A 5.5 gallon hop back is a piece of brewing equipment used by homebrewers and craft breweries to add hop aroma and flavor to beer. The hop back fits inline between the brew kettle and fermenter to filter and infuse the hot wort with hop oils and resins as it passes through a bed of whole leaf or pellet hops.
Hop Back Equipment Guide
A hop back unit consists of a stainless steel chamber filled with hops through which the hot wort flows. It is usually cylindrical or square in shape with inlets and outlets to connect it to transfer hoses or piping. A filter screen helps separate the hop debris. Hop backs often have sight glasses, thermometers, and valves to control and monitor the transfer.
Types of 5.5 Gallon Hop Backs
|Most common design, easier to fill and clean than square
|Compact footprint, maximizes hop contact area
|Disposable nylon or fabric, reduce cleaning
|Motorized rotation to improve saturation
|Apply backpressure to infuse more oils
5.5 Gallon Hop Back Brewing Process
A hop back is used after the wort has been boiled and cooled down slightly. The process consists of:
- Heating wort to a temperature between 165-185°F to maximize hop oil extraction
- Transferring hot wort into the inlet of the sealed hop back chamber filled with hops
- Allowing the wort dwell time to steep and saturate the hops, typically 10-20 minutes
- Draining the infused wort out of the outlet into the fermenter
- Cleaning and sanitizing the hop back thoroughly between uses
Specifications of 5.5 Gallon Hop Back
|Stainless Steel, some plastic units for single-use
|Cylindrical or Square
|8-12 inches diameter, 16-24 inches tall
|1.5″ tri-clamp or threaded fittings
|Available on some models
|Analog or digital thermometer, glass window to observe wort
|Stainless steel mesh to filter hops
|Ball valves to control flow rates
|Included with some units
|Optional foam wrap or jacket
|Logo etching, custom fittings or valves
Suppliers and Price Range of 5.5 Gallon Hop Backs
|The Electric Brewery
Installation, Operation and Maintenance
|Attach to brewing system via tri-clamps or threaded fittings<br>Position at working height using racking ears or stand
|Add up to 2 lbs whole leaf or 4 lbs pellet hops <br>Spread evenly across screen surface area
|Control flow rates using valves to allow 10-20 min contact time <br> Monitor thermometer and adjust heating if needed
|Rinse immediately after use<br>Brush screen to remove hop debris <br>Clean with PBW and sanitize with StarSan or Iodophor
Choosing a 5.5 Gallon Hop Back Supplier
When selecting a hop back unit, consider the following:
|Lower-cost single use models vs professional stainless steel <br> Balance size and features against price
|Stainless steel preferred for durability and cleaning <br> Plastic if only using once
|Around 0.5-1 lb hops per gallon capacity
|Measure space in brewing system layout
|Match current equipment fittings
|Ease of use
|Prefer tri-clamp for simple connections and breakdown
|Insulation, thermometer, sight glass provide convenience
|Read homebrewer reviews and feedback
Comparison Between 5.5 Gallon Hop Back Options
|Hop contact area
|Ease of filling
|Ease of cleaning
Summary: Square maximizes exposure but harder to clean. Rotating and pressurized also increase contact but involve added complexity. Single-use models reduce cleaning at the cost of hop utilization.
Pros and Cons of 5.5 Gallon Hop Backs
|Boost hop aroma and flavor
|Added cost and system complexity
|Naturally filter hop debris
|Time-consuming to clean and maintain
|Allow dry hopping at high krausen
|Can introduce oxygen if not properly sealed
|Compact size for small batches
|Limited contact time reduces utilization
|Easy to install in brew line
|Hop particulate can clog ball valves
Q: What size hop back is best for a 5 gallon home brewery?
A: A 5.5 gallon hop back is ideal for 5 gallon batches. It allows room for the full volume plus plenty of hops with minimal headspace. Larger units are better for bigger batches or highly hopped styles.
Q: Can I use a hop back without any additional equipment?
A: Yes, just connect hoses directly from the kettle outlet to the hop back inlet, then more hose from its outlet to the fermenter. Use valves to control flow rates.
Q: How many hops do I need to fill a 5.5 gallon hop back?
A: As a general rule of thumb, use 0.5-1 lbs of whole leaf hops or 1-2 lbs of pellet hops per gallon of hop back capacity. So 2.75 – 5.5 lbs should sufficiently fill a 5.5 gallon unit.
Q: Should I adjust my boil hop additions if using a hop back?
A: Yes, you can reduce late boil hop additions since the hop back will provide equivalent aroma and flavor. But bittering hops should remain the same.
Q: Can I dry hop in the hop back instead of the fermenter?
A: Absolutely, the hop back allows dry hopping at peak fermentation when yeast activity maximizes absorption of hop oils into the beer.