I'm curious to try some single-hop style beers and would like to do several varieties in one brew day. My ideal situation would be to make a five gallon batch of an unhopped pale ale as the base and use that to make five, one gallon batches of different single hop beers. If possible, I'd like to do this without five separate boils.

Would it be possible to boil the hops in separate sauce pans of water and then add this hop water into the primary fermentor for different style? Would this taste the same as if I had boiled the hops in the main wort? I'm not sure if there is an enzyme in the wort that acts on the hops at boiling temperatures that I'll miss in the separate boil.?

Is there a more obvious way of doing this that I'm missing? My thinking is that it would be easier to boil hops in five separate quarts of water on the stove than boiling five one gallon batches of wort.

5 Answers 5


Although this experiment won't help you on the difference in the bittering qualities of the hops you choose, I would suggest that you bitter the base beer with just enough Magnum* or Galena* to hit basic beer levels (10-20 IBU), then separate the wort out to 5 other pots and add 5 different flavoring/aroma hops to these.

This way, all the beers are bittered the same, but you'll be able to tell what the different hop varieties are doing for the flavor of the beer.

(* I'd use Magnum or Galena because they are both very high alpha and also very neutral in flavor. They'll basically be contributing little to no flavor at all in a 10-20 IBU beer because it will take around a half ounce to hit that IBU range.)

Edit: I'd suggest doing a single addition in each pot at the 10min mark. That will give you a little aroma as well as flavor. Later on, you could replicate the experiment again doing different amounts at different times, or even dry hopping a batch instead of boiling.

  • Are you suggesting to dry-hop with the flavoring hops or do a short boil with them?
    – awithrow
    Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 17:23
  • he's saying do a short boil with them. I would expect your boils to be less than 15 minutes for getting the hop flavour or less than 5 minutes for getting the hop aroma. Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 19:15
  • Yup, my intention was for short boiling, but there's nothing to say that you shouldn't try the experiment again with just dry hopping with the different varieties after bittering with the same base. I love brewing experiments like these!
    – GHP
    Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 12:15

You do need to boil the hops in the presence of wort sugars to isomerize the hop oils to get bitterness. This is why IBUs are a function of boil length and an (inverse) function of gravity. Boiling in water will not do the same thing. My guess is that flavor and aroma aren't affected substantially in the same way. You might want to use a more neutral hop for bittering, and the specialty hop for flavor/aroma evaluation, but then you're going to be getting a skewed sample.

Maybe, try a test: do your 5g unhopped boil, plus a 1g hopped-wort boil and a 1g hop-tea infusion on 1 of the 5 gallons with the same hop; then you can see how close the two are.

  • So you are saying I should add some wort to the hop water? Essentially make something like a 800 IBU mini wort and mix that back in?
    – awithrow
    Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 16:29
  • 2
    I am not sure that wort needs to be present to isomerize alpha acids. The boil alone may be sufficient. And the inverse relationship to gravity is more due to solubility of the isomerized acids against the sugar in solution, not the rate at which it isomerizes, that I know for sure. The more sugar the less alpha stays in solution post boil.
    – brewchez
    Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 19:09
  • +1 @brewchez for the comment on gravity. This on its own would be enough for me to boil the hops in the wort, otherwise, when it comes to a proper batch size one may not be able to replicate the test conditions of boiling outside the wort. If you get my drift.
    – iWeasel
    Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 19:14
  • I have HEARD (but not verified) that boiling hops in just water leads to "grassy" flavors. Unsubstantiated rumors FTW!
    – GHP
    Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 12:19
  • This is completely false, I'm afraid. It's been common practice in farmhouse brewing for hundreds of years to boil the hops in water (hop tea). The tea is definitely very bitter. Isomerization is caused by water molecules hitting the alpha acid molecules at high speed. Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 9:39

Personally, if it were me, I would just do five smaller test brews under controlled conditions.

You really do need to boil the hops in the wort, as the gravity of the wort will affect the hop utilisation rates. The higher the gravity the lower the utilisation. Also, acidity (pH) increases slightly during the wort boil and this particularly affects the isomerisation of humulone (ref:Brewing by Ian S Hornsey - RSC Paperbacks).

@Graham & @jsled make interesting suggestions, but if you were to find a combination you like you would then have to translate it back to a traditional, in the wort, boil and that in itself might produce a differing result to your test.

My advice, do five brews and in between, relax and have a home brew! Good luck!

  • You're not wrong in your observation here. My suggestion will only work if the chilling technique and pitching rates are the same for the big 5 gal batch as for the 1 gal batch that he's trying to replicate. Not impossible, but something to keep in mind. There are a LOT of factors that go into reproducing a beer, even with a similar set of ingredients. But perhaps that's part of the fun of brewing.
    – GHP
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 20:19
  • @Graham "But perhaps that's part of the fun of brewing". Hear, hear; let us never forget this. :-D
    – iWeasel
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 21:22
  • This IS a stupidly fun hobby. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting into when a buddy first showed me how to open a can of extract :)
    – GHP
    Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 12:33

When I've tried boiling hops in water I've always gotten a harsh vegetal flavor from them that was disgusting. I even tried adjusting the pH of the water to be more like wort and it only made it slightly less disgusting.


The harsh grassy flavor is definitely a rumor, and really doesn't make any sense, unless your ratio of bittering hops was WAY off from the get go, or maybe if you boiled the hops in a higher volume of water than necessary. This would produce an overly efficient batch of bitter hop tea and it would certainly overpower the wort.

Truth is I've made many successful brews with the hop tea method. Plenty of bitterness and aroma, plus you get the added bonus of saving some time if you decide to do late extract method (recommended). The secret is knowing the correct water volume to boil your hops.

The correct process for utilizing hops in boiling water (5 gallon batch):

Collect 2L of water in large pot. Begin boiling the bittering hops (45-60min), then adding in aroma hops (0-30min) as the recipie requires.

When the hops have completed the boil, turn off burner and pour in 2L of cold water into the pot, to drop the temp down to roughly 175f. Thus halting the bittering process.

Filter hops with large funnel/strainer into a large bowl or pot. Pour an additional 2L (in increments) of cold water onto the hops inside your funnel/strainer to remove any oils that may have been left behind.

Discard the hops and viola! Nice potent batch of hop extract.

Pour into the wort and stir vigorously. Immediately after, begin chilling the wort to pitching temps to avoid any further bittering.

  • It's not a harsh grassy flavour in my experience, it's more like a woody or garden late aftertaste and can only be tasted by people with excellent taste buds.
    – malhal
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:04

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