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Hopback vs. Knockout Hops

Testing a container filled with whole leaf hops against late kettle hops additions.

Taylor Caron Oct 4, 2016 - 8 min read

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Late addition hops are a crucial element of today’s IPA as brewers strive to capture more hops aroma and flavor without adding bitterness. But English breweries (and some brewers inspired by English brewing practices) have been using the hopback technique for ages, running wort from the kettle through a container filled with whole leaf hops. Devices (such as the Blichmann Engineering HopRocket) are now available to homebrewers, so we asked Taylor Caron to test how this technique compares to late kettle hops additions.

The Setup

There’s an old British brewing practice of running wort through leaf hops on the way from the kettle to the fermentor, using what’s known as a hopback. This can be done alongside or instead of a knockout addition to add a bold hops aroma and flavor to the wort. One belief is that if you move the hot wort quickly through the hops and then quickly chill the wort, you retain the hops’ aromatics better than if you just add hops to the kettle before chilling.

With this practice, there’s also the benefit that the hops themselves act as a filter for trub and kettle hops matter, sending a clearer wort into the fermentor.

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