- What’s the difference between hop pellets and whole leaf? Not much except in terms of life span. Hops pellets are merely whole leaf hops that have been compacted down to eliminate air and surface area. Because oxygen and light are the main enemies of hops, the pellets last much longer and take up less space. The only time it is beneficial to use leaf instead of pellets is in a hop-back or infuser where there is a very limited time of exposure to the hops.
- Do I need to refrigerate my hops? Hops don’t need to be refrigerated at all times but it is important for long term storage. If they sit at room temperature for a few days, no harm done, but any longer and they should be put in the fridge or freezer. Light, especially sunlight is damaging to hops, which is another good reason to keep them in the refrigerator.
- How long can I keep hops? If they are sealed and stored cold, hops pellets are good for about a year, possibly longer if you freeze them. Whole leaf hops should be stored the same way and used within the year. Hops are a flavoring ingredient and the older they are the more the flavor deteriorates.
- What’s the difference between “bittering hops”, “flavor hops” and “aroma hops”? These are broad terms and refer mainly to when in the brewing process the hops are added. Any variety of hops can be used for any purpose but certain strains lend themselves more easily for bittering or flavor/aroma. Flavor and aroma hops are also sometimes called “finishing hops”.
- What does AA (Alpha Acid) mean? Alpha Acid is the primary compound in hops that create bitterness. It is usually expressed as a percentage and the higher the number the more potential bitterness you can get from that particular hop. Bitterness counter balances sweetness so this number helps brewers figure out how much hops are need for a particular recipe.
- What does AAU mean? It stands for Alpha Acid Unit. Sometimes rather than give a specific amount of hops to use, a recipe will give the number of “bittering units” or AAUs. It is a very simple calculation: 1 AAU is 1 ounce of hops with 1%AA. For example, if the recipe calls for 6AAUs you could use 1oz of 6%AA hops, 2oz of 3%AA hops or ½ oz of 12%AA hops.
- What are those times listed on my recipe next to the hops? That is called a hop schedule. Hops can add more or less bitterness, flavor and aroma depending upon when they are added. Most beer recipes call for multiple hop additions and each addition is timed out to add a certain flavor element. It is important to note that most hop schedules are timed from the end of the boil not the beginning. So if your recipe says something like this: 1oz Cascade @ 10 min. That means to add one ounce of Cascade for the last 10 minutes of the boil.
- What is dry hopping? Should I do it? Dry hopping is a very late hop addition. Most hops are adding during the boil. Dry hopping happens after primary fermentation has taken place. You should dry hop if you’re looking to add hop aroma to your beer without adding any bitterness. Be aware that since the hops are not being cooked you generally need to use a few ounces to achieve a noticeable difference.
- How long should I dry hop? You can dry hop anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks. After that you’re not really gaining anything. Of course you could keep adding new hops to the fermenter to get more hop character. However if you leave the hops in for too long the plant material will start to breakdown and you’ll begin to get a vegetable taste in your beer.
- Can I grow my own hops? You sure can. Hops are a hardy perennial climbing vine that require very little soil or maintenance. They like sunlight but not heat so moderate climates work best. Hop rhizomes (root cuttings) generally become available around March/April once the ground thaws but plan on ordering them in advance. Hops grow quickly and usually start flowering in early summer. Cones are ready to harvest at the end of summer.
- Can I use homegrown hops in my beer? Yes but I wouldn’t try using them for bittering. Alpha acid content can vary greatly from season to season so it is impossible to know how much of your homegrown hops to add for proper balance. Get some commercially grown hops for your bittering addition, and then use the homegrown for flavor or aroma.
- My dog likes beer, should I give him some hops? No, definitely not. Hops contain compounds that can mess up your dog’s ability to maintain proper body temperature. Beer contains only small traces but raw hops could be harmful to your pup. If you think poochy has been in your hop stash, call the vet ASAP.
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