You should all know by now how much I love my hops, I’m a confirmed 100% hophead! Any way of adding more hops to my beer for that extra hop flavor is fine with me, the more the better. But sometimes you want more aroma and hop flavor without the taste-destroying ultra-bitterness that often goes with it!
If you are new to homebrewing you may have heard the phrases “hop standing” and “whirlpooling” being mentioned when talking about late hop additions to your boil. But what exactly are these two brewing techniques and how do they differ from each other?
Even many of my more experienced brewing buddies seem to be confused, with many thinking a whirlpool is just another name for a hop stand, where you stir the hops rather than just let them stand. But there are some key differences between the two techniques which can affect your finished beer, and every brewer should understand the two techniques if they want to brew their best beer.
Let’s try and settle the argument once and for all by looking at exactly what each technique offers to your finished beer. If you are a fan of hop-forward beers like an IPA, there can be never too many hops! But should you use the hop stand method or whirlpooling when adding those late hops? Which one will work best for you?
Hop Stand vs Whirlpool: The Basics
Adding hops to your wort as it boils is an essential stage in the brewing process. Hops can provide bitterness which counterbalances the sweetness of your malt and will also provide flavor and aroma to the beer. Most of the time, the hops will be added on multiple occasions during the boil with the majority added during the final 60 minutes. As a rule, you would add the high alpha acid hops for bittering early in the boil with aroma additions added during the later stages.
Sometimes, when more of a hoppy flavor is required, a brewer will add a small amount of hops at the flame-out stage or after the wort has been removed from the heat. These late additions help to extract more of those hop aromas and flavors without adding too much bitterness. Adding them as the wort has stopped boiling also helps prevent those volatile aromatics from being “boiled off” or just lost in the boil process.
Although certain beer recipes will dictate when to add the hops to the boil, at the end of the day it’s the brewer’s decision when to add the hops if they want a hoppier-tasting beer. The skills of the brewer can also play a part in deciding when to add the hops and which method they use.
Hop standing and whirlpooling are two ways in which brewers add hops to their post-boil wort. If you are new to brewing it’s probably best to stick to the tried and tested methods and follow the instructions of your beer recipe closely. However, as you get more experienced why not try experimenting with hop stands and whirlpools to give a beer its own unique twist of hoppiness? Hopefully, after reading more about these two techniques below, you’ll decide which one is right for your beer.
What is Hop Standing?
A hop stand is a brewing technique where you remove the wort from the heat and add hops to the wort while it is still hot. You can either add the hops immediately following flame out or after removing the wort from the heat. It’s similar to when a recipe calls for hops to be added at flame out, but with a hop stand you leave the hops to steep for a period, typically 20 – 30 minutes, before cooling the wort and then transferring to a fermenter. Basically, you leave the hops to stand, hence the name – simple, really!
The temperature of your wort will directly influence how much bitterness, flavor, and aroma are imparted from the hops to the wort. A general rule is – the higher the temperature of your wort, the more bitterness you will find extracted from the hops.
During the boiling process, hops are added to the wort, and the heat causes the hops to isomerize. Isomerization is the process by which alpha acids in the hops are transformed into iso-alpha acids, which are responsible for the bitterness in beer.
When hops are added to the boiling wort, the heat also causes some of the essential oils in the hops to evaporate, which can result in a loss of flavor and aroma. Hop standing allows the brewer to extract the desirable hop oils without losing them to evaporation.
To reduce bitterness, many homebrewers will choose to make their hop stand at a temperature range of about 190-220ºF, this allows for more hop flavors and aroma without too much bitterness.
Using a reliable brewing thermometer can help you to maintain the desired temperature. I find transferring the wort from the boil kettle to another clean vessel also helps in maintaining the correct temperature, just be careful not to aerate the wort too much for fear of oxidation.
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The isomerization of the alpha acids in hops also occurs during the hop stand. As we have already said, the higher the temperature the more alpha acids will be isomerized causing the beer to become more bitter. Unless you like your beer eye-wateringly bitter, especially if using higher alpha acid hops, it’s always recommended you remove the wort from the heat and allow it to cool slightly before starting a hop stand.
Benefits of Hop Standing:
One of the primary benefits of hop standing is that it allows the brewer to extract the desirable hop flavors and aromas without losing them to evaporation. This can result in a beer with a more pronounced hop flavor and aroma. Additionally, hop standing can help to reduce the amount of hop debris in the finished beer, resulting in a clearer beer.
You can add a large amount of hops when using a hop stand period without making the beer too bitter, and utilize the hop oils and resins that would otherwise go to waste after boiling.
Another benefit of hop standing is that it allows the brewer to fine-tune the flavor and aroma profile of the beer. By adjusting the hop varieties and the length of the hop stand, the brewer can create a beer with a unique and complex flavor and aroma profile.
And finally, the process is relatively simple and doesn’t require any special equipment. You just need a way of controlling the temperature of the wort.
Drawbacks of Hop Standing:
One of the drawbacks of hop standing is that it can be difficult to replicate the same results consistently. The flavor and aroma profile of the beer can be influenced by several factors, including the type of hops used, the length of the hop stand, and the temperature of the wort during the hop stand.
Another drawback of hop standing is that it can be time-consuming. The hop stand typically lasts between 15 and 30 minutes, which can add to the overall brewing time. Additionally, the longer the hop stand, the longer it will take for the wort to cool down to the appropriate temperature for fermentation.
