Hops From A Can

Many brewers scoff at the idea of using hop extract. After all, it represents what’s wrong with industrial brewing these days: finding ways to cut corners and save money. For these purists even pellet hops are too much processing and only whole flower hops should be used. In a hypocritical move, the same brewer may also be adding anti-foam or mash pH stabilizer during the brewing process.

Hop extract is a processed form of hops. The two types that are allowed in German brewing are CO2 and Ethanol extracts. Because they use fermentation CO2 or ethanol, respectively, they comply with the Reinheitsgebot (purity law). Due to the extraction of chlorophyll, Ethanol hop extracts have a green color. CO2 extracts, on the other hand, appear yellow and seem to be more commonly in use. Both types of extracts contain the hop’s resins and aromatic oils.

Hop extract in a can

Hop extract in a can

One of the major benefit of hop extract to the home brewer (and commercial brewer) is the lack of vegetative matter. This means more alpha acids can be added to the boil without increasing hop trub. The other benefit of it is the reduction of polyphenols extracted from hop vegetative matter. According to Narziss/Back (German brewing authors) this leads to a cleaner bitterness. CO2 extracts don’t contain any hop polyhenols while Ethanol extracts contain some.

I got my hop extract as a 150 g alpha-acid can for $15 through a club bulk buy from North Country Malt.  I only knew the amount of alpha acid in the can and the alpha acid percentage of the extract had to be calculated based on the weight of the extract. In the end I determined that there are 54% alpha acid in the extract. Copying Northern Brewer’s Hop shot, I ordered 25 10 ml syringes to store the hop extract. The syringes were filled with hop extract heated in a water bath.

When using hop extract I squirt it onto a piece of aluminum foil while weighing it. The hop extract is then added to the wort at start of the boil. It slides right of the foil when held into hot wort. It has been my experience that the extract’s bittering “power” is not as much as pellet hops. That might be a result of the smoother bitterness or the fact that it doesn’t mix as well with the wort as pellet hops do.  After chilling I can see a lot of resin beads on the side of the kettle. Because of this I use bout 10-20% more alpha acid with hop extract than I would use with pellet hops. Your mileage may vary and you’ll have to experiment.

If you don’t want to buy a can of hop extract yourself, you can try Northern Brewer’s Hop Shot. They appear to be the only home brew store that sells hop extract.

CO2 hop extract

31 thoughts on “Hops From A Can

  1. I have to say….. Your blog is amazing! Being a science geek, a homebrewer and a microscope nut; I find your posts to be insightful- inspiring and driving me to do more with my yeast. Thanks to you I have already harvested three different stains of yeast; all currently slumbering in the freezer waiting for their moment to shine!

  2. I have a few questions about either type of extract, you said, “Both types of extracts contain the hop’s resins and aromatic oils.”

    Have you tried to use these for aroma or flavor?
    Do you think they would work well?
    Also do you think it could be dissolved post fermentation to take the place of dry-hopping?

    • I have not tried using hop extract for its aroma properties. I assume that it’s made from hop varieties generally used for bittering, like Magnum. But it’s worth a try.

      I have also not seen varietal hop extract. If you look at hopunion.com you’ll see only one hop extract and no indication of the varieties that were used to make it.

  3. I don’t think it would mix well. You would have to disperge (I hope this is a word) the hop extract in the beer to create lots of contact area on which the hop oils could be dissolved into the beer. After that you need to remove the insoluble resin part.

    Dry hopping or the use of aroma hop extract seem much easier

  4. I have been using CO2 hop extract in my brewery for over a year now and love it! I’ve seen increased yeilds and higher, more stabile hop flavor. I primarily use the extract for flavor additions at the end of the boil and dry hopping. The hard part is getting it mixed in. You have to get the extract really warm in a water bath and make sure it mixes well. If you dry hop with it, you have to give it one to two weeks conditioning time other wise your beer will taste like you are chewing on a hop (not as pleasant as that may sound…it burned the back of my throat the first time I tried it it was so strong)but it will mellow very nicely.

  5. In order to increase the hop bitterness of a finished beer you’d have to utilize isomerized hop extract. IsoHop I think it’s called used to be sold in very small quantities at Morebeer but it was expensive. I have used it once and still have it sitting around, it’s probably terribly oxidized and can’t be used now.

    To my knowledge there are no variety specific bittering extracts. The varietal products are hop oils which have very little alpha acids. This stuff is all listed on Hop Union under hop products.

  6. I bought a 100 g (3.5274 oz) can that had 61.1% alpha acids, and filled my syringes as you did. Any idea what ibu is achieved using 1 ml of extract? According to my calculations, it is around 5.5 ibu (5 gallons, 60 minute boil, 1.050 gravity). There is approx. 0.024 oz per ml of the extract.

    • I estimate the IBUs with Brewer’s Friend by entering the alpha acid content that I think the extract has. I then go by weight as opposed to volume. But the extract is not that much heavier than water and you would assume 1 g = 1 ml. I find that I get less bitterness for the same estimated IBU level. That could be because the utilization is different or because the bitterness from extract is smoother and not perceived as bitter.

      • Old post, I know. But I was just calculating this using the same online software and figured that based on their recommendation (61.1% AA, 1 mL in 5 gallons of 1.050 OG wort boiled for 60 minutes = 10 IBU) that 1 mL should equal 1.133 grams. I’m sure that number’s not very accurate, but since the stuff is probably a little thicker than water (haven’t used it yet to be honest), it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s around that. For what it’s worth… :)

  7. Hi,

    Can i ask what the weight of 1 ml of extract is? I recently bought a 100 gram can but only have 14 X 3 ml syringes. I know water is roughly 1 gram = 1 ml but i would imagine the extract to be a lot denser. I don’t want to open the can and waste any through lack of syringes!

    Many Thanks


  8. Hi,

    Just wondering how to storage the can after opened. Should I transfer all of the extract to syringes? Should I condition at room temperature (in my case around 85F), or refrigerated? How about light? Should I protect the syringes from the light?
    Sorry, too many questions.

    Great post

    • I would put it into a container without air. Hence the idea of filling lots of syringes. Store the syringes like you would store hops: dark and cold.

  9. Hey, Awesome Blog!! I’ve been using Hop Shots and love them but they doubled the price. I’ve always wanted to buy one of those tins. Any idea where I could get one? I couldn’t find North Country Malt. Thanks

    • I got them as part of a bulk buy that our club organized. It’s quite possible that they are hard to get unless or you have the buying power of a brewery or a brew club.

  10. I am going for repeatability so this seems to have all upside.

    What about storage?

    Can you freeze a syringe?

    What would the loss of alpha be over time?


    • I’m still using the batch of hop extract I bought a few years ago. Unfortunately I’m not brewing enough and when I brew I don’t pay enough attention to be able to make an objective assessment of the change in bittering quality over the years.

      Yes, the syringes can be frozen. That’s how I store mine.

        • I calculate bitterness with 55% as pellet and the actual boil time. Usually 60 min.

          But I get the impression that the utilization is lower than that of pellets. I have to experiment for that.


  11. Pingback: Using Co2 extract Hop Oil (Hop Shots) | Auke Bay Brewing Co.

  12. I been reading a lot about hop and it seems to make you mellow and focust if you eat some. But i gues co2 extract is to strong to eat like that? Is there a place were i can order some.

    Regards Rob

    • I think someone posted a link in the comments. But it’s way too strong for eating. But it could be used in cooking or baking in small amounts.


  13. Great read. I purchased a couple of cans and have divided between syringes. I’m struggling a bit to calculate how much to use based on the myriad of calculators available.

    The 100Gram can I purchased says 61.1% AA
    Looking at this calculator from HopUnion: http://www.hopunion.com/brewing-calculators/ It appears to me that for 50 IBU’s in a 60 minute boil you would use ~ 2.6 mls of extract. Looking at HopShots page: https://www.northernbrewer.com/documentation/hopshot.pdf They are calculating 5 mls.

    Kai, how many mls of 61.1% AA CO2 extract would you calculate to add to obtain 50 IBU’s at 60 minutes? Thank you!!!

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