Fresh hop cones on a wooden table

Introduction to Hopping Methods

Ever stumble upon a recipe that called for first wort hopping and wonder what the heck that means? Or when you find your local brewery’s recipe and you notice it calls for use of hops during the whirlpool and wonder how you’d pull that off at home? Yeah, me too.

So let’s break this all down and walk through all the hopping methods available to us as home brewers.

Most homebrew recipes give us a clear indication of when to add the hops: the start of the boil for bittering, later in the boil for flavour and the end of the boil for aroma. But we can also add hops before the boil. Or after the boil, or after primary fermentation.

We have lots of options. Let’s walk through them all, working in chronological order, from the top of brew day down through to the fermentation period.

Mash Hopping

As the name suggests, with this method, you add the hops during the mash. This is a rarely used hoping method because iso-alpha acid conversion does not fully realize at mash temperatures. In other words, the alpha acids do not undergo isomerization, which means they do not contribute bitterness. And to make matters worse, the boil will drive off any oils you extract from the hops. So, if you want to add hop flavour without the bitterness, keep on reading—there are much better methods available to you.

First Wort Hopping

First wort hopping (FWH) is simple: you add either a portion—or all—of your late boil hops—after the mash, before the wort comes to the boil. Specifically, you add the hops when your wort is about 180ºF, as it’s coming to the boil.

Why do a FWH? According to a litany of blind taste tests, FWH gives your a rounder, softer, smoother bittering than when you add hops to a rolling boil. Studies have shown that FWH will increase your battering units without increasing the perceived bitterness. Put another way: they have less bite.

Certain beer styles certainly benefit from this treatment. Malt-forward beers, wheat beers, Scottish ales, and lagers would make for good starter beers if you want to experiment with FWH.

During the boil

If you have a couple of home-brews under your belt, you know this method very well: you add the hops at a prescribed time during the boil. At the top of the boil, you’re adding hops to contribute bitterness. The earlier in the boil you add the hops, the more bitterness you’ll extract from them. For most beers, you will need to add hops during the boil.

Near the end of the boil

We’re still in the boil at this stage, but we’re nearing the end of the boil (usually the last 15 minutes of the boil). The later in the boil you add hops, the less bitterness you get, but the more aroma and flavour you gain. Most traditional recipes will include late-boil additions.

Hop Stand (or Whirlpool Hopping)

This method gives the boiled wort an extended period of time with flameout (end-of-boil) hops before you chill the wort for yeast pitching. This period typically lasts a minimum of 10 minutes and usually lasts 20-30 minutes. However, nothing stops you from using a 45, 60, or even 90-minute hop-stand if you want to supercharge the effect. The length is determined by how hop-forward you want the beer to be.

Why use a hop stand?

To extract flavour and aroma while limiting the isomerization of alpha acids (in other words, limiting bitterness). You could add the hops at the end of the boil, once you have shut off the heat, but if you want to be very precise about it, you would wait until the wort’s temperature drops to 175ºF to ensure you’re getting the most hop characteristics. Why? Because hops continue to isomerize (contributing bitterness) after flameout until the wort reaches this temperature. Or so the theory goes. The good folks at Brülosophy tested this is it seems to have no impact. It appears you can safely toss in your hops at flameout if you don’t care to wait for the temperature to drop, or if you want to keep brew day simple and stress-free.

Why is a hop-stand also called a whirlpool?

The professional brewers create a whirlpool either in the kettle, or in a separate whirlpool vessel with the hot wort. This process creates a cone-shaped pile of unwanted trub and leftover hop material in the centre of the vessel. Thankfully, as homebrewers, we can get the same hopping benefits without having to create a constant whirlpool. We benefit from having much smaller volumes of wort to work with, so the constant whirlpool is not necessary.

Hop Bursting

This is a variation on a hop stand. With this method, you add all of your boil’s hop additions at the end of the boil instead of during the boil. You do this so that the hops get an extended period of time with the wort as it chills to pitching temperature.