What Is a Whirlpool Hop Addition?
Whirlpooling is a process whereby the wort is circulated in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction to create a whirlpool effect that helps separate the hop pellets and trub from the wort boil. The wort is usually pumped into a whirlpool vessel at a high speed which causes the wort to spin.
The centrifugal force of the spinning motion pushes the hop pellets and any trub to the center of the whirlpool vessel where they can then be removed. As the wort is stirred, the hop oils and compounds are dispersed throughout the liquid, resulting in a more even distribution of hop flavor and aroma.
During the boiling process, the heat causes the proteins in the wort to coagulate and form solids. If these solids are not removed before fermentation, they can contribute to a cloudy beer. Whirlpooling helps to separate these solids from the liquid, resulting in a clearer beer.
Before you remove the pellets and the trub you should allow the wort to stand for at least 20 minutes. This allows for the trub and hop pellets to settle in the center of the vessel and also helps to concentrate the hop flavors and aromas in the beer.
Centrifugal force tends to be used more in larger commercial breweries but it can also be rigged up by the more enthusiastic DIY home brewer, especially if brewing larger batches of beer. If you are a much smaller-scale brewer you can still achieve a whirlpool effect by using a large spoon or paddle to stir the wort rapidly in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction.
Although pumping the wort into another sanitized vessel for fermenting is preferable, you could also gravity feed it out of the whirlpool vessel with an attached spigot, or even simply add the recommended yeast directly to the wort in the vessel to ferment. A pump isn’t always necessary for whirlpooling, but it does make things a lot easier.
The Benefits of Whirlpooling
One of the primary benefits of whirlpooling is that it can help to improve the clarity of the beer. By causing the solids in the wort to settle in the center of the kettle, the brewer can more easily separate the solids from the liquid later in the brewing process.
This can result in a clearer beer, which is particularly important for styles like lagers or pilsners. The spinning of the wort can also create a hot break which helps the proteins in the wort to coagulate and also contributes to a clearer beer.
Another benefit of whirlpooling is that it can help to increase the hop flavor and aroma of the beer. As the wort is stirred, the hop oils and compounds are dispersed throughout the liquid, resulting in a more even distribution of hop flavor and aroma. This can result in a more pronounced hop character in the finished beer.
Whirlpooling is also a relatively quick process, which can save time during the brewing process. The whirlpool typically lasts for 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of the kettle and the desired effect.
Additionally, because the heat has been turned off, the wort begins to cool down during the whirlpool, which can make it easier to reach the desired fermentation temperature. However, you should always allow some extra time for the wort to cool completely before transferring to a fermentation vessel and pitching the yeast.
The Drawbacks of Whirlpooling
One of the drawbacks of whirlpooling is that it can be difficult to achieve consistent results. The effectiveness of the whirlpool depends on several factors, including the size and shape of the kettle, the speed and direction of the stirring, and the temperature of the wort. Achieving the same results consistently can be a challenge, particularly for smaller breweries that may not have access to high-end equipment.
That’s the other big drawback of whirlpooling – it can be difficult to do on a smaller scale. How many of you homebrewers have a pump powerful enough to create the whirlpool effect, let alone the space for a centrifugal spinning whirlpool vessel?
Another potential drawback of whirlpooling is that it can result in a loss of hop aroma. As the wort cools down during the whirlpool, some of the volatile hop compounds can evaporate, resulting in a loss of aroma. Additionally, because the solids have been concentrated in the center of the kettle, the hop aroma can be trapped in the solids, resulting in a loss of aroma in the finished beer.
Also, if you are not careful, the wort can become oxygenated after multiple transfers. Although the whirlpool process can be quick, the wort will still need cooling before transferring to another vessel. There’s nothing worse than trying to manhandle 20 liners or so of hot wort!
When To Use Hop Standing vs Whirlpooling
Both hop standing and whirlpooling can be effective techniques for enhancing the flavor and aroma of beer. The decision to use one technique over the other depends on several factors, including the desired flavor and aroma profile, the type of beer being brewed, and the equipment available.
Hop standing is typically used for beers that require a pronounced hop flavor and aroma, such as IPAs or Pale Ales. The longer the hop stand, the more flavor and aroma compounds will be extracted from the hops. However, hop standing can be a time-consuming process, and it can be difficult to achieve consistent results.
Whirlpooling is typically used for beers that require a clearer appearance, such as lagers or pilsners. Additionally, whirlpooling can help to evenly distribute the hop flavor and aroma throughout the beer, resulting in a more balanced flavor profile. However, whirlpooling can result in a loss of hop aroma, particularly if the process is not executed correctly.
Hop Stand vs Whirlpool: Which Is Better? – Final Thoughts
Hop standing is typically used for beers that require a pronounced hop flavor and aroma, while whirlpooling is typically used for beers that require a clearer appearance.
For your average home brewer, the hop stand is much easier, requires less equipment, and is just as suitable for a smaller batch of beer as it is for any larger batches. If the wort is cooled enough before performing the hop stand you can extract further hop flavors and aromas without adding more bitterness.
Unless, of course, you want some more bitterness – perhaps you’re a fan of ales like Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale. In that case, a hop stand or whirlpool can be an effective brewing tool for you.