Feb 16, 2014

Drying my home grown hops

Picking a few kilos of hops is awesome but it does mean that there's a bit of work to be done in a short time. Hops either need to be used very soon after picking or dried out for use at a later time. Short of having an oast or a makeshift fan and fly screen contraption, a food dehydrator set to low temperature is a good way to dry the crop. The only real drawback I found was that it doesn't have a large capacity so it took me 6 batches to get through the full harvest.

Loading up the dehydrator. It's probably a
bit overfull. 

I loaded up the dehydrator and set it to 35C and it took 6.5 hours to dry the first batch. The trays needed to be swapped after a few hours as the bottom layer dried quicker than the top. For later batches I turned the temperature up to 41C, filled the trays a little less and managed to get the time down to about 4 hours. I'd have preferred to keep it at 35C but I've read that commercial hop drying is carried out warmer than that and I had to return the dehydrator.

Weighing out the dried hops for bagging

As they dried the room was filled with the aroma of sweet perfume, pine and grass. It was incredible. My wife said the smell brought back childhood memories of Christmas with real pine trees.

It felt like I was bagging drugs

Light, heat and oxygen are the enemies of hops. So after drying I weighed them out into 60g lots and put them in vacuum sealed bags and then into the freezer. In theory I'll be able to use them months and months down the track and they'll be close to as good as they are today.

Ready for the freezer

All up I finished up with 640g of dried hops from 2.736kg of wet hops - way more than I'll be able to use this year given my plans.

Sticky lupulin goodness! It smells just
like the hops on the vine.

I'm thinking of doing a small boil and ferment in an erlenmeyer flask to get an idea of the level of bitterness they'll contribute. I can't measure the bitterness in a scientific way but even a taste should give me enough of an idea to plan future brews with it.

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