How To Design Your Own Beer Recipe – Step 3 – Using Hops

We now have a basic understanding of some different types of hops.  It is time to tie everything together with hops and really learn how to use this knowledge for designing your beer.

This part on hops is  really subjective, everyone will have their own opinion and there are tons of theories and ways.  So I’ll just share how I do it and incorporate some basic rules of thumb.  

Also keep this in perspective we’re not building a rocket but rather a beer – which will make you drunk if you have too many of them (or the right amount of them depending on how you look at it).

How To Use Hops

When it comes to using hops you are going to find your  niche and stick in a ball park of hops that you use.  Most likely if you love Imperial IPA’s, you will not find a mild or hefe that attractive.  The same goes in the other direction, if your favorite beer is a mild, most likely you are not jonesing for and Imperial IPA day in and day out.  With each style of beer there are hops that are favorable to that style and ones that are not  so favorable.

When To Add Hops 101

There are 3 ways to use hops: 1) Bittering 2) Flavoring 3) Aroma.  The names for these are pretty self descriptive.


You add this in the beginning of the boil.  These will be boiled for a total of 60min or more.


These are added usually somewhere around the 30-15min left in the boil mark.


These are added in the last 12 minutes of the boil and including dry hopping.

Quick Conclusion: 

As hops are boiled, the aroma compounds are driven off then the flavor leaving just the bitterness.  If there is little to no boil then there is no bitter just nose. 

How many ounces should I add to my beer?

This is subjective to a degree.  There are different types of software out there that will help you figure out the IBU’s which is the measurement that lets you know how hoppy your beer will be.  Depending on your style of beer there are, “guidelines” on what is style appropriate.

For me, I drink a lot of lighter beers – session brews.  The type that I get home from work and you can have one, two, three of them and still walk straight.  These are my favorite to make/drink.

When I make a session beer, I just know from past history that I like around 1.5 oz of hops to 2 oz of hops.  The alpha acid is going to be at the highest 6-7% for the hops. Doing this will leave me in the ball park of 20-30 IBU’s.  Having the total IBU’s in this range is style appropriate (11A).

So to answer the original question, how many ounces you should you add? It’s either you know from past experience or you get software like beersmith or beertools to help with the IBU (there are formulas out on the web as well).  We also have a free interface for figuring out the IBU’s.

What should I look at with the Alpha Acid?

This is going to give you a big clue on when to add it into the beer and how hoppy it is going to be.  In general since I don’t make a ton of bitter beers, I add the highest alpha acids at the end of the boil for the aroma and the lower alpha acids in the beginning.  The higher the alpha acid the more bitter the beer will be.

By adding the higher alpha acid at the end and focusing that on the nose, it gives the perception that beer has more hops then it really does (in my opinion).  You smell the beer, you smell hops, your tongue will search for confirmation of what it just smelled.  It’s a technique I started to use after brewing with a buddy that would dry hop everything and really lay low on the bittering side.  Just became habbit  for me to dry hop or to do flame outs (adding hops with 0 minutes left in the boil) with higher alpha acids.

How many different hops should I add?

This is one of those that I’m sure everyone has an opinion on but here is mine, I  would not add more than 3 or 4 different hops.  There are combo’s that normally exist that work really well together.  If you were going to throw a lot of different types out there I just feel that the flavors and the aromas run together- it gets sloppy.  If you only added one type of hop it can get boring.

I figure it to be like dancing in a way.  Just doing one move over and over again kinda gets boring, do a couple in a row then it looks better.  Although I must confess, if you want to learn a certain hop I would suggest make a, “Cascade Pale Ale” or a “Northern Brewer Ale” where you use only 1 hop.  You could add it in for each of the bittering, flavor, and aroma and really just learn that hop inside and out.

I should clarify also, there is nothing wrong with just adding 1 hop especially if you are going for simple/cheap.  However, I would just be reluctant to say that it is a very demensional beer in the hop region.  It really goes back to what your focal point is.  If you were adding spices to your brew you proboly wouldn’t want hops to cover up the nose of the spices which would be added in the flavor/aroma.

Hop Combos?

Yep, there are combo’s.  Just like in cooking you will usually add salt and pepper – peppers and onions – ketchup and mustard.  You find that certain hops will compliment other hops really well.  Here are a few examples of different hop combo’s.  They are listed as when they go in the boil (bittering, flavoring, aroma).

(A Combo That Has Me Salivating)

English Style Combo’s

  • Fuggles, East Kent Goldings, Styrian Golding
  • Fuggles, East Kent Goldings, Willamette
  • East Kent, Fuggles, Willamette
  • East Kent Goldings, Styrian Goldings

German Style Combo’s

  • Any noble hop series is fine

American Style Combo’s

  • Cascade, Chinook, Columbus
  • Cascade, Centennial, Chinook
  • Cascade, Magnum
  • Galena, Centennial, Cascade
  • Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe
  • Warrior, Simcoe, Amarillo
  • Mt. Hood, Crystal

Belgian Style Combo’s

  • Saaz, Crystal
  • Saaz, Styrian Goldings

These are all different ones that I could think of off the top of my head, there are so many more.  There is an easy way to know how to create combos that go well together.

