Harvesting Your Hops
Hops will mature and be ready for harvest in mid-August to September.
If these are first_year hops, expect a small harvest. They use most of
their energy developing their root system which makes it difficult for
the cones to reach their peak yield. Expect a full harvest in second
year hop gardens. Do not pick cones too early because they will be
deprived of the full potential for brewing. A ripe, mature cone will be
springy, dry and sticky to the touch, have a strong hop odor and a
visible thick yellow substance known as lupulin. A cone that has not
quite reached maturity will feel moist and stay compressed when
squeezed. There will also be no visible yellow powder. When a cone
has passed this test, cut it vertically and inspect the inside. It
should be full of a yellow sticky substance. Now is the time to
Harvest can be done two different ways; picking by hand or cutting down the vines. Be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves during harvest. Hops have hooked hairs that may cause a skin rash.
When harvesting by cutting down the vines, wait until most of the
cones are ripe and cut the vines two to three feet from the ground.
This prevents injury to the roots and crown. Then the cones are hand
picked off the vines. Dispose of the vine by burning or using for a
craft project. After brewing, do not mulch the cones or leave around
dogs. There have been reported cases of dogs having a toxic reaction
after from ingesting hops. Death may result. Cones can be picked by
hand from the vine as they mature. Since cones mature at different
rates, this will require multiple harvests.
Drying Your Hops
After harvest, hops must be dried. Use a food dehydrator, oven, window
screen or home-made dryer. Remember, good airflow is very important
and the temperature of the dryer must not exceed 140 degrees F. If
using a window screen, spread hops out evenly and place screen off the
ground in an enclosed area free of wind, light and bugs. The hop cones
must be turned daily. This process should take two to three days. When
the hops are dried completely and properly, they will be springy to the
touch and the yellow lupulin will fall off easily. Check the central
stem. It should break not bend. It is very important that the hops are
thoroughly dry before storage because they can become moldy, wilted, or
even rancid and cannot be used for brewing.
Storage and Keeping Your Hops Fresh
To store hops, place them into a plastic freezer bag or a food saver
bag. Once sealed and labeled store in the freezer. Never thaw then
refreeze hops as it can compromise their quality and freshness.
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