Should You Dry Hop During Primary or Secondary Fermentation?

Dry hopping is a unique and fun way to experiment with your beer, and can be done in different ways.

You can dry hop your beer during primary or secondary fermentation. The processes are similar for each stage, but not entirely. Primary fermentation presents more challenging obstacles for dry hopping and calls for more hops, while dry hopping in secondary fermentation is more streamlined and simplified with more room for error and creativity.

Continue reading to learn more about dry hopping during primary and secondary fermentation, step-by-step guides, and more common techniques for dry hopping.

Can you dry hop during fermentation?

There are many ways to dry hop beer but some are easier than others.

Dry hopping is a process that typically takes place after primary fermentation. It can, however, take place during active fermentation for some beer styles. Dry hopping during fermentation allows the yeast to feed off of the oxygen introduced when adding the hops. This sheds the possibility of oxidizing the beer.

Using this method comes with what might be more cons than pros if you aren’t careful. The CO2 present during fermentation will agitate the hops and take away the characteristics you’re shooting for when dry hopping. Dry hopping at this time also leaves room for the possibility of adding unwanted bitterness to your beer, making the process fruitless and anticlimactic.

You also risk the chance of adding too many hops and blowing the lid off of your fermentor. That being said, it’s important to limit and control the amount of hops that you’re using. If you put too many in at once, the CO2 will leave your fermentor at its mercy and risks the chance of your fermentor acting like a shook-up bottle of soda, exploding everywhere.

Dry hopping during primary fermentation will ultimately result in a different product than its counterpart of dry hopping during secondary fermentation. 

Is it better to dry hop during primary fermentation or secondary?

It’s not uncommon to do either of these, but the answer is secondary fermentation.

It’s better to dry hop during secondary fermentation because the benefits outweigh the negatives. Dry hopping during secondary provides a better atmosphere for your intended product. The temperature during secondary will give you the bright, floral, and fruity aroma you’re looking for, and won’t deposit any bitterness into your brew.

Dry hopping in secondary is simple and doesn’t risk ruining your beer with little mistakes that can be made more easily in primary.

How to dry hop without contamination

Dry hopping is almost always safe in terms of contamination. Mostly because of the alcohol that’s already present.

If you wait until secondary fermentation, your beer will be so acidic that any bacteria will not be able to survive in the beer. On top of that, the alcohol present will kill off bacteria. In primary fermentation, the yeast will win the competition for food and harmful bacteria will starve.

It’s very unlikely that your beer will be contaminated from any dry-hopping process. If you are still unsure about it, you can sanitize your instruments and containers before the process.

Do you stir when dry hopping?

When dry hopping, do not stir.

Stirring when dry hopping will oxidize your beer and will not distribute aroma from your hops, anyway. Instead, sanitize something that is made of stainless steel and use it to weigh down your hop bag. This will ensure that your hops stay at a good height during the process.

Whole hops will float, but pellets will sink. Just let either of the two sit and do their thing.

How to dry hop in a carboy

Dry hopping in a carboy can be difficult, because of its narrow neck. If you’re using whole hops, it can be even more difficult once those hops absorb some of the beer.

In a traditional carboy, use a long, narrow mesh container to put your hops in and dunk it into the carboy. This makes for easy cleanup and ensures easy removal. Or, you can use a wide-mouth carboy for loose hops or hop bags.

You can find a narrow mesh container for your hops here.

You can find a wide-mouth carboy here.

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How to dry hop during primary fermentation

  • Step 1: Choose your hops. You will likely need to use more hops for dry hopping during primary fermentation because the CO2 will scrub away the hops’ aromas.
  • Step 2: Sort out and ready your hops or hop pellets. Put them in a sanitized bag or tube and gently place them into your fermenter. The less splashing, the better.
  • Step 3: Wait for the dry hopping process to finish. This can take several days. Leave them in for as long as you’d like (maximum 7 days) or before you move to secondary fermentation.
  • Step 4: Remove the hops. Either remove your bag or tube or use a mesh strainer to separate the hops from the beer.
  • Step 5: After you remove the hops, you’re either ready for bottling or secondary fermentation. That part is up to you. If you kept the beer in primary fermentation for longer, the secondary might not be necessary.

How long do you dry hop in the primary?

Dry hopping in primary can last anywhere from 1-7 days.

You can dry hop in the primary fermenter for 1-7 days. Your beer likely won’t have finished fermenting in only 24 hours, but you can always remove the hops and continue primary, or move to secondary.

The amount of time depends on what you want your end product to be like. A longer time in primary — paired with the right amount of hops — calls for a stronger aroma from your beer.

Can you dry hop too early?

There are no real problems with dry hopping too early. Just make sure your beer is cool enough — at fermentation temperatures — and let the hops rip.

Although you can’t dry hop too early, it’s important to follow the safety precautions of sanitizing your equipment and letting your beer cool to fermenting temperatures before you start adding hops for dry hopping.

How to dry hop during secondary fermentation

  • Step 1: Siphon your beer from the primary fermenter into the secondary fermenter.
  • Step 2: Again, similarly to dry hopping in primary, choose your hop variety and its form.
  • Step 3: Gather your hops and place them in a hop bag or mesh tube, and gently place them into the fermenter.
  • Step 4: After your hops have spent however much time in the fermenter as you wish, remove them with their bag or tube, or use a strainer to separate them from the beer.
  • Step 5: Once the hops are removed and fermentation is complete, the beer is ready for bottling.

How long do you dry hop in the secondary?

Dry hopping in the secondary can take longer than the primary.

Because a majority of fermentation took place in the primary, you can afford to dry hop longer in the secondary. You can use less hops and longer times, or more hops with lesser times, to acquire the desired result. A range of 6-14 days is standard for you to dry hop in the secondary.

You can always check in on your beer during this process, too, and decide whether or not it needs to spend more time dry hopping.