The easiest way to figure out how to come up with a combo of hops for your recipe is,  find a hop description that you like, then find the substitutes and there you go.  They will taste different enough that they will add some complexity to it.  Hop substitutes and hop descriptions can be found on our previous post about hops.

What Not To Do

Another rule of thumb is don’t mix and match to many.  If you want a citrus hop flavor stick within citrus hops.  I would not advise to add citrus as well as earthy to it.  They can start to clash when you go down that road.  It’s a big rule of thumb and there are many contradictions to that.  But if you are a beginner into making your own recipes, stay away from that for your first few.

This is going to sound contradicting but you can do it in some cases and it will turn out good (just like people that add ranch to pizza, sounds weird but suprisingly pretty good) you just have to get a feel for what works well and what doesn’t, and that just takes time.  For your first few, wouldn’t recommend going crazy.


Being Familiar With Where Hops Are From Can Help

Another way and probably a better way to know which hops go together is know this: hops can be kinda, “clicky”.  Hops generally work really well together with other hops that are in their region.  In general you can take German hops and they will blend with German hops very well.  English hops will blend well with English hops.  To avoid a clash of certain flavors, I wouldn’t start mixing and matching too much from different regions (Example would be American Hops with English Hops = walking on a tight rope).

When To Add In The Hops?

Typically I will have 2 or 3 hop infusions in my boil.  Using the calculator off of our website I’ll show you what it does to the boil using the example of a total of 2 ounces and 3 different hops – Fuggles, East Kent Goldings, Styrian Goldings.  These are examples on when to add in hops in the boil as well as what it does to the IBU’s.

Example 1

1 oz Fuggles (60min)

.5 oz East Kent Goldings (30min)

.5 oz Styrian Goldings (5min)

Total IBU: 22

Example 2

1 oz Fuggles (60min)

.5 oz East Kent Goldings (45min)

.5 oz Styrian Goldings (12min)

Total IBU: 25

Example 3

1 oz East Kent Goldings (60min)

.5 oz Fuggles (45min)

.5 oz Styrian Goldings (5min)

Total IBU: 24

Now any of those are the types of combo’s I would use for a mild/brown/session.

You can also do things like the example below if you want to add another dimension of complexity still using the Fuggle, EKG, and Styrian Goldings exp.

Example 4

.5 oz Fuggle (60min)

.25 oz East Kent Goldings (45min)

.25 oz Fuggles (45min)

.25 oz East Kent Goldings (30min)

.25 oz Fuggles (30min)

.25 oz Styrian Goldings (15min)

.25 oz Styrian Goldings (5min)

Total IBU: 24

It still has a total of 2 ounces but you can just layer the flavors/aromas to make the beer a bit more complex.

There are other ways to add hops to your beer like continuous hoping, dry hoping, and flame outs.  For the first few recipes I would stay away and just keep it simple using something like example 1 or example 2 for your hop schedule.

To Sum Everything Up

(You know you’re lost if you have a road map in the middle of a field)

So hopefully you are not entirely lost at this point int time.  But what you do know and hopefully are getting a grasp on are some main points.

  • Hops have different flavors
  • When picking hops to use, keep to regions
  • Some couple better than others
  • Choose hops based towards the style of beer that you are going to make
  • Think of 2 or 3 different hops
  • Find the hops by looking at substitutes
  • There are 3 different times you can add hops in your boil
  • You can make it really complicated if you want

Keep It In Perspective:

Just remember your beer is going to turn out.  It may not be the way that you intended it to be but, unless you go crazy with something it’s still going to be drinkable.  I wouldn’t sweat to much about it.   And if its bad, just have a few more of them and all of a sudden they start to taste better.

(A young homebrewer having a sigh of relief)

The next part to this series is actually going to be pretty easy.  The next part is about malt extract that needs to be added if you are an extract with specialty grains brewer or base malts added for all-grain brewers.  Everything is down hill from here.

Good luck!


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  1. How To Design Your Own Beer Recipe Series – Step 2 – Hops Selection | Jay's Brewing Blog - February 9, 2012

    […] Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInDiggStumbleUponPrintJays BrewingEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. alpha acid, alpha acids of hops, different type of hops, flavor profiles, hop flavor, hop profile chart, hop substitutes, hops, how to add hops in your recipe. ← How To Design Your Own Beer Recipe – Step 1 – Specialty Grains How To Design Your Own Beer Recipe – Step 3 – Using Hops → […]

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