10 BBL Jacketed Fermenter

15 Gallon Hopback

A 15 gallon hopback is a piece of equipment used by craft brewers to infuse hop aroma and flavor into beer after the boil during the cooling process. Hopbacks utilize whole leaf hops contained in a chamber to maximize exposure to the hot wort, extracting oils and resins without adding bitterness.

Hopback Equipment Guide

This guide covers everything craft brewers need to know about 15 gallon hopbacks including types, design, customization, installation and operation.

Types of 15 Gallon Hopbacks

There are two main types of 15 gallon hopbacks – cylindrical and rectangular. Cylindrical is more common for homebrew systems while rectangular scales better to commercial batch sizes.

TypeDescription
CylindricalCanister shape infuses hop aroma when hot wort passes through leaf hops
RectangularBox shape with more surface area, often used in multi-vessel brewhouses
15 Gallon Hopback

15 Gallon Hopback Design and Customization

Hopbacks are customized for batch sizes and brewery requirements in material, insulation, accessories and addons.

ParameterOptions
MaterialStainless steel, copper
InsulationGlycol, steam, electric heat wrap
MountingFloor, wall, frame/rack
AddonsThermometer, sampling port, sight glass, butterfly valve
CustomizationDimension, fittings, manways, accessories

Installation, Operation and Maintenance

Proper installation and operation procedures are key to utilising the full potential of a hopback without running into issues. Regular cleaning and maintenance will also maximize performance and longevity.

StageGuidelines
InstallationLeveling, securing, verifying dimensions & fittings, test runs with water, tuning butterfly valve
OperationPack correctly with hop amount and variety depending on beer style and preferences, control flow rate for proper oil extraction
MaintenanceCIP with caustic solution after each use, replace hop socks regularly, check valves, gaskets and seals
SafetyUse protective gear when handling hot liquids or pressurized systems

Choosing a Reliable 15 Gallon Hopback Supplier

With customized and specialty brewing equipment like hopbacks, relying on an experienced craft manufacturer is advisable over generic fabrication shops. Use this checklist when selecting a supplier:

Considerations
Years of experience building hopbacks specifically
Specializes in commercial brewing equipment
Can provide design advice and customization
Fabricates using quality materials with precision
Options for insulation, heating, cooling and accessories
Competitive and transparent pricing
Strong reputation and testimonials from brewers
Responsive pre-sales support and after-sales service

Hopback Comparison

Hopbacks have advantages as well as limitations brewers should factor in before purchasing.

Pros and Cons of 15 Gallon Hopbacks

ProsCons
Imparts highly aromatic hop characterAdditional equipment expense
Utilizes whole leaf hops for better flavorCustomization required for integration into brewhouse
Maximizes oil extraction with adjustable contact timeCareful packing of hops needed for best results
Compact and compatible with multi-vessel systemsPotential foaming with certain hop varieties
Dual contact chilling possibleRegular cleaning and maintenance
Retains volatiles compared to randallingTakes up floor space

15 Gallon Cylindrical vs Rectangular Hopbacks

Cylindrical and rectangular hopbacks have relative advantages suiting different scenarios.

ParameterCylindricalRectangular
FootprintCompactLarger
Flow dynamicsSwirling promotes contactMore volume, less channeling
Hop packingSimple stuffingStructured packing needed
Cooling areaLimited for dual contactExtensive due to shape
CostLowerHigher
CleaningStraightforwardCorners require attention

Purchasing a 15 Gallon Hopback

Buying considerations for a hopback include capacity relative to batch size, budget, available space, accessories needed and customization options.

Hopback Price Range

Expect to spend $2000 to $4000 for a basic stainless steel 15 gallon hopback with standard features from a specialty manufacturer. Custom dimensions, exotic materials, insulation and accessories cost extra.

TypePrice Range
Basic cylindrical 15 gallon$2000 – $3000
Insulated 15 gallon+$500
Exotic material (copper)+$1000 or more
Fully customized 15 gallon$3000 – $4000

FAQ

Q: What size hopback is needed for a 7bbl brew system?

A: For a 7bbl (15 gallon) batch size, a minimum 20-30 gallon hopback is recommended, or size for a 10bbl system allowing room for expansion. This provides sufficient capacity so that the vesicles in hops have space to swell and release oils.

Q: Can any hops be used in a hopback or are there best varieties?

A:Cascade, Chinook, Centennial and other aromatic American hops with high oil content are excellent choices. Experiment to find what works with your recipes. Avoid hops with extremely high alpha acids which can cause harsh bitterness.

Q: Is it worth getting a hopback for a small 5 gallon homebrew setup?

A: For maximal fresh hop aroma, it can certainly benefit 5 gallon batches, but carefully evaluate the cost versus benefit. It also takes up space and adds cleaning work versus simply dry hopping. Consider starting with randalling into the fermenter if on a tight budget.

Q: How are rectangular hopbacks filled evenly to prevent channeling?

A: Use structured packing inside rectangular hopbacks to evenly distribute flow. Interlocking stainless steel meshes held apart by spacers allow hops to completely fill internal volume uniformly. Monitor and tune until extraction is consistent.