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.
|Canister shape infuses hop aroma when hot wort passes through leaf hops
|Box shape with more surface area, often used in multi-vessel brewhouses
15 Gallon Hopback Design and Customization
Hopbacks are customized for batch sizes and brewery requirements in material, insulation, accessories and addons.
|Stainless steel, copper
|Glycol, steam, electric heat wrap
|Floor, wall, frame/rack
|Thermometer, sampling port, sight glass, butterfly valve
|Dimension, 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.
|Leveling, securing, verifying dimensions & fittings, test runs with water, tuning butterfly valve
|Pack correctly with hop amount and variety depending on beer style and preferences, control flow rate for proper oil extraction
|CIP with caustic solution after each use, replace hop socks regularly, check valves, gaskets and seals
|Use 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:
|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
Hopbacks have advantages as well as limitations brewers should factor in before purchasing.
Pros and Cons of 15 Gallon Hopbacks
|Imparts highly aromatic hop character
|Additional equipment expense
|Utilizes whole leaf hops for better flavor
|Customization required for integration into brewhouse
|Maximizes oil extraction with adjustable contact time
|Careful packing of hops needed for best results
|Compact and compatible with multi-vessel systems
|Potential foaming with certain hop varieties
|Dual contact chilling possible
|Regular cleaning and maintenance
|Retains volatiles compared to randalling
|Takes up floor space
15 Gallon Cylindrical vs Rectangular Hopbacks
Cylindrical and rectangular hopbacks have relative advantages suiting different scenarios.
|Swirling promotes contact
|More volume, less channeling
|Structured packing needed
|Limited for dual contact
|Extensive due to shape
|Corners 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.
|Basic cylindrical 15 gallon
|$2000 – $3000
|Insulated 15 gallon
|Exotic material (copper)
|+$1000 or more
|Fully customized 15 gallon
|$3000 – $4000
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.