Writeup: Cryo Hops vs. T-90 Pellets - Dry Hop at Half Rate

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Miguel's set to brew!

Cryo Hops - a new tool in brewers ever escalating attempts to cram more and more hop oils in your face. But when we use them at recommended rate (1/2 ounce of cryo  = 1 ounce of T-90 pellets) will tasters be able to tell the difference.

IMPATIENT RESULT: Nope. Half the cryo seems to be no different than the full T-90. (aka what YCH says it should be)


Executive Summary

Cryo Hops and other frosty hop products are the new hotness out of the hop industry including our sponsor YCHHops. This new method of hop processing strips away much of the extraneous plant matter of the hop cone, leaving behind a very concentrated powder of lupulin (the bitter stuff) and essential oils. 

The first form of concentrated hop plant matter (not extract) to come on the market was just the powder and it was tricky to use and dissolve into the wort. Remember during Episode 36 Sticky Hands, Stickier Questions , Nick Arzner of Block 15 recommended mixing the powder with regular pellet hops. Thankfully, YCH saw the difficulty and figured out how to process and compress the powder into pellets that brewers know how to use. 

To give you an idea of the concentrated power of these hops, regular Simcoe T-90 pellets range in the 11-15% alpha acid range while the oil content ranges between 0.8-3.2. The cryo form hits 21-25% alpha acid with the oil content ranging from 2.5-4%. Either way that's a boost. 

For professional brewers, there's an added benefit to lower amounts of hop material (beyond flavor impacts) - $money$. The cryo hops cost more, but they also soak up less liquid, meaning more beer. When beer is money, that's a double incentive.

Cryo Dry Hop on left, T-90 on right. Notice the difference? (Save beer!)

While it's tempting to just go stuffing a bunch of cryo in the beer full force, we decided to follow YCH's recommendations for seamless Cryo usage which is two fold: use half the amount of Cryo as you would regular pellets and focus on whirlpool/dry hop additions. YCH's recommendations are based on AA% and oil contents. The real thing we wondered - would the lower plant matter be noticeable?

Final Samples from Miguel

Podcast Talking...

If you listened to the episode, you heard Denny, Brad, Eric, Miguel and I get a little confused by the results. A few days of digesting after the brew day, I've come to the conclusion that we weren't thinking clearly about our expectations. We'd been concentrating on Cryo hops as "powerful"/"concentrated" and were puzzled why they didn't show that way. Well, naturally, because we subbed down low, which is what you do to mimic the T-90's. And with these beers being relatively light on the dry hops, we wouldn't be in a good position to detect a difference from the lower plant matter. Let this be a lesson - stop, think, digest and probably have that second cup of coffee before talking results.

The Experiment

The IGORs were asked to choose between our Basic American Pale Ale and Basic American IPA recipes - with some hop substitutions for the final product. Simple two batch brew day or a large mash with a split boil. The only variable would be the finishing hops on the beer.

They were asked to bitter with a neutral hop T-90 pellet (Warrior) to 35/60 IBUs (APA/IPA)

They were then to add Mosaic and Citra to the whirlpool for 20 minutes and dry hop with Cascade. Of the two batches, one used regular T-90 pellets and the other used the Cryo pellets for whirlpool and dry hop. YCHHops provided the two batches for our brewers to use. (Thanks YCH!)

This ended up being one of our most subscribed experiments with 15 IGORs signing up and 12 IGORs completing!

  • Andrew Roth - IPA
  • Andy Hatch - APA
  • Brad MacLeod - IPA
  • Chris Paumi - APA
  • Eric Pierce - APA
  • Jason Nelms - APA
  • Jeremy Wickham - APA
  • Miguel Loza - IPA
  • Mike Kirk - APA
  • Nick McLawhorn - APA
  • Nicki Forster - APA
  • Tim Hayes - APA

For the full detals of the experiment, read the experiment design! Don't forget we're always looking for people to help us too - IGOR Program Details

The Brew Day and Fermentation

All told in looking through the IGOR brew session notes, we see the usual blend of no problems, to the occasional standard brew day issue of "that one was boiled a little harder"

Most of the IGORs went for the split boil brew day where they brewed a single mash followed by splitting the boil into two separate kettles (or split the post boil single kettle in half). Everyone reported clean fementations. Several had issues with carbonation 

Feast your eyes on these pictures.

Brew Rigs range from fancy (Miguel's) to a little less so (Nick McLawhorn) to the simply functional (Chris Paumi's BiaB)

Beers ready to ferment - Chris Paumi, Eric Pierce, Miguel Loza

Miguel and Nicki's final gravities.

Eric Pierce's Samples

Mike Kirk's Samples (T-90 on left, Cryo on Right)

Tim Haye's Samples

Chris Paumi's Samples - Interestingly the color difference disappeared with a few weeks settling.

Jason Nelm's Samples

White Labs Analysis of Miguel's Beer - Top = Cryo, Bottom = T-90

The Tastings

Having 12 different iterations meant that we had a lot of tasters - 170 to be precise. If we split them up into the various trials (and elminate 2 outlying data sets), we get the following break down. You can see we had way more results on the APA side of the house.

Style Trials Tasters Correct
APA 8 107 42
IPA 2 31 17

The Results

Tasting Panel Numeric Data

IGOR         Style Panels Tasters Correct %age p-Value
Andy Hatch APA 1 13 6 46% 0.241 (NOT significant)
Chris Paumi APA 1 12 7 58% 0.066 (NOT significant)
Eric Pierce APA 2 16 6 38% 0.453 (NOT significant)
Jason Nelms* APA 2 7 0 0% ?? (NOT significant)
Jeremy Wickham APA 2 27 4 15% 0.992 (NOT significant)
Mike Kirk APA 2 6 4 67% 0.100 (NOT significant)
Nick McLawhorn APA 2 9 5 56% 0.145 (NOT significant)
Nicki Forster APA 2 6 2 33% 0.649 (NOT significant)
Tim Hayes APA 1 18 8 44% 0.223 (NOT significant)
Andrew Roth IPA 1 14 3 21% 0.895 (NOT significant)
Brad MacLeod** IPA 2 25 16 64% 0.002 (significant)
Miguel Loza IPA 1 17 14 82% 0.000 (significant)

* - Eliminated due to outlierness. 

** - Eliminated due to a procedure error (clear cups used with a beer showing a visual difference)

Tasting Panels Qualitative Data

IGOR     Beer Thoughts     Experiment Thoughts
Andy Hatch   It was interesting to do this tasting with my homebrew club. Previously I have done things like this with mostly non-brewers. They all seemed to have a really good attitude and had fun participating. I also noticed out of the 6 that could tell the difference, 2 of them seemed to have super-human tasting abilities.
Chris Paumi T-90 was not only crisper and more flavorful but was cleaner looking and a brighter and lighter beer Wondering if given more time the Cryo will get lighter and brighter as the Cryo Hops dispersing is very different that T-90. The Cryo Hops appear to be finer and dissolve into solution better but precipitate out more slowly
Eric Pierce In general, the beers were perceived as very close to one another. The majority of those that could discern a difference chose the cryo-hop beer as clearer, higher intensity, fresher tasting, and more hop flavor but not overwhelmingly. In the two sessions 50% of the home brewers identified the beers much more significantly. Where only 1 out of 6 of the average joes could find the difference. The difference is subtle, perhaps only detectable by the most discerning palates. I'm guessing that the IPA will show greater detectability because more hops are used. BTW, beer fans tend to enjoy these experiments! It's a great way to spice up a beer club meeting. Especially clubs that are basically, folks that just hang out and talk about beer for longer and in more depth than most muggles can handle.
Jason Nelms* All but one taster came back for more pours I really thought this was going to be easy to tell the difference between these beers. I had my wife give me a triangle test 3 times and I missed all 3 times.One participant had chosen correctly initially stating the aroma was stronger on the cryo hopped batch but she second-guessed herself and changed to another pour at the last minute.
Jeremy Wickham Moderately-high citrus flavors, moderate bitterness. Decent pale ale, I'll be glad to finish off these kegs. Major takeaway for me is that the clean up of the cryo hops was much easier. The fresher the beer with the cryo hop, the better the aroma and flavor were present. I feel like that the flavor and aroma drop out was pretty major between session 1 and 2. With me using a hop spider normally, clean up is not normally an issue for me with my hoppier beers.
Mike Kirk The cryo hop version does have a cleaner more in your face hop character. I would describe it as bright and fruity. The beer itself has a better hop character in the taste as well. The T-90 hopped version has a more muddied hop presence but finishes slightly smoother. There is hardly any difference in the appearance. After doing this experiment I will in the future seek out cryo hops for the late hop additions when doing any beer that is hop forward. I feel these hops might not be the best choice if you're using lots of dark malts, for instance a porter or stout, as those flavors would mute what the cryo hops bring to the beer, but a lighter colored west coast style pale ale or IPA or DIPA would benefit from using the cryo hops in the late additions if cleaner more in your face hop profiles are desired.
Nick McLawhorn even had someone do the test twice, got the different beer 1 out of 2 times good experiment, talked about two follow ups: 1:1 hop ration (vs 2:1) and cost match $:$ - if you spent $6 in pellets, spend $6 in Cryo in the batch
Nicki Forster   Based on there being less hop matter w/Cryo, I would have predicted the sample to have cleared better than the T-90. For my batches, it did not. Also, I was expecting the Cryo sample to be more intense in aroma, flavor and apparent bitterness. I found it to be the exact opposite. Finally, of both tasters who successfully identified the different sample in Part 1, both preferred the T-90 sample over the Cryo one.
Tim Hayes It was tough to try and pick out the odd beer out. When doing my own tasting, I was not successful With the timing of my Club's meeting, I had to get the beers brewed within days of receiving the hops. My tasting was held when the beers were 4 weeks old. Being that the cryo batch was clearer at the time of the tasting could possibly be the reason it was perceived thinner than the T-90 batch.
Andrew Roth    
Brad MacLeod** Unfortunately, one beer passively.force-carbonated a bit more and was noticeable in clear and opaque cups. I'd like to better control carbonation and serving temperature...counter-pressure filler? I'd prefer a more relaxed serving experience and more captive audience than coworkers on a Friday afternoon, looking to head out soon...
Miguel Loza   Aside from the high count of people identifying the odd beer, most seem to think the Cryo had a higher intensity, freshness, hop flavor and the comments steered towards the T90 having a low to mid hop intensity, mild bitterness, subdued hop flavor/bitterness and the Cryo being more "dank", clean, lingering bitterness, pleasant aroma and surprisingly a creamy mouthfeel which could have been the difference in carbonation. Luckily, White Labs provided me with results from testing both beers at the lab and the Cryo had 6.75% ABV, 5.29 ABW, 52 IBUs, the T90 pellets results were 6.37 ABV, 4.99 ABW, 47 IBUs...very little differences in IBUs (ABV for that matter) to a palate but, somehow they were for the people that tried the beers.


Interesting results as always and interesting to see the little ways in which each of the brewers differed. It's very clear that in the APA world, the Cryo was indistingushable from the T-90 beers, but we start to see some potential separation in the IPA world with higher amounts of hops. Definitely points to another experiment with more hops and possibly moving off the 1:0.5 T-90:Cyro ratio.

As with most things subjective, it's funny to see different people's perspectives on things as they go along. Most of the IGORs reported that the Cryo hops did present a brighter aroma with less time to clean while a few reported the opposite experience. (All the Cryos were from the same lot)

Miguel's numbers, courtesy of White Labs testing service showed that the IBU's were pretty spot on, even thought the T-90 beer was bit higher in alcohol and just below the Cryo's in IBUs.

All in all, we're comfortable saying that upon review - the Cryo hops, at a 1:0.5 ratio - do seem to present a similar character as the T-90 pellets. Next stop - punch the gas! (For the record, Denny tends to use Cryo to really punch things at about twice the recommended rate because why be subtle - or in reality, he thinks he gets better oil amounts from that higher dosing rate)

Let us know what you think of Cyro hops in the comments below or email us at [email protected].