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Hop pellets - Why did I do it???

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Janx

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As many of you know, I generally only use whole hops, never pellets. I have a number of reasons for this: They don't seem like they could possibly be as tasty and fresh, having been so abused. But mostly, they're just a pain in my experience. They clog everything and they get into the fermentor, leaving you with a bunch of hoppy sludge you don't want in there.

Well, for Humboldt Hop Rod yesterday, all I had for Columbus was pellets. So I decided to give them a go again after many years. After all, lots of people here use them, commercial breweries use them. What a mistake that line of thinking was!

Within minutes of starting the chill, the dang things clogged the filter on my kettle so bad that I could just barely keep it going by scraping the filter with a spoon. I had to sit there and do it for about an hour while the wort trickled through the chiller. At the end, it seemed like I was left with a lot of wort that was just way too sludgy to reclaim.

A lot of hops definitely went into my primary, which never happens with whole hops. Once I finish this pound of Columbus, I am definitely swearing off pellets forever.

I think I should have started a whirlpool in the kettle and let the pellet crap settle to the bottom before starting the flow and that might have helped a little. But I'm curious, do you pellet users just let the hops get into your fermenter? I can't imagine an effective way of filtering them. Any experience brewers who prefer pellets over whole hops?
 

uglygoat

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i just let them settle out in the kettle that the wort was boiled in. i don't have a fancy counter flow chiller or a hop bock or a wort chiller. the kettle goes into the sink and bathes in ice water for about an hour... after it has cooled the hop sediment sinks to the bottom and forms a cake sorta like the yeast does in the primary. then i siphon the wort into the primary being careful not to disturb that layer on the bottom... some inevitably ends up in my primary, but the fermentation usually plasters them all over the sides, some sinks back down into the trub on the bottom of the primary.

the biggest thing for me right now is the size of my kettle, it holds five gallons, so i boil about four and half, of which about half a gallon ends up being sediment... i end up putting about a gallon into the primary to top it off.. my understanding is an oz of whole hops is quite a bit of volume and would require me to have a bigger kettle so i could keep a similar amount of wort/liquor in the boil.

it's been my experience that the hop sock, while effective in keeping the majority of the hope bits and peices in one place, still allows enough to pass through that you still have to siphon or put the wort through some kind of filter, maybe a wire mesh/strainer...

edit: i'm not experienced per se, and my set up is not like yours yet janx, so i think the primative nature of my operation, ie not having a spigot on my kettle yet, hasn't subjected me to too many mishaps involving stuck/clogged apparatus... as long as the racking cane doesn't penetrate the sediment on the bottom i'm good.... ;)
 
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I intended on using whole hops this last go-around but didn't like that the home brew stored didn't sell many (questioned quality) so I opted for pellets again this weekend. I did however go buy a large strainer and used that to put the wort into the primary. MUCH easier than siphoning. I would recommend this for anyone that does pellets going forward. I got a huge strainer along with two smaller ones for 7.99 at a Linens and Things. About all the wort was retrieved and didn't have to screw around siphoning/sanitizing.

BTW Janx, there was this guy at my HBS that has been doing grain for 15 years and I saw him buying pellets. I asked why not whole and he basically stated "don't like taking the chance on getting iffy wholes so I use pellets as I know what I get everytime" FWIW. Could be our store as well. He was a Harley rider that I couldn't see surfing/buying on the net :cool:
 
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Janx

Janx

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Running hot wort through a strainer adds major hot side aeration. No more rabbit pellets for me. hoptech.com here I come. ;)
 

uglygoat

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shouldn't be a problem below eighty

i find a syphon to be rather easy. clip the cane and let gravity do the rest, i aim for about 2 inches above the base of my kettle, and i don't have too many problems. plus i'm like a little kid, and a syphon really floats my boat for some reason, always gives me a smile to see it working.... :D

janx are whole hops considerably larger in volume than the pellets?
 

Tophe

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Last time i used them, i put them in grain bags and they stayed in there for the most part. very little got out. I havent racked from primary yet to see whats sitting in there. I have a cheap kettle though ,and i just pour it out into my funnel to the fermenter, not really anything to clog.
 

uglygoat

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my home brew shop said the same thing about the whole hops desert brew... said it was too much shelf space for how much they'd have to store in order to turn a profit, and also complained about the freshness and said the pellets kept better and produced similar results if they were just opened or had been stored in tupperware for a spell, whereas whole, being a flower of sorts would go bad like a head of lettice? i don't know just throwing out what i've heard. :)
 
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Janx

Janx

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Pouring through a strainer at 80 degrees is a great thing because you'll get good aeration at the proper temp.

Whole hops don't really seem too much of a size factor, though I concede they may hold more wort than pellets. It's tough to say because if you leave two inches of wort at the bottom with pellets, that's a whole lot of wort too. With whole, I don't feel like there was as much wort left in the kettle, but I didn't measure or anything.

I brew 12 gallon batches in a 15 gallon keg kettle. The size of whole hops doesn't bum me out, though I can understand why, in a commercial setting, it would be a factor. But those guys have centrifugal filters to get rid of the hop muck from pellets.

BTW, I'm sure pellets provide great hopping, and I don't want to be misunderstood. For my money and my setup, I prefer whole hops quite a bit. I like the idea of whole hops more. I like the flavor more. I find them more convenient. But that's just me. I'm very much in the minority among homebrewers and commercial brewers.
 
