Hops: How to harvest, process, and store hops

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I'm happy - or should I say I'm hoppy! It's time to harvest hops! In this video, I cover some on how to grow hops, I show how I harvest hops, and then I show how I process hops to use later for brewing beer, and, believe it or not, for cooking.

Let's hop back in time to this past spring. Every year, I clean out the area where my hops grow and I promise them that I will build them something to let them reach their full potential of getting 25 feet high. But every year, I end up letting my poor hops fend for themselves and they have to make do with growing on a 6-7 foot trellis. But my hops are enthusiastic and they make out OK all on their own.

As the summer comes to an end, I check on their flowers. Hop flowers look like little pine cones, and are even called hop cones, but they are flowers. If the flowers are green and tight like this, I leave them alone. But when they become light, dry, papery and spring back when compressed, then they are ready. But it's not the cone or flower that I'm really after -- it's the oils and resins hidden with the flower.

So then I need to hop to it and get to picking! Some folks are adamant that it's better to pick hops too early than too later. But other folks have had fine results using even the brown hops as long as the resin is yellow and smells good.

Hops have scratchy hairs on their vines and some people are really sensitive to that. I wear long sleeves to keep from getting all cut up by the vines. I use my camping cookpot tied to a cord and hang that from my neck to make picking efficient.

It helps to understand how hop flowers are attached to the vine -- technically called a bine because it doesn't have tendrils or thorns, but climbs by constricting around its support like a boa constrictor.

This would be a lot harder to pick if my hop vines were 25 feet tall. But then I would just cut them down and pick at my leisure in the shade. But with my short hops, I can pick easily. So I guess there is a bonus for being haphazard!

Picking hops is great for learning to NOT eat what's getting picked. Hops are so bitter! They make even bitter dandelions seem sweet by comparison!

I love the sound of hops falling into the basket. And now it's time to process the hops for storing them. This part can't wait, so I have got to hop on it!

The goal in storing hops is to keep those oils and resins stable. The enemies are heat and oxidation. The first step is to get the hops cones dry!

I put my hops cones on big trays to dry. But that was only because we had some cool, dry weather. This air drying wasn't quite enough to dry the hop cones down all the way. So I had Klutzy Gardener help transfer the hop cones to some dehydrator trays. You can see the cones have opened up and are dropping some of that all-important resin.

Now, commercial hop dryers may go up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but I keep my dehydrators set to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit and let them go for a day or two. How do I know when they are done? The center stem of the hop cone should be brittle and break apart when it's bent, and the hop cones should be crispy and stay crushed when they are compressed.

I better get hopping and get these hops in the freezer. That's right, the freezer! If these hops were vacuum packed and put in the freezer, they would keep great for 18 months. But I don't want to use plastic and I'll be using all my hops by springtime. So I'm storing my hops in these canning jars and putting the jars in the freezer.

I need to get as much air as I can out of the jars. I don't want to vacuum pack the hops with the heat of a canner. Commercial hop operations compress their dried hops into big bales. I just compress my hops directly into the jar. The more hops I get in the jar, the less air can be in there. I use a cutout circle from a yogurt or cottage cheese lid to compress my hops down into the jar.

The hop resin makes this a sticky business! All the dehydrator trays and other tools have to be washed well before they get used for processing other food.

I'll be using my hops for a bunch of different things -- certainly, as a dual use, whole leaf hops to provide the bittering and aromatic components of some home-brewed beer! But I'll also be making Hop Tea, Hop Chocolate, and I'll be cooking with hops, too. If you're subscribed to my channel, you'll be sure to see all those upcoming videos.

With a scientific name like Humulus lupulus, how can anyone NOT want to try hops in some way? I'd love to hear what you think of hops! I hope things are going well at your place. And I sure appreciate you watching this video and my channel!

Hops: Humulus lupulus (Family Cannabaceae)

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