Hopping Methods for Homebrewing

Harness the full flavor-potential from your hops using one of these ingenious hopping methods in your next homebrew.

| July 2019

Getty Images/Beth Hall

Now, on to the more advanced stuff !

Identifying The Players

Extracting hop oils and other aroma components from hop cones is the driving force behind dry hopping beers. The exact number of different hop oils found in the lupulin glands of hops has been found to be nearly five hundred unique forms. Those hundreds of hop oils can be split into three major classification groups: hydrocarbons, oxygenated hydrocarbons, and sulfur-containing compounds. The hydrocarbon group makes up well over half of the hop oils by weight in a hop cone, and most hop-heads might know them as terpenes. Hop oils such as myrecene, pinene, and humulene are just three examples of terpenes (hydrocarbons) that many folks versed in this subject would recognize. But don’t let names fool you. For example, humulene has been shown to come in seventeen distinguishable forms in a hop cone, each slightly different than the other (welcome to the wonderful world of organic chemistry).

Oxygenated hydrocarbons include the terpenoids. Terpenes and terpenoids have a very similar skeleton structure, but the terpenoids will include an oxygen group. Esters and alcohol groups fall into this category with familiar hop oils such as linalool, geraniol, and citronellol. This group will come into play later when discussing glycosides, so pay mind to this group. Finally there are the sulfur compounds such as thiols like 4mmP, a polarizing compound some beer drinkers liken to cat pee while others perceive as tropical fruit aromas. Many recent studies have shown that sulfur compounds may play a bigger role in the hop characteristics than thought previously, given the very low sensory threshold of many of these compounds. Even though they make up less than 1 percent of the hops oils, the ultimate weight they carry into the beer may be rather hefty.

Just outside of the hop oil world, but very relevant to this discussion, you’ll find the glycosides. Glycosides are in fact a combination of a terpenoid (see earlier) with a sugar molecule (glucose). Peter Wolfe explains how glycosides can play a prominent role in the aroma of beer: glycosides are tied together with a relatively unstable bond (an ester bond) between the glucose group and the terpenoid. In beer, this ester bond can hydrolyze (break apart) and release the terpenoid and the glucose to the solution. So if you can hydrolyze the glycoside, you increase the terpenoids in solution.

Note the emphasis on relatively unstable: the bond break won’t happen by itself. It needs a push. That can happen in two ways. The first is a spontaneous reaction based on the pH of the solution. The lower the pH, the faster the spontaneous hydrolysis reaction can occur. This is convenient since beer pH is much lower than wort pH, and this spontaneous reaction won’t occur until pH is down near 4.4. The pH of beer is generally 4 to 4.2. The lower the pH, the faster this hydrolysis reaction occurs. The second way has been shown to occur thanks to yeast.



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