8.23.2009

How to dry hops at home

Here is what I know about drying hops at home. I'll try to hit all the important pieces, but, ask questions in the comments.

Here's a book I bought to help me understand drying hops.
Amazon: The Homebrewer's Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use Your Own Hops, Malts, Brewing Herbs

I also have a page of hop growing resources here...
http://www.nonconfermist.com/2007/10/hops-growing-resources.html

Overview
plant hops in spring
pick hops late summer early fall
dry them someplace that is dark, hot, low in humidity and/or has good air movement
store hops in cool dry place away from light and air
use them as you would use store bought hops

Detailed notes...

Basic principles of drying hops


  • hops are living flowers with leafy cones
  • inside the leafy cones is the lupilin we want to flavor our beer
  • the object is to remove the moisture from the leafy parts and preserve the volatile lupilin
  • you can use hops green (wet hopping or fresh hopping)
  • storing them green promotes spoilage (that's what I've read)
  • you can expect a 6 to 1 weight ratio from green/wet/fresh hops to dried hops (at least that's what I've found) one pound (16 oz) of green hops = approx 2 oz of dried hops
  • drying hops allows you to store them longer deterring spoilage
  • heat, low humidity and air movement can help to dry hops
  • heat promotes evaporation
  • dry air promotes evaporation
  • air movement promotes evaporation
  • the volume of your crop will dictate how you dry, you might need to build an oast to handle larger crops
  • exposure to air and light during storage will change the flavor of the hops
My method of drying


  • find a place that has as many of the following qualities as possible (hot, low humidity, good air circulation)
  • I use my basement where I have a dehumidifier. Usually 50% humidity or less.
  • get some screens (like old window/door screens)
  • lay the screens out on something that will raise them off the floor/surface ( I use shoeboxes)
  • get a fan to circulate air
  • spread the green undried hops on the screens, I try to keep it to one hop cone deep
  • after 24 hours they should be pretty dry, I've kept them there for up to a week
  • Test, by checking the brittleness of the stem on the inside. If it breaks more than bends, then they are dry enough.
Storage

I use a food saver vacuum sealer, because I have one. I'm not sure that it is necessary though.


  • package up in one or two ounce packs
  • freeze or refrigerate (I've done both)
  • take them out when you're ready to use
Using the hops you picked


  • if you've dried them well, you should be able to use them in the same amounts as hops you've bought. Yes, that means that when substituting for pellets I use the same amount. 1 oz. pellets = 1 ounce homegrown
  • The hop flavor tends to be cleaner and more pure. (subjective opinion ;-)
  • They tend to soak up more wort/beer than pellets.
  • hard to truly know their bittering potential, but, I try to use the guidelines from the place I bought the rhizomes from

47 comments:

psteve said...

I just harvested a ton, well, maybe 6 ounces or more, from my cascade plant. The plant was literally crawling with ants, though, and I have a bunch of them in the hops. My guess is they won't taste too good in the brew. Any suggestions?

Adam said...

Haven't had that problem before.

Hmmm...if it were me I would probably just brew with them. I guess it depends on how many there are.

Reminds me of the stories of chocolate covered ants.

mountain hops said...

My husband and I just came back from the montrose area where we picked wild hops. However, they have aphids? We are greenhorns at this whole process what would you do?

Adam said...

Hi Mountain hops,

Wild hops. That sounds interesting. If you end up using them, I'd like to know how they worked out.

I can't say I've run into that problem. If there aren't too many, then I wouldn't worry about it.

I've heard that a mild soapy water mixture can help repel bugs. Not sure if that would work at this stage in the game though.

Maybe when you dry them, the aphids will leave.

Let us know what you decided to do about it.

Patbretagne said...

Hi, many thanks for your article on drying hops, we planted a decorative hop on the edge of the vegy garden 2 years ago, a cutting from my daughter. This year it has crawled all over a rose, michelmas daisy and a small poplar cutting and it has provided us with 8 litres of good smelling hops. As we do brew our own hops, I have put them to dry as you suggest with a little warmth working through them with a stream of dry air underneath with the hops sitting on a metal slotted sheet, I have closed the underneath to ensure the flow of air. Hopefully in a day or so we will have dried home hops to put in our own brews.
We live in Brittany in a little village, our fellow residents adore the beer we make, a very bog standard bitter.
Thanks again, I will keep in touch with your blog.

Patbretagne.

Adam said...

Patbretagne,

Best of luck brewing with your hops. Thank you for leaving your comments. I do appreciate them.

Please stop back and tell us about your brewing :-)

Anonymous said...

Info from an old ex London Hop picker. We picked on a farm in Goudhurst Kent (no longer growing hops any more). Wild Hops DO NOT make good beer. Wild hops normaly are the male flower where the cultivated hop is normaly the female. Neither need the other to reproduce. I am growing 'Goldings' plants which are prolific. My wife and I make 'pillows' of dried hops and lavender which when placed under your own pillow you can guarantee a great nights sleep.
The beer tastes good also. Good website. Thanks
Dave from Watford

Adam said...

Thanks Dave from Watford for stopping by. Always happy to have people from afar grace these pages.

Personally haven't seen the male hop flowers, but, from what I understand they don't contain enough lupilin to flavor the beer.

I've heard about hops pillows, but, never used them. You're the first person I've heard of who's used them. Hmmm...might be time for me to try it :-)

Thanks again.

Anne said...

Hallo thanks for the info about drying hops, I planted them purely for their beauty and vigour, but now want to use them...I'll dry them on the same racks I use for walnuts in the attic. I've never made beer...(but like to drink it!)I too live in Brittany(France).

Adam said...

Anne,

Thank you so much for visiting. Bon jour!

Let us know how your beer turns out. If you want help, email me at beerbits2@gmail.com :-)

Anonymous said...

i am soon to retire, have heard there is a market in t.c. michigan that will buy your hops. for the microbrewers in the area. ann

Anonymous said...

in traverse city, mi. the local farmers growers association will help sell your grown hops. i am hoping to do this in the future, do you think i would be able to make any extra dollars to help my retirement. and of course my beer making at home. any thoughts on this.

Adam said...

Good question. I haven't tried selling them. I don't see why not. The tough part is the harvest and having room to dry them.

Let us know what you find out.

Anonymous said...

I am trying to dry some cascade hops. I am using a pizza tray with holes in it. I have that propped on top of a farmers market box next to a heater. I have a 150 grow lamp about three feet away shining at about a 45 degree angle. I also have a fan four feet away on low to keep the air circulating. My question is, how long should I do this for before I need to check on them? I'm figuring 12 hours(8:30 pm till 8:30 am)

Adam said...

Anonymous,

Too many variables for me to say. I would check every so often and see how things are progressing. Also, not sure if the light is the right thing to use...It may be, I'm just not sure. Might interact with the hop oils and change the taste to...you know skunky smelling. Of course the little petals are probably shading the lupilin. (shrug)

Anyway, they're dry when you can take one in your hands and break the stem in the middle and it feels brittle. If it is mushy, then you need more time.

Let us know how it goes. Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

I'm picking my first substantial hop crop now. I know lots of folks with sleep problems including those with autism. Thinking to make a sleep aid, maybe a tea? Any thoughts?and thanks! Supersighs

Adam said...

Haven't tried using them as a sleep aid. Have heard and read about using them for that though. Let us know how it goes.

As far as drying goes, dry them using the same methods as above.

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Just finished drying and bagging a first year's crop. No sure what type of Hops, son found the plant growning wild. Was surprised it grew this year. Now to brew the beer.

Adam said...

Rock on! Good to hear it. Since you don't know much about the hops you might want to use them for finishing hops.

Do you see the yellow/golden lupilin glands? That's what you're after. To get a sense of what they'll smell like split one down the middle and smash up those glands.

Of course you may know all of this. Come back and let us know how things turn out :-)

Anonymous said...

Just found unknown hops in a community garden that had been planted for homeopathic meds,now untended. Got permission to harvest and will likely be able to get 30-40 1 gallon bags this year.
Do you recommend drying these before brewing or just use them fresh?
Thanks

Adam said...

Anonymous,

Fresh or dried?

Dried makes easier to store for longer periods of time.

Fresh can impart a grassier aroma/taste depending on when you add them to the boil.

I would go with whatever works with your schedule. Either way the beer can taste just fine :-)

Nate said...

Great tips for a first-time hop grower and harvester. I have a bit of a conundrum, however. The best place I think I have to dry the hops right now is my garage, though there are two problems I can foresee. Firstly, there is little air movement within, but I suppose I could get a fan going in there, right? Secondly, it's also where I have my lawn mower and gas can. Will that aroma infect my hops and give them a gasoline smell/taste? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much!

Adam said...

Hi Nate,

Hmmm...I would go with your first instinct. You know better because you're familiar with the environment there.

How much did you harvest? Are you sure there are no other places to dry them? Maybe in a hot car that isn't being used right now? Or perhaps you could fasion a makeshift oast (drying rack for hops). I'm thinking wait for a few days of good weather, put them in a well ventilated rack of sorts and cover the top with a tarp to protect from sunlight and rain.

Right now mine are drying (done probably) in the basement with a dehumidifier. I don't have much and honestly it didn't take long for them to dry. Prob about 3 days.

Anonymous said...

I grew 3 plants on my allotment in Manchester, England from Kentish bines bought at Castle Hop Farm, Shoreham. Fuggles, Wye Challenger and the dwarf variety Prima Donna. Fuggles and Prima Donna produced lots of flowers but very few from Challenger, maybe because it's the first year of planting. Made a brew with green hops for aroma. A local microbrewer advised against using home grown hops for bittering as % alpha acid content's not known. Thinking of drying the remainder on an oast in the attic as you advise. Thanks for the tips.
Rob

Adam said...

Rob, happy to hear it. Thanks for sharing your experience. The more people share the easier it is for others to give it a try.

About using homegrown hops for bittering. I understand the reservation people have toward using them for bittering. It is hard to know, however, I doubt you would ruin the batch if you tried it. It may be more or less out of balance, but, then you could refine your recipe next time around.

I am more likely to use my homegrown hops for aroma, because, I don't grow that much and I want to use them in a way they will have the most impact.

Don't be afraid to experiment and thank you again for stopping by :-)

Lester said...

My first harvest of cascades. Don't really have a dark place to dry them. I live in eastern Washington so humidity is low. I was wondering about using my dehydrator?

Les

Adam said...

I hear dehydrators work very well :-) The only drawback I've hear of is that they can be too small for some people to dry their whole batch.

Zoltan said...

Hi there. Thanks for the article - will help a lot when I start growing my own hops this comming summer.
I however have a question. You say you mostly use your home grown hops for aroma. Will the hops added after the boil, or even when pitching the yeast only gives out flavor, or will it give bitterness at that point too?
I made my first batch of AG and it was way too bitter, but the beer had a great taste. The goal is to keep the same taste, but with less bitterness.
Thanks for the help.

Adam said...

You can use homegrown hops for any part of the brew. I use them for aroma for two reasons. First, once I use them I can't get more until next year and I'm of the opinion that bittering hops can really be any kind of hops. Why waste my special homegrown hops. Two I don't know the alpha acid content, therefore I can't know how bitter they will make my beer or how much to add.

Now one way around this is to experiment and just start with a recipe and use exactly the amount of store bought hops suggested. If is says 1 ounce of Cascade use one ounce Cascade. It will probably be close and you can make modifications to your next batch based on your experience.

To answer your question about bitterness and hop additions. Bitterness coming from isomerized hop oils is relative to the time the wort is boiled. This page illustrates the point pretty well. Check out the hop utilization chart.

http://www.hoptech.com/cart/cart.php?page=using_hops___a_brief_guide

I don't know hoptech and can't vouch for everything on that page, but, it shows that you need to boil your hops to get bittering.

Hopefully I answered your question well enough. You can always leave another comment. Thanks for stopping by.

Zoltan said...

Thanks a lot for your answers! It helps me a lot to understand what can/should be done with homegrown hops to use them more effeciently.
Your sharing of knowledge is really appreciated.
Thanks.

Adam said...

You're quite welcome :-)

dneilo said...

my big problem was knowing what quantity to use. so youve solved me that.i am going to sterilise mine with weak sodium met. solution .rinse and spindry in washer at 1600rpm. freeze and use in last 15 mins of the boil.i have dried them in an old tumble dryer but i think this will deminish flavour.

Anonymous said...

Your putting it in a boiling solution. Why would you sterilize it?

Anonymous said...

Besides if your using at the end of the boil your going more for aroma ;) Not flavor

Butchx5 said...

Hi
Thanks for your article - it explains everything really well.
I found you via a google search: my husband and I have found a batch of wild hops on an old disused railway track where we walk our dog.
They are quite small and cone shape. Some have brown dried bits others don't. They all feel papery and spring back when pressed. I have split a few and I can see what I assume is Lupine - it almost looks like a fine, yellow pollen.But the centre 'core' is tending to be darker in colour than the green I see in many online photos.
- Do you think the hops are good use?
- Do you have any suggestions as to the best way of using them? eg when to add and for how long.

If you reckon they are ok to try I will use some fresh and dry & freeze the rest.
Helen

Adam said...

The first time you use anything unknown you have to be prepared to get some unexpected results.

I've never brewed with wild/abandoned hops. They are probably small, because they haven't been trimmed back at all to force growth into the cones. Let me know how it goes. If it were me I would brew a small 1 gallon batch.

Hops used for bittering is the hardest to estimate. You simply don't know the bittering potential. You can't just taste them, they need to be boiled to turn bitter. Trial and error is called for here. Use them as you would pellet or whole hops you would buy, ounce for ounce. Don't forget to dry them as well as you can. They may be a little heavier due to more moisture so you could use a little extra. Boil for the full 60 min.

Aroma and flavoring hops are a little different. If you like the way they smell when you smash one up between your fingers, then use as much as you would normally use in a one gallon batch. Again ounce for ounce. This should be less tricky. Add to the last 15 min of the boil.

Dry hopping is similar. Use them as ounce for ounce substitutes. Just add to the fermenter for as long as you like. This will add the more delicate aromas.

Keep in mind, I'm guessing at all of this. For what it's worth, I think the easiest way to be successful with these is to use them as aroma hops.

dinger said...

i recently picked up an old used solar collector and planned to make a food dehydrator from it. But, like everything else- I didn't get it done in time. I've read of 140 degree (F) temps.with these type of dryers on a sunny day. Shouldn't take too long at that and could do a good size batch. We'll see maybe next year.

Adam said...

dinger,

That sound really cool. What does it look like? I'll have to do some searching around the Internet for that one.

Peter H said...

I am just drying my first ever batch of Fuggles (planted two years ago), and have decided to dry them in the oven, set to 50C, fan on, door open, have put them in one of those rigid net things that you put over cakes to keep the flies off. Then after 2 hours turned the heat off, left fan on, and just wait to cool.

I'll let you know what they taste like in a few months...

Adam said...

Thanks Peter. Definitely interested to hear how it works out. Sounds like it would work out just fine. :-)

Briemar said...

Hi Adam glad I came a crossed yr site. I live in Maine and planted a hobs vine because it reminds me of my Gramps. But now my husband has purchased a couple of beer kits. Now I would like him to try my hops. So I will be following yr instructions on drying them. But could u put up a recipe that has the use of fresh hops, please. Just need to be heading in the right direction. Thanks so much Adam. Love yr website.

Adam said...

Briemar,

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you find everything you need here.

Since the bittering and aroma oils are not really measured in any shall we say scientific way, there is some experimentation involved. But it isn't really all that scary.

If I were you, I would just get a recipe and substitute your dried homegrown hops ounce for ounce for the same variety in the recipe. If it calls for an ounce of pelletized use an ounce of your whole leafe dried. If it calls for an ounce of whole leaf use yours instead.

Note the taste and adjust accordingly the next time you make it. Treat it like an adventure :-)

Anonymous said...

I came upon some wild hops and was going to harvest them. They had a slight brownish tinge to them. I feel as though I may be a little too late with them. I laid them out to dry but they are almost brittle 1 day later after drying them in a dark area away from heat. They are almost falling apart and do not have the same hops aroma I have experienced with pellets. I know I wont have the concentrated smell but this is not remotely the same....

Adam said...

Thanks for stopping by. I haven't used "wild" hops before so keep that in mind. This is all a big guess. Make sure they are hops.

Let your nose be the judge. If you smash up a hop cone between your fingers and you don't smell much you probably won't get much use out of them.

Always hard to know how useful they might be the first time you use them. Remember its the adventure that matters.

You might try using them as an experiement in a smaller amount of beer (a gallon?) for dry hopping. Something delicate should be the base beer. A saison would probably work well. If you bottle it, plan to try it early on in case you introduce a wild yeast and it keeps fermenting in the bottle. If so, just drink them quickly.

Also don't forget where they are and come back earlier next year.

Bryon Samuels said...

Hi Adam Came across your site when looking for how to dry hops.My son purchased a hop rhizome on the net hersbrucker to be exact.It has grown into a very large vine which has now produced many hundreds of flowers. We have been doing some research into when we should pick. Not all flowers are ready so we are going to pick as they ripen over a period untill the plant stops producing. Looking at your posts you have answered our questions on drying etc,but there is always things to learn.I will keep you informed of our progress. Cheers from Australia. Bryon

Adam said...

Byron, Thanks for stopping by. Sounds like you are well on your way. Would love to hear more.

Cheers from Pennsylvania!

i heart ceci said...

I just picked about 2.5 gallons of hops, the most I've ever harvested. My plan, and what worked in the past for me, is to put them into a large grain bag and binder-clip them to a fan. I lay this horizontally on the floor , propped up on some books to allow air flow and run the fan for 24 hours or so. Seems to work well. Beer tasted good anyway.