Like whirlpooling, hop bursting results in a softer battering and more pronounced hop characteristics. The primary difference between hop bursting and whirlpooling is the share of hops that get used at this stage. Hop-bursting goes all-in, with almost all of the hops tossed in at this stage. I say almost, because you should still throw in a dab of hops at the start of the boil to prevent excessive foaming of the wort.

Dry Hopping

With this method, we add the hops after boil, and after the wort has cooled, and usually when fermentation is almost finished or even when it is completely finished. With this method, the hops don’t cook, since they are not exposed to heat like all the methods we’ve reviewed before. In practical terms, this means the hops do not isomerize, which means they do not add bitterness to the end product.

Typically, you add your hops after primary fermentation. Why? Because the carbon dioxide that gets released during primary fermentation will cause some aroma loss. If you’re adding hops during primary fermentation, you’ll need more to account for this loss.

In any case, you’ll typically steep the hops in the fermenter for 1-2 weeks for ales (and 2-3 weeks for lagers).


12 responses to “Introduction to Hopping Methods”

  1. Danielle

    So glad I stumbled upon your WEBSITE! loving it. I’m new to homebrewing and have done only 2 batches so far. can’t wait to get started with your recipes! I was wondering what you use in your 1 gallon batches for dry hopping? bag vs stainless steel infuser?

    1. Hi Danielle,

      Thanks so much for the kind note. For dry hopping, I use a small nylon bag. I find it does the trick perfectly fine and is pretty cost-effective!


        1. Hi Ed,

          Yes, I always sanitize, to be extra safe.

  2. Trevor.rollsoN

    Yet another brillant article very concise

  3. Warren Jackson

    Hi! i’d just like to say what a wonderful resource you have created here! I’m new to this and i’m a little confused on a couple of points. You say a 7.5L pot will be fine but in most of the recipes you use far more liquid. Also i’ve been looking at creating the session IPA but i’m confused with the addition of the hops when it says 0 minutes. Do they get put in when fermenting? Sorry, i’m still learning!!

  4. Matt

    Question regarding the times listed in your recipes. Do these TIMEs indicate at which time During the boil to add hops? Or is THis the time remaining in the boil to add hops?

  5. Sergio

    Dear Joseph, as usual I really liked your post. I recently copied an experience with hops. I put 4g / liter of Citra in vodka and left a closed container for 5 days. I extracted the essence and cooled before adding to the priming in the beer bottling. I waited 2 weeks and opened a bottle. The aroma was wonderful, but it dissipated soon. The taste, however, was more pleasant when it came to bitterness. The idea was to prevent oxidation in Dry Hopping. But I realized that the two techniques can be combined to achieve less scuffing bitterness with more aroma. I don’t know if I’m on the right track and would like your opinion.

  6. James


    Thanks for this, a perfect primer for hop additions. As a big fan and brewer (1 gallon) of ipa, this information gives me some ideas i can play with.

    On a different, but somewhat related note, given that a hop stand can last as long as 45 minutes, should the temperature be maintained at 175ºF-ish for the entire stand or an the wort cool ‘naturally’ for the duration of the stand? is their any harm in cooling the wort down slowly? I see most recipes and videos suggesting immersion coolers and getting the wort down to pitching T quickly. Your thoughts?



  7. Dumisani

    ThanK you for being so helpful. I enjoy home brewing more & more every weekend because of your knowledge. All the way from south africa. Share more !!!

  8. Ken

    Excellent article. I’ve enjoyed reading thru your advice. its helped me with 1 gal. EXPERIMENTs thru the covid period. dry hopping works best with racking in 1 gal. sizes for me. the nylon bags just haven’t worked. is there a specific one to use?

  9. Rich

    Hey Joseph, any chance you could also include metric amounts and temperatures to your RRCIPES and guides. We brewers on the other side of the pond can’t do pounds ouces or FAHRENHEIT 🤣

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