at the end preserved the hop oil content really giving a beer with tons of flavor and aroma.

We’ve never hop bursted before but is sounds interesting. Before we try it, we’ve wondered at what point is too much hops… Certainly just adding your normal 3-4 oz of hops at the end of the boil isn’t going to be enough, but is 12 oz or 16 oz too much???

I think it depends on your system and your brewing process. We all brew a little differently and we all have slightly different equipment set ups. (At least until the government starts subsidizing Blichmann kettles in every home.)

Therefore, the question of how much is too much need to be determined empirically.

If you are going to try hop bursting (or any recipe modification) you need to go into it expecting that plans may get you close to what you want but you’ll need to re-brew it again once you taste it.

It is part of the process of tuning in a recipe or technique. There is no direct answer sometimes; you need to determine how it works for you on your system.

I’d say the goal of a good hop bursting beer is to minimize vegetal off flavors, while maximizing every thing that it great about your hops. Keeping the bulk of that much hop debris out of the fermentor is likely key, not to mention reducing little hop bits in the glass as well.

We may experiment with some hop bursting in a few coming brews.

Do you have any experience with hop bursting?

How much hop material have you added to kettle before without it becoming a limiting factor in your process?

Where to the diminishing returns start?

Leave us a comment either here or on our YouTube channel.