I recently discussed no-chill brewing, a post-boil technique that turns conventional homebrewing wisdom on its head. Another counterintuitive practice that nonetheless turns out great beer is first wort hopping. First wort hops are added to the kettle during runoff, immediately after Vorlauf, and allowed to steep in the hot wort as the mash is sparged. Once the full volume of wort has been collected, then the boil proceeds as usual. Those first wort hops, then, might remain in hot wort for as long as two hours.
The end effect of first wort hopping is a bitterness that tasters somtimes perceive as smoother than that imparted by your typical 60-minute bittering charge. Furthermore (and here’s the bit that leaves many of us scratching our heads), first wort hops can also lend additional complexity to the flavor and aroma of the finished beer.
Huh? When it comes to dropping hops cones into hot wort, the usual rules of thumb are:
- Early hops additions favor bitterness.
- Middle-to-late hops additions favor flavor.
- Very late hops additions favor aroma.