I made many batches with pellets, and currently use them. They are just very easy to use. I have made batches with leaf hops too, but not nearly as often. You get that little 1 oz package of pellets and can easily 'guesstimate' 1/2 ounce, much easier than you can with leaf hops. I think that you do get better hop flavor from leaf, since they have undergone much less processing.
After making a batch yesterday that used 12 ounces of whole hops, I have switched my opinion from "I could care less, hops are hops", to "WTF am I supposed to do with this mountain of greenish plant sludge?"
Ever wonder what 12 ounces of used fresh hops look like? They filled my kitchen sink halfway, then clogged my garbage disposal, requiring me to somehow squeeze my hand into the drain, and begin removing them. I couldn't ask SWMBO, even though she has smaller hands, because she would have not been amused. Finally, after all was said and done, said hops were s-l-o-w-l-y fed back down the drain, and the disposal made short work of them.
Whole hop cones whenever I can. I have a freezer full of them in my garage. I just dump them in the compost pile when the brew session is over. Some varieties, like Noble hops, you have no choice but to go pellets. I don't like the 'hop sludge' you get with pellets; makes it harder to clear the beer.
And as far as dry hopping, IMHO, pellets just don't cut it. I don't get nearly the aroma I do with whole hops. Just use a lot of them and let them sit for two weeks. Better yet, if you keg the beer, add hops to the keg! I do it for all my IPAs. Put them in a sanitized nylon bag, add some sanitized marbles and suspend it with some dental floss! In a couple of weeks you'll have a fantastic hop aroma that keeps improving with each pint!
All that said, I have some Amarillo hop plugs that I'll be using in my all-Amarillo IPA someday in the near future. I've never used plugs before.
I love whole hops. They filter out quite well with my system, plus they grow in the backyard (well some of the hops I use).
I did my first IPA this weekend and I do need to find a way to better recover the wort I'm loosing by the mound of hops. After I'm done with them though they do compost nicely.
When I used to use the PVC/5gallon paint strainer -hop bat then I didn't have any issues with loosing wort to hops, a lot would drain out as I emptied the kettle. I had to switch due to my conversion to electric.
I generally use pellets. Seemingly better utilization, easier to work with, take up less space, absorb less, easier to pack.
The whole hops are a little less messy, tho. I can drop them in the green bin and spray out the bags...be done in 2 minutes. Takes a little longer spraying with the pellets and they like to gunk up everything.
Of course, I have 11 hop plants this year, so I will be using a significant amount of whole hops.
I prefer whole hops to pellets anytime! I think they give better aroma and flavor, they look cooler in the kettle and the screen on my boilermaker can't take pellets. I will not use pellets for hoppy beers except for maybe bittering additions, and will not dry hop with them. But I will use them for less hoppy beer, english ales, hefes, belgians, etc.
I'd like to do an experiment of whole vs. pellet for 3 or 4 different varieties and see if this "better aroma" stuff is really true. I've heard a lot of people say that whole hops are better for late additions, but every time I open a bag of pellets, they smell terrific...so I'm skeptical.
I was surprised to see that someone resurrected this thread. I totally forgot about this one.
I've used pellets in every batch I've ever done, with good results. I do however plan on using whole hops very soon, just to expand my horizons a bit. I'd also like to do a fresh hop ale someday, which may be tough considering I don't currently grow hops. I do live near one of the largest hop growing regions in the world though. I may have to take a trip to Yakima during the next harvest.
I prefer whole hops because when I'm doing the boil pellets always get burnt on to the sides. Also they are much easier to filter out. Also something about pellet hops is just...off putting. Don't get me wrong, given the choice between pellet and whole if the pellet were fresh and the whole hops were browning I would grab the pellets.
As for dry hopping I have never done it but I have heard of pellets imparting a "fresh cut grass" smell.
Fresh, whole hops are the most glorious thing I've ever seen. A friend gave me a bagful of homegrown Nugget hops yesterday (a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag), and I got many envious comments while I walked down the hallway to my office.
But when I got home, I whipped out the seal-a-meal to package the hops, and that full 1-gallon bag equalled 3.5 ounces. Talk about disappointing!
I like fresh hops, but I prefer pellets when buying at the store. It just seems like more efficient use of space.
(Says the guy who just yesterday purchased 4lbs of pellets from hopsdirect.com...)
Depends on when you use them. For me.... FWH & Bittering - pellets, better utilization Late boil hops - Can be a mixture, but at least some whole. I abandoned my hop bag and use a dip tube with a pickup at the bottom side of the kettle. A few hop cones at this dip tube work perfect as a filter. Hop-Back - Must be whole. Dry hop - pellet. More contact with beer. whole hops float too long. Oxidation potential is higher. Keg spike - Whole in a bag. No poppet valve clogging.
IMO/IME...generally speaking the longer the contact time the better the whole hops seem to work and the lesser the contact time the better the pellets excel over whole. The exception would be FWH which IMO/IME pellet work better there because they immediately dissolve where the whole hops are just floating in a little whirlpool.
But I still use mostly whole leaf because pellets tend to clog the strainer going into the fermenter more than whole leaf. Sometimes I use a combination of pellet for FWH and flameout (and dry hop if used) and whole for every other addition. I know many people like pellet for bittering and whole for aroma but...I just have had better luck the other way around.
My lager fridge has a freezer that I use for all my hops and leftover wort. Right now there are 3 gal jugs in there plus ~5# whole hops so it holds plenty for my little brewing operation.