hopping to conclusions
August 20, 2009 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever grown your own hops? And if so, how do you know they're ready to harvest?

This is my first year and I've never grown them before. I thought and read that I wouldn't get much this first year but that's not my experience. Cascade hops, if that makes a difference, and I'm in central Pennsylvania, if that makes a difference.

I've found a bit online about smell and other seemingly esoteric measurements, but if anyone has wisdom on harvesting and drying hops at home, I'd greatly appreciate it.
posted by Toekneesan to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Victory Brewing was tweeting that their supplier (Cascade Hops, from Allentown) had harvested and delivered. They were making wet hop beer.This was maybe Monday or Tuesday.
posted by fixedgear at 5:40 PM on August 20, 2009

Cut a cone in half vertically and look for the yellow powder. If there is a lot then they are ready. If it is hard to find, wait a little longer. That is just the most basic test, a good hop growing book might have other suggestions.
posted by stubborn at 5:48 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've not done it myself, but I know of people who put their hops in a pillowcase and dried them on low or no heat in their clothes drier. Otherwise, I imaging that spreading them out on a screen and putting them in a hot, dry place (attic, upper part of a garage) would work well. I think the key is to keep them spread out and out of the sun.
posted by mollweide at 5:49 PM on August 20, 2009

We used to grow hops (though my infinitely boring mother never really did much with them). First warning: they grow like motherfucking weeds.

Second, we dried them in the sun on the roof. Very easy.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:38 PM on August 20, 2009

Another way to tell is the flick test. Flick the cone, if it falls off then the time is right. The stem is dried out and the hop cone isn't going to develop any more. Also, give the hop cone a squeeze. It's too early if the cone will stay compressed instead of rebounding to its previous volume. The leaves on the outside of the core will start to brown and feel dry or papery when ready.

For drying, I've always used the furnace filter and box fan method. Get some cheap furnace filters, lay your hop cones on them, stack them up on top of a box fan, bungee your filters to the fan, then run the fan for a while. This method is Alton Brown approved.

I usually run them on the fan for three days. I will fully dessicate any hops that I know aren't going to be used for a while. To do this I wrap them up in cheese cloth and put them in an airtight container with some DampRid [sorry, auto video and sound]. The DampRid will pull all the moisture out of the cones in a week or so. But don't let them touch the dessicant.
posted by peeedro at 8:43 PM on August 20, 2009

I spoke with the farmer where we get our fresh hops for our hop harvest beer. He is going to start harvesting the Goldings on 7 September, which is about the same timing as he does every year (Kent, UK).

I recall that another test is that they are ready when they "stick their tongue out at you" - the bit at the very end of the cone just starts to unfurl. We find quite a few wild hops growing where we are (Norfolk, UK), but all my efforts to get any that are worthy have been in vain.

There's apparently a two-week window for harvesting.

Crannog Ales have an excellent manual for growing your own.
posted by sagwalla at 1:37 AM on August 21, 2009

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