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Janx

Janx

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t1master said:
my home brew shop said the same thing about the whole hops desert brew... said it was too much shelf space for how much they'd have to store in order to turn a profit
See, I think right there is the reason pellets are pushed so heavily on homebrewers. It's just more convenient to have pellets...for the shops.

Opened bags of whole hops, kept refrigerated, are fine. You should keep all hops refrigerated in any event.

I agree they're smaller and more convenient to store, but I can't think of any other food or spice where grinding and pressing into shapes is a good thing for quality. Think Hop McNuggets. ;)
 

zprime

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I used whole hops for the first time this weekend and I'll never go back to pellets, now admittedly I bought a new 9 gallon brew kettle with a false bottom for my boil. Its got a spiggot so after I get it to temp (75-80ish). I just attached a hose let that go through the filter in my funnel (for oxygenation, there wasn't anything for the filter to grab :D).

Before my new investment I used the filter to strain out the hop sludge and talk about a freekin' nightmare.....dump half a gallon of wort into the funnel, scrap the crud off the filter, and repeat for about an hour until I got the 3-4 gallons through the funnel.....and even then I end up with a boat load of nasty green sediment from the hops on the bottom of the primary.

Whole/Leaf hops all the way.....fight the power of the pellet pushers!
;)
 

Dude

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So, Janx....you've got me contemplating whole hops now.....question though.

Is an ounce of whole hops equivalent to an ounce of pellet hops? You know, if a recipe calls for 1 ounce hops, it wouldn't matter if they were pellet, plug or whole?

Thanks!
 
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Janx

Janx

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Yep, it wouldn't matter, except they'd be easier to use and better tasting if they were whole hops ;)

Cheers! :D
 

SwAMi75

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Great...now I'm going to have to start using them so I can "keep up with the Jonses". :D

I checked out www.hoptech.com (from a link Janx posted elsewhere), and their prices seemed OK. Any other sources with good prices, Janx or anyone else?
 

Dude

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Sam75 said:
Great...now I'm going to have to start using them so I can "keep up with the Jonses". :D

I checked out www.hoptech.com (from a link Janx posted elsewhere), and their prices seemed OK. Any other sources with good prices, Janx or anyone else?

I'm considering using the whole hops because I want to start harvesting yeast, and that sludge in my primary is not conducive to healthy tasting beer if you ask me! :)

That site for the cheap kegs *here* actually has decent (about the same as everywhere else) hop prices too. I'm going to also buy 2-3 different styles of rhizomes and grow my own this summer as well. I'm just trying to decide which ones I want.
Being from Wisconsin I feel its my duty to uphold the strong brewing traditions of my German and Irish ancestors, whcin not only includes brewing the beer, but growing the ingredients as well. ;)
 

SwAMi75

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orrelse said:
I'm considering using the whole hops because I want to start harvesting yeast, and that sludge in my primary is not conducive to healthy tasting beer if you ask me! :)

That site for the cheap kegs *here* actually has decent (about the same as everywhere else) hop prices too. I'm going to also buy 2-3 different styles of rhizomes and grow my own this summer as well. I'm just trying to decide which ones I want.
Being from Wisconsin I feel its my duty to uphold the strong brewing traditions of my German and Irish ancestors, whcin not only includes brewing the beer, but growing the ingredients as well. ;)
Cool, gimme a holler this fall and let me know how the barley havest went, Brewmeister. :D
 
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Janx

Janx

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Hoptech has *excellent* quality hops. Their prices are not the lowest. But their hops are seriously good.

The thing with whole hops is that homebrewers tend to get the last of the pickings unless you go to the right place.

I just ordered some hops from Northern Brewer and they were much cheaper than hoptech. I ordered from them because they had a variety in whole form that hoptech did not and their prices were attractive so I gave them a try.

Well, the quality varied wildly. The East Kent Goldings really sucked bad. The Centennial were pretty good. The Cascade look good. But none look to be anywhere near the quality of hoptech's hops. Much more crumbled hops. Much more stems.

I guess you get what you pay for? In any event, quality is much more crucial with whole hops, which is definitely one of their downsides. They're just more fragile than pellets. But I don't think hoptech will sell a variety if they don't have access to quality hops. Their packaging is top-notch...lightproof nitrogen-purged bags.

There's another place thta I can't remember now that someone posted here. Look for a thread called "Online Hop Sources". They seemed like they would have good hops, but were out of Amarillo and the guy didn't return emails and wasn't helpful. I think my next order goes to hoptech.

I am not affiliated with hoptech, but I have been a customer for years.
 

mattress

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Throw the pellets in, and let them settle in primary, I just dump my kettle into my fermenter after the boil and cooldown (immersion chiller), good aeration, the hops settle at the bottom with everything else, never had any problems or bad batches
 

seven77

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Janx said:
Opened bags of whole hops, kept refrigerated, are fine. You should keep all hops refrigerated in any event.
erm... I didn't know that. All my hops are sitting in a cabinent in my kitchen, unrefridgerated. The hops give off a lot of odor, which doesn't smell bad but I don't want it seeping into my food, nevertheless. Would it be alright to stick them all in the freezer instead?

edit: They are all pellets, btw. Sorry Janx no hbs' in my area so I figured pellets would be better.
 
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Janx

Janx

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Don't apologize...seriously, whole hops are just my preference. Lots of breweries and homebrewers...the majority...use pellets.

Freezer is good, though. Just put them in a ziplock and into the freezer. Definitely better than the cupboard :D
 
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