We all know that with the hop shortage more and more people are trying to get creative as to how to get the maximum flavor and aroma out of their hops with the minimum amount of hops used, right? Right. I've been dry hopping Pale Ales and IPAs for quite some time now and I really enjoy the outcome of my beer. Then one day I was reading an article about how people are using a hop tea instead of dry hopping so I was intrigued and decided to give it a whirl myself.
I made a 12 gallon batch of Pale ale split between two fermenters. In one I tossed in 1 oz of simcoe whole leaf hops and let it sit for one week for dry hopping. The other fermenter I simply kegged up. However, before I kegged I made a very weak wort of about 1.025. I used 2 pints of water and 1/2 cup of dried malt extract (light). I didn't bring it up to a boil I simply brought it up to about 170 degrees and dissolved the DME. I then took a french press (you know, the one for making coffee) added 1 oz of simcoe whole leaf hops to that and poured the warmed weak wort over it. I then let it steep for about 40 minutes. I wasn't in a big hurry.
After it was done steeping I added it directly to the keg, sealed the keg, let it pressurize for a few days and waited for the other batch to get done dry hopping. Once that was done I kegged and carbed it, too.
I sat down and let both beers come close to room temperature. They both smelled delicious but I found that the dry hopped one had more aroma than the tea-hopped one. After taking a few tastes I also came to the conclusion that the dry hopped one had just a touch more hop flavor to it, but not much. I was really surprised to find out that the hop-tea did in fact deliver a very desirable flavor and aroma to the pale ale. One more thing to note about tea-hopping and dry hopping is that since you don't boil the hops then the alpha acids are not isomerized into the wort. What does that mean? It means that you can then reuse these hops as bittering hops. I'm sure there is some loss of A.A.%, and as I guess I would approximate at the most 25%. This means you can store them in a bag and freeze them up to use for brewing another day! Can't beat that.
My conclusion is simple: Dry hopping and tea-hopping are *very* similar and yielded similar results. Would I tea hop again? Absolutely. The greatest thing about tea-hopping is that you don't have to wait an additional week as you do with dry hopping. You wait about a half hour, dump into the keg (after it was strained through the french press) and there you have it; instant hop flavor and aroma. I may start doing this on a more frequent basis.
So if you have the extra time to do an experiment, I would suggest doing this for fun. It was an eye-opening experience for me and I'm really glad I did it.
P.S. As for how many oz of hops to use . . . that's entirely up to you but I will say that 1 oz was just the right amount for my french press. If you wish to do more than 1 oz then you may have to split the batches up with your french press.