IPA Ingredients: Best Hops, Grains, Adjuncts, and more!

In the following article, we are going to introduce you to the most famous beer style with the most variants in the world: the IPA.

The first question we will try to answer is: what ingredients are in an IPA? The answer is as broad as the number of versions of this style. As for the grain, most versions use Pilsen or pale ale malt, being able to add some adjunct such as oatmeal or caramel malts as the style becomes more complex.

As we all know, the star of this style of beer is hops. Each part of the world has its own version with autochthonous hops, although the most accepted and established schools are the American, with its classic citric, fruity and resinous hops (citra, ekuanot, simcoe, cascade, etc.) and the English, with aromas and flavors more inclined towards herbal, earthy and spicy (kent golding, fuggles, etc.).

As for the yeast, its choice depends a lot on the type of IPA we want, the most used are the neutral ales since they keep all of the sensory characteristics that the hops offer us in the foreground. Also, for certain styles of IPA, such as those from the East Coast of the USA, sterile yeasts are used, which generate a high degree of turbidity.

What is an IPA beer?

The IPA (Indian pale ale) is a style of beer of English tradition, and it’s part of the pale and sparkling ale family with a high alcohol content and, above all, a high level of hops.

This style was born in the late 1700s because of the need to keep the beer in good condition during the long voyages from the United Kingdom to India across the ocean.

Best Grains for IPA Beer

As with any beer, balance and drinkability are very important. In the case of IPAs, it is essential to achieve a malt base that supports the large amounts of hops that we are going to use.

In terms of base malts, the most widely used by far are Pilsen and pale ale, which must provide a sufficient amount of sugars in our wort to achieve this balance.

Then caramel malts are also used to provide even greater support and malt complexity, and even roasted malts to extract as much color as possible.

As for adjuncts, the most commonly used are oats, wheat, and carapils. The latter ones serve to give body, silkiness, and smoothness and are used in styles such as hazy IPA, new England IPA, white IPA, etc.

The most commonly used grains are:

  • Base malts: pale ale, pilsen.
  • Medium and low caramels: Cara 20, 30, 60.
  • Oats, carapils.
  • Wheat.
  • Roasted malts: black, roasted barley, etc. (only for color).

Hazy IPA

This very particular style differs from the classic American IPA mainly because of its intense fruit flavors and aromas, smooth body, and silky mouthfeel.

The bitterness is less noticeable than in traditional IPAs but still a strongly hoppy style. Emphasis is placed on making late hop additions, more specifically dry hopping, and using varieties with tropical fruit flavors and aromas.

In terms of appearance, this style is characterized by a yellow color with orange tones, high turbidity, and is very opaque, and it has high foam levels of meringue color with a lot of retention due to the protein levels caused by the use of oats or wheat during the mashing process.

Hops most commonly used in IPA beers

HopFlavor & AromaUtilized for% Alpha% BetaSubstitutesBeer Style
CitraCitrus, tropicalAroma, Bitterness12,53,8Simcoe, mosaicIpa, APA, double IPA
MosaicFloral, tropical, citrusAroma, Bitterness12,53,6Citra, simcoeIpa, APA, double IPA, stout
SimcoeBaya, citrus, tropicalAroma, Bitterness134Summit, magnum, amarilloPale ale, ipa, lager, red ale
AmarilloCitrusAroma96,8Cascade, centennialPale ale, IPA, porter
CentennialCitrus, floralAroma, Bitterness9,54,5Cascade, chinookPale ale, IPA, wheat
CascadeHerbal, floralAroma, Bitterness76,2Amarillo, centennialIpa, porter, witbier
ColumbusHerbal, SpicedAroma, Bitterness165,3Ctz, tomahawkIpa, APA, stout
El doradoTropical, citrusAroma, Bitterness157,2Citra, nelsonIpa APA, lager
ChinookCitrico, resin.Aroma, Bitterness133,5Nugget, columpusIpa, APA stout
GalaxyCitrus, tropicalAroma, Bitterness13,57Simcoe, citraPale ale, IPA, barley whine
Idaho 7Tropical Fruit.aroma12,24,3Azacca, el doradoIpa, pale ale, de trigo
Vic secretCitrus, tropicalAroma, Bitterness17,97,2galaxyPale ale, IPA, stout
azaccaCitrus, tropicalAroma, Bitterness154,8Amarillo, citraPale ale, ipa, sour, saison
motuekaCitrus, tropicalAroma, Bitterness6,85,3Saaz, sterlingIpa, pale ale, belgians
ekuanotCitrus, herbalaroma14,34,8Chinook, summitIpa, APA, Saison, sour 

Single Hop Beers

This new trend called single hop beers is about beers in which only one hop variety was used throughout the entire brewing process, both for bitterness as well as the aroma.

That said, at what times can additions be made?

  • Mash hop: addition during mashing. This technique is mostly used with flowering hops and is currently not widely used.
  • First wort hop: addition at the beginning of the wort lautering when the wort is not yet at boiling temperature.
  • Additions during the boil: the longer the hops remain in the boil the more alpha acids are isomerized and therefore the more bitterness is extracted, while later additions make better use of the aromas.
  • Hop stand: once the boil is over, the temperature of the wort is reduced to about 85 degrees Celsius and the addition is made.
  • Dry hops: additions made inside the fermenter during the last day of main fermentation or first days of cold maturation.

The most common types of hops for Single Hop beers are:

  • Citra
  • Simcoe
  • Nelson sauvin
  • Mosaic
  • Galaxy
  • Cashmere
  • Idaho 7
  • Motueka
  • Yellow
  • El dorado

Beers with more than one Hop variety and their combinations

The most common is to find hoppy styles with 2, 3, and even 4 varieties. This is done to make the most of the characteristics of each one.

For example, a variety with a high percentage of alpha-acids is used at the beginning of the boil to take advantage of the bitterness, then an aromatic variety is used in the whirlpool and finally, a dry hop of one or two varieties is made to give the desired flavor and aroma profile.

Most commonly used hops:

  1. Citra
  2. Mosaic
  3. Simcoe
  4. Yellow
  5. Centennial

As expected, the best hop combinations are led by Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe. Surprisingly it is not very common to find combinations with southern hemisphere varieties such as Galaxy, but this may be due to their difficult accessibility.

Hop 1Utilized forWhen to addHop 2Utilized forWhen to add
CitraAroma, BitternessAny TimemosaicAroma, BitternessAny Time
CitraAroma, BitternessAny TimeSimcoeAroma, BitternessAny Time
AmarilloaromaLate in the boil, hopstand, dry hopSimcoeAroma, BitternessAny Time
AmarilloAromaLate in the boil, hopstand, dry hopCitraAroma, BitternessAny Time
centennialAroma, BitternessAny TimeSimcoeAroma, BitternessAny Time
mosaicAroma, BitternessAny TimeSimcoeAroma, BitternessAny Time
CitraAroma, BitternessAny TimeEl doradoAroma, BitternessAny Time
Citra Aroma, BitternessAny TimegalaxyAroma, BitternessAny Time
CascadeAroma, BitternessAny TimecentennialAroma, BitternessAny Time
centennialAroma, BitternessAny TimeColumbusAroma, BitternessAny Time
AmarilloaromaLate in the boil, hopstand, dry hopcentennialAroma ya amargorAny Time
centennialAroma, BitternessAny TimechinookAroma, BitternessAny Time
El dorado Aroma, BitternessAny TimemosaicAroma, BitternessAny Time
cascadeAroma, BitternessAny TimechinookAroma, BitternessAny Time
AmarilloaromaLate in the boil, hopstand, dry hopmosaicAroma, BitternessAny Time
galaxyAroma, BitternessAny TimemosaicAroma, BitternessAny Time
chinookAroma, BitternessAny TimeSimcoeAroma, BitternessAny Time
cascadeAroma, BitternessAny TimeSimcoeAroma, BitternessAny Time
centennialAroma, BitternessAny TimeCitraAroma, BitternessAny Time

Best Hops to Generate Bitterness in an IPA Beer

  • Columbus
  • Magnum
  • Simcoe
  • Nugget
  • Chinook
  • Pacific gem
  • Galena
  • Target
  • Apollo
  • Pahto

These varieties are considered the best because of their high percentage of alpha acids. This allows for using fewer amounts of hops achieving more bitterness and less vegetable matter.

Best hops to generate Aroma in an IPA Beer

  • Polaris
  • Super pride
  • Galaxy
  • Columbus
  • Tomahawk
  • Zeus
  • Ekuanot
  • Ella
  • Bravo
  • Rakau
  • Bavarian Mandarin
  • Magnum
  • Merkur
  • Waimea
  • Citra
  • mosaic

When to add hops

There are different hopping techniques throughout the brewing process, each with its own fundamentals, pros, and cons. Below is a detailed list of the most commonly used methods, from the beginning to the end of the brewing process.

  • Mash hop: This is one of the oldest techniques, where fresh hops were used to give flavor and aroma. Nowadays it is not used because it wastes a large part of the hops’ properties.
  • First wort hop: The addition of hops is done in the boiling pot during grain filtering. According to several studies, adding hops at this time generates a more pleasant bitterness.
  • Addition of Hops during the boil: it is known that the optimum moment to isomerize the highest possible amount of Alpha-Acids is at 60′ of boiling, in this way we are taking advantage and optimizing to the maximum the bittering qualities of the hops.
  • Addition of bitterness, aroma, and flavor: by making the addition between 40′ and 25′ of boiling the aromatic, bitterness, and flavor characteristics of the hops are equally exploited, which is why balanced varieties are usually used in this aspect.
  • Addition of aroma during the boil: this addition is made 10′ after the end of the boil, it is known that in this way, a large part of the essential oils are solubilized and are retained in the wort, providing a great aroma.
  • Hop stand: once the boil is over, the temperature of the wort is lowered to 80/90 degrees Celsius approximately and the hops are added while the whirlpool is performed. This technique extracts all the qualities of the hops but especially aroma since in this way the least amount of aromatic compounds is volatilized.
  • Hot dry hopping: this addition is produced already inside the fermenter in the first 24 hours of main fermentation or in the last fermentation points, or when the attenuation has exceeded 60% approximately. In this way, the flavor and aroma are maximized, since all the compounds are retained inside the fermentor and the aromatic compounds are not volatilized. A great advantage of this method is that the yeast is still in action, so it will process any oxygen particles that may have entered during dry hopping.
  • Cold dry hopping: It has recently been discovered that this method makes the best use of the aroma compounds without generating any bitterness. The hops must be added to the fermenter during the cold maturation stage, which makes them quite prone to oxidation and contamination, and special care must be taken.

Hop Quantities to be used

Whenever we’re making highly-hopped beers, it is essential to balance flavor, aroma, and drinkability.

Adding high amounts of hops does not ensure a well-hopped beer, since we can have, for example, a good aroma but not a good quality of bitterness.

That is why when adding hops it is important not only to look at the sensory profile of the hops, but also to decide on the appropriate amounts and times of addition.

That said, in beers of low original and final density with a subtle hopping rate, we can obtain the expected balance (between 4 and 9 grams per liter total in styles such as session IPA, brut IPA, etc.).

On the other hand, in more complex styles in terms of alcohol percentage and malt varieties such as american IPA, double IPA, etc., a higher percentage of hops should be added throughout the process (between 8 and 20 g/l).

The old school brewers recommend 3 additions separated between the beginning, middle and end of the boil to enhance bitterness, flavor and aroma respectively.

The new trends indicate that to achieve maximum aroma and flavor potential, most of them should be added by dry-hopping techniques during fermentation, leaving only a small part for the boil.


Historically, IPA was a 100% ale style because it was all about neutral yeasts, good flocculation, and easy to manage fermentation temperatures (between 20 and 25 degrees).

Each school has its own yeast strain that differentiates a Belgian IPA from an American or English IPA, for example. As time went by and with the appearance of the new ipas, new yeasts also appeared, as is the case of the new england IPA, hazy IPA, or brut IPA, which have their own yeast strain that works well with the characteristics of the style.

It is also worth mentioning that in the last few years they started experimenting with lager yeasts in IPAs, which ferment around 10/15 degrees and generate very clean profiles that go very well with hops.

What is IBU and what does it represent?

The IBU (International Bitterness Unit) is a value that quantifies the bitterness of beer. It represents the amount of dissolved alpha acids, so 1 IBU is equivalent to 1 milligram of alpha acid per liter of beer.

Something very important to take into account when calculating this is the moment of addition of the hops, since the optimal moment to extract all the possible bitterness is at 60 minutes of boiling, on the other hand if what we want is to take advantage of the aromas, the addition should be done at 10 minutes.

Having said that, how is the IBU calculated? It would be very simple to do if we only took into account the Alpha-Acids that a variety of hops have and how much is added to the beer. Then, knowing the final number of liters before the boil, calculate the grams of Alpha Acids according to the percentage of this.

Now, if we want to make a more accurate calculation, we must calculate the amount of AA that is isomerized in the wort, for this we must add to the equation the utilization coefficient. To measure this coefficient, the most commonly used method is the one created by Randy Mosher.

It is a graph formed by curves that relates the minutes of boiling with the characteristics of the hops used.

IBU of each type of beer

Light Lager – 4-10
Blond Ale – 14-25
Saison – 20-38
Pilsner – 25-45
Dry Stout – 30-35
Pale Ale – 30-50
Hazy IPA – 30-50
Hazy Double IPA – 45-80
West Coast IPA – 50-70
Imperial Stout – 50-80
Double IPA – 65-100


As we have seen throughout this article, the IPA is a style with multiple variants where everything revolves around the hops, but as we already know, good beer has to be balanced and to achieve that balance it is extremely important that we take into account the other variants such as the malt grist, water profile and yeast strain.

Nowadays we have easy access to most hop varieties from all over the world, making it easier to replicate styles that in ancient times could only be tasted in their country of origin.

It is also worth noting that this family of styles is constantly being studied and experimented with and there are more and more resources available to us to make our favorite IPA either home-brewed or at the microbrewery level.

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