I never thought I would go as far as building a dry hopper device to be honest, however, after investing so much into a conical, I figured I might as well take it all the way and eliminate the last oxygen hurdle. Why does this even matter? Well, with mine and everyone else’s obsession with brewing NEIPAs, we need a way to add hops without introducing oxygen along with it. Oxidation destroys IPAS, but especially NEIPAs.
Even with a conical, homebrewers are more susceptible to beer oxidation than commercial brewers based on pure volume of beer relative to the amount of oxygen exposure when opening a vessel to add dry hops. In other words, homebrewers need to be more careful about dry hopping techniques than commercial breweries.
Dry Hopper Build
My goal was to build a ‘not totally ridiculous’ zero oxygen dry hopper for a 1.5 TC fitting on the lid of my conical. Hop dosers easily get very expensive because most utilize wide site glasses or pipes to hold the hops. You also need an easy way to purge the space with CO2. Lastly, it needs to be large enough to hold a large dry hop charge. I put together a smaller, more budget option as well as a larger and slightly more ridiculous option. Both seem reasonably budget-friendly relative to the cost of buying a premade one.
Since the accessory lid port on my conical is only a 1.5″ TC ferrule, I wanted a cone-like shape to help funnel the hops in and not have too narrow of a space for the hops to get stuck. A butterfly valve makes for easy flipping from my blowoff tube, hopper, or PRV. Luckily, I was able to source all my parts from Amazon really quickly.
There are two paths to remove oxygen from the dry hopper. One, purge via the top of the dry hopper through the PRV/gas lid OR by using the conical itself. My fermenter has a gas port on it so I can install my dry hopper, crack the butterfly valve to the dry hopper, and force CO2 through the entire system and up through the dry-hop chamber. This will do a better job at purging the entire space inside from the bottom up, especially if you pre-purge before adding hops.
My first variation runs around $80-90 depending on if you have an extra 1.5″ TC clamp and gasket on hand. It does not have a sight glass so you’re blind to the hops actually dropping however you can hear them fall in. I have to rock my valve handle back and forth several times to get them past the valve and into the fermenter. FYI, I’m assuming you already have a 1.5″ TC and gasket to attach the dropper to the conical itself.
This hopper holds about 4 ounces of hops (without overstuffing). It’s smaller but you can also add hops in two rounds if you’re on a budget. After some trial and error with this version, I’m not sure it’s worth the aggravation. The 1.5-inch butterfly valve promotes “hop bridging” and prevents the hops from being able to fall through effectively, especially when packed in.
My larger variation runs just under $150 and requires an additional 3″ TC clamp and a 3″ sight glass. This of course can hold A LOT more hops and also gives you some vision on the inside.
A hybrid of this build would be to use a 4-inch long 3″ TC spool tube to add some additional capacity without the expense of a sight glass. These are around $20 and will save you some cash (around $120 to piece together).
PS, if you have a RipTide pump, the TC clamp is 3″, so you can borrow it for DH day. Like the above option, you’re still going to run into some issues with hops getting hung up before the butterfly valve.
Build number 3 is extreme… but really versatile and works the best. The problem with the previous options is the lack of space between the 1.5 TC port when a butterfly valve is added. The hops can have a difficult time fitting through the now tighter space. My solution was to place a 3″ butterfly valve before the reducer in order to free up space by the 1.5″ port.
I did a test with Cheerios…yes Cheerios, and it works a lot smoother. The trick is to slowly engage the butterfly valve to control the trickle of hops through the narrow part of the chamber. I did the same Cheerio test with the 1.5″ valve and ran into the same issues as my initial hop testing. This design would work for a 3″ TC port on a Ss or Brewer’s Hardware conical (no reducer) or any conical with a 1.5″ port (with reducer).
The build is very similar to this, but runs you around $220 for the hopper itself or even less depending on if you have some extra 3″ TC clamps (RipTide pumps!). I sprung for the extra $20 to get the reducer cap for my blowoff tube during fermentation. An extra port in your lid would save you some cash on this. You can also save some money if you opt for a stainless steel tube in place of a sight glass.
You can also finagle a 2″ version of this build it’s just harder to find a streamlined 2″ TC PRV/gas cap. I recommend Spike’s gas manifold to build a full 2-inch variation using a 2-inch reducer, butterfly valves, and spool tube. I’ve confirmed with some other homebrewers that it’s a viable and functional option!