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I was thinking of putting a hop back in line with my whirlpool chilling process. (Pumping hot wort out of the kettle through a hop back and back into the kettle with an immersion chiller running in the kettle). Should I be concerned with that first blast of hot wort going into the hop back and getting oxidized by the air trapped in the hops?

Maybe it would be best to chill some first, then go through the hop back. But then I'd be worried about contamination and maybe poorer aroma extraction with the cooler wort.


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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Based on my experience, you don't have to worry about oxidation. Whether it's because you pick up so little O2, the fermentation scrubs it, or that HSA worries are overblown, I never encountered any oxidation due to using a hopback. I eventually stopped using one not because of oxidation problems, but because it seemed like a more difficult way to accomplish the same thing I could get from dry hopping.

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One option would be to purge the oxygen out of the lines and the hopback using CO2 before you run the wort through. This is a good safety precaution but in my opinion it is not totally necessary since hot side aeration is not a huge issue at Homebrew volumes.

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As long as you have a good fermentation, I doubt that this will have a discernable oxidizing effect. The yeast are going to eat any dissolved oxygen in the wort during their reproductive phase (not to mention the fact that you'll be aerating/oxygenating the wort at pitching time).

I suppose if you're really concerned about it, you could dump the first hopback load of wort, and keep the wort that has had less air exposure, but that will also throw out some of the volatile oils and such that you want to get out of the hopback.

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Actually on the Brew Strong episode about hot side aeration Dr. Bamforth said that the oxygen introduced on the hot side gets altered to the point that it cannot be used during fermentation. He did seem to agrre with Northern brewer Chris's comment that at a homebrewing level it isn't really a concern unless you are mechanically whisking oxygen in on the hot side. – Bullet86 Mar 17 '11 at 15:55

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