I wanted to explore the reasons to use a dry hop doser in today’s article. As I’m noticing more people contacting me about such a device.
I’m also recommend them to clients sourcing smaller brewhouses. Suggesting they add a hop doser to their equipment list, for their turnkey brewery projects.
When setting up a brewery on a budget, using a dry hop doser, also called a “bomber” or simply a “dry hopper”, can represent a smart, low-cost way to improve an important part of the brewing process.
Dry-hopping describes adding hops “cold-side” to the wort/beer in fermentation vessels (FV’s) to extract flavor and aroma from hops. Cold-side means, after the wort has gone through the heat exchanger, been cooled and now in the brewery cellar.
Being cold side, you’re unlikely to add too much bitterness. Although Scott Janish’s findings, do state, if the total IBU’s of the brew is below 30, you can pick up bitterness during dry hopping.
There’s also research which shows dynamic dry-hopping can add bitterness and astringency to a beer too. However, more on this later.
Anyway, I’m digressing why should a brewery purchase and use a dry hopper? Well, let’s start with the price.
Reasons to Use a Dry Hop Doser #1 – Pricing
There are many options when it comes to dry-hopping. For example, using a hop cannon, hop gun or hop induction systems. These pieces of equipment all require significant investments.
The last hop cannon I bought cost US$ 3,375 from a supplier in China. This cannon can add a maximum of 25Kg of hop pellets to a batch of beer.
Cannons, can be even more expensive. The cannon I used in Armenia from BrauKon, could dose a similar load of hops (30Kg), but was seven-times the price of the Chinese version. I actually prefer the Chinese version too!
That’s a significant investment, for most breweries. The cost of a hop doser from a Chinese supplier starts from around US$300. for a smaller one, I’d be happy to use myself.
Hop Doser Design
The design of a hop doser is fairly simple. Below is the design from Bespoke Brewing Solutions (BBS)…thanks to John and Harry for sharing the drawing.
The latest design of the above BBS “Hop Bomber” made the device shorter and stouter to provide easier handling and attaching to the FV. With changes being made in response to customer feedback.
As John from BBS says, “we’re constantly working towards continuous improvement in our products, and there’s no better way than from feedback from our clients”.
Although the design is simple, it’s still worth investing in a well-designed and fabricated doser. As with all brewing equipment, you get what you pay for.
Simply put, a hop bomber represents a lowest cost dry-hopping solution, affordable to most breweries.
Reasons to Use a Dry Hop Doser #2 – Ease of Use
Using a dry-hop doser is a fairly simple procedure, it’s goes something like this:
- Ensure the doser and connection to the tank are properly cleaned and sterilized
- Connect the doser to the tank
- Purge the hop doser several times with CO2, to ensure oxygen is removed
- Add hops to the bomber and close
- Purge the doser some more
- Add pressure to the dry hopper so it’s above the pressure of the tank to be dosed
- Open the valve allowing the hops to be dumped into the tank
- Close the valve to the tank and release the pressure in the doser
- This process can be repeated, if you require more than one hop load, for the brew
- When taking off the doser, ensure the valve to the tank is closed and there’s no pressure in the device.
You then make sure the connection to the tank is clean (and properly closed), clean the hop doser and you’re done. It’s a job which will take less than 30-minutes, even if adding multiple loads.
Using a hop cannon takes considerably longer when dry hopping a beer. The process can take a whole day.
The process is something like this:
- Preparing the cannon for use (sanitizing, purging and loading) – 1-hour minimum
- Running the hop cannon – 3 to 6-hours depending on the brewery’s preferences
- Dumping hops, breaking down the cannon and cleaning – 1.5 hours minimum
It’s a long process compared to using a hop doser. Granted they are different processes, but it’s a point worth noting.
Let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages of using a hop doser. To provide a balanced view on them, allowing you to make a more informed choice.
Disadvantages of Using a Dry Hop Doser
These dosers are small, if a brewer needs to add a lot of hops to a brew, it can take time and multiple charges, to add all the hops.
With a hop bomber, a brewery needs a suitable sized port on the top of the tank, to use the device. The standard connection, needs to be at least 2-inches diameter.
The larger the diameter the better. So, the hops don’t get blocked. Ideally, the connection wants to be 4-inches in diameter. Although, this may not be possible on some smaller tanks.
So, if you’re ordering a new brewery and want to use a hop bomber, make sure there are suitable ports on the top of the fermentation vessels. Be clear with your equipment supplier on this subject.
If a brewery already has tanks, and they are without a suitable port. Then unfortunately they’re out of luck, and will need to find an alternative solution.
Using a hop bomber require a suitable platform, to be able to connect the doser to the top of the tank. Ideally this would be a solid platform, such as a scissor lift, rather than a set of ladders.
Using a hop cannon rather than a hop doser, offers the advantage that the work is done at ground level, rather than at the top of a vessel.
Reasons to Use a Dry Hopper #3 – Safety
The typical way to static dry hop, is to open a tank, dump in the hops. After which the tank is quickly closed.
We all know when adding hops to beer, a hop volcano is possible. Please, see the video below, showing an example of a dry hop volcano.
When you add hops to beer, CO2 produced during fermentation breaks out of suspension, due to nuclearization. Carbon dioxide bubbles cluster into nucleation sites in the hop particles, then burst out.
When on a ladder or raised platform, it can dangerous for the brewer. Having a hop doser eliminates the possibility of a volcano. As, the tank is never open to the atmosphere.
When it comes to brewing; safety should be the top priority over everything else which happens in a brewery.
Reasons to Use a Dry Hop Bomber #4 – Dissolved Oxygen (DO) Pickup
Often brewers are concerned about oxygen pickup, when they open a tank to add the hops.
When using a hop doser, the tank is never open to the atmosphere. Thus, eliminating the possibility of DO pickup.
When using a doser, you purge the device before dumping the hops into the tank. Therefore, using a hop bomber, is an upgrade to the typical static dry hop process.
Reasons to Use a Dry Hop Doser #5 – Static Dry Hop Performance
There are lot of brewers in the industry who prefer static dry hop. With dynamic dry-hoping, the bitterness intensity, duration and astringency may be increased due to the elevated extraction of polyphenols and humulinones.
The net result is; many brewers prefer to static dry hop. Because, there’s less chance of these unintended flavor consequences. Plus, the whole static dry hop process is easier and quicker to carry out.
Furthermore, I was given access to some studies when working for one of the big boys. Their data and overall conclusions were static dry-hop provided the best sensory results when compared to other dynamic dry-hopping regimes.
Reasons to Use a Dry Hop Doser – Conclusions
There are genuine, real-world reasons to use a dry hop doser, compared to opening a tank and simply dumping the hops in.
The cost of the equipment is reasonable, considering the three main motivators for using one; these are:
#1 Safety – The safety of the brewing team is main priority. Therefore eliminating, the possibility of a hop volcano shouldn’t be under estimated.
#2 DO Pickup – Tanks aren’t opened to the atmosphere, which is better for the beer
# 3 Pricing – Compared to the cost of other auxiliary equipment, the benefits a hop doser makes it an attractive low-cost purchase with real-world benefits
Thanks for reading, if you were wondering if this device would benefit your brewery, I hope our article helped. If you’ve any follow-up questions, feel free to message me.
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Thanks for reading the article, my name is Neil and I’ve been brewing for over 25-years. I now work as a brewing consultant and have done a number of brewery installations.
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