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Old 02-10-2010, 08:01 PM   #31
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The basic idea of pelletizing is to reduce the volume for easier storage, less mess during the brewing process and reduce oxidation due to air contact with the hop.

In theory, you could just use the mill powder except it still takes up a lot of storage volume, leaves itself even more exposed to air for oxidation and there will have to be a lot of stirring to get it into the beer. It act like hot chocolate and floats in clumps on the surface.

Cooling the pellets is absolutely necessary. You loose alpha acids above 140F and you start loosing essential oils at around 100F. We keep our pelletizer below this during production.



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Old 02-10-2010, 08:13 PM   #32
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First step is to hammermill them into smaller pieces...basically grind them but in a softer process so there isn't as much damage to the lupulin.
Dan, how can we use gentle grinding to avoid damaging the glands while making hops into a powder form (in prep for pelletization).


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Old 02-10-2010, 08:14 PM   #33
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So any advice for a small time guy like myself? Should I just change my marketing strategy? Work on finding an appropriate mill? Give up and grow corn?

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Old 02-10-2010, 08:32 PM   #34
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Dan, how can we use gentle grinding to avoid damaging the glands while making hops into a powder form (in prep for pelletization).
OK, gentle grinding maybe isn't the right way to describe it. You use a hammermill http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammermill as opposed to a blade grinder (i.e. coffee grinder)

The hops aren't beaten into a complete powder, rather the screen lets them out as soon as they reach the desired size instead of over-smacking them like an industrial coffee grinder would do.
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Old 02-10-2010, 08:43 PM   #35
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So any advice for a small time guy like myself? Should I just change my marketing strategy? Work on finding an appropriate mill? Give up and grow corn?
Well, either you need to find a market for whole hops...which isn't impossible...or you need to find a way to pelletize or at least make hop plugs.

In some areas, brewers have said they would be fine with whole hops. We'll see if that holds up. Homebrewers often will use whole hops, but that requires a lot of labor to package everything by the ounce.

Either way, you will have to dry the hops because when your production ramps up you will not be able to sell them all for wet hopped beers. So before you worry too much about pelletizing or not, make sure you can get them properly dried.

Don't switch to corn. You'll miss out on a lot of fun. Come June and July, I have my kids tie a string at the top of the bine every week. Its hilarious to watch them gasp when they see a foot of growth a week.
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:02 PM   #36
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Ok, I won't pack it in just yet. I'll just stick to whole hops for now, and work on the pellets later I guess.

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Old 02-10-2010, 09:21 PM   #37
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OK, gentle grinding maybe isn't the right way to describe it. You use a hammermill http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammermill as opposed to a blade grinder (i.e. coffee grinder)

The hops aren't beaten into a complete powder, rather the screen lets them out as soon as they reach the desired size instead of over-smacking them like an industrial coffee grinder would do.
Cool thanks for sharing. Its nice to get your personal experience perspective Dan!
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Old 03-13-2010, 12:20 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by GVH_Dan View Post
OK, gentle grinding maybe isn't the right way to describe it. You use a hammermill http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammermill as opposed to a blade grinder (i.e. coffee grinder)

The hops aren't beaten into a complete powder, rather the screen lets them out as soon as they reach the desired size instead of over-smacking them like an industrial coffee grinder would do.
Thank you for your sharing your expreince with us.
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Old 07-13-2012, 03:23 AM   #39
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Default I own and operate a Pellet Company

I own and operate http://www.PelletComp.com

We primarily make alfalfa, corn, grass feedstock pellets as well as some other products.

I can tell you from many years of experience with a pellet mill that

1) If you think you are going to buy a cheap (under $10K) pellet mill, throw some material in and get pellets you are wrong.

Making pellets is an art... it requires proper temperatures, moisture levels, lignin content, and a very consistent and proper feed rate into the mill.

These cheap chinese made mills (some may say "American motor" but they still have a chinese MILL) are garbage. They jam, plug, wear parts wear wrong or uneven, bog down, the list goes on and on...

sure you can buy them all day long for about $2k... trust me they are garbage.

You must consider a consistent feed rate (simply hand feeding them is tiring and causes many moisture level flukes which result to plugging. The result is to buy or build a good variable speed hydraulic controlled conveyor belt with a hopper. Theres another $3k if you build it yourself 4-5k+ if you buy one.

On hammer mills... they make A LOT OF DUST. consider ventilating the shop space with filters or doing it outside only. Might as well call it a dust mill. However shredders are much less dust.

Im in Monroe, WA... bring me 40lbs of hops and we can figure it out at my mill.... at the price per pound for pelleted hops im tempted to give it a shot, but i dont know anything about brewing and I have a lot of responsibility to my livestock owners to provide high quality feeds.

theres much much much more to it than anyone on this thread has even considered... i do this professionally for a living.

Cheers to you beer guys!

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Old 07-13-2012, 02:17 PM   #40
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Slight zombie thread but its popping up at the time of season when people start thinking about this.

PelletComp, you are right but there's a lot more to it than just that. We've learned much more since this post started 2 years ago.

Flat die pellet mills...Chinese built or otherwise...do not work. The oils and other sticky stuff in the hops jam them up very quickly. To keep them running, the feed rate must be slowed WAY down. So you are talking a very expensive ring die pellet mill.

Using a standard ring die doesn't work either. It took us a lot of experimenting to get the hole specifications just right.

You DO NOT want to compress these under high heat like wood or ag food. There is no lignin in hops. They hold together via their own sticky-ness. High heat destroys the alpha acids, boils off the oils and turns the pellets into waxy crayons. What do I mean by high heat? Anything over 100F.

So how do we achieve that? We use liquid nitrogen to keep the die around -40F. That gives us a pretty good pellet that shows no signs of degradation compared to the original cone. Anyone who is using "cold air" either in the die or cooling it immediately upon leaving the die is going to suffer. Unless you a forcing massive amounts of -50F air into the die, you won't have the same cooling capacity. Likewise, quickly cooling the pellet after compression does you no good. The damage is all ready done.

The other advantage of using nitrogen is we are able to provide a blanket of the gas over the hammer mill, conveyor, pelletizer, next conveyor, and then packaging. This means from the moment we break up the cone, it is protected from oxygen. Is this a bit anal retentive? Well, our chemist doesn't think so.

You are also right on the variable speed. We have VFD's on everything as we found the speed of even the pellet mill should vary by cone variety and size.

Its been one trying adventure trying to get this right....but interesting.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. As soon as we had this process all set up, the State of Wisconsin changed the rules and we were subject to USDA inspection and GMP criteria. So we had to move the whole operation to a facility that we could washdown, upgrade everything to stainless steel or food grade, set up inventory tracking and a thousand other things. We are close to obtaining a USDA grant so we can write some of this information up for the "small scale" hop processors and distribute it. So if you are thinking of selling your hops, check to see if your state requires a license or you could be in major trouble. I know WI and NY have added requirements recently as have other states that escape me.



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