Preparing hops for use in homebrewing
So you’ve got your hop plant (if not buy one quick here!), it has started flowering and you want to use it in your homebrews. But how? Preparing hops is not a particularly complex process, but you do have to be a little careful and make sure you do it right. Obviously you will need to pick your hops first, this is something we have gone over before so check out that article first.
Once picked your hops need to be dried, this is for multiple reasons. First you’ll be able to get more flavour out of your hops, similar to herbs being dried helps intensify the flavour. The second being you want to kill off anything still on the hops. Be it bugs of bacteria you don’t want anything weird in your hops, they may harm you or more importantly ruin your beer. You make consider dipping it in hot water to do this but it really isn’t needed, plus it can harm the flavour. The third reason is to help preserve the hops. Like most plants there is a huge amount of water in hops and it will decay quickly if not dried. So after picking you really want to get straight to it.
So how is this done? First thing to remember is you want to dry not crisp. When picking them, you’ll notice hops have a papery quality and we basically want a drier version of that. They can be a bit flakey but should still feel firm.
Many people dry their hops by simply leaving them out, this will usually require some type of rack to thinly spread the hops over. Certainly doable, arguably safer than other methods but it won’t exactly be quick. Usually this is done in a dry and warm location with a good air flow (you can use a fan). Some suggest covering the hop with a fabric that will absorb the moisture. This way could take up to a week if not more depending on the weather and where you store them.
The other more common method is using an oven. Here of course you need to be careful as you don’t want to cook the hops and ruin their potential. It is generally recommended that you don’t go over 60°C, but a little lower to be on the safe side is not a bad idea. Again you will want to spread them out evenly over a surface. This process can take from 1 to 2 hours, you need to keep checking back on them though to make sure nothing has gone wrong. The time advantage here is obvious but you do need to be careful.
Once dried you either want to use them quickly or store them in the most air tight container you have. The drying should help preserve them a bit but they won’t last forever. You’ll notice these hops are quite strong and may even have their own subtle unique flavour. Now you can start experimenting for yourself, or add them to one of our kits to make it